Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday in Texas

I hope you all had a great few weeks.. clearly I haven't been paying much attention to what's going on or I'd have been complaining on here.  Which has been nice.  I hope you also had a wonderful and thoughtful celebration of faith over the last week of Easter.  For those of us who are Christians, it is the source of our hope.  That God not only exists, but created us to be in a relationship with him.  And that he was willing to commit to true sacrificial love in order to make that happen.

With a 3-year-old in the house, Frozen is in heavy rotation here.  While I have a lot of thoughts on how they could have made it a better movie, the idea of self-sacrificing love as the way to mend deeper heart issues is a chunk of truth.

• Murder, for example, shows some deeper heart issues.  Eric Williams may be redeemable to God, but he's sure got a twisted heart.  New revelations of another planned murder in the works is just sickening.

• Anyway...  It has been stormy around here.  I've been playing with time-lapse videos instead of blogging it seems.

• As a guy, I'll admit to feeling a bit out of place in the abortion debate sometimes.  So I really like it when I can just link to a great post like this... Chelsea Clinton's baby isn't worth more than any other.

• Closer to home, Kaufman's wunderkind city councilman busted with pot.

• Kaufman Pct. 2 Constable Joe Don Law is out after getting caught falsifying some certification documents.

$300,000 for road improvements is helpful.  The hard part is picking which projects to use it on.  There are a more than a few roads that need help.

Ha and Ha.

• It is time for the big Terrell Heritage Jubilee this weekend.

• And my favorite local bluegrass band The Acoustic Sound Hounds will be on stage Sunday.

• The South Korean Ferry disaster is heartbreaking.  And infuriating.

• As those families grieve, I was reminded to try to enjoy every day with this guy, who turned three last week.

Have a great week everyone.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday night madness...

It was a dark and stormy night.....

It has been nice to pick up some good rain over the last few days...  and we may get some el Niño inspired rain throughout the year.

• So it seems Ronnie Oldfield knew the jig was about to be up for his private practice as a CPA so he decided to run for County Treasurer?

Here was the exchange at the Kaufman Republican Candidate Forum on Feb. 4, when an audience member (who seemed to know that there was something going on) asked about the candidates' standing with the CPA Board.

During my time at the Tribune I met Oldfield many times and did stories on some of the good work he does there, so I definitely gave him the benefit of the doubt after that forum.  Looking at it now, he definitely downplayed the seriousness of the allegations and wasn't very forthright with voters.  I can't imagine him winning the primary if this was public before the election.

• Big Books and Bargains Sale at the Kaufman County Library April 11, 12 and 14.

• All your maps are wrong!  An interesting read for your cartography nerds out there.

• You know it is going to be a better-than-average flight when ...

Which makes me think... Free airline marketing idea (Southwest might could pull this off ... Murder mystery dinner theater in the air!  Buy a ticket, and assume the identity of a character upon boarding the plane.  If by the end of the flight if you have figured out the mystery, your next flight is free.  Or something.  Ok maybe not.

• It's hard to believe that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 is still missing a month later.

• It's also hard to believe that a company CEO got run out of his job for the simple reason that he holds (and supported) a traditional definition of marriage.  Should the government be in the marriage business at all?  Probably not really.  But for mob mentality to take over and equate support of traditional marriage to hating gay people is absurd.

• This could be a lot of fun.  And painful.

Have a great week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wednesday Wandering and Wondering... April already?

I thoroughly understand that a vast majority of pit bulls will never hurt anybody.  But if you have one my son will never spend time at your house.

Whether or not Dorothy Hamilton was killed by the dogs remains to be determined, but it certainly wouldn't surprise anyone.  Having dangerous dogs is a risk, yet a lot of folks get offended by that truth.  Get over it.  And get a reality check.

For some folks it seems that having the dangerous dog has about the same risky/cool factor of riding motorcycles or something, and I just don't get it.  For a while there were a couple of guys in our neighborhood who would take their pit bulls down the street for a walk, clearly looking for a reaction or some sort of street cred.  It made me simultaneously laugh and check for nearby suitable weapons.

And then there are other folks for whom every furry life is sacred and "hey it's not the dog's fault" and all of that.  OK, feelings are good, but..

This is our Nina dog.
Yes, I'm beautiful, give me a treat.

And here is what I know for sure.  If Nina the lovely labrador ever seems to be any kind of threat to any person, she leaves the planet posthaste.  She is a wonderful part of the family. And she will die before the rest of us anyway.

I feel the same way about pit bulls in general.  Might as well be a tiger.  Some are great pets.  Until they kill someone.  If that risk is OK with you, that is legal at the moment.  But if your dog threatens someone else, don't defend it. Kill it.

There is some emotional distance from our pets that is healthy.  And if having a risky dog is part of your persona or identity, you may have bigger issues to resolve.

In other news..

• Seems like people in Forney are having trouble keeping their cars on the road and shiny side up. Here and Here and Here and Here.

• I think if the Ray Clark / Skeet Phillips lawsuit goes to trial, it could be an interesting exposé of local politics worth sitting in on.

• The Terrell Art Walk will be 4-8 p.m. this Friday.  Of course it might help promote the event if the Tribune would take their promo articles out from behind the paywall.  Note to advertisers... if you are buying ads and also getting promo editorial material, request that the stories be free to readers.  They can do that.

• Also this week, Hal Linden will be in Terrell Thursday night.  I didn't know who he was either, but apparently his is quite a performer, storyteller and musician.

• Why are we supposed to care what apparent whiner Tim Gunn loves or hates about Dallas?

• Nothing all that exciting about April Fools this year, so here are some great hoaxes of days past.

• For my friends in the cattle business... how would these do in the show ring?

• Kudos to DMN's Brad Loper on the image for this story.

