Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve Started With a Bang ...

... a few bangs, actually, and some whistles, plenty of sparks - and a grassfire on both sides of Highway 349, just north of Midland.

It's just after midnight, and we're returning home to the Tall City from dinner and a concert in Lubbock, when the sky over the road in front of us lights up with fireworks, one after another. Except the last couple went sideways - not surprising, considering how windy it was - and plowed into the way-too-dry grass on both sides of the road.

If all you've ever seen are photos and videos of the phenomenon, it's hard to get a real appreciation for just how fast a grassfire can spread. I've covered plenty of them, over the years, and it still surprises me. Anyway, we pull over, and me and one of our guests gets out and starts stamping out parts of the fire, while My Favorite Landman calls the fire department ... something the people with the fireworks never got around to doing.

A blanket helps the process of putting out the worst of the flames ... but there are still hot spots here and there, and even as we watch some spark-up again with the encouragement of an abundance of dry grass all around, and an over-abundance of stiff, near-constant winds.

It isn't long before we see the lights of a fire truck approaching from the south. And since I'm suddenly the only one there at the scene, I direct them to the hot spots. The Midland FD quickly has the situation in hand, and I can't say enough about those people. But, I will say this - there are things that we, as private citizens, can do to reduce the threat of fire, and to assist the efforts of our firefighters ... and one way would be a decision to NOT light-up little packets of explosive powder and shoot them or toss them God-knows-where ... couldn't we all, this year, forgo a few seconds of 'snap-crackle-pop' in order to save firefighters from spending additional hours on the fire line?

Oh, and if you run into a couple of guys who were out on Highway 349 after midnight; 20s, I guess; driving a white, unmarked work truck (you know the kind ... a little larger and heavier-duty than a pickup, with tool boxes on both sides of the bed) with license plate #92T-F4C (I think) ... be sure to thank them for their contribution to all this. They suddenly, very quickly got in their truck and took off, heading north, when the fire truck approached from the south... so I didn't have a chance to thank them myself.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Only in America ...

So, there's this guy from China, comes to America - ends up in West Texas, of all places. So what does he do? Opens up a pizzeria ... and does such a good job, he gets a write-up in a nationally-known magazine.

True story!

MC Photo by Nancy Thorne

Monday, December 29, 2008

There's a New Blog in Town

In conjunction with a new addition to Midland's Christian community, comes a new addition to Midland's corner of the blogosphere.

"Since September a group called the New Worship Service Design Team has been meeting and hammering out all the details for the new service," Dolce J writes in
this post at Into the West Texas Sun. "The new service will be called The Bridge and it will start up at 11 am on January 25th, 2009."

This "new" blog has actually been up-and-running for four months.

"In August of 2008 my wife and I moved from Fort Collins, Colorado, to the comparative isolation of West Texas," Dolce J writes in
his profile. "My job is to help build a contemporary worship service in a new space in a traditional Protestant church. God help them and me!"

That church, by the way, is
First Presbyterian Church of Midland, located at the corner of A and Texas streets, on the west edge of downtown Midland. The blog provides plenty of photos and text describing the rennovations done to the church's old chapel in preparation for its new mission.
I hope you'll consider adding Into the West Texas Sun to your blogroll. Also, begining January 25, feel free to stop by First Prez-Midland on Sunday mornings at eleven, and say 'hello' and 'welcome' to the actual person ... you can call him 'John.'

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Makin' Philly Smile .....

So, what does it take to do to draw a cheer from what one writer once described as the worst sports fans ever? Well, we sure found out this evening.

Trying to describe the nature of Philadelphia sports fans, Hunter S. Thompson once wrote something to the effect they would boo a rescue at sea, and throw empty beer bottles at the lifeboats. Perhaps ... they sure were like that when I attended games at the old Veterans Stadium ... and I doubt it's changed all that much in the new digs.

But, fans in Philly have been known to cheer, too ... as was demonstrated in this afternoon's National Football League matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the visiting Dallas Cowboys. Even without the playoff implications of the game's outcome, it was going to be exciting - the Eagles are one of a number of teams that 'play up' when the Cowboys are on the other side of the ball ... and Philly's fans have always reserved a special place in their collective bowels for the 'Pokes.

If there appeared to be an inordinate amount of cheers emenating from the stands, it was because, "
the Philadelphia Eagles overcame daunting odds to capture an NFC wild-card spot with a dominating 44-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys."

