That haunting sound seeps across the early sky.
You know, that high altitude whoosh that always reminds you of ”Lost”.
Probably the first flight out.
Was it maliciously interrupting the sunrise rituals by lesser creatures?
(Time to be busy, laggards! Losers snoozers.)
Or a sky echoed scream?
(Noooo, I forgot the charger!)
Or simply a group sigh at the hour, lack of coffee, and the hours to go before sleep?
Those left behind looked overhead and wish. It’s got to be better than this.
They were spotted.
They are on the march again.
Despite the efforts – and promises by those who are supposed to know.
A perpetual battle
One that tests resolve, endurance, and tolerance of pain if defensive measures are unsuccessful.
They are many.
We are few.
The few. Bearing the heavy burden of decision: first strike with weapons of last resort.
Innocents will be harmed – maybe die.
Sacrifice a few to save the rest?
Hard to explain that to those resting in pieces.
Some may not be missed.
With so many, what’s the loss of a few?
Still there might be unexpected consequences.
Yes, butterflies are pretty, but there’s always crayons and paper.
There’s the ladybugs and the bees. They will just go elsewhere.
Perhaps better to do as the peasants in the Middle Ages when kings fought for crowns?
Keep the children hidden indoors.
Try a scorched earth no comfort, no shelter policy.
Hope for rain to drown them all.
Yes. Best to set the timer on sprinklers for a predawn event.
Soggy soil is inhospitable.
Tunnels cave in. Children must be carried to safety.
They’ll move on to a dry yard.
They’re not stupid – far from it.
A worry, then. Do fire ants hold a grudge?
Better a mechanical sprinkler instead of recognizable me with a pan of hot water.
Just in case.
A little antsy,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.
Plenty of laughs onboard and in stores.
Drink it all in.
(Offer you back straps for those flip flops? May need those to keep up.)
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a style all the Bayou City’s own.
It’s the 13th! (No horror stories – with luck, it will be bloodless).
- Paddle down to the park at Allen’s Landing to watch over 30 teams compete.
- The 13th Annual Dragon Boat Races and Festival take to the water all day Saturday
- Won’t starve: check out the food trucks. (Cinco de mayo. Bound to be beer, imported)
- No treading water between races (every 12 minutes? Whew.)
- Vietnamese performances and music, too
- Info: houstondragonboat.com and pictures of previous festival.
- All free, of course.
Seek “The Walking Dead!” (Waiting for pick up worldwide. How ghoulish?)
- Grab your piece (No, not a gun) Pick up some free fun.(That sober you up?)
- It’s Free Comic Book Day! (Worldwide. Since 2002)
- Local Comic book dealers are inviting you over.
- Be a hero and go. (Click here to find participating dealers near you)
- Over 4.6 million comics will find new homes. (“Walking Dead” is one.)
- USA Today’s Guide to Free Comic Book Day, 2013
- Publishers are eager to show off their wide range of titles for all ages and interests.
Nothing better than views with brews?
- Oh, it’s not for sloppy beach drunks. That’s a little farther down the road.
- Kemah Boardwalk on the bay hosts their International Beer Fest May 4.
- Mild weather, sailboats on the bay, and offerings of Asian Pacific, European, and American beers.
- Encourage the cute seagulls over head at your own risk. The signs say don’t feed them for a reason.
- Might want to ride the whiplash roller coaster before participating in the event? (Yes, festival is while beers last, but really, you want to roller coaster AFTER?)
- There’s a nice Starbucks with a patio: a great stop off before driving home. (Yes, under the roller coaster – but there’s big umbrellas!)
The Latin Wave is seagull free.
- Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts presents the 8th annual Latin Wave: New Films from Latin America
- Beyoncé should approve. Cuba finally is allowed.
- Broad range of topics in the 9 films: addiction, cyber-bullying, civil war, (Can wars actually be civil? Oh, moving on) and (best yet!) CUBAN ZOMBIES! (now aren’t you glad you brushed up your knowledge from that free comic book?)
- Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay - and Cuba.
- More information: mfah.org/latinwave (Film reviews and info)
- Should get you ready to dance through the weekend’s parties.
- (Sorry you missed the big opening party. It was classy. No seagulls. Fancy drinks. OK some beers. But people had real shoes on!)