• This is AC/DC I can live with..

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wednesday wandering and wondering

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Go west young man!  Or something like that.  Apparently a lot of west Texas was moving eastward this evening, creating a neat looking sunset...  fun if you are a photographer or nature watcher.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Probably not so fun if you have asthma or breathing issues.

• Seagoville City Council meetings have become more exciting apparently, with council members at odds with the mayor at odds with the city attorney ... over some $70k of misspent money from the Economic Development Corporation.

I do like how the city's press release still tags "City of Opportunity" onto the end of the press release. I remember how much of a joke it was for that logo to be at the entrance to the park by the prison.  Seems oddly appropriate still.

Then there is the other press release with the city council distancing themselves from the mayor's statements.  Without knowing the inner workings, I'd say the mayor may have a point considering a chunk of money went to put carpet in the City Manager's house, yet the council is "satisfied" that there has been no misconduct there.  Maybe he didn't know where the money came from... hard to say, but certainly doesn't look good.

• In other Seagoville news ... you have to be a bit crazy to rob a bank inside Walmart, right?  But apparently it worked.  And then he runs toward my neighborhood.  Yikes.

• I have seen the signs for a while now but failed to mention it... Crandall and Kaufman have met in the middle, claiming territory from each side down US175 until they meet around Bud Stoy road.  So, who is/was Bud Stoy anyway?

That would be this Bud Stoy, buried in Terrell, and family info here. More here.

But then there is this bit of a story.. wowzers ... Indian fighter and gay cowboy?  Wait what?

• Looking for Bud Stoy I came upon Uglybridges.com ... an interesting place to check out the spans you drive over every day.  If you are interested in that sort of thing.

• Kaufman gets a Whataburger.

• Terrell gets smoke-free bowling.

• And Forney gets Soulman's BBQ and Huddle House.

• The missing Malaysia Airlines plane is just mind-numbing.  When the best-case scenario is some sudden catastrophe with loss of cabin pressure or similar, that is horrific.

My wild theory?  Iran steals the plane (far fetched, sure) then loads it up to send toward Israel.  That's scary.

• And then there is Russia and Ukraine.  With so many parallels to Germany's rhetoric before WWII, it is hard to watch without cursing the ineptitude and lack of spine among other world leaders in the face of a power player like Putin.

I'd like to think Russia is not like 1930's Germany, and Putin is not as ambitious as the Third Reich.  But if some faked military situation comes up giving Russia an excuse to invade ... well, we will all know better.

• There is a lot of floppin' in soccer.  Better to see this kind of play... take notes, kids.

• Pretty fun - Get an idea what US English may sound like to people from other countries (and lots of other languages too).

• On technology - Seems accurate...

Happy Wednesday, Folks.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Food Day - These steak roll things

So there are some fancy steak roll concoctions around (a google will give you something like this) but this is not one of them.  This is down-home low-rent taste bud joy with a bit of pizzazz.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Note the large helping of salad.  Actually, that is Renee's mango bacon somethingorother salad that is probably worthy of its own blog post. (Spinach, spring mix, feta cheese, mango, bacon, toasted pecans, balsamic vinaigrette).

Back to the meat.

Early in my grilling career it occurred to me that a rolled up thin steak could contain any number of things, but a good combination would be something breadlike to keep the tasty juices around during grilling.  And so it does.... a little Stove Top Stuffing does the trick, throw in some mozzarella string cheese for good measure, wrap with bacon and in no time it is gooormay fine dinin'.

First up, prepare the stuffing ahead of time so that it cools a bit before you try to handle it.  Also soak some toothpicks in water so they don't burn up too quickly.

I used about 1/4" cut sirloin.  You don't want too much marbling in the meat because it has to hold together in the roll.  This batch did have a line of fat through the middle, so I ended up with two small strips for each serving instead of one bigger one.  This actually turned out great, as they were easier to control on the grill.  Excess steak bits cook up quickly and make great quesadillas later!

This time around I used McCormick Grill Mates steak rub, fresh ground pepper, celery salt and sea salt and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge before cook time.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Assembly station complete...  Lay down a piece of bacon, add a piece of steak, stuffing (compact it with your fingers to help it stay together), and cheese.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Roll up the steak first and make sure there is overlap, then wrap the bacon and put a toothpick through the steak overlap to make sure it holds.  After building a few, you figure out how much stuffing and cheese you can get away with in there.  Again, these were smallish steak strips.

Ready to go...
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

And after they were finished cooking.  These cook up really fast because they are small and thin, but you want to make sure the bacon has a bit of crisp to it.  Watch out for bacon grease fires :)  The grill was still really hot, about 350 degrees and I put these out toward the edge of the direct heat.  About 5 minutes per side was sufficient before I moved them away and let them cook a little more for another 5-6 minutes with the grill closed as the veggies cooked.

I cooked asparagus in a foil wrap, and that worked pretty well.  Without being able to see them, I cooked them a little long, but they were tasty and edible with a bit of grapeseed oil, celery salt and Penzey's Muskegee Chicken and Fish seasoning.

As a whole meal, it takes a little bit of doing, but the result is a unique combination of flavors that seems to work well together in a lowbrow home-cooking sort of way.  Which is good.

I should mention dessert as well.

No pictures so use your imagination.  Bake a yellow cake in a 9x13 pan.  Let it cool.  Punch a bunch of holes in the top.  Cook up lemon jello gelatin mix and pour it into the top of the cake.  Cool it down in the fridge, then top it with this... Homemade whipped cream (or CoolWhip if you dare)+ vanilla pudding mix.  Refrigerate.  Enjoy.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Night Madness-March10 Style

The No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum is one of my favorite things in Terrell.  The good folks there have a dinner-dance event each year – a fun time with 40's big band music and such – which was great fun Saturday night.  It is a good reminder to appreciate those who have paved the way to the world as we know it.  More Pics here.  And at the Tribune. 

