Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Brief History as NASA Turns 54 Years Old Today!

We, just a few days ago, celebrated the anninversary of Neil Armstrong's historic "one small step for a man..." moment in history, and it just so happens that the United States Space Program recognizes another milestone in its existence.

It was on this day in 1958 that President Dwight Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act thus creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA.

The Texas State Historical Association fills us in, " The national commitment to a broad program of space exploration, including manned space flight, came in response to the Soviet Union's successful space launches, begun in 1957. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set as a national goal the achievement of a manned landing on the moon by the end of the decade. NASA began to reorganize and increase its space establishments. Central to the agency's new future was the construction of a manned-space-development aggregation, including facilities in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. NASA also elected to build a new space-management, crew-training, and flight-control center on Clear Lake in southeastern Harris County, Texas, thanks to the efforts of Texas Congressman Albert Thomas. The Manned Space Center opened in 1963 and was officially renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center ten years later."

I have been to NASA on several occasions (having lived in Houston) and it is a trip well worth the money. Seeing space suits and artifacts from the earliest days of the US Space Program makes one's chest swell with pride at what the brave men, and now women also, have contributed to this countrys fiber and character. Gazing with astonishment at real live moon rocks left me almost speechless - and that, friend, is not an easy task.

Alan Shepard
Space exploration has come a long way since Alan B. Shepard make his historic sub orbital flight on May 5, 1961. Of course, July 20, 1969 stands as the crowning achievement in the history of space travel, however the Hubble Space Telescope had been a remarkable instrument in detecting extraterrestrial bodies in and out of our own solar system. NASA has sent space craft to Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and miraculously beyond the borders of the solar system into deep space as never before seen by human eyes.

There have been the inevitable tragedies in the Space Program, but the historic accomplishments only serve to reinforce the fact that the risk/reward of space exploration is heavily weighted towards the "reward" side. the men and women who have donned space suits in their quest to conquer space and serve all Mankind are and have been the Columbuses and Magellans of modern times - heroes, one and all.

Big Blue Marble
The unknown grips the human imagination as we seek to further the boundaries of exploration, whether it be the oceans of our planet or the Ocean of Stars above us. Curiosity and the yearning to explore and discover will be a part of history as long as man inhabits this Big Blue Marble called Earth.

Happy Birthday, NASA. You done good.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Lone Star State Page!

Modern Day Texas Heroes
Howdy, y'all! Thanks for stopping by The Lower 48 (Plus 2) today! I am in the process of putting together a great post for you, but in the meantime, I have added two new "pages" to the blog - My Little Corner of The Lower 48 (Plus 2) and Lone Star State. Lone Star State is pretty self-explanatory - it's all about my home state of Texas. There I will post photos from around Texas highlighting the diverse beauty of the largest state in the LOwer m48. If you haven't been to Texas or maybe you haven't travel it extensively, the photos I put up will show a side of the Lone Star State that you have never seen before.

The State Motto of Texas is "Friendship", so the door's always open and you'll be greeted with a virtual smile and handshake every time you visit...the Lone Star State.

Here's a little teaser of what John Wayne called "The Damnedest Lady You Ever Saw". That's Texas.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July is National Ice Cream Month!

The Big 3
I scream! You scream! 90% of Americans scream for ice cream!

July is National Ice Cream Month! And with some of the oppressive heat that has gripping the Nation, ice cream is a natural fit into the American Food Pyramid. I think it's categorized as "necessary to the plot:. But I could be mistaken.

The Beginning  

National Ice Cream Month goes back to 1984. Here's what Wikipedia has to say, "National Ice Cream Month is held in each year in July in the United States. Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984.[1] He also named the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. Reagan recognized the popularity of ice cream in the United States (90% of the nation's population consumes ice cream) and stated that these two events should be observed with "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

Not only was Ronald Reagan the greatest President in my lifetime, he was a Man of Vision. Coincidentally, he also died the same day within a few hours of my Dad's death on June 5, 2004. And Dad loved a big bowl of ice cream from time to time as well.  :)

History of Ice Cream   

31 Flavors My Hind Leg!
The history of ice cream goes back way further than I ever thought it would, maybe even thousands of years! "The first frozen dessert is credited to Emperor Nero of Rome. It was a mixture of snow (which he sent his slaves into the mountains to retrieve) and nectar, fruit pulp and honey. Another theory is Marco Polo, 13th century bard and adventurer, brought with him to Europe from the Far East recipes for water ices....said to be used in Asia for thousands of years." That said, ice cream may go back as far as very Ancient China, so along with gun powder, fireworks and spaghetti, we may have the Chinese people of a few thousand years ago to thank for ice cream!