Sure, there was some booing going on among the Philly faithful ... but that was reserved for Terrell Owens ... which is understandable - I've felt like booing him once or twice myself, no matter what team's uniform he was wearing.

Now THIS is Political News .....

Me? I'd like to know how much THIS guy's father contributed to the Republican Party's treasure chest ...
CRAWFORD, TEXAS - Bush Administration officials have announced the latest recipient of a Presidential pardon. In a blatant move to cloak a big news story in the post-Christmas haze, the President has chosen the beneficiary of his forgiving nature - Manigator! Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wikipedia Appeal .....

The folks at Wikipedia - "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" - are hoping to find one more gift under the tree this holiday season.

Appearing occasionally as a header on Wikipedia's pages is a link to
this appeal from Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales.

"At its core, Wikipedia is driven by a global community of more than 150,000 volunteers - all dedicated to sharing knowledge freely," Wales writes. "Over almost eight years, these volunteers have contributed more than 11 million articles in 265 languages. More than 275 million people come to our website every month to access information, free of charge and free of advertising."

"Today I am going to ask you to support Wikipedia with a donation"

Not much about this in the news, at this time ... and only a small number of posts on the blogosphere. There is
this look at Wiki's appeal from blogger Michael Singer at, and another, with discussion from blogger Sidin Vadukut at the Wall Street Journal's ... I suspect more will start showing up as everyone emerges from the holidays.

Good Night and Good Luck .....

It's been a while since I've noted the departure of a friend of mine in West Texas television news. It's time to say good night and good luck, goodbye and God bless to Kurt Mueller.

In 2005, Kurt joined the #1-rated Storm Tracker 9 weather team at KWES-TV, where he worked as weekend meteorologist and weekday weather producer, later moving to the morning show after the departure of another one of the good guys, Darrell Ward. Kurt once said he long wanted to be a television meteorologist, and his education and initial work experience were geared towards that goal.

And that's not all ... Kurt's wife Lora, is also a meteorologist, and has been working as a forecaster with the National Weather Service Office in Midland. Next month, she'll be working at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's NWS Eastern Region Headquarters in New York, and Kurt will be heading up-north-back-east with her. And while the northeast does have its moments - very cold, snow-covered moments right now - it won't be quite the same as West Texas where Kurt, and Tom, and Darrell, and now Matt, set the standards for tracking down and covering Mother Nature at her worst.

Kurt is also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. And he was always ready to put in some extra hours on his 'off time,' riding with other news staff atop the NewsWest 9 live truck as I drove it in the parades.

So many, many times, when someone finds out I have worked in television, they will comment, 'there always seems to be a lot of turnover' ... and they're absolutely right. West Texas/Southeast New Mexico is a small television market, and what we call a 'teaching market.' Young people come here from all over the country, fresh from journalism school or an internship (or an even smaller market). They gain some experience, hone their skills, develop their resumé and their contacts, and then move on to bigger and - it is hoped - better markets. Sure, you're glad for them when they move on ..... but there is some sadness too. You're sorry to see them go ..... but you wish them nothing but the best.

Good night and good luck, Kurt.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas Eve .....

There is much I give thanks for tonight, in the closing hours of Christmas Eve ..... I am thankful for a mild evening at the end of a clear, bright, colorful glory - such a contrast the winter extremes experienced in other parts of the country ..... I am thankful that merchants were enjoying a last-minute spurt of holiday shopping - and glad that my own gift-shopping was done, and I wasn't part of that spurt .....

I am thankful for the cheerfulness of the folks at MD Pizza Factory, as they served up a wonderful pre-Christmas-Eve-service meal for us ..... I am thankful for the music arranged and directed by Greg Pysh in our late service at First Prez-Midland, for the meditations of Pastor Steve Schorr, and for the sound of all of us singing "Silent Night" as we passed the light from person-to-person, candle-to-candle .....

I am thankful for the awesome display of lights at the home on the 1600 block of W. Neely - and especially thankful that no one was reported hurt when someone broke into that home and robbed the owner earlier this week .....

I am thankful that the boys got to bed on time, without any fuss ..... I was thankful for the bottle of Pied Violet's cabernet sauvignon, and the broadcast of "Christmas at Saint Olaf's" that helped My Favorite Landman and I get through the gift-wrapping after the boys had gone to bed .....

And I am thankful for the opportunity to go to sleep tonight with the promise that, "for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Alleluia ..... Amen .....
Happy Christmas, Everyone!

NORAD Tracks Santa .....