It is easy to skip our local historic places and go on into Dallas.  Sounds like some good blog posts for the future....

• The Kaufman Herald has instituted online subscriptions for news.  (Their sister paper the Terrell Tribune has been behind a paywall for several years now) It is hard to keep newspapers (and news organizations in general) afloat these days, so it is hard to criticize them for charging for their work.  On the other hand, I would love to see businesses step up and pay enough for online advertising to provide the news for free.  It is a transition that hasn't gone well anywhere I'm afraid, leaving local papers understaffed and communities underserved.

• That said, I also heard complaints that those two papers required ad purchases from political candidates for inclusion in their shared Voter Guide special section.  I don't know if that affected any votes, but it is sad to see any moves in the direction of paid content on the editorial side of the newspapers, especially for broadly important things like elections.

• Seems unnecessary, but 101 reasons to live in Texas. (Thanks Chris C)

• Another great Texas thing... Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

• Paul Burka's brief wrap-up of election night.    Despite the liberal Austin vibe, Texas Monthly is another thing to be proud of in Texas.  They make a great magazine.

• Speaking of which... I tend to agree that the media has missed the boat in trying to create a delineation between Tea Party and "Establishment" Republicans.  It just isn't that clear and voters would be better served by accurate reporting than lumping candidates into one camp or the others.  Of course, I've done the same myself because it is just so easy.

• And an interesting bit on Trial Lawyers' attempts to spin the election in their favor by adopting conservative names.

I love this.  Small government and socially conservative values reach way beyond the current demographics of the Republican party.  It's time that people noticed that.

• Has global warming science gone outside the realm of actual scientific principles?  I'd say probably, given the absolute certainty with which so many so-called experts argue.  That's the one thing about science, so very few things are actually settled.

• An Undertaking ... A woodworker takes on the task of making his grandmother's coffin. (H/T @jdblundell)

An Undertaking from Dark Rye on Vimeo.

I hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

TEA Party supported candidates sweep Kaufman County races (pretty much)

It was certainly a jubilant atmosphere at Kaufman's "It's better than good" restaurant Tuesday night, with raucous cheers as election totals came in.  For the self-described most conservative side of Kaufman County Republicans, it was a night of clear victories. (Kaufman County results)

Stuart Spitzer pulled out a victory in both Kaufman and Henderson counties, completely reversing the results of two years ago.

Political newcomers Bobby Rich and Ronnie Oldfield won in close races, and the Precinct 1 JP race and 86th District Court races will go to runoffs.  Each runoff race features a TEA Party candidate, so it will be interesting to see if that group will be able to carry the momentum and get people to the polls in April.

In a short speech to the crowd, Spitzer likened the campaign to a battle of "the sheep against the wolves, and tonight the sheep won."  It was a Bible reference, and I like it, but I wonder if some of the money men and powers-that-be will be swayed to the side of the sheep.

If anything, the primary shows a great deal more organization and support for TEA Party candidates in the county.  Now it will be interesting to see if the momentum will result in drawing more people into the fold.

I think there are plenty of wolves in the sheep pen, but with a larger swell of small-governement conservatives across the state (and it looks like nationwide) it could be a really positive election cycle.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Night Madness - Primary edition: Mud, Sweat and Tears

• Politics on a local level should even out after tomorrow, even if we end up with a few runoff elections.  All of the politicians with whom I have spoken are certainly glad the primary season is almost over.  It has been ugly, and I've only seen bits and pieces of it.

• I was very glad to see inForney.com tackling the latest hit piece in the Kaufman County Precinct 2 commissioner race.

That mailer is wrong on so many levels, it is hard to find a place to start.  I have heard – from people I trust – that Skeet Phillips is a really good guy. And maybe he really didn't have any idea this what this was going to turn into.  But a smart candidate would have jumped on the opportunity to say that isn't how he operates and turned it into another positive for himself.  Instead, Phillips seems to have just left it hanging in the air.

Plausible deniability may work in national politics, but I'm not sure about local politics. When you have a last minute bomb like that dropped in a relatively low-budget county race, it is hard to convince anyone that an unknown party came up with it and paid for it.  Mailers aren't cheap.

Even worse, given the opportunity to comment, it looks like Phillips just implicated himself in the matter.  In the inForney.com story, he is quoted as saying “I gave her the name of somebody they could get ahold of and they would help her ... and that's where it went from there. I never saw it again, I never touched it again, I never talked to them, I never approved a single thing, I never even saw it, and that was it."

Which implies that when someone came to Phillips with the salacious story, he sent them along to his campaign folks then conveniently walked away.

That leaves the bottom line question of who paid for the mailer.  It all leads back to the same politics-as-usual folks who make a living running these campaigns.  And until politicians stop thinking that is their ticket to victory, it will continue.  Which is partly our fault for falling for it.

• I am not going to make predictions, but I will tell you what I'd like to see happen in a few Kaufman County races.  (Don't get me started on SE Dallas county races….)

Like everywhere else in the country, this year is going to be the TEA Party vs The Establishment part II or III or IV.  I really like having an organized group trying to slow the constant liberal drift on the Republican side.  It would just be good if that group managed it without driving people away.  Over the last few years, especially after I started working in Terrell, I was surprised at how many people said that they like the main TEA Party objectives but could not join in with the Kaufman County group.  That needs to change and quickly.  And I'm not sure if it changes faster by winning or losing.

I would like for my friend Stuart Spitzer to win tomorrow, and over time use the victory to lead the local party back to some form of unity of cause, even with a diversity of opinions and personalities.  A lot of that depends on the Kaufman County Republican Chairman race, which is also interesting given Jody Dellar's long history here and Jimmy Weaver's TEA Party backing.