Facts About Ice Cream 

Nanner Split
What better place to learn about ice cream than a website appropriately named Let's look into some fun facts about one of America's favorite treats
  • It takes 12 lbs. of milk to make just one gallon of ice cream. 
  • It takes an average of 50 licks to polish off a single-scoop ice cream cone. 
  • The biggest ice cream sundae in history was made in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1988, and weighed in at over 24 tons 
  • In 2003, Portland, Oregon bought more ice cream per person than any other U.S. city.
  • The ice cream cone's invention is linked to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. An ice cream vendor reportedly didn't have enough dishes to keep up with the demand, so he teamed up with a waffle vendor who rolled his waffles into cones!
There you have it, a few things about ice cream and National Ice Cream Month you may not have known.

Now get out there, find a cool, shady place at the park and take a gallon (or two) of your favorite flavor and have a cone! Then strike up a conversation with someone else and impress them with your encyclopedic knowledge of ice cream!

You don't even have to tell 'em where you learned it. It's a secret that'll stay between you and me. Unless you run into the other guy who reads this blog. :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

All American Garden Tour at My House

99% of the time I reserve this space for articles about the USA, history or a Great American, like my friend with the new book out, Bob Zeller.

I am American but I in no way qualify as great, unless it's fishing we are talking about. Today. I will break with tradition just a bit by posting about my garden. Yes, my garden. While many of you around the country have been enjoying the fruits of your labor (pun intended) for some time now, those of us who, like me, live in the Northern Climes and those devastated by drought or heat, have not been so lucky.

While my garden is growing like crazy, it still isn't time (I can't put seedlings in the ground until at least Memorial Day)  to reap the rewards of all my almost-hard work. It won't be long, though and I am looking to outstanding results.

Below is a short video tour of my garden that my wife and I made earlier today. I hope you'll enjoy watching it and derive as much pleasure as I did making it.

Next to decimating the fish population where ever I am, within the limits of the law of course, gardening is my favorite Natural High.

Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Funky Old Dude & Nationally Noted Photog Bob Zeller Releases New Book!

Book of the Year! My dear friend Bob Zeller recently completed a book that showcases his considerable talent as a photographer. Bob's new book is ready to preview and purchase! The book is incredible!

Funky Old Dude Bob Zeller
This thing is gonna fly off the shelves, so now would be a very good time to take a look at the book. "Birds, Beasts and Buttes" would make an excellent gift idea for the photography buff in your life and an outstanding addition to any library just because of the artistry and attention to detail that Bob has nurtured into his photos. There's a lot of info about Bob himself in addition to the award-winning pictures. Check it out at

"Birds, Beasts and Buttes" has been prominently featured on this blog, Dumbass News (my other blog) and on my and several others' Pinterest accounts. The book has also been promoted on Facebook and Google Plus.

So, the word is out and the book is selling like ice cream to a room full of fat kids. (BTW, July is Natl Ice Cream Month! I'll post on that later today or tomorrow)

Make the Funky Old Dude happy! Pick up your copy of "Birds, Beasts and Buttes" today!

Monday, July 16, 2012

National Zoo Keeper Week; Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My

I am a little late, but fashionably so, to the party, but we still have time to celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week which ends Saturday, July 21. The American Association of Zoo Keepers has designated the third week in July each year as such. According to the AAZK website, "As the need to protect and preserve our wildlife and vanishing habitats has increased, our role as educators and wildlife ambassadors has become essential. During the third week of July each year, celebrate National Zoo Keeper Week; both you and your animals deserve the recognition." 

An honorable and worthy endeavor.

About the AAZK

The American Association of Zoo Keepers is a very large organization, with members from 48 0f the 50 United States as well as 24 foreign countries and 5 Canadian Provinces. As you can see, this is a mammoth undertaking with the incumbent responsibilities that are inherent to such a task.