And of course it’s a whole weekend of Cinco de Mayo celebrations
- That celebration of a military battle in Mexico. (What’s a better mix than military, guns, and beer?)
- It’s hardly celebrated in Mexico, but really big in the US. (Hallmark needed a filler until Mother’s Day? The breweries are in a lull between St Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day? Decorations are a must according to Party stores!)
- Grocery stores have the chips, dips, avocados, and beer stacked right by the door. (No wandering around in bright lights mid party because you ran out of supplies)
- One thing, though. Please lock up the guns.
- It’s tradition in some places: shooting guns into the air to celebrate.
- But not here.
- Those bullets don’t go to the moon. They fall. And people die. Like that little girl.
- (Besides the NRA doesn’t want any “incidents” while they are in town. Guns are only the last defense against an attack.)
- Defensive weapons not party favors, right? (It says so somewhere – like in the gun classes legal gun owners must take.)
Oh, beans! Law enforcement probably hates this weekend for so many reasons.
Cinco de Mayo with Houston’s own style – Oh! Just celebrate with care, ya’ll hear?
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.
Chainsaws, clippers, ladders dancing out of garages.
Annoying, but due diligence.
Precaution for the coming hurricane season.
Wouldn’t want to be watchin’ a storm and regrettin’.
The preference to avoid regrets is human?
Or does it have to be taught?
The preschool classroom was typical: Centers for art, music, home, reading, blocks.
Blocks: the pale finely sanded wooden ones.
A huge stock.
Enough to engineer the tallest of towering lumps.
Only one kid repeated took great delight in crashing others’ constructions.
So the teacher closed the block center.
The rest of the Pre-K mob grumbled.
Eventually started punching the kid block destroyer.
Of course they all had to sit in circle and calm down.
The teacher patiently explained.
Once ALL learned to play nicely and respect others, the block center would reopen
Kids won’t sit still.
There were wiggles, and frowns, and eyes glaring at the block destroyer.
Finally on little boy blurted it out.
(They do say the darndest things)
“He’s the one who’s being bad. Why are you mad at us? Why not just make him stay out of the blocks?”
He had a point.
They did tell him not to wave that finger in people’s faces.
Someone might bite it off….at this age, maybe not an idle threat.
As kids get older, behavior management changes.
No finger-pointing, just alarms – but that’s a good thing?
One local elementary principal has mandated her interpretation of PBIS Stetson
It’s a positive reinforcement management program to improve classroom behaviors which improves learning.
Everyone loves a pat on the head and a gold star!
No frownie faces!
Sending students to the principal’s office for punishment is not allowed. EVER.
Keeps those office discipline records clean.
No noisy kids waiting outside her door.
No squirming unpleasant calls to problem kids’ parents (who are frequently problems themselves)
Smiley faces all around.
Teachers must either ignore problem students or wear a timer that goes off every 2-10 minutes reminding them to praise the troublemaker.
Well, that certainly improves instructional time.
If that doesn’t work, the teacher is to take the problem child to sit in another teacher’s classroom
So now one kid is interrupting 2 teachers in 2 classrooms and interfering with instructional time for 2 sets of students.
Want to take bets?
Other kids become “problem students” in order to get praise and attention.
The praise alarm becomes a game: “Let’s see how many times we can get that alarm to go off in an hour.”
(Who really wants to learn fractions anyway?)
And there’s always the perpetual “Let’s see if we can get the teacher to cry.” (Kids do that. Seriously.)
Positive reinforcement, used appropriately and sparingly, works wonders.
But cheering just for breathing sets the kid up for failure in the future.
It’s sort of like “as a twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
Society can end up with a bunch of people a bit warped ( but full of self-confidence!)
Then what do you do with them?
That’s the question now.
Carlos Daniel Fernandez, 19, on trial for killing a homeless man in a robbery attempt (over $1.00).
- Defense: “Oh, he intentionally shot the man three times – but only because the victim charged him. The victim shouldn’t have tried to fight.”
- So, it’s the victim’s fault he’s dead?
- It’s just murder – not capital murder.
- Dead is dead. Murder is murder?
- Sentence for “Regular murder”? 5 years to life. Parole possible.
It gets better. There were 4 “teens” involved.
- They had been cruising looking for prostitutes
- They were looking for easy targets – and “only became violent when victims resisted”.