I'm thinking runoff election in the 86th District Court race.  With four candidates though, it goes to show you that even with a potential lucrative career in private law practice, there is still a great appeal to a steady salary.

Same goes for the Precinct 1 JP race, with two lawyers in that race.  I would like to see Tony Torres do well and bring some attention to the Republican Party among the county's growing Hispanic community.  There are a lot of strong potential conservative candidates out there that should be welcomed, not simply lost in the immigration debate.

OK folks, go out and vote for leaders with high moral character.  In the end, the county jobs are something that anyone could potentially learn to do.  But people of good character will serve us the best  at all levels, especially when you get to the legislative efforts which are incredibly hard to turn back.

Happy election day!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Is the Forney Bridge a bridge to nowhere?

I was at the Tribune as work finally got underway for the Forney Bridge project, to much fanfare. 

Now that it is election season, it seems the Skeet Phillips camp (Kaufman County Precinct 2 commissioner candidate) has decided to make a late push to give a lot of credit for the development to Ray Clark (the incumbent).

Except that now, if claims are to be believed, the bridge is apparently a huge waste of money designed to benefit Clark.

I don't know Clark or Phillips, and I don't really care who wins. But this is the kind of ridiculous campaign spin that makes an accusatory candidate look ridiculous.  The scale of the bridge project, the financing involved and the long time frame in which this project took place make these claims invalid.  The fact that a supporter used a stolen copyrighted image to make a comment is just as dumb. 

By the looks of things, the TEA Party folks who were irate at Lance Gooden's falsehoods seem pretty content to use the same methods.

For the record, much of the financing for the bridge development was provided by private investment (Hunt) to be paid back out of future revenues generated by the project.  That Clark's property (hardly a farm by the looks of it) is in the area is convenient, but inconsequential to the project.  The claim that the project cost taxpayers $22 million is a lie, no matter how you parse it.

Campaign advice from Don, since no one is asking…
The temptation to make salacious claims is strong, like the dark side of The Force in Star Wars.  But resist it.

Any time you make a claim about someone else, you are also making a counter claim about yourself.  Is  Phillips now saying that the bridge development was a bad idea?  Would he have worked to prevent the project from happening? I'm not sure if being anti-development is a stance you want to have as a commissioner.

Unfortunately, even though the tactics are ridiculous, they often seem to work.  How many people will see this and assume it is accurate?  We shall see.  It will be a test of the  power of candidate Facebook messaging I suppose.

Oh, and have a great Friday!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Heavy issues for your Thursday thoughts

• I'm not sure if Lance Gooden is acting out of desperation or sheer unhinged political gamesmanship, but his latest mailer against Spitzer for the Texas House district 4 seat is a doozy.  While I don't doubt that somewhere in Spitzer's financial disclosures there is some stock or mutual fund investment in a pharmaceutical company, it is ridiculous to then claim that Spitzer is part owner in a company making big profits from abortion.

Of course Gooden didn't bother with any specifics that could be rebutted, mere accusations are all it takes right?  But those are tactics that we expect from the other party in the general election, not a Republican primary.  (In my own ideal world, I suppose.)  See Spitzer's response here.

Gooden appears to be the only one doing any polls ahead of election day, so either he knows he is behind, or he really is trying to be a ruthless politico.  I guess we will see if any other mailers make it out for the weekend.

It is also worth noting that getting candidates' financial disclosures is not as easy as it should be.   With less than a week before the election, candidates can pretty much make any claim they want.  It would be good to take our local news media to task for being so hands-off in the matter as well.  Nothing shows the need for a free and active news media than unchecked lying politicians.

Seriously folks, I know I have friends in Terrell and elsewhere who are Gooden supporters.  I am looking for anyone who wants to step up to the plate for him with these negative attack ads and absurd claims.  Anybody?  Message me, email me, call me, whatever.  I will give a fair space here or on Facebook or whatever, you can be anonymous if you want… so far I've had no takers from the previous post either.

• Which reminds me of a time when a good friend in Terrell informed me that in Kaufman County, in order to make any difference at all, people who would normally be Democrats don't mind voting in the Republican primary.  Which makes sense, actually.  With very little participation on the Democrat side of things, what else is a Dem. to do?  Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the balance of power was quite different in the county.

• This is a terribly sad story, no matter what details that emerge later.

• Nice to see inter-departmental support among the area emergency response units.

Here is a great breakdown of the Hobby Lobby case vs. Obamacare and others like it.  The implications of the federal government's ability to force companies and individuals to act against their religious convictions is huge.  That kind of tyranny may start with the best of intentions by non-believing regulators, but when wielded by future leaders, can be the downfall of the nation.

• And another way the Federal government is enacting oppressive and expensive regulation is simply by settling lawsuits.

• After all that, lighten things up with this… 100-year-old best friends discussing some pop culture of today.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday troublemaking - Feb. 25

•No, the Winter Olympics aren't over yet!  Paralympians are elite athletes too, and one repeat medal winner has a Forney connection.

•If you see a bunch of pest control trucks at FBC Kaufman March 7, don't get the wrong idea… it is a training class :)

March 2 is coming.  If Willie Nelson reading Travis' letter from the Alamo doesn't bring a tear to your eye, well, we just might not be friends.

•The gay marriage issue has become an all-consuming national issue, with lots of folks getting a lot of things wrong (probably me included).  Christians get the role of government wrong.  Non-Christian gay marriage advocates get a lot about Christianity wrong.  It's a tricky issue, to balance "rights" of one group versus another, or to draw a line between unlawful discrimination and a person's right to act on his or her religious beliefs.   This article does a good job of parsing what following the Bible actually says.  And this one is great too, on taking care about trampling consciences and thinking we know for sure how Jesus would handle it.