Again from the AAZK website at, "The American Association of Zoo Keepers, Inc. began in 1967 in San Diego, CA with the purpose of promoting professionalism in zoo keeping through education of zoological staff members in the most modern and current techniques of captive exotic animal care. AAZK’s mission is to provide a resource and a forum of continuing education for the animal care professional and to support zoo and aquarium personnel in their roles as animal care givers, scientific researchers, public educators and conservationists; to promote zoos and aquariums as cultural establishments dedicated to the enrichment of human and natural resources; to foster the exchange of research materials, enrichment options and husbandry information through publications and conferences which will lead to a greater understanding of the needs and requirements of all animals. Membership is currently about 2,800 and includes individuals at all levels of zoo staff from directors, curators and veterinarians to zoo keepers, animal health technicians, volunteers and students. Members are from 48 of the 50 States, 5 Canadian  Provinces and 24 foreign countries and represent nearly 250 animal-related facilities."

Cowtown Zoo 

King and His Queen
I remember as a kid a half century ago making regular trips to the Fort Worth (TX) Zoo. The animals were things I had only seen in Tarzan movies until my Dad packed us up and took us to the zoo. Suddenly all those creatures I saw Tarzan confront in movie after movie were real. Up close and personal real. The tigers aglow with their orange and black stripes. The King of Beasts with his rumbling roar. Chimps swinging about in their enclosure like trapeze artists in the circus - except better! Slippery, slimy snakes and hungry "man-eating" alligators also come to mind.

Supper is in Sight
After a tour of the zoo, a trip on the kiddie train was a must. It's whistle blaring during our adventure through Forest Park. Then off to the duck pond putting a sizable  dent in the blue gill and catfish populations to be enjoyed later that night for supper. And I'll never forget sliding down the steep grassy hill on a big piece of cardboard, soaring at breakneck speeds to the bottom, only to lug the hunk of cardboard back up the hill and zipping down the hill time after time.

There are just some of the memories I still carry with me fifty years later, crystal clear in my not so crystal clear mind.

I Saw 'em in Fort Worth in the Summer!
There are great zoos all over the country. Besides Fort Worth, there are Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Columbus, Ohio, St. Louis and Denver immediately present themselves as some of top zoos in these United States.

Grab a Kid

There are a number of ways to support your local zoo for future generations. Make a cash donation to help defray operating costs, for one. But the best and most rewarding way to get behind a zoo near you is to take a kid and let them experience the animal kingdom in all its glory. Face to face with the beasts that will leave a lasting impression on a young, impressionable mind.

One smile or a single grasp of your hand seeking reassurance that you will save them from the savage animals in front of them will plant a seed in your memory garden that will flourish and grow fonder with each passing day.

Yeah, grab a kid and head to a zoo near you. Maybe fifty years from now, he or she will be writing a story similar to this one - inspiring an adult to take a child to the zoo. We will have come full circle at that time.

Say, did I tell you about the time we went to the FW Botanical Gardens after an excursion to the zoo? As usual, Dad piled us all into the car........

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Win a FREE Vacation in Maine!

If you've never been to Maine, then a FREE vacation to the Pine Tree State is a great way to break the ice! Except the rivers and lakes won't be frozen for another 7 or 8 months. :) MaineTourism.comhas a contest going on right now that will get you started in making Maine a regular vacation spot, and all you gotta do is register! All you need is an email address! It's that simple.

Having lived in Maine for the last 6+ years, I can tell you that it's a prime piece of real estate with 1.3 million friendly people and very few grouches. 

For more immediate plans or perhaps a trip for another time, order a FREE Maine Travel Guide.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

UPDATE ADDED 7/11/2012: Bob's Book is Hot Off the Presses! An Ordinary American, An Extraordinary Man

UPDATE #2:  Hot off the presses! Bob's new book is ready to preview and purchase! I just found out about it a few moments ago and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. The book is incredible! This thing is gonna fly off the shelves, so now would be a very good time to take a look at the preview. "Birds, Beasts and Buttes" would make an excellent gift idea for the photography buff in your life and an outstanding addition to any library just because of the artistry and attention to detail that Bob has nurtured into his photos. There's a lot of info about Bob himself in addition to the award-winning pictures. Check it out at .

UPDATE: Welcome to Texas Tweeties Readers!

 Part of the stated mission of this blog is to highlight Americans who bring a lot to the table. Many times these great Americans are the guy or lady next door. They are ordinary folks who would go unnoticed other than when you see them loading up to go shopping or strolling out to the curb to get their daily mail. You might see them a thousand times, greet them on occasion and even have a conversation with them from time to time. Still, you don't really know them. This is so because these people don't call unnecessary attention to themselves or let on that they are indeed forged of a hotter fire. On the outside you recognize these folks as your neighbors or fellow church goers, but hiding inside them is a person you should know about.

