Friday, May 29, 2015

Another completed new custom home. Now I can slip back towards retirement again.

Today we're turning over to the new owners, Mr. & Mrs. "S" (no, not K & me), our newest custom residence.  I had time to take a few pics, so I thought I would share:



This is a 6,300 square foot home on a nicely wooded site that backs up to Breckenridge Park in Richardson, one of Dallas' nicer suburbs.



Here is a view looking from the Great Room towards the "nice" kitchen.  As you can see, their style is "soft contemporary", which I personally like very much.  Amenities include a Sub Zero refrigerator, a 5-burner/griddle Wolf range top, two freezer drawers, a microwave oven, a steam oven, a convection oven, a warming drawer, and a high-end dishwasher.  See that port-hole window in the swinging door?....



That opens to the "prep" kitchen, a modest-sized second kitchen where they can cook on a daily basis and make a mess.  They entertain a lot, so I suppose the "nice" kitchen is for their parties.




Discreetly off to one side Mrs. S has her own "craft room".  (Woman Cave?)

 

Adjacent to the "nice" kitchen is the downstairs bar, which includes a small fridge and an icemaker. (Trust me, they're there, hidden behind cabinet door fronts.)



....which is convenient to the formal dining room....you know, the space where you're required to use the good plastic ware.  ;)  It also has a nice view of the pool.


And of course, a tasteful foyer staircase.  The arched opening behind that leads to....


 ....a library....


...then on to the Master Bedroom, both having a nice view of the wooded back yard.



....and the master bath....which is next to the utility....


....and just a few steps away from....



....the master closet.  It's actually larger than it looks here!


Accessible via either the front staircase or the back stairs off the Great Room you can barely see there on the left is the game room, which is actually twice as large as this photo intimates.  See that bookcase on the right....


....it opens to reveal a hidden room behind.  Holy Alfred Hitchcock!


Yes, they like storage.


And over the garage is the media room.  Crank it up!



The bar in the corner has another mini-fridge, an icemaker, and a beer tap. (No, it didn't come with a complementary keg.  I checked ;)


All the upstairs rooms have this nice view of the pool and the outdoor kitchen....


....which sports a sink, icemaker, mini-fridge, grill, warming drawer, and storage drawers, as well as a wood burning fireplace for those chilly evenings.

In addition to all this, there are 4 other bedrooms (one more downstairs and three upstairs) each with its own private bath, plus 2 powder baths, a mud room, and a three-car garage.  

They are moving in this weekend.  I'm glad it's them and not me.  :)

S





Thursday, May 21, 2015

We just can't have nice thangs!


Something tells me this isn't going to be a short lived phenomenon.  It started in Iraq, then Syria, and now it's spread from North Africa to Afghanistan.  And of course volunteers are now pouring in, an estimated 17,000+ so far, including more than a few from Europe and America, too. 

Considering the historic attraction of such behavior to copycat actors, does anyone really believe this can be confined to a few malcontents the other side of the world?  I've read that their (ISIS) goal is to pit the "Infidel" world against Islam.  Us vs them.  They would love that. 

So what to do?  How do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?  Do we relinquish some of our freedom, especially our right to privacy, for security?  Is even that enough?  Do we take a stand?  Where?  Here?  How?

I would hate to be a quiet little Muslim shopkeeper in the West today.  Like it or not, they're involved.

Wasn't life simple when all we had to do was crawl under our school desks when we saw the big, bright flash?  Oh, and worry about that polio thing.

Ahh....the days.  ;)

S


Friday, May 8, 2015

As Elvis once said, "Thank ya, thank ya very much"

 Wait...I think I see a $20 still hiding in there.

Now seems the perfect time to thank a lot of people for all their help and support during my recent puny spell.  And Lord knows, I have a lot to be thankful for.

First, I happened to be only a few blocks away from Presbyterian Hospital/Plano when my doctor called to say there was more going on with me than a simple food allergy that he first thought, and that I should go straight to an emergency room.  

Things happen for a reason, I truly believe that.  Was this a coincidence?  I've experienced too many coincidences in my life to believe in "coincidences".  I feel my Maker was looking after me that day (He always is) and directed me to that hospital at that time.  And as usual, He always knows best. I believe, simple as that.  Thank you God.

And what a wonderful family I have!  My wonderful wife Kelly, aka K, would have stayed at my side for all 11 days if I hadn't absolutely insisted that she go home and take care of Jax The Dog, and herself, too.  (Or was it 12 days?  Time flies when you're having fun  :)  She was more than amazing.  Thank you wonderful wife. And thank you to her company and boss(es) who told her to take whatever time off she needed to see things through.  They really are wonderful people.  :)

My daughters Kristan, Andrea, and Erica were always there, either in person (Andrea and Erica) or on the phone from San Antonio (Kristan).  I remember one night I woke up to find Erica sleeping in my room on that thing that doubled as a guest bed.  That was very comforting.  And to make that happen, her spousal unit Donnie had to hold down the home front.  So did my ex, who went into uber-babysitting Grandmother mode.  And SIL Chris, also a Dr, gave the family reassurance long-distance that my docs were doing things by the book.  Thank you all.