Some of the spiritual leaders I know have mentioned all of this in terms of an increasingly secular society trying to constrain religion within the walls of the church … in effect, yes, you can practice whatever religion you want, but keep it at church.  Sorry folks, it doesn't work that way.

•I have enough atheist-humanist friends to see some of the "arguments against religion" posts on the old Facebook page. Many are just bad rhetoric, and a few make me think.  But a lot of it is just made-up.

 From Ephesians 5...
6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them;8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
• Piers Morgan is out at CNN, no real surprise there.  He doesn't like Americans, we return the favor.  He jumped on the gun-hating bandwagon as his primary issue, and he was wrong.  Of course, with a personality like that, I wouldn't necessarily want him as a conservative agent provocateur either.

But I was humored to find out that Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson once punched Mr. Morgan.  I was already a fan of Top Gear… and now even more.

•Diversity of thought is great, so long as you all agree with the campus liberal mindset?

•While we are on education… students send letters to defend their failing school, proving that it is a failing school. It's easy to mock the folks in New York, but I've seen enough of our local students' output to wonder if letters from our schools would be much better.

Have a great Tuesday, everybody.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I'm plotting the end of my marriage...

Once the reality of marriage sets in, you take stock of what it is you have gotten yourself into.  Somewhere around the time Renee and I got married (2002) we started looking down the long road of life and plotting what our life together might look like.  And, of course, we didn't have a clue.

So at that point we agreed to have a trial period of 75 years. Then we can decide if we still want to stay together.  That's right, 75 years.  God willing, I will be 100 years old.  And we will know for sure if this marriage thing is for us.

It's a joke, of course, but there is a bit of seriousness in seeing a vision of where we want our relationship to be in the long term.  I'm no relationship guru, but it is easy to see that many young couples think in terms of being married "forever," but without a real vision of what growing old together means or looks like.

Renee and I are both fortunate to have parents who model deeply committed and long lasting marriages, but even for us, finding role models and mentors for married life is important.  I can't imagine trying to piece that together for those of you who come from more contentious home environments, divorced parents or any number of situations that make up the modern family.

My advice?  Surround yourself with people who have run that race already, and find the absolute beauty in what you see.  Plot the end of your marriage out to where the true selfless love has outlasted everything else.

Working on our church directory brought this back to me, as I have had the joy of photographing some of my favorite older folks.  Our church is full of these stories, but here are a few that Renee and I latch onto.

David and Betty Ann.

If ever two halves made a whole, David and Betty Ann are it.  There aren't enough superlatives to describe them.  They spent more than 30 years doing missions work in Africa, and a lifetime of transforming the lives of people through a tremendous amount of hard work, love and joy.  The love they share now is absolutely what I want to see in my marriage when I get to their age.

Bill and Becky.

Bill and Becky were fixtures in FBC Kaufman for as long as I can remember.  Bill had the firmest and most sincere handshake I know of.  Becky is harder to describe.  I'll just say that you could not have a conversation with her without becoming more wise.  She imparted love, wisdom, and genuine care for others that is hard to put into words.

And now there is just Bill, his handshake slightly softened by age and missing his Becky.  But still he soldiers on, serving at the church and welcoming people every Sunday as they come in.  His body may be less able than before, but his heart is as big as ever. Statistically, Renee should outlive me.  Realistically we don't get to pick how that works out.  Bill helps me see that a lifetime of love is not hindered by an unforeseen ending.

Bud and Betty.

I don't remember meeting Betty's beloved Navy man before he was gone, but by the look in her eyes when she talks about him, he must have been quite a catch.  I won't tell her age, but Betty vividly remembers her youth during World War II and has some great stories of traveling the country and raising kids as a military wife. You can detect a hint of sadness from time to time when she talks about Bud, but it is always quickly overshadowed by the her inner joy.

They may be a couple of generations apart, but Renee loves Mrs. Betty more like a sister than a grandmother.  Put them in a room together and they will be laughing like teenagers within a minute.  Betty is the vision of what I want Renee to be long after I have gone.  Like the Brad Paisley song… "You can take your time, 'cause I don't mind… waiting on a woman…"

OK, so I'm not plotting TO end my marriage, I'm plotting what the end should look like, regardless of how life twists and turns.  For those of you in committed long-term marriages I hope you take a minute to do the same.  There are some great models of what that looks like for us to follow if we take the time to look.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Food Day - Grillin' some chicken for a birthday feast

A great friend of mine had a birthday this week, so celebrating was in order.  Add to that mother nature's incessant flirting, and it was time to fire up the charcoal.

How about some chicken, dressed up with bacon and pepper jack cheese?  It's relatively easy to get great stuff for your taste buds this way.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

The boneless chicken breast pieces spent the afternoon in a ziploc with grapeseed oil, Penzey's "Ruth Ann's Muskego Ave Chicken and Fish Seasoning," salt, pepper and a squirt of lime juice.  With bacon and pepper jack cheese going on these things, you don't need a lot of seasoning on the chicken… just don't overcook it.

Sides were going to be Renee's mashed potatoes and asparagus on the grill, again, simple but with a bit of a gourmet look :).  The asparagus also got some grape seed oil (our current favorite for a lot of savory dishes around here) and some salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

I didn't bother trying to use toothpicks or string, just wrapped the bacon onto the chicken as I placed them on the grill.  It stayed in place rather well (if you have a problem, you are probably turning it too much anyway.)

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

After a little while I moved the asparagus up to the warming rack, but you just have to watch it to make sure it doesn't get too hot.  Of course with the bacon you have to watch out for grease flaring up in the coals… careful placement is key.