One of my favorite contemporary Christmas celebrations, NORAD Tracks Santa, is now under way, with radar, satellites, Santa Cams and fighter jets being employed to track the progress of that 'right jolly old elf.'

NORAD is "the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada. NORAD, created by a 1958 agreement between Canada and the United States, provides advanced warning of impending missile and air attack against its member nations, safeguards the air sovereignty of North America, and maintains airborne forces for defense against attack."

... and for monitoring the progress of a reindeer-powered sleigh as it pursues impossible flight plans, at unheard-of speeds.

According to
this page on NORADS's Santa website, "the tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations 'hotline.' The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."
To listen to Colonel Shoup talk about the experience, click here

Christmas Past .....

... is the subject of this post from Ricë at Notes from the Voodoo Cafe, accompanied by photos of Christmas once-upon-a-time. I once had a rocking-horse just like that one in the photo.

Won't You Join Us Tonight? .....

Here's a great way to welcome Christmas. You are cordially and joyfully invited to join us for Christmas Eve Service at First Presbyterian Church-Midland. There is a service at 5:30 p.m. (perfect for families who need to get the kids to bed at a good time), and another at 9:30 (with candlelight and communion). First Prez is located at the corner of A and Texas streets, on the west edge of downtown Midland.

Won't you join us?

Wrapping-Up 'Christmas for Our Troops' .....

Through reports on television and in the newspaper, and through posts from bloggers like Wallace at Streams, we've learned - or been reminded - that Midlanders are capable of extraordinary acts of kindness.

Christmas for Our Troops, for example, which delivered nearly 1,300 gift boxes local men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the United States Armed Forces.

Here's my post
about assembling the shipping boxes; and here is Wallace's post about filling those boxes with all kinds gifts for our troops.

The best post of all, is this one from Wallace, reporting that the boxes have already made their way overseas and into the hands of our troops ... and what one of the soldiers had to say about it.

I Hope They're Right .....

Midland police are searching for a group of masked men who allegedly broke into a neighbor's home, just a couple blocks from my own, early Tuesday morning. HERE is the complete report from the Midland Reporter-Telegram's Audrie Palmer.

The report goes on to say "the Midland Police Department called this is an isolated incident." I hope they're right ... NOT because it happened close to my home, but because there seem to have been an awful lot of robberies and other violent incidents around the Tall City the last few weeks.

'Tis the season to be jolly ... and vigilant, too.
HERE are some holiday safety tips from the Midland PD. If you see or hear something suspicious going on, give them a call at 911 (emergency) or 685-7110 (non-emergency).

Bailout ... er, Thawout Needed .....

Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration, global warming has still not advanced far enough to head-off a Yuletide disaster in-the-works ...
NORTH POLE - Santa Claus has yet again been frozen in a block of ice. Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

One-of-a-Kind Christmas Greeting .....

From an e-friend of mine, Karen at Pen In Hand. Check it out ... and be sure to check out "O Purplebaum" while you're there.

Won't You Join Us Tonight? .....

Here's a great way to welcome Christmas. You are cordially and joyfully invited to join us for Christmas Eve Service at First Presbyterian Church-Midland. There is a service at 5:30 p.m. (perfect for families who need to get the kids to bed at a good time), and another at 9:30 (with candlelight and communion). First Prez is located at the corner of A and Texas streets, on the west edge of downtown Midland.

Won't you join us?

Holiday Hustling, Christmas Connecting .....

"Coast to Coast Travel Woes" notwithstanding, Janie at Sounding Forth, and ThatManSheLoves have a plan for connecting this Christmas. If he can get to Pittsburgh's airport, he should do alright ... I've been through there a day-or-two-before-Christmas myself, on more than one occasion (on Allegheney Airlines - now THAT dates me).

By whatever means necessary, Janie!

A Day in the Life .....

Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night shall stay rural postal carriers - such as Jim at Serotoninrain - from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Last week, Jim provided a series of mobile posts, images and audio, documenting a day of completing said rounds ... if you haven't checked it out, you should.

My favorite was "Revenge of the Dead Santas"

A Taste of Last-Minute Holiday Shopping .....

... was pretty good, actually. Brown's Bar-B-Q has set-up shop in the parking lot outside Best Buy and Linens & Things (on N. Loop 250, in Midland), and has been doing a brisk business, with folks lined-up for a saucy diversion from the holiday hustle.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Break in the Weather .....

... and the fountain was once again flowing today at Blooming Rose, a flower shop in the 1700 block of W. Wall Street, in Midland.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Conservative Republicans Finally Get the Point .....

