Three (or four) birthday parties

A special day today – we were invited to three birthday parties!

The first was the saka dawa celebration at the Buddhist Compassion Center.  Saka dawa commemorates the Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death.   This was a rather somber affair as birthday parties go, but the girls did get party favors and they met the Buddhist monks.

Then it was off to Indiana to another little girl’s birthday party.  Her father had rented a large, wonderful water slide that was quite a hit with all the kids.

And there was cake, pie, candles – all the usual accoutrements.

Back to Louisville for a party with one of the neighborhood kids.  He got a water rocket (which was fun for both little and big boys).

Finally, their father had a birthday today (actually tomorrow, but he’s on the other side of the Date Line).  Of course, we could only talk to him on the picture phone, but I suppose it was the fourth birthday of the day.

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I tried to take a picture, but hey, it was night

I tried to take a picture, but hey, it was night

We took GC1 & GC2 out into the backyard this evening as night fell.  There were lots of fireflies to try and catch, and soon (probably attracted by the fireflies) several bats appeared and swooped among us.  A bunny rabbit was spotted out for late silflay, too.

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Opportunity Calls

indexLike a lot of people, we have one of those home phones that announces the caller id when the phone rings.  Like a lot of people, we get robocalls.





and so on.

Today the phone rang and it called out “AWARENESS!”.  I have to admit I thought really hard that maybe I needed to answer that one.

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Rocket Park

NASA when I was a little boy.  No kidding.  Really.

NASA when I was a little boy. No kidding. Really.


nasaYou go to Houston, you have to visit NASA.  I hadn’t been in many years, certainly not since they upgraded the visitor center (read: now you have to pay).  There are more exhibits now, and an awful lot of staff – if you want to ride the elevator to the shuttle display, there are two people on each floor, one of whom pushes the button to call the cab for you.  We found that a little excessive.  It’s not really a white glove kind of place.

Us and the Mercury Redstone

Us and the Mercury Redstone

We saw artifacts from the space program that we remembered as kids: an actual Gemini capsule and a Mercury Redstone like the one I watched launch Gus Grissom.

A better view of us

A better view of us

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No pretension.

Rooster’s. No pretension.

For lunch today I got together with some old friends that I had worked with for many years.  We met at Rooster’s, an oil-refinery-worker-friendly joint.   A number of us had regularly eaten lunch at Rooster’s in Baytown since the late 1970’s.  Nearly everything is still the same.  My “Henburger” came out on the plate the same way it did decades ago: the patty, bun, lettuce leaf, tomato and onion slice, and steak fries were identically arranged on the plate.  They have moved the front of the building from one side to another, though.  And it’s not $2.75 anymore.

Our table.  No pretension.

Our table. No pretension.

As we were ordering, one of my friends asked about the steak fries.  “Are they battered?”

“No,” the waitress replied.

“They used to be battered.”

“We’ve never battered our steak fries.”

“Maybe not now, but I remember you used to.”

“No, we’ve always cooked them this way.”

I had to intervene.  “It may have been a while back.  We’ve been coming here since before you were born.”

Later, one of the more senior waitresses came over and apologized.  Yes, for a few months several years ago they did batter the steak fries but people didn’t like them, so they stopped.  Our waitress was just too young to know this.  It is not entirely impossible that we had been eating there since before her parents were born.

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The Birthplace of Texas

April & new baby

April & new baby

Saturday morning we got up and watched the live birth of the giraffe on the internet.  “What kind of giraffe is that?” CVH asked me.  “I think it’s a Rothschild’s”.  CVH found it very exciting to watch.

After the big event, we decided to relive some Texas history.  We were staying in Deer Park, a block away from a replica of the cabin in which Sam Houston and Santa Anna signed the initial treaties after the Battle of San Jacinto, establishing the Republic of Texas.

Here the kids are posing in front of the cabin.birthplace.of.texas

We then went up the road to the San Jacinto Monument.  They’ve expanded the museum inside quite a bit since I had last visited.

There’s a famous painting of Santa Anna being brought to Sam Houston after the battle to surrender.  It hangs in the Texas State Capitol.  The man at the far right in the painting is John Milton Swisher.  He and his uncle Henry Swisher fought at the battle.