- Victoria Correa, 16, fired her shotgun at the man, but missed
- Michael Alexander, 18, carried a handgun. His wife, Marilyn Villarreal, 18. was also involved.
- The couple said they need money for their 1 yr old baby.
It gets better. Only arrested because days later they botched a home invasion.
- Victoria was shot in the leg.
- Fernandez shot the homeowner 6 times in the side. (He survived.)
Prosecutor: “They did this for the thrill of it. They thought these people wouldn’t fight back, and it was a thrill for them.”
Even better is the case being tried in Galveston.
Bartholomew Granger,42, “grinned and winked at prosecutors after his guilty verdict.”
- He gunned down 79 yr old woman on the Jefferson County Courthouse steps in Beaumont, TX.
- He was mad.
- He was at the courthouse for his trial involving his rape of his own daughter.
- Angry at his daughter and ex-girl friend/”wife” for testifying, he was waiting in his car to shoot them.
- As the came out he started firing – and bystanders were wounded and one killed.
- His daughter? He ran over her with his pickup truck.
Tuesday, He was convicted of capital murder of an elderly woman in Galveston.
- Trial was moved due to TX law that a jury cannot view the crime scene.
- Wednesday Granger had a temper tantrum
- He believes the justice system has wronged him
- He blames his daughter “The bitch got what she deserved! She’s the one that should be dead – not the old lady – her!”
- When Judge tells him to calm down: “I can’t, because these people are lying on me! It’s not about me being angry or being out of control…I told you from the very beginning. I didn’t want to come here.”
Didn’t want to come here?
Maybe if you hadn’t raped your daughter, run over her at that trial, and shot those others?
With sentencing on the table, he’s scrapping now.
Even during jury selection, security has been extremely tight.
So not a nice person – and he has friends.
Nice people don’t want to be around people like these.
Just like Preschoolers don’t want a block tyrant in their playgroup.
Those who have no regrets:
It’s never their fault.
They should have everything they want when they want it.
They want to “splain it to you” – you just don’t understand.
They deserve a do-over.
Are some people just like a tallow tree that naturally grows twisted, brittle, and easy to break?
Could even those be helped along by those who care for them?
Like a gardener who enhances a young oak tree’s natural shape and life with prudent careful pruning?
As the twig is bent, so the tree grows, so they say.
Perhaps time to reevaluate. Examine tools. Make plans. Take action.
Wouldn’t want to be havin’ any regrets.
It’s the beginning of a stormy season.
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
A small crowd gathered.
Well, not really gathered. Just paused a second to see what was going on.
And moved on.
At least he got a pause and a few comments.
So many don’t.
He was a stranger. A tourist, perhaps? Not from here.
Still someone should have noticed he didn’t show up.
People kept looking around wondering.
No huddled friends or weeping family members?
Some commented lucky the alligators hadn’t shown up.
Belly up – and not doing the backstroke.
Looked completely unruffled in repose.
Head back. Eyes closed. Toes pointed up.
Leaned over the rail to get a closer look.
Odd. No signs of trauma – no rips, gashes, or blood.
Fell off a chartered party boat? Nobody noticed yet?
Went for a midnight swim and was struck by a speeding motor boat?
Should have made a noise.
Drunk skipper or one trying to pretend it didn’t happen?
Bad storm last night. Struck by lightning?
Most would seek shelter from the driving rain.
Poisoned by some cranky foe over an imaginary wrong?
People do things at the drop of a feather these days.
Depression? Leapt off the bridge after losing out to a rival?
It looked to be in his element – no way this could be suicide.
Had to be foul play.
Molly stuck a leg through the bridge railing – as if stirring the air would waken him.
Tugged at her.
Trying to distract.
Trying move on.
“Make him move. Make him fly. He’s not quacking.”
Molly loves birds.
Seeing them fly early in the morning.
Listening to them call to each other.
Not sure if she sees them as her pets or her neighbors.
The sight of the lifeless mallard drake in the water bothered her.
It wasn’t as it was supposed to be.
Don’t know what happened to him.
But we did pause. And wondered. And felt a loss.
He got noticed. And a few words.
So many of all sorts don’t.
Life flows on.
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
They aren’t sharp. Dull by design.
Often bent or discolored and tossed in the junk drawer rather than the dinnerware drawer.