Well ... in a manner of speaking. I wonder if this has something to do with the 'voodoo economics' these people were arguing about back in the 80s ...
NEW YORK, NY - The View’s resident Republican was snubbed by the White House, and she isn’t going down without a fight!
Read the rest of the story in the Weekly World News

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Joe Pa ...

Joseph Vincent Paterno (and YES, as a matter of fact, I DO think he is the best coach in the history of college football) was born on this day in 1926.

In 2007, Paterno was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame, one of only three to be so honored while they were active coaches. His speech at the time reflected much about the man and his thoughts on the game in which he has taken such and active part for sixty years ...

"I have mixed feelings because there were so many people that are not with me any more who made it possible for me," he said. "How good has it been? What we share in football; there's never been a greater game. We've been involved in the greatest game, the greatest experience anybody could hope for. Great teammates. Guys you could trust. Guys you loved. Guys you would go to war with tomorrow. We're so lucky ... we're so lucky. If we lose what we have in football, we'll lose an awful lot in this country and we've got to remember that."

A five-time Coach of the Year, Paterno is the all-time leader among coaches in bowl appearances (34) and post-season triumphs (23). His overall postseason record of 23-10-1 gives him a winning percentage of 69.1, good for No. 2 among coaches with at least 12 bowl visits. The Nittany Lions are 16-6 in New Year's games under Paterno and 12-4 in contests that comprise the Bowl Championship Series ... and I'm hoping he adds one more to the win column January 1st, 2009, in the 95th Rose Bowl Game!

Here is his official Penn State bio page, and his write-up on Wikipedia

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No Place Like Home for the Holidays ...

What? Can't make it home for the holidays? Maybe home can make it to you this time around? These shots were taken Friday at the corner of L and Neely streets, and they show a smaller portion of the total house that was moved, with a much larger hunk'a home having already been moved earlier in the week.

Rocketeers ...

Why couldn't they have had final exams such as this when I was a student? I was in Grande Stadium's parking lot for most of Tuesday afternoon and evening, enjoying the semester finals for Coach Cowdrey's robotics class at San Jacinto Junior High School. Entertaining and enlightening ... an outstanding job by all involved!

Lab Space: Final assembly before launch, and for calculating the rocket's performance following launch and recovery.

Mission Control

We Have Liftoff!

Friday, December 19, 2008

... And the Passing of a Noted Passer ...

From the town of Rotan comes the news that Slingin' Sammy Baugh, the ultimate three-way threat who revolutionized the use of the forward pass as a Hall of Fame quarterback - and perhaps the greatest football player West Texas ever saw - died Wednesday night. He was 94. Read the complete report from here

Samuel Adrian Baugh was born in Temple, Texas ... but it was in Sweetwater, in the 1930s, where he would develop the passing skills that carried him to high school, college and pro football glory - and earned him a great nickname in the process. In addition to being a great passer and punter, Baugh was also a superior defensive player as he led the NFL in interceptions in 1943.

There are no lack of citations for his storied life and career ... in addition to his
Wikipedia write-up, you can also read his College Football Hall of Fame page and his Pro Football HGall of Fame page ... even his Internet Movie Database (IMDB) page.
Later in life, he would settle at his ranch in West Texas ... but he continued to remain active and supportive, lending his name and his energies to such events as a celebrity Slingin' Sammy Baugh Golf Tournament benefiting a scholarship at Sul Ross State University, and the TSTC West Texas Sammy Baugh Classic, one of a number of early-season events that brought several football games to a central site. An annual award at SRSU was named for Baugh in honor of his outstanding service.

A Passing of Note ...

W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as "Deep Throat" 30 years after he tipped off reporters to the Watergate scandal that toppled a president, has died. He was 95. Read the complete story from the AP here

Almost from the beginning, speculation over Deep Throat's identity was a popular topic ... I remember, back in the day, Mad Magazine suggesting it was Gerald Ford! More recently, there has been the added discussion of whether Felt was a hero or a traitor. Me? I think he was one of the good guys, engaged in what was rightly called a "struggle for honor in Washington."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vivid Words ...

Helping Younger Son research his social studies project gave me an opportunity to once again appreciate and enjoy the work and the words of Theodore Reed (aka "T.R.") Fehrenbach.