About a minute before taking the chicken off the grill I added slices of pepper jack to the chicken breasts.

And voila..
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Renee added a small salad and mashed potatoes.  Team cooking at its finest.  And it was good.

Now it was a birthday, so cake was in order.  We were introduced to a simple box cake/pudding/chocolate chip recipe that has become a staple for such occasions. Of course we tinker with the combinations. (The whole recipe is at the bottom of this post)

The original involves Yellow cake, 1 box of vanilla pudding, 1 box of chocolate pudding and chocolate chips.  We have tried it with several mixtures of cake mix and pudding flavors, all of them pretty good.

Tonight Renee combined strawberry cake mix, 1 cheesecake pudding, 1 vanilla pudding, white chocolate chips and dark chocolate chunks.  Do it.  With vanilla ice cream.  Yum.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Happy Birthday, Karl!
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Nikki Groth's family chocolate chip cake..
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box vanilla pudding
1 small box chocolate pudding
1.5 cups water
.5 cup oil
4 eggs
1 bag (or so) chocolate chips

Combine dry cake mix, puddings, water and oil until well mixed (2 minutes).  Add all four eggs and mix in, and add chocolate chips.  Pour into greased bundt cake pan and Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees.  Enjoy.

Notes… using different flavors is great fun.  Note that dark chocolate chips, heath bar chips etc. are denser and may sink before the cake sets in the oven.  If you think it may be a problem, pour in about 2/3 of the batter, then sprinkle in the chips (not touching the pan) and add the rest of the batter.  I have even addd the chips (heath bar especially) after the batter is in the pan and stirred it in just an inch below the surface before putting it in the oven to keep the candy from collecting on the bottom (which will become the top of the cake.)

We keep
Have a great weekend.

Don J.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Random Wednesday odds-and-ends

Team Impact, a.k.a. giant men performing feats of strength, are at First Baptist Church in Kaufman through the weekend.  If you needed any proof that almost anything can be used to tell people about Jesus, there you go.

Of course, I'd imagine for those of you who are not Christians might find modern giants breaking things  to get an audience, then telling you about Jesus may be a little weird.  There is certainly a circus element to it.

Monday's post about Lance Gooden's robo-call attack has had a lot of traffic, but no comments.  That my be Gooden's entire campaign strategy, no comments.  I'd really like to hear from some Gooden supporters about that.

Did Eric Williams throw a murder weapon into Lake Tawakoni?

President Obama promised to exercise more Executive Branch muscle in the coming "year of action," but so far he has been rebuffed quite a lot by the Supreme Court.  Thank the founders for checks and balances.

From the makeup aisle … a letter from father to daughter.  I don't have a daughter yet, but that is good stuff.

For those who like debate and theology… is Atheism irrational?

Sometimes, it is best to accept an apology quickly…

Because BASE jumping on a clear day just doesn't give the adrenaline rush it used to…

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gooden borders on slander in late robo-call personal attack

I'm not all that big on Sigmund Freud, but I have to wonder if Lance Gooden's mass robo-call effort on the weekend before voting starts wasn't a massive bit of psychological projection.  Apparently he has named the guy he sees in the mirror "Liberal Stuart Spitzer."

While Gooden has successfully used a late push of negative campaigning to win the last two elections, this seems to be a more vitriolic personal attack.  Is that OK with you Gooden folks out there?

Given the advantage an incumbent has going into an election, this seems to go way out of bounds and borders on slander.  From my time at the Terrell Tribune, I know Lance to be a smart guy and an ambitious politician, but at what point to you gain the world and lose your soul?

The text of the call...
"Good afternoon, I am calling with an important message about the lies you may have received in your mailbox today from liberal Stuart Spitzer about our conservative leader Lance Gooden.  Yes, it is the same Stuart Spitzer who was investigated two years ago for using our taxpayer resources to slander Representative Gooden's good name.  It didn't work then and its not going to work now.  The facts have not changed.  Stuart Spitzer is still a liberal masquerading as a conservative, and Lance Gooden is still the only pro-life, pro-gun, Christian conservative in this race.  Early voting starts next week, so lets reject self-serving liberals like stuart Spitzer and re-elect our conservative fighter Lance Gooden."

I know Stuart, go to church and Bible study with Stuart, and consider him a friend.  And that entire call is a load of hogwash.

A few points worth noting…
First, in mentioning the 2012 ethics complaint, (itself a questionable affair from last election*), Gooden has broken a resolution of the Texas Ethics Commission.  (Full text here)
 The use of the statements “a sworn complaint has been filed against Candidate A” or “the Texas Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint against Candidate A” are improper attempts to mislead the public. It is therefore the unanimous opinion of the bipartisan Texas Ethics Commission that the use of such language in campaign communications is an unfair practice and should be judged accordingly by voters. 

Second, as a campaign message, this kind of simplistic name calling seems to assume a certain amount of blind trust from constituents.  I understand that you want to implant negative ideas about an opponent, but somewhere this message seems to go so far as to call into question the maturity of Gooden himself. There is absolutely no substance in this message, simply name calling.

And then… does it help to just lie?  I know it is a Republican primary and trying to position yourself as the most conservative is understandable.  But to demean fellow conservatives as "self-serving liberals" is ridiculous and not helpful in the long-term political picture.  Elected officials at the top of our state government need to be the leaders in bringing the party together to fight against creeping liberalism.  Instead this kind of campaigning drives deeper wedges into the party while simultaneously repelling people who may want to run for office or support conservative politics.

The question is, will it work?  Will the voters who received this call accept or reject the message and the method? Has Spitzer made enough contact outside the TEA Party faithful  so that voters know this call is a farce?  We will know in a few weeks.