But an old dinner table knife is the perfect tool for so much:
An uncomplaining scraper,
Ready to pry,
Good for getting something out of a tight narrow spot,
Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it isn’t useful.
Who’s got time to go into the garage and rummage through the tool box?
Use the tool that’s available.
Undoubtedly, Martha Stewart (if she thought it was her idea to start with) would elevate a simple dinner knife into elegant standing.
With glitter and paint? Polka dots or stripes?
Maybe give it a special handcrafted sheath? With cute felt cutouts? Or comforting gingham trimmed with cotton lace?
Personalize it with calligraphy?
In any case, elegant or mundane, making use of something you already have is what’s important.
Sometimes simple is the most effective, anyway.
Cutting through the noise around recent controversies, it appears that there are old tools that can be just as effective as tools not finished, not purchased, or left behind.
Older doesn’t mean useless.
Older does not always mean ignore and replace.
Just dust them off, re-examine, and use as needed.
Here’s some tools that have a great deal of value today.
Demand to know why these existing Federal Laws aren’t strictly enforced.
- 18 U.S.C.(United States Code) § (section)922(g) – Possession of a firearm or ammunition by a felon, fugitive, or drug dealer. Federal Prison Sentence: 10 years. (“Possession” here means touching any gun: handgun, rifle, or shotgun.)
- 18 U.S.C.§ 922(j) – Possession of a stolen firearm. Prison term: 10 years.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(i) – For shipping, transporting, or receiving a firearm across state lines with intent to commit a felony. Prison term: 10 years.
- 18 U.S.C. § 924(a) (1) (A) - For carrying, using, or possessing a firearm in connection with a federal violent crime or drug trafficking. Prison term: 5-30 years consecutive mandatory minimum sentences.
- 18 U.S.C. § 924 (j) - Committing murder while possessing a firearm in connection with a federal crime of violence or drug trafficking. Prison Term: Death Penalty or up to life in prison.
- 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) – For a “prohibited person” who had 3 prior convictions for drug offenses or violent felonies. Prison term: 15 years Mandatory minimum.
- 18 U.S.C. § 924(g) – For interstate travel to acquire or transfer a firearm to commit crimes. Prison term: 10 years.
These are from a Federal Public Defender sheet.
Those are only a few of the federal statutes that could reduce violence.
Interested in a few more?
- It’s against Federal law to lie to a licensed gun dealer (“Any felony convictions?” “Domestic violence?” “History of mental health?” “Carry permit obtained?”)
- It’s against Federal law to lie on the paperwork required to purchase guns (background check/ form 4473)
- It’s against the Federal law to be a straw buyer and buy guns for others.
Law enforcement has tools: Federal laws that apply across the entire country.
No need for fancy calligraphy to make these statues to apply specifically to a state.
No emotional drama by legislators in front of cameras necessary.
No engaging in power struggles or demonizing of political foes required.
Just the guts to stand up demand: Enforcement of the laws. Rapid prosecution. Stiff sentencing.
Demand authorities use the tools available to curb violence and remove dangerous people from society.
- Contact your City District Attorney’s office and ask crime prosecution be sent to the federal level when applicable
- Contact your State Attorney General’s Office and insist crimes involving Federal Laws be prosecuted and sent to the Federal District Courts.
- Contact the Federal District Courts and insist the Federal Statues be enforced, criminals prosecuted and sentenced.
- Phone and write your Congressmen and demand to know why Federal Statutes taking aim at gun-toting individuals who create violence are not being enforced.
Demand to know why the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which flags people who knowingly lie on their forms, is languishing.(Criminals apply and hope to slip by. 70% drop in prosecutions.)
Demand to know why 2007 NICS Improvement Amendments Act isn’t adequately enforced.
- It requires states to submit mental health records of individuals considered unfit to have firearms.
- Grant funding is provided to reward states who do forward their records in a timely fashion.
- Supported by Brady Campaign, and passed unanimously by Congress after the Virginia Tech shootings.
Ask the Justice Department: why don’t you want to keep us safe?
There are tools: maybe not the fancy ones you wanted, but ones ready and waiting.
Strong enough to accomplish quite a bit until something better is on the table.
Able to pry up some action.
Able to tighten things up.
Able to turn the screws to cage violence.
Don’t make us channel the drive and determination of that domestic diva, Martha.
It wouldn’t be pretty.