Born and raised in the small town of San Benito (about as far south as one could go in Texas), raised in Brownsville, and later in Hollywood, California. He graduated mgana cum laude from Princeton University, and returned to Texas where he raised cotton in the Rio Grande Valley. He's also a combat veteran of the Korean War ...

oh, and he wrote, too ... frequent contributions to some of the nation's leading magazines, and several books, including
Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans. And while that may not be the last word on Texas history, it remains among the best, and still pops up in reviews of more recent tomes on Texas history, comparing one to the other.

It is certainly one of the most colorful, the most vivid ... like his account of the last, brutal stage of fighting at the Alamo, once the Mexican army was finally able to break into the fortress and close with the defenders ... and his analysis of the aftermath, the devastating casualties on both sides of the battle, and the eventual consequences of Santa Anna's victory.
In fact, the Keystone State'r in me notes there were thirteen Pennsylvanians among the Alamo's defenders, and plenty of other dang-Yankees-from-back-east, as well. It is a story for us all ... not just for Texans. Check it out - or check it out again - if you get a chance.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, and Klaatu ...

I have traveled across the darkest reaches of outer space to bring you an apocolyptic warning ... see the new "Day the Earth Stood Still" at great peril to your sensibilities and your wallet!!!

I saw the film earlier this week, and I begrudge even the discounted matinee price that I paid. And I'm seriously reconsidering my stance as an envronmentalist ... it really is that bad.

Today's filmmakers hesitated to call this a "remake" of the
classic film from 1951, prefering the term "re-imagining." That's good, really ... I'd hate to think some youngster would go see the current film, and wonder why his or her parents go on-and-on about the old film ... probably attributing it to the advanced dementia that most teens assign to anyone over 30 years-of-age.

Was anything good about the movie? Well, yeah ... the special effects were pretty spectacular ... and its already earned several times the first film's total gross of box office receipts ... and those are probably the only advantages this re-imagining had over the original, which arrived in theaters 57 years ago.

What is it about that early film that has struck such a chord? According to its
write-up in Wikipedia, "the movie is ranked seventh in Arthur C. Clarke's List of the best Science-Fiction films of all time, just above Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey ( for which Clarke himself wrote the screenplay). In 1995, The Day the Earth Stood Still was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.' In 2008, it was voted as the fifth best science-fiction film ever made as part of the AFI's 10 Top 10. Lou Cannon and Colin Powell believed the film inspired Ronald Reagan to discuss uniting against an alien invasion when meeting Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Two years later, Reagan told the UN, 'I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.'"

And that comment was inspired by a film that raised the hackles of McCarthyites (the neo-conservatives of their day) for what one reviewer called "certain subversive elements" and for the inclusion in the cast of Sam Jaffe, a liberal who was allegedly sympathetic to communism. Somehow, the film rose above the rhetoric - something about the film transcended the political posturing, and prompted us to ask deeper and far-more-important questions of one another ... and of ourselves.

One other point I'd like to make before climbing off my soapbox ... one that I've made about other films in the last few years. The sensibilities of modern society, and the reflections of those sensibilities in modern filmmaking, do not necesarilly make better movies. I'll cite just one instance in the new film - the role of Helen and Bobby (Jacob in the new film). Of course, we can't have a loving and supportive relationship between a parent and child ... at least, that's how it seems sometimes. So we have to make her a cold stepmother, and him a rebellious stepson. In the early film, Klaatu's chance to see the world through their eyes, and to share a part of their lives, provides him the hope that this world might yet be redeemed ... not in the current film ... that will have to come later.

By the way, the original film was inspired by Harry Bates' 1940s short story, "Farewell to the Master" which
you can read here ... but be prepared for a different story!

The Right Man at the Right TIME ...

Borrowing a line from NBC's Today Show, "could TIME magazine’s 2008 Person of the Year have been anyone other than President-elect Barack Obama?"

Personally? No, I don't think it could. The combination of who he is, and what he shall be, made the answer to that question - for me, at least - a foregone conclusion.

"In one of the craziest elections in American history, he overcame a lack of experience, a funny name, two candidates who are political institutions and the racial divide to become the 44th President of the United States,"
TIME Magazine wrote in naming Barack Obama their Person of the Year 2008.

Early this year, while in Thailand, I was asked who might be our next president. Thailand is among the most westward-looking of southeast-Asian nations, and is a long-time ally of the United States ... so there was more than a little interest in our presidential election process, which was still in the primary stage at that time. In response to a young man's questions, I had to admit that I really didn't know if our country would elect a woman, or a black man as our president, at least not at this time ... someday, I'm sure they would ... but I just didn't know about this year.

Now I know ... and I don't see how TIME could have picked anyone else for their Person of the Year 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My 2¢ ...