And my bro, Todd.  While I was out of commission he took over all the field oversight that I usually do to see that the homes we are building stayed on track.  He's usually the office admin guy, but he really stepped to the plate in a BIG way.  Thanks little bro.  :)

And a big shout out to all of the doctors....Dr Rosen-Schmidt, Dr Blatt, Dr Boorla, Dr Illum, Dr. Hughes, and the guy who gave me the goofy gas that caused me to not remember much of it.  They were absolutely scary smart!  And all the nurses and assistants who catered to my every whim.  WOW!  I simply can't describe how dedicated and caring and compassionate they were....every single one I dealt with, no exceptions.

Presbyterian Hospital/Plano is the ONLY hospital I'll ever go to willingly if I ever come unglued again, they were that good!  (Remember the abysmal hospital food from years past?  Not at Presby!  Their "Five Star In-Room Dining" featured choices like grilled Mahi-Mahi, chicken marsala, pan seared beef tenderloin,  braised short ribs, three-cheese oven baked lasagna, chipotle salmon, and more.  And it was GOOD!  Can't say much for their jello, though....Scott doesn't do jello :)

And here's the kicker:  I never thought I'd say this about an insurance company, but United Healthcare Insurance has REALLY stepped to the plate and performed as advertised.   Yesterday we received their explanation of benefits summary, and my bills (that appear to be complete to day) totaled just a few bucks shy of $400,000.  YIKES!  Yet my cash out of pocket is only $6,054.  Whew!  Thanks UHC! 

And of course you, all of my friends either in person or online who sent their kind thoughts and prayers....thank you so much. :)

Yup, I've been blessed for sure.  Now I'm ready to get back to leaving silly smart-assed remarks all over the internet.  Hey, it's my calling.  :)

S



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ah, the good old days



What happened to the world I grew up in?  We had rules, and we by-and-large obeyed them.  Countries were expected to act in a certain way.  When one crossed the line of decency, they were slapped down.  The good guys banded together to smite the offender.  It was country vs country, tank vs tank, plane vs plane.  You knew who your enemy was.  Now in many parts of the world, particularly the Mid East, boundaries are no more.  Ideologies have no boundaries.

Guerrilla warfare has been around probably forever, but it was in Vietnam that the Bad Guys realized it was the civilized world's Achilles Heel.  Toss a grenade, then run back to tending your fields.  "Who me?  I didn't do it, nobody saw me, you can't prove a thing."  It wouldn't take long for public opinion to force accommodation with the forces of evil.

And of course, there's good old religion.  It's all about peace, and tolerance, and love.  Right?  No?  The Crusades are ancient history, but I sense a stirring for Crusades, The Sequel.  Us vs "them".

I can't figure out Islam.  My heart still wants to honor the concept of Freedom of Religion, but Muslims are making it hard for me.  My head says "Don't trust 'em.  Watch 'em like a hawk.  Don't turn your back on 'em."

Which leads to "profiling".  Bad, right?  You can't single out African Americans, or Hispanics, for example, for special scrutiny.  Except, maybe, it's OK to profile Muslims?  Is that where we're heading?  I'll admit, when I see someone I can identify as Muslim on the street, I stiffen.  I wonder.  

Most are just regular people like me...they work, they have families, they bother no one.  But some, too many, seem to be torn between being loyal Americans (or Brits, or Aussies, or Danes, etc), honoring the civilized rule of law, and the rising sentiment of identifying with the forces of evil gaining strength in the Mid East and being rapidly spread via the internet.  And yes, when you cut off peoples heads, you're EVIL!

So now guerrilla warfare has come to America.  Work in your shop or your office during the day, and make bombs and assemble an arsenal at night.  Is this where we're headed?

What happened to the world I grew up in?

S


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Jihad comes home....w/ late EDIT



Listen up Jihadists....Texas ISN'T France!

This evening (Sunday) my old home town, Garland, TX, was the scene of a shooting involving at least two (presumably) Muslim...let's just call them what they are/were...terrorists.  I know the area well.  I lived just 5 minutes from there, I shopped nearby, and all of my daughters went to Naaman Forest High School, located right next to the Curtis Culwell Special Events Center where the shooting took place.  It is a very nice area.

Some background:  This past January a Muslim group rented the Special Events Center from the Garland Independent School District in order to hold a "Stand With The Prophet" rally essentially saying that freedom of speech did not include the right to blasphemy (?) the prophet Muhammad.  They had a right to rent the center, they paid the fee, and despite a few peaceful protesters, the event went off without incident.

A pro-free-speech group rented the same building, which was also their right, for this weekend as a counter event to re-enforce the idea that free speech means free speech for ALL.  Their vehicle was a Muhammad cartoon contest, which incidentally was won by a "former Muslim".  

As they knew this was a potentially incendiary event, the Garland Police beefed up security, planning for all contingencies.  At least several dozen GPD officers were present, with some reports saying as many as 40, all this in response to some tweets that threatened violence.  This was in addition to the normal contingent of Garland ISD security that attends all special events.  In place was a command post, the SWAT unit, the robotic bomb unit, and I'm sure many more specialties that aren't being publicized. 

