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400 Year Old Advice From Puritan John Winthrop I Might Tattoo To My Chest


 I recently read a great line written almost 400 years ago by John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A time and place quite far away from the Houston, Texas where I’m writing this blog post this morning.

 In a letter to his sister after the death of her husband Winthrop write—

 “…let experience add more confidence still to your patience...”

That is great advice for many aspects of life. I think I might get it tatooed to my chest.

I read this line in Vernon Parrington’s The Colonial Mind 1620-1800. Please click here for my other post on this book so far.    

Please let me say it again—Let experience add more confidence still to your patience.

August 21, 2007 Posted by | Books, Colonial America, History | 1 Comment

Lousy Comments From Houston City Controller Annise Parker

Houston City Controller Annise Parker, a Democrat, recently made some disappointing comments in the Houston Chronicle about City Councilmember Peter Brown.

Mr. Brown is also a Democrat.

These comments appeared in a Kristen Mack column highlighting Councilman Brown’s intent to run for Mayor of Houston in 2009. 

A focus of Ms. Mack’s column was to suggest that Mr. Brown is not realistic in his plans and goals for Houston.  A suggestion is made that Mr. Brown’s agenda is overly broad.

Mr. Brown wants to more aggressively address social issues and urban planning concerns.

Wild! Where did he ever get the idea that stuff like that matters? Is Brown a follower of Trotsky?

Ms. Parker, also a potential candidate for Mayor in 2009, said about Mr. Brown, “You have to focus on what’s achievable…”

Ms. Parker is an openly gay elected official. Were the gains of the gay rights movement “achievable” at the time of the Stonewall protests in 1969?

How long are we supposed to wait for basic standards of social justice and fair play to become “achievable” in Houston?

How long are we supposed to wait before clean air and decent schools become “achievable?”

Ms. Parker should know better. I bet she does.

Yet what Ms. Parker may know best are her own political ambitions. I’m sure that signaling to potential business campaign donors that she is a “safe Democrat” is achievable for Ms. Parker.

Life is brief and often brutal. Who needs this stuff from people who should know better?   

August 20, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics | Leave a comment

I’m Not Alone And Neither Is The Blue Whale


In the Audubon Society’s Guide to Marine Mammals of the World, a comparison is made between a school of dolphins and a single solitary Blue Whale.

(To my surprise, the book indicates Blue Whales can off occur of the Texas coast in the Gulf of Mexico.)

The dolphin school is likely feeding and “… is probably a temporary gathering…” On the other hand, the Blue Whale “may be in acoustic communication with one or more other Blue Whales many miles away.”

Reading this, I felt an identification with that one Blue Whale. I spend a lot of time alone, but I don’t regard myself as anti-social.

I often use time alone to consider my next blog post or to think about things I would like to say to others. I use time alone to consider how I want to behave around others and to digest interactions I have had with friends or at work.

My time alone is not used for communication in the direct sense that the big whale is practicing. But it is often used in way that will help me communicate with others.

We see a number of people together and we may assume that they are out and being social. We may feel that way regardless of the quality of conversation taking place or the despite the possible absence of enduring relationships between people in the group.

We see someone alone and we may assume that she is in all regards by herself.

In many important respects, the opposite of our assumptions may well be the case.   

August 19, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Books, Relationships, Sea Life | Leave a comment

With Hurricane Possible, I’m Hording Food And Arming Myself

With Hurricane Dean showing some slight movement towards Texas overnight, I’m hording food and arming myself.

I’ve got three cans of sardines that are good for at least another year. Though, I had been hoping to toss the sardines into the Houston Ship Channel to see if that water had the right mix of petrochemicals to reanimate the fish.

As for weapons, I’ve got some holiday scented room spray from Pier 1 that I’m hoping looters will mistake for pepper spray.

Actually, the wife and I went shopping for hurricane supplies a few weeks back. Click here for a list of things you’ll need if a hurricane comes your way. It is a serious matter.      

August 17, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Do Local TV Stations Make Hurricanes In Secret Weather Labs?



Houston has been hit with a lot of rain today. The rain comes from former Tropical Storm Erin. Erin is no longer a named storm.

Our local TV stations have broken into regular programming to show flooded areas. They might tell you it is a public service. I’m less certain of the motives.

I wonder sometimes if local TV stations create tropical weather systems in secret labs and then dump them into the atmosphere.

These stations sure do get hyped-up over bad weather. They have super-double, triple-action, four-squared Doppler Radar systems to tell us what is on the way.