Having just read the Midland Reporter-Telegram's interview with Reverend Steve Schorr, I'd like to add my 2¢ to what they had to say about the man, his calling and his impact on the Tall City.

Pastor Steve is one of the good guys ... one of the best, actually. Just four years ago, he became Senior Minister at
First Presbyterian Church-Midland ... and that was something of a homecoming for him, as he had once been an associate pastor at First Prez. My family had just transferred their letter to FPC the year before, although I had worked for a few years with the clergy, staff and congregation of that church, and had a great appreciation for them all.

Steve is a a perfect fit ... a tireless leader who - quite literally - practices what he preaches. He is a hard working and loving servant. And he shares with me a great appreciation - bordering on passion, really - for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, among others. He's also a movie buff who has directed me on several occasions to films I had never even heard of ... yet have come to treasure.

He is also adventurous ... challenging us all to join him in reaching outside our 'comfort zone,' to share the love of Jesus Christ with more people, in more ways, in more places.

Anyway, that's my 2¢ about Steve.

Happy Birthday to an Old Oilman ...

J. Paul Getty, the son of a pioneer oilman whose life was not so much a rags-to-riches story, as it was one of riches-to-even-greater-riches, was born on this day in 1892.

The life of the man who would someday head Minnehoma Oil Company, Getty Oil, Pacific Western Oil, Tidewater Oil, Skelly Oil and who-knows-how-many other oil-and-gas-related businesses, and who would someday amass one of the world's great private art collections, hobnob with American political leaders and European royalty, and earn the title of 'richest man in the world' ... all makes for great reading.

Here is Getty's obit from 1976 edition of the New York Times, as well as his Wikipedia write-up. You can also visit websites for the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Museum. There are also plenty of books out there, including some written by the man, himself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lone Shoeman? ...

It will be up to conspiracy theorists to decide whether or not a man who shoe'd President Bush from the sixth row of a press conference, was acting alone.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," the man reportedly yelled in Arabic as he lofted his loafers.
Here is a report from the Associated Press and APTN video of the size 10 attack, courtesy of

Saturday, December 13, 2008

News Copy 101 ...

This past week, Eric at Fire Ant Gazette took a local paper to task for misidentifying an oil company in the news ... now, it's television's turn ... for NON-idendification.

Submitted for your consideration is
this report from KOSA-TV, that "an oil and gas production and exploitation company has new management and a new headquarters in the tall city." We read references to "the company" on a couple of other occasions in the brief report, but we never learn the actual name of the company.

That was the most glaring error, but there are plenty of others ... which I shall leave to you, dear readers, as a test of your proofing prowess. Granted, there WERE bigger news items on the board that day ... but, having worked with some of the reporters and producers at KOSA, and knowing what they can do, I'm surprised by this item.

By the way,
here is the full press release from Doral Energy Corporation, courtesy of

Local News Made National Headlines ...

Friday night, headlines appearing in the "Other Top Stories" section of the home page included this story from the Associated Press about inmates at a privately run prison in Pecos taking hostages after starting a riot and setting a fire.

The AP report cited two local media - the
Pecos Enterprise and the Odessa American - in its report ... but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of others have contributed to postings on AP Newswire, as well.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, Yesssssss! ...

My latest best-friend-forever has appeared on the shelves of Walgreens in the Tall City. It's Lindt Excellence Chili Chocolate - the latest offering from those crazy Swiss confectioners.

"This combination of fine dark chocolate with exquisite chili pepper delivers an absolutely unique taste experience," we are told. "When savoring this new creation, chocolate connoisseurs will experience how the initially mild, delicate flavor of cocoa gradually gives way to a full-bodied but harmoniously spicy touch. Seductively piquant!"

"A new creation" ... well ... in a way, I guess. The two actually have a long association with one another. Conquistadors and other European visitors to the New World found the micture of cacao and chili to be a time-honored practice. Aztec Emperor Montezuma was particularly partial to the combination, which could be used to pay tribute and taxes ... but civilizations that had flourished and vanished from the scene by the time the Aztecs arrived - the Maya, the Teotihuacano, the Olmec and the Ceréno - also enjoyed the combination.

Vive la tradición!

Get Out, Look Up Tonight ...

The full moon Friday night will be the biggest one of the year as Earth's natural satellite reaches its closest point to our planet.

Here is the complete report from's Robert Roy Britt.

Memo to "Chairman of the Board:" Happy Birthday ...