*A quick note about Jim Dellar's 2012 ethics complaint against Spitzer.
In that campaign, Spitzer made the rookie mistake of posting a YouTube video from the State House chamber, in which Lance Gooden was called out asking for appropriations earmarks.  Very helpfully for incumbents, that is not allowable, and the video was quickly removed from Spitzer's website.
A gracious fellow Republican could have simply said "Hey, you can't do that." Instead, Dellar turned it into an ethics complaint that Gooden has been using ever since.
I could file an ethics complaint about the use of an ethics complaint in this call, and it would probably still be under investigation five years from now.

Unfortunately this kind of campaigning and a strong dose of self-important personalities within the Republican Party distract from the real issues at hand.  And that may make us all lose down the road.  In the grand scheme of things, Kaufman County has not been a Republican stronghold for all that long, after all.

What say you, especially my Gooden supporting friends?

Don J.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Food Day - Wings over Kaufman and Seagoville

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

No tour of area burgers would be complete without including Wings in the mix. The Wings restaurants have been mainstays of the 175 corridor for more than a decade, serving up a great alternative to the fast food chains and the best hot wings (OK, almost the only wings) to be had around these parts.

This is part of the burger quest, so Joshua and I stopped by the familiar airplane-hanger building in Kaufman before the lunch rush last Thursday.

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Both the Wings menu (online here) and the food, are quite different from the Burger Pop / Paradise Burger / Jungle Burger concept.  At under $8 for a cheeseburger, fries and a drink, the price is right, and the hometown feel is nice compared to stale fast food places.

Side note, the Seagoville location remodeled last year, adding a bar area and taking the decor up a few age brackets.  Gone are the numerous model airplanes, much to Joshua's dismay.

Anyway, how about the burger?

Hot and absolutely wonderful to eat.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

What do you lose for the price difference?   Meat quantity, mostly, and the fries are a little more generic.  Not that this is entirely bad.

If you are a burger eater who doesn't like oversized patties, this will be your favorite.  And you can always go for a double.

I pulled off about half the lettuce and had the best burger flavor and overall experience since Oscar Delta.  A perfectly toasted bun sealed the deal.

Even with a really good burger, Wings' biggest selling point may be the rest of the menu.  Good wings, a variety of other sandwiches and meals (Renee recommends the Wicked Chicken Sandwich and the Elvis Burger) make it a great place to eat as a group.  I will have to come back when I start looking for the best salads in the area as well.

The kids meals are also a bit cheaper than the other burger joints, and Joshua approves of the grilled cheese sandwich.
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

The moral of the story? Don't forget the places that have been around for a while.  As nice as it is to have new options, Wings is still a winner on price and taste.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My take on the Gooden background check story

Kaufman TEA Party folks backing (my friend) Stuart Spitzer are really pushing a story this week about incumbent representative Lance Gooden's office, which apparently pulls some internet and/or public records info on people before responding to them.

So underneath the campaign rhetoric and hyperbole, is this a problem?

Like most election year stories, I think yes and no.

In short, Leigh Pool, who serves as district director for Gooden, seems to have inadvertently sent a reply to a constituent, Billy van Voast, that was meant to go to Gooden.

Here was the email...  (See the whole exchange here)

My initial reaction after talking to van Voast (Gooden has not responded) was that this was merely Pool doing her job and informing Gooden about who was trying to get his attention. Verifying that a person lives in the district and isn't just trolling for a reaction from an elected official during a primary election battle seems legitimate.

Then the problems with this mounted in my mind.

First, it does seem a bit odd for someone at this level of politics to want this much information before responding to constituent requests.  Considering Gooden's lack of attendance at other candidate forums, it seems a simple "no" probably would have sufficed without the trouble of checking out Mr. van Voast.

Second, this illustrates how absolutely wrong information from the internet can be.  The information that Pool was relaying (and, presumably, what Gooden would have in mind if he responded to van Voast) was incorrect.  It was for van Voast's father.  Bad information leads to bad decisions.  It seems a few more questions to van Voast himself would have been a much better tactic.

Finally, while I don't think Gooden was trying to bully van Voast as the press release makes it seem, there is an element of big-brother-ism about this.  The idea that your representative may check you out on the internet (and be very wrong) is not comforting, and can put people off from being active participants in government.

OK, so is this a big deal?

Yes it is, and probably more widely practiced than we would want to know. I doubt this is something isolated to Lance Gooden, as he hasn't exactly been one to be innovative in policies or politics.

Again, Gooden has not responded to me (or anyone else that I know of) about this…  I will update if I hear from him or see a response elsewhere.

What say you?  At what level of elected office does getting access to a politician warrant an internet search on constituents?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Kemp area is in mourning ...

Dallas Fire Rescue Photo

Kaufman County lost a native son in the accident that claimed the life of Dallas firefighter Scott Tanksley.  There are a lot of folks mourning that loss around Kemp, and in the firefighting community in general.  Be thankful for those who serve us and risk everything to do it.

Here is a little background on Scott.  He was a few years ahead of me at Kemp High School, but I definitely remember him as a star on the baseball team.  Other reports here,  

I haven't seen info pop up about fundraising efforts or memorial funds for the family, but I'm sure that will be arranged.  If you know of them, please pass the info along and I will be happy to post it.

Update .. here is one fundraising effort, would love anyone to verify authenticity..

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Night Madness - Deep Freeze Edition

The good news is that warm weather is on the way later this week.  The bad news is, it is more expensive to heat my house than cool my house, apparently.

The first  E! Terrell Entertainment Series concert of the year will be pint-sized piano wunderkind Umi Garrett at the Terrell Performing Arts Center Tuesday night.  If you aren't a season subscriber, contact the Terrell Chamber and see if you can get a ticket.  It should be a fun show, especially for school agers who need some inspiration to practice their instruments.