With Hurricane Dean likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico next week, our local affiliates in Houston will be in full hype mode.     

August 16, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Things Watching Tv Made Me Think About | Leave a comment

Yep, I Voted For Perot Once—Every Vote I Have Cast For President


 Here is every vote I have made for the office of President  of the United States. 1988, 1992 and 1996 were  in Ohio. 2000 and 2004 were in Texas.  

1988—Democratic primary–Jesse Jackson ( Still my favorite vote), 1988 General—Mike Dukakis. 

1992—Dem. Primary—Jerry Brown ( My next favorite vote), 1992 General—Bill Clinton

1996 — Took the ballot of Ross Perot’s Reform Party in the Ohio primary and voted for Perot in the general. ( People don’t recall, but Perot ran somewhat to the left in 1996 and Clinton was going to win in any case.—-Anyway, that’s what I did. )

2000 —Signed to put Greens on the ballot in Texas and so was not allowed to vote in Democratic primary. Voted for Ralph Nader in the general.

2004 —Voted for John Kerry in primary and general.   

2008?—Edwards, Obama and Clinton in that order are my choices so far.  

I feel I’ve done the best I could with the options I had.

August 16, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Politics, Things I've Done | 2 Comments

Cairo, Illinois Reminds Me Of How Much I Love My Wife


One place I wanted to see for years was Cairo, Illinois. This is where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River.

Moving from Cincinnati to Houston in 1998, my wife and I found that Cairo was on the drive to Houston. We stood on an observation platform where the rivers meet. It was a good moment.

Now when I fly back to Cincinnati once or twice a year, the plane sometimes flies right over that point. Each time it does, I think about being there with my excellent wife.

The wife and I have also been to the point in Pittsburgh where the Ohio River begins. So Pittsburgh also makes me think of how much I love my wife. 

General Grant was camped out in Cairo for a time during the Civil War. General Grant reminds me how glad I am the North won the Civil War.    


August 16, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Good People, Things I've Done | Leave a comment

Like Humans, Stingrays Evacuate In Advance Of Tropical Storms


There have been a number of human attacks on stingrays of late in Galveston, Texas.

What happens is that the stingray is peacefully bottom-dwelling near the shore, and then a bigfoot human comes along and tramples around where the stingray is resting.

So, logically, the stingray stings the intruding human with its venomous barb. This has happened at least 14 times in the past few days in Galveston.

Would you want to be stepped on?

Beyond the inherent logic of the stingray’s actions, these creatures share something else in common with people—They evacuate when a tropical storm or hurricane comes.

The Houston Chronicle reports that with Tropical Storm Erin out in the Gulf of Mexico, the larger breaking waves will lead stingrays to move away from the coast. They don’t like all the turbulence.

The Anatomy of the Sea—Over 600 Creatures of the Deep by Dr. David Ponsonby and Georges Dussart, says that a stingray is a fish with a skeleton made of cartilage. Cartilage is described here as a “tough, flexible, gristly substance formed with proteins laid in a jellylike substrate.” 

These cartilage fish, which also include sharks, were the first vertebrates in the sea.

There are some rays that give off an electric shock. Imagine that! These electric rays were once used as an early anesthetic.

The Chronicle reports that Sidney Steffens, marine biologist for the Texas Seaport Museum, says , “The best way to reduce (the threat of) shark attack is swimming in water with waves. Sharks don’t like rough waters.”

Wrong. While I’m certain Mr. Steffens is very informed about his subject, the best way to avoid shark attack is to stay out of the water and to instead sit at a computer making blog posts about sea life.

Please see my other sea life posts by clicking here.   

And while your here, don’t forget that Texas needs an income tax for basic social justice. Relying on regressive sales taxes and on property taxes is not the way to go. A progressive income tax is the path to a fully modern and decent Texas.  

August 15, 2007 Posted by | Books, Galveston, Sea Life | 5 Comments

John Cotton Of Massachusetts Bay Colony—Still Worth Study After 400 Years


I’ve begun reading The Colonial Mind 1620-1800 by Vernon Parrington.

Professor Parrington taught English at the University of Washington. He died in 1929. The Colonial Mind was published in 1927. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1928. 

I have some observations and reactions to Parrington’s chapter on John Cotton of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

John Cotton lived from 1584 until 1652. A deeply religious man, Cotton moved in his lifetime from religious liberalism to orthodoxy. He arrived in Boston from England in 1633. He wanted to practice his vision of faith in a new world. Though here, I’m not as interested in Cotton’s religion as in other aspects of his life.