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra - an American success story whose career included everything from big band to bobby-soxers, from Vegas to Hollywood - was born on this day in 1915, in Hoboken, N' Joizey.

That career included many peaks, many returns to stardom, including very late in his life. Me? ... I'll always prefer those early years, and that awesome young voice singing "All, or Nothing at All" ... or "I'll Never Smile Again." I loved him in lighthearted and lyrical films such as "On the Town" ... but he also showed his flair for drama in "From Here to Eternity" and "The Manchurian Candidate." It was a career that successfully spanned generations as well as media ... in August of this year, it was reported that
Sinatra was the only artist to make the top-ten list of favorite songs of (then) presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

Here is his Wikipedia write-up and the official Frank Sinatra website. Also, here is an audio recording of "The Best is Yet to Come," courtesy of scooterride33 at YouTube.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Begging to Differ ...

Pointing out an error on, on behalf of a neighbor of ours who, for a time, was quite literally 'out of this world.'

One of the widgets on my personalized iGoogle page is a 'Today in History' feature produced and maintained by the folks at Chronita. According today's post, on this day in 1972, "Apollo 17, the final mission of the series, lands on the moon with Eugene Cernan and Jack Schmitton"

Mostly true ... but not entirely. Actually, one of the last two men to set foot on the Moon - and the only scientist - was Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, Born in Santa Rita, raised in Silver City, and attending college in California, then Norway before earning a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard University in 1964. He would later enter politics - driving himself back-and-forth across the Land of Enchantment in the beat-up red pickup truck that became one of his trademarks - in his successful bid for a seat in the United States Senate.

Here is Schmitt's NASA bio and his write-up in Wikipedia, which includes audio/video of him "I Was Strolling on the Moon One Day." Just up the road from here, in the Roswell Museum and Art Center, there is a display of memorabilia from Scmitt and his service with NASA ... a nice complement to the museum's permanent Robert Goddard exhibit, and their planetarium.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wish I'd Known Him Better

Dr. Marshall Box - a longtime Midland educator and businessman - passed away over the weekend. I knew him, though not very well ... I wish I'd known him better.

He and I were once members of the same church family. And for many years, one of his businesses has been our first choice for automobile repair and maintenance. And that was about all I knew of the man.

I've learned a lot more over the past few days, as I prepared a memorial page on the Midland College website. Among other things, I learned about his distinguished service with the U.S. Navy in World War II as a warrant officer and master diver aboard the heavy cruiser USS Minneapolis (CA-36), fighting in just about every major naval engagement in the South Pacific including Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa - and earning seventeen battle stars in the process.
Here is a page devoted to the Minneapolis in the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, and it is a GREAT read. The Guadalcanal/Battle of Tassafaronga section is especially interesting because of the role Box and others played in saving their ship - earning a special commendation from Admiral William "Bull" Halsey. Later, they were part of Admiral Jesse B. Oldendorf's task force at Leyte Gulf/Battle of Surigao Strait - one of the few engagements in history where a naval force successfully "crossed the T" of the opposing force. (Darrell, if you're reading this, back me up here!)

It was that kind of experience - plus a series of college degrees he earned in the years following the war - that Marshall brought to the fledgeling Midland College in 1971 as Dean of Occupational/Technical Programs. It was a job, Ed Todd wrote in a 2007 report for the
Midland Reporter-Telegram, "where he deftly put his naval leadership training, naval ship repair, fire-fighting, diving and underwater welding technical abilities and know-how and inventiveness to work toward building about 30 technical programs for the college and its students." According to Marshall's own recollections in the book, "Midland College: The First 25 Years," this included working closely with architects in the design of the facilities that would someday house those programs. As Dean, and later as Vice President of Occupational Education, Marshall oversaw the creation and development of a wide variety of programs, including eight in allied health. He also worked with longtime Midland physician Dr. Viola Coleman to institute an Emergency Medical Technician Program at the school.

I also learned that after retirement from MC, Marshall founded Box Auto Parts & Salvage, where he enjoyed his hobby of restoring and rebuilding classic cars - and where My Favorite Landman and I would bring our vehicles for repair. Reading Ed Todd's report, I found out that he took no financial profits from the business, as all profits were used to send his employees to Midland College ... and that several of those employees, after improving their skills, moved on to higher-paying jobs.

And all of this is just a sample of the story Marshall Box could tell ... I wish I'd known him better.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Return With Us Now to Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear .....