I understand the need for governments to spend money on communication and educating the public about programs.  However, increasing the demand for pizza (to the great benefit of dairy farmers) is absurd.

Rand Paul is right.

Having an almost-three-year-old has given me plenty of opportunities to be annoyed by the amount of goofy alarmism and propaganda in TV programs for kids.  Unfortunately you can't explain to kids that scientists may not have everything right.  Like if 95% of climate model predictions are wrong.

On the other hand, I do look forward to the new Lego movie, which may be more about freedom than you think.

Speaking of freedom, and the source of freedom, great read from Jonah Goldberg.  If you don't have time to read the whole thing just skip to page 3 for the bit about positive liberty vs. negative liberty.

I have a lot of strong and wonderful women in my life.  Of course, strong conservative women are not looked highly upon by modern feminism.  This is an interesting take on what the feminist movement has evolved into.

If PETA ever had a point, they should really consider going back to it.

These are not photos.

Yup, Friday is Valentine's Day.  Don't mess it up.

Time waster… Captures the old silent film feel as well as anything I've seen..

A Day's Messing from Jeff Seal on Vimeo.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Food Day - Jungle Burger in Terrell

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Next stop on the burger tour - Jungle Burger in Terrell.  The way this is going I'm going to need to find the best salad in the area next, just to bring the cholesterol levels back down.

Jungle Burger is located in the Brookeshire's Grocery shopping center, to the left of Big Lots, and to the right of the Bubble Bubble Tea House (a favorite drink spot for me).

At this point I am thinking all of the area independent burger restaurants got their concepts and menus from the same source… like Burger Pop in Seagoville and Paradise Burger in Kaufman, the menu choices are similar with some notable exceptions.

But we will get to that…  Quick summary - really good burger.

The building was Fredo's Italian Trattoria in a past life, so it is a strange vibe inside with "jungle" animals on the walls.  But Jungle Burger separates itself as a full service restaurant rather than ordering at the counter.  There are also several TVs on the walls.  Wasn't a plus for me when they ended up on soap operas, though.

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

The price is slightly higher than those two restaurants (about $.20 on many items), but not much.

The burgers..

Renee had "The Big Island"
Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

And I had a Bacon Cheeseburger with Swiss.. Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

And voila, everything you want in a burger.  Except a buttery toasted bun.

The meat was well seasoned, and I would give these burgers a slight edge over Burger Pop and Paradise burger.  Something in the seasoning did it for my taste buds.  Renee also approved, and neither of us were very hungry at dinner time.  These things last.

The fries also were good… again, seems to be the same source as the other county competitors.  Seasoned, fresh and tasty.

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

We did not have Joshua with us (Thanks Mom!) but the kids menu options were similar to what we have seen previously.

A few other things separate Jungle Burger from its similar cousins in Kaufman and Seagoville…  On the menu are sweet potato fries, quesadillas and more appetizer options.

One not so good separator is Terrell water.  It has a flavor.  On the way out, I mentioned the "Bring Your Own Beer" sign, and Renee said, "How about bring your own water?"   Good laughs.


Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

Don C. Johnson: 175and20 blog &emdash;

OK… obviously I have avoided comparisons with Oscar Delta in Forney from last week.

As burger joints go, I would gladly have a meal at Burger Pop, Paradise Burger or Jungle Burger any day.  They are very good burgers.  Just not really the same category as Oscar Delta, in restaurant concept or food.  They also suffer in comparison of price because by the time you add fries and a drink,  there is less than $1 difference.  Oscar Delta is the clear winner if you happen to be close by.

Of the three straight up burger restaurants, though, Jungle Burger has a slight edge, if for a slightly higher price.

Jungle Burger
Downright Tasty
Friendly staff with full table service
For better or worse, a hometown independent feel.

We were there on a cold day, and it was cold inside too.

That's about it… nothing negative to report.  I should have noted our waitress's name, because she was a lot of fun.  I hope Jungle Burger thrives in a space where other restaurants have not done so well.

Have a great weekend,

Don J.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Thursday links and fun stuff

Snow day.. sort of.  Unfortunately Joshua has been coughing a bit so playing in the cold may be out for us today.  But it is still the best to watch him discover things.

Kid President is genius, both the kid and the character.  Take notes, politicians.  If you communicate this well, come across as genuine, make it about the community and have a personality, it will work.

Donald Miller (who I generally like) wrote an interesting post and follow up about not attending church very often.  And here is a great rebuttal as well…     I grew up in small Baptist churches, so it is no surprise that it took 3-4 years into adulthood to realize some of the ways that my definition of "Church" was cultural instead of biblical.    To that end.. remember Hebrews 10:23-25… 23Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

I tend to track with with the points in the rebuttal post above … we often make the church experience about our own feelings rather than as an opportunity to serve others and grow in faith.  Maybe that is another blog post altogether.

Yes, RHCP was playing 'unplugged' at the Super Bowl halftime.    And no, it doesn't matter.  That is a show, not a concert.  Sure, it would be nice if the musical acts rolled out on a semi trailer and played live.  But we will never go back to something so simple.

Honestly, band nerd that I am, I would actually rather see something like this than an over-produced halftime show full of pop/rock stars.

Also, nice canon recoil detail there :)

Am I the only one who is really happy that the latest Apple TV update added both the PBS and Red Bull channels? Sherlock and motorcycle stunts. Good times. At some point local broadcast stations will have to do the same. Just like every station has a mobile app, they will need an internet-based outlet into homes as well. It will be interesting to see how that works out.  Apple is king of mobile devices but not so much with Apple TV. Yet.

Ok, that's enough.  Managed to stay out of politics today.  Mostly.  Have a great afternoon,
Don J.