Parrington writes that according to Cotton’s grandson, “Twelve hours in a day he commonly studied, and would call that a scholar’s day.”

What a wonderful life.

Writes Parrington—“But however much he loved cloistered scholarship, the immediate source of his great influence was the spoken word rather than the written word” 

Consider that Socrates did not leave behind one written word. Nor did Jesus. And, of course, in our day-to-day lives we have the ability to carefully choose our words and have influence with others.

And how about that despite his love for books, Cotton was also out with the people. He had that right on both counts. You’ve got to get out there and make your views known.

Writes Parrington— He seems to have been an altogether lovable person….gentle-voiced, courteous, tactful, by nature “a tolerant man”… (who) gladly discovered a friend in an antagonist.

I wonder what self-discipline went into constructing that personality. Or is it natural in some?

Writes Parrington—He was not a man to persecute and harry, nor was he one to stand in isolated opposition to associates he respected, and he allowed himself to be coerced by narrower minded men…”

I guess choose your friends wisely has always been true. Peer pressure is not just about teenagers.

Writes Parrington— “….His frequent tacking in the face of adverse winds is characteristic of the intellectual who sees all sides of a question.” 

I get that. This is a reason why I think it’s important to sometimes embrace silly and even irrational impulses at times. Not everything is about thinking stuff out. Hence the saying. “analysis is paralysis” 

Writes Parrington—“If John Cotton…was a confirmed aristocrat….he was at the same time a social revolutionary who would….refashion society upon ethical rather than economic lines.” 

Somewhat like Martin Luther King in these aspects.

Writes Parrington—How easy it is for good men, in the presence of the new and strange, to draw back in timid reaction; and failing to understand, or fearing for their prestige, to charge upon the new and strange a host of evils that exists only in their panic imaginations!

I don’t think any of us can say we are immune to this kind of reaction no matter how open-minded we picture ourselves. 

9/28/07—Please Check out Roger Williams post on Texas Liberal.  

August 15, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Books, Colonial America, History, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Martin Luther King’s Legacy Let Down In Houston And In Atlanta

I can’t overstate how dumb I find the ongoing dispute between the rival forces who stage Martin Luther King Day parades here in Houston. For the nine years I’ve lived here, a fight has gone on over what group will hold what parade at what time.

I’ve read stories about the issue, but I have to admit I don’t know the players involved. This is because I don’t care. Just work it out. 

I once called the office of Councilwoman Ada Edwards and asked if they have ever sought to try and solve the dispute. I spoke to a very nice and informed person who said that Ms. Edwards had once been involved but that no solution could be found. I bet that is correct because these people sure do not seem reasonable.

Down in Atlanta, the King Center does not appear to accomplish a damn thing. Click the link here and see if you can figure out what they do. I guess one thing they try to do is sell you stuff.

Why is the legacy of Dr. King so often in the hands of people who can’t get things right?           

August 14, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sam Houston In A Cincinnati Park


One of my favorite parks in Cincinnati is Burnet Woods.

(The above postcard in taken from Greetings From Cincinnati. The owner of that site kindly allowed me to use this image.)

Burnet Woods, which has a Texas connection, is located near the University of Cincinnati. It has an artificial pond constructed in 1875. I always enjoyed sitting by that pond when I lived in Cincinnati.

Old 19th-century photos of the park show it as a real meeting place for residents of nearby communities. Free concerts were held. Pedal-driven boats and row boats could be rented to ride out on the pond.

It’s easy to be nostalgic—Though one might wonder about segregation in the old-time amusements of the park.

I don’t figure the past was always so wonderful. What’s interesting to me are the relationships between the people who passed through Burnet Woods over the years.

I can recall some of the people I walked through Burnet Woods with 15 or 20 years ago. I know how those relationships turned out at least to this point. I know what became of many of those people at least to this point.

I also know that at some point the facts behind those relationships and the relationships themselves, for those that continue to this day, will be lost.

It never really hit me until my latest visit to Cincinnati last week, but Burnet Woods has a “Lone Star Pavilion.” This pavilion was donated by the “Sons of the Republic of Texas” in 1974. Cincinnati sent a gift of two cannons, called the “Twin Sisters”, to Sam Houston’s army. These cannons were used to help defeat Santa Anna at San Jacinto in 1836.

You can make of that what you will. It would interesting to know just who in Cincinnati sent the cannons and for what specific reason. I don’t think it was the town abolition society who sent the cannons.  ( Though Houston himself opposed Texas joining the Confederacy.)