"Surrender at San Jacinto"

“Surrender at San Jacinto”

I am descended from a line of Texas Swishers on my mother’s side.  The family legend is that we have relatives who fought at the battle.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s our family legend.

Here are the grandkids outside the monument, with the Battleship Texas in the background.girls.and.battleship

We visited Sylvan Beach and had dinner at the Main 101 Grill and Bar in La Porte.  Their spinach pizza is delicious.  That evening I was relaxing in the whirlpool at the hotel and my wife told me I looked like one of those people in the hotel brochure – sunglasses, big smile, pasty white skin.

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The Best Part of Texas

The Best Part of Texas is that you can get Blue Bell there again, which is still not available in Louisville.

We flew down to Houston today on United (aka Republic) Airlines.  I got a seat with a lot of legroom, although like all airline seats these days, there was no padding, so it’s like sitting in a plywood chair the whole way.  At least I did not get dragged off the plane.


It’s amazing how some airlines have managed our expectations so well.

zoo.rhinoWe went to the zoo with the grandkids.  It was a beautiful day.  We saw the rhinoceros exhibit.

We saw the gorilla exhibit.

Granpa is getting fat.

Granpa is getting fat.

We saw the African village exhibit (GC2 is in the background, playing the drums)

We saw the cheetah exhibit.

Granpa is still fat.

Granpa is still fat.

We saw the birds exhibit.zoo.bird

Then we went to Guidry’s seafood for dinner.  It’s the way food is supposed to be: everybody crammed into a big room, a roll of paper towels on the table, and the waitress dumps a pile of boiled crawfish and boudin and sausage and corn and potatoes and everybody just digs in.  People in the Midwest do not eat this way, to their loss.

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And Get Off My Lawn!

imagesSpringtime, and I go to the store to get a new air filter and spark plug for the old lawnmower.  As I’m heading out to the shed, CVH asks what I’m doing.

“I need to gap the new spark plug for the lawn mower,” I said.

She says, “Well, I don’t know nothing about gapping spark plugs.”

“That’s why you keep me around.  In case you need a spark plug gapped.”

She pauses for a second, then says, “You’re right.  If I were to get me some new young thing, he wouldn’t know how to do anything.  I think all they know how to do is fool with their phones.”

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You’ve got to be kidding

imagesToday I noticed that my dental floss has an expiration date stamped on the package.  I mean, really – if a Twinkie can last thirty years, why can’t my floss last two?

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All Things Are Temporary

And vacations must come to an end.  Today is our last day in Chicago (unless we decide to chuck it all and stay here).

After a bitterly cold Wednesday (even the local weather forecaster termed it “unseasonably cold”), today it’s seventy-five degrees.  Unbelievable.  I had to go to the Post Office and buy boxes to ship all our sweaters and jackets home, as we couldn’t bear to wear them and there was no room in the suitcases.

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show - not much has changed

The 1910 Chicago Flower Show – not much has changed

The highlight of today was visiting the Chicago Flower Show, held annually since 1847 (although I suppose they might have skipped a few war years).


The utility company had a witty exhibit of a garden with little windows in the ground showing you what might be lying under yours and therefore why you should call 811 before digging.  Over where the water pipes were shown, the garden had a fountain squirting up, over where gas pipes were shown, the garden had a burning fire pit, and so forth.  Cute.

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

Bird and nest sculpted from old stuff found in the attic

CVH loves birds, and there was a garden that showcased bird-themed sculptures by Chicago artists.


The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences had a garden promoting using urban spaces (rooftops, etc) for growing food so that more food could be locally sourced.


I enjoyed the butterfly garden where you could feed butterflies.  Once they saw my red shirt, they flocked to me (I guess they thought I could be a flower).  One landed on the side of my neck and I cried out “Oh no!  The vampire butterfly!”  CVH rolls her eyes.  I had trouble leaving the netted area because they really liked my red shirt.

water garden

I also found the water garden entrancing.


CVH loves tulips.


Of course, there was the “Home and Garden Marketplace” where we spent too much money.

We had lunch in the Navy Pier food court.  I was able to finally get me a Chicago Dog.  I also had the Peanut Butter Milk Shake at the DMK Burger Bar.  You are not going to find the nutritional information posted for that.

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