A personal note:  I know the Garland Police Department well.  For 18 years I was on the city's Civil Service Commission, serving as Chairman for many years, overseeing the police and fire departments.  I know police chief Mitch Bates well.  He is a no-nonsense professional.  I attended the city's (civilian) police academy, and know how the department operates.  Their SWAT unit, indeed the entire force, is first class, and not to be trifled with...BIG mistake!

This evening two men drove up to the Events Center and opened fire, wounding one of the GISD security people.  (He will be OK.)  Garland Police returned fire, killing both terrorists.  The entire attack was over in less than 20 seconds.  The area was quickly secured, and a nearby Walmart Super Center, a Sam's Club, and an Academy Sports store were also locked down.  Attendees to the free speech rally were quickly moved to the nearby high school, and are all safe.

Some might be surprised to learn that there is a sizable Muslim community in the Dallas area, including a mosque in adjacent Richardson, TX that has been associated on many occasions with extremism.  There is another large mosque in Arlington (another Dallas suburb), plus many more smaller ones scattered throughout North Texas.
  
All kidding aside, the stereotype of Texans being "adequately armed" is...umm...TRUE!  All the ingredients are in place for some serious unrest.  It's gonna be interesting.

S

EDIT:  Now we learn one of the dead gunmen was from the Phoenix area, and the event organizer was based in New York.  It seems the locals were just pawns in this bizarre tit-for-tat game.  It does show, however, that violence can happen any where, any time.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Your tax dollars at work


This is a Lockheed Martin F-35A, the most expensive weapons system ever made.  They cost $108,000,000 each, and we have on order 1,763.  That would be...umm...carry the 4...somewhere north of $190 BILLION dollars worth of taxpayer money.  Also pictured are all of the various munitions it is capable of carrying.

But when the proud Pentagon put out this photo it forgot to mention a couple of things.  Understand, this is a stealthy aircraft, meaning it is extremely difficult to see on radar due to its various shapes and special coatings.  But see all those bombs and missiles hanging off the wings?  They are NOT stealthy.  Flying like that, any stealth advantage the plane might have had on paper just vanished.  Now it will show up on radar like a Greyhound bus riding in the lane next to you on the freeway.  

Only 17% of its potential payload can be carried internally, thus preserving the F-35's stealth.  DUH!

Now don't get me wrong.  What with all the threats facing us these days, I'm all for a strong national defense.  But does this thing make sense?  Am I missing something?

Oh, and they don't work very well.  They've proven to be broken more often than flying.  Just thought you should know.  :)

S
 



Sunday, April 26, 2015

How I spent my Spring vacation....

....I nearly died.  OK, slight exaggeration.  But I was very sick.  For a week I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, culminating in my doctor sending me to the ER.  There they suggested several other possibilities, and did a standard EKG. 

The doctor  asked, "How did you get here?  I didn't hear an ambulance."  

I told him I drove myself, why?  He said by all accounts I should be unconscious.  My pulse rate was down to 29 beats per minute.

"Well, SURPRISE!  I'm here."

He brought in a neurologist who eventually confirmed that I had Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune system disorder.  As explained, if our brain wants a muscle to do something, it will send a signal via a nerve to the muscle, and the muscle will reach out to receive the nerve signal.  A tiny connector completes the circuit between nerve and muscle, and the muscle moves.

But my auto-immune system decided that those little connectors were foreign and needed to be killed off, and began pumping out antibodies.  M/G can attack anywhere, but in my case was confined to my mouth, tongue, chewing, and swallowing.  It isn't curable, but is treatable.  I can deal with it.


The real kick in the gut was the bad ticker.  I had no idea!  Further tests showed that my heart and all associated piping were in great shape, but the "generator" that told my heart when to beat was failing.  Off to the cath lab I went.


The science behind this is mind boggling.  As my friends Bruce and Mike and probably a few others that I'm unaware of already know, it's now a fairly routine procedure.  A small devise is implanted under the skin on the upper chest, outside the ribcage, and teenie little wires are threaded through a vein and stuck into the heart muscle.  Then the pacemaker is programmed to kick into action to assist if my pulse drops too low.  

That's it.  No pain, no fuss.  

My point in telling you this isn't to fish for sympathy....I don't need it.  All is well.  The endless tests they did on me showed that, as mentioned, my heart was in great shape, as were my liver, kidneys, lungs, etc.  (When the respiratory therapist came around to make sure my lungs were working, she asked me to suck on a tube, which would cause a diaphragm to rise in a cylinder, the higher the better.  When I pegged it, she just patted me on the head, smiled, and said, "you're fine".  :)

I just want to let people know that, heaven forbid, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, don't be afraid.  Trust your doctors, trust medical science, and do exactly what your doctors say.

Until this I hadn't spent a day in a hospital, ever.  Just a couple of drive-thru...er...day surgeries, so this experience was a real eye-opener for me.  I really do appreciate all your kind thoughts sent my way.  

More really interesting stuff, and plenty of "thank you's", yet to come.  Stay tuned.  :)

S