August 14, 2007 Posted by | Cincinnati, Relationships, Texas | 1 Comment

Effort And Imagination Makes Friendships

I have a friend named Nora who up until last week I had not seen in maybe 20 years.

I knew Nora when I was in college in Cincinnati. We hung out at the same bars and we knew some of the same people.

A couple of years ago I got to thinking about Nora. I recalled three things about her—

1. She often threw parties and one always felt welcome at her apartment.

2. When I spent a few weeks in Spain in 1988, Nora was one of two people to send me a letter while I was away.

3. Nora sent out holiday cards each year while most people I knew were out drinking and whatnot. I know I did not send out any holiday cards.

It occurred to me that if Nora had these qualities when we were, in essence, kids, that she might well still be a good person.

I tracked Nora down and e-mailed her. We talked on the phone a few times. Last week we had lunch in Cincinnati. She was willing to drive from her home in Columbus, Ohio 220 miles round-trip to have lunch with the wife and myself.

Now I’ve got a friend I’ll have for a long time ahead.   

Somewhere there is somebody from your past who would love to hear from you and would enjoy a renewed friendship.  With a little effort and imagination it can be worked out.    


August 14, 2007 Posted by | Best Posts July-Dec. 2007, Cincinnati, Good People, Relationships | 4 Comments

You Can’t Let People Like Karl Rove Define Your Actions

Karl Rove quit today. I guess he’ll come back to Texas.

The late Lee Atwater was a founding father of campaign sleaze.  He brought out Willie Horton against Mike Dukakis in 1988.

Mr. Atwater died at a young age of brain cancer. Near the end of his life he apologized for his tactics over the years.        

I can’t find the quote on a search engine, but I’m certain I recall that what Dukakis said in reply to Atwater’s apology was “At least he had the decency to apologize.”

I’ve wondered over the years about how Governor Dukakis responded. Was he right to be cold or should he have been more open to the apology? Maybe he should have gone and seen Mr. Atwater and try to figure out if the apology was sincere.     

I wonder if Mr. Rove will apologize for the harm he did when he reaches his final days. Or maybe even before that time.

I don’t blog much about people on the right. There are always going to be people on the other side and on the wrong side of the great debates. If I were running for office, I’d have to respond. I’m not running for office.

While misdeeds and bad people must be discussed and exposed, we should also not allow bad people to control and define our actions.

So I’ll use Mr. Rove’s departure to consider different concepts of forgiveness. 

I grant that Mr. Rove might have to cure cancer and give away that cure for free to find his full forgiveness. But I also know I’m not in any postion to say that a person is totally beyond redemption.      

We can retain hope about even the worst people so long as we also always work hard to fight injustice and create a better society.    

And we can almost always find a path to forgive people who have done far less harm than Mr. Rove has done. Given Mr, Rove’s misdeeds, that gives us plenty of leeway when it comes to others.

In any case, if I hate somebody then I’m just like Karl Rove.  

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Political History, Politics | 2 Comments

Kraftwerk’s The Telephone Call Is First Video On Blog

A video on Texas Liberal. We’ll see how this goes. The Telephone Call by Kraftwerk.

What? You don’t speak German?  

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Music, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cincinnati, Houston & Planet Venus—Hot As Hell


I’m just back from a week in Cincinnati. (Everyone vacations in Cincinnati—Right?) Every day I was there it was hot. On two days of my trip it reached 100 degrees.

Now back home in Houston, it is expected to be at least 100 each of the next two days.

It’s not just Earth where it is hot.

According to the 2006 New York Times Almanac, the average surface temperature on Venus is 867 degrees.    

( I’ll leave it to you to decide if the above picture is of Cincinnati, Houston or Venus) 

Says the Times Almanac—“The clouds and the high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have combined to trap heat in the lower atomosphere of venus. This is an extreme form of the greenhouse effect….”  

Some think life might be possible on Venus. A theory exists that microbes from a long ago ocean on Venus may have found a home up in the swirling hot clouds of that planet.     

Venus can be called the “morning star” because it is one of the brightest objects in the sky.

In his sermon “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life“, Martin Luther King says that you might wish to see God as a “bright and morning star” in your life.

King saw the three dimensions of a complete life as rational self-concern, concern for others and loving God.    

The three planets closest to the sun are Mercury, Venus and the Earth.

August 13, 2007 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, Houston, Uncategorized | 4 Comments