... when the Pittsburgh Steelers met the Dallas Cowboys on the gridiron ... bad weather ... good game ... and a GREAT ending!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Have Yourself a Tuba Little Christmas .....

I sooooo much enjoy Midland's downtown Christmas parade more as a spectator on the sidewalk, watching it go by ... instead of driving NewsWest 9's Live Truck down the parade route. Good parade ... great time ... and Sousaphones galore ... oom-pah-pah!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Trail-Blazin'-Asian .....

I wish to sing the praises of those hearty pioneers who made successful inroads to West Texas palates with trailblazin' Asian cuisine.

And no, it's not the people we've been hearing so much about in the local media the past couple weeks to whom I tip my toque.

First, lets get something said right from the start ... good luck to Bushido Japanese Sushi Bar and Steakhouse in northwest Midland. We need more stories like theirs, about owning and operating your own business, and making it a success. But I suggest part of their success in getting Midlanders to eat raw seafood - other than the ubiquitous tuna fish salad - is due in part to the fact that we HAVE been enjoying fine sushi for quite some time now.

We've tried it, we like it, and we're ready for more - courtesy of Sushiya and 'your friendly neighborhood' H.E.B., where Luai and his staff have been serving up a wide variety of sushi, as well as pot stickers, spring rolls, Asian condiments and salads - available in individual servings, and in party-size trays.

Something neat about the Sushiya staff ... they are all newcomers to Midland. Among other things, they came here for the work, helping to fill a desperate shortage of workers in the local job force. But since then, they have come to appreciate the quality of life here, and they have established ties to the community and its people. Longtime and devoted customers have become good friends and advocates, and made them welcome in their adopted home.

So, good luck to Sushiya, as well!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Community College Community:
Holiday Evening .....

One of the best ways for Midlanders to mark the start of the holiday season take place tonight on the Midland College campus. It's fun, it's festive and it's free.

It has been an especially busy week around the office and around campus, as students, faculty and staff get ready for the 2008 edition of
Midland College's Annual Holiday Evening. It's tonight (Thursday, December 4th) from 5:15 - 9:30 p.m. and, as the saying goes, there's a little something for everyone. There is a charge for the "Frito Pie Chili Supper" - the rest of the events are free-of-charge. Won't you join us?

The "Frito Pie Chili Supper" takes place from From 5:15 - 6:45 p.m. in the Amistad Atrium of the
F. Marie Hall Academic Building. The cost is $4.00 a bowl, with the proceeds going to the Midland College Students in Philanthropy. It's also a great opportunity to visit the Hall Academic building, the newest addition to MC's main campus.

Going on nearby is "Christmas at the
Dollye Neal Chapel" where you can enjoy music by harpist Megan Metheney in a a candle-lit setting filled with holiday cheer. Top it off with hot chocolate as you enjoy the special holiday decorations at nearby Hall's Way (a pedestrian bridge connecting MC with our neighbor, Midland Community Theatre), and walk to the Hodge Carillon Tower Lighting.

The "Lighting of the Hodge Carillon Tower" in the heart of the Midland College campus, takes place at 6:45 p.m. and will be accompanied by carolling from the MC Chap Singers.

Then it's back indoors for the Opening Reception of the Midland College Fall Student Art Show, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. in the
McCormick Gallery, Allison Fine Arts Building. The evening will include a wonderful display of works by our students, in a varity of media, along with refreshments, and a special performance by the Midland College Orchestra ... and keep an eye out for Santa!

In conjunction with the show will be 14th Annual Midland College Student Art Hallway Sale, in the Art Wing of the
Allison Fine Arts Building. The sale will continue through Friday and Saturday, December 5th and 6th, from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. If you're looking for a special, unique Christmas gift for someone - or for yourself! - this is a great opportunity.

You're also invited to enjoy the sounds of the cool side of the yuletide. From 7:20 - 8:45 p.m. in the Wagner & Brown Auditorium of the Allison Fine Arts Building, it's the "Sounds of Christmas" Concert featuring the Midland College Jazz Band and the MC Chap Singers.

It really is a great way to kick-off the holiday season ... won't you join us?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Beats the Heck Out of Spending the Night in a Parking Lot .....

It's time, we are told, to 'click till we drop' ... According to this report from AP, online retailers are ramping up heavy-duty deals to turn skittish shoppers into buyers today during "Cyber Monday" — but even so, online sales are expected to be fairly flat after years of strong growth.

"Cyber Monday," a term coined by the trade group National Retail Federation in 2005 to describe the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday, is the unofficial kickoff for the busy online retail season.