Tough as nails: metal, liquid, and finger.
That “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” has a point.
Hands up if you’ve had enough.
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.
(And research your state’s gun laws: Do internet sales send purchased weapon to a registered dealer who does the background check before the weapon is handed over? Are background checks done on site at gun shows before purchased gun is handed over? Do Restraining/Protective Orders automatically require guns be handed over by stalkers and domestic violence offenders for the term of the order? Yes? No? Find out and demand action.)
Brain can’t process.
It was here.
Now it’s not.
Shook his head.
A dream? Please?
He quietly looked over his shoulder at his young wife.
Her face a mirror of his bewilderment.
Still. So still.
They had flown high with their plans: a home, a family, a quiet life.
In the old neighborhood
With friends building homes.
With bird songs morning to night.
Everything they needed was here.
(Remember when we all ate dinner outside? Right over there. Right…over… there…)
All gone. Gone.
She carefully perched beside him.
He picked at the rough board edge.
What was that?
A snagged feather? A few threads?
He hung his head. He should say something.
(Remember that afternoon we sat in the shade and you insisted on feeding me sunflower seeds one by one?)
“It will be all right, ” she said right on cue. “We will be fine.”
She stood up,
Wanting to leave.
Wanting to not see the empty space any longer.
She was right, he thought.
They needed shelter for the night.
And time to think.
Sadly I watched them leave.
But what choice did they have?
Caught myself before calling them back.
They were right.
Things happen – things we can’t control.
Life gets uprooted.
That towering tree-size bush was on the other side of the fence, but did they really have to cut it down?
Guess those pesky leaves won’t cluttering up their hot tub anymore.
Guess that mockingbird guarding the nest won’t be dive bombing anyone any time soon.
I’ve spoken with our crepe myrtle suggesting it leaf out as quickly as possible.
(It’s trying to sprout shelter ASAP)
The cardinal pair calls.
Cheered to know they landed somewhere safely -
And plan to visit the old neighborhood -
When the hawk isn’t around.
Sometimes you just have to seek cover to survive.
“It will be all right, ” she said right on cue. “It will be fine.”
Watching the last flight out,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
Shucks. It’s here. Washed up.
Global warming already has the Gulf of Mexico sloshing inland back to its’ homelands.
(And you thought the immigration flood was just human.)
Yep, the salty waters are probably planning to extend their waves on into East Texas.
(Family reunions! Fossil shells, meet your youngster descendants!)
Like the movies, the Gulf crept in while you were sleeping.
(Water only sleepless in Seattle?)
Don’t say you weren’t warned and warmed.
GMC’s photo shoot for an advertising campaign is probably the first reveal.
(Woo-hoo! USA. USA. USA car manufacturers are #1 at something.)
The City of Houston, Texas is now a coastal city.
Start building the marinas and marking up that waterfront property.
Someone at GMC picked up the message in a bottle early.
Notice how the lovely Houston skyline is reflected in the charming coastal waters with that convenient city boat ramp.
Amazing. Never noticed that recreational spot before. Much less that body of water.
(Photoshop is just magic!)
Yep, another reason to buy that black chrome covered SUV.
It’s not just to imitate government agencies’ caravans and impress your neighbors.
It’s necessary to haul along the boat, not a cattle trailer, for a bit of after work recreation.
Who needs bull!
Only the beginning waves.
Best use caution around those sneaky watery fingers.
It’s flat terrain here.
Nothing to stop it.
(See? Yet another reason: high water? No problem!)
(Will life jackets become mandated like air bags?)
Don’t fall asleep at the wheel.
Might wake up needing to dog paddle,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge
Get your GMC 2013 Terrain Denali fix here.
It’s available in Iridium Metallic! (Is that slightly redundant?)
You know iridium, chemical element with atomic #77? (77? Sounds lucky!)
Iridium, a very hard, but brittle, silver white metal in the platinum family. (Sounds expensive!)
Iridium. One of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust. (Sounds exclusive!)
Careful if dusting up. (Iridium dust can be flammable.)
Iridium. Such a lovely sounding word. But there’s controversy.
Is Iridium volcanic in origin or from the comet/meteor that ended the dinosaurs’ world?
Burned out. Ancient history. Not worth noting.
Hope all this Iridium information isn’t irritating. It’s such a lovely word…rolls like waves.