Humility often prevents these guys from letting on about themselves, so it's up to knuckleheads like me to point out what an accomplished individual the guy you see going to the mail box once in a while is. While the people in question may not be as famous as George Washington or Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they are every bit as essential to the fabric of America as the best-known of the well-known.

Today, I honor such a man. This fellow has no idea that I am writing this, so I have a sneaky feeling that he's gonna need a good stiff margarita (or two; prolly two) when he finds out. :)

Fellow Americans, I present to you a man that I am humbled to call a friend. A man whose lifetime of accomplishments would take a week to list they are so numerous. A man who casts a long, if skinny, shadow that could tell some great stories if it could talk. My respect and admiration for this man run deep, deeper than even he knows. I look up to this guy as a role model and someone who has, unbeknownst to him, provided me with an unwritten manual on what it's like to be a good, decent human being and, most importantly, a good man. I shall be forever in his debt for the inspiration he gives me to do better and to be better. I love this man.

Ladies and gentlemen....

Bob Zeller.

It All Started....

Armed w/ a Canon
I have known Bob for about two years now. We "met" through one of my blogs, Three States Plus One, when he somehow discovered that I had written a blog post about his hometown of San Angelo, Texas. If memory serves me correctly, he either emailed me or made a comment on the blog about how grateful he was that somebody actually knew that San Angelo existed. How could people not know about the Concho City? It's a terrific place to live and raise a family. To top it off, it is home to Bob Zeller. What's not to like?

Anyway, after that brief internet exchange, Bob and I grew a friendship that will last me a lifetime. It should be noted that I have never seen Bob in person or even talked to him on the phone. Our sole means of correspondence has been through emails back and forth and through our comments on our respective blogs. Yet, this man has affected my life in ways people I have known for over fifty year have not. Why is that? The answer: it's the character of the man. I can  smell greatness from a mile away and let me tell you Bob Zeller reeks of greatness.

I'll explain in a minute.

A Little About Bob

Direct from the "About me" page on Bob's wildlife photography blog, Texas Tweeties, his life story starts a million miles away from San Angelo, Texas, "I was born in the port city of Muskegon, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan, on October 2, 1934.  As a youngster, I had a Brownie Hawkeye camera that was given to me by my parents, and that piqued my interest in photography at an early age...You can get more info regarding that aspect of Bob's life here.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that Bob had greatness written all over him. He just hides it well - he's a very humble, unassuming man who enjoys what he does and considers it exactly that. Nothing more, nothing less. However, to anyone who pays attention, the litany of extraordinary things Bob has done is pretty impressive. United States Air Force Veteran, Rockabilly Hall of Fame musician, award-winning photographer and to me, and probably to Bob as well, his most enduring and prestigious accomplishment is that he is Mr. Ann Zeller. He and Ann have been married for 54years, and as much love, respect and admiration I have for Bob Zeller, he definitely married up. :) There's a great story about how Ann became Mrs.Bob Zeller. Stop by Texas Tweeties and let Bob point you to the post he wrote about it. It reads like something straight out of an old black and white movie. Great stuff.

This also comes straight from Bob's "About Me" blog page, "I am a graduate of the New York Institute of Photography and a member of the International Freelance Photographers Organization.  I also support the National Wildlife Federation.  My photographs have been published nationally in National Wildlife Magazine, Photographers Forum Magazine, Wild West Magazine, Texas Farm and Ranch Magazine, and the San Angelo Standard-Times.  I contribute photographs to the Friends of Big Bend National Park, and I also contribute bird images to Texas Ornithological Society, for their Handbook of Texas Birds.   In addition my photography appears on the cover and the interior of Ross McSwain’s book, ”See No Evil, Speak No Evil”, a book about the mob violence in the Texas heartland between 1869 and 1904."

I told you. The guy is amazing.

Speaking of Books...

Bob currently spends a tremendous amount of time working on his own soon-to-be-released book. From what I understand, the book will feature dozens of Bob's best photos (if such a thing is possible as all of his work is outstanding) and some stuff on photography in general. The movie can't be far behind , can it? :)

Another of Bob's projects is the annual calendar that shows off some of his photographic genius. I am in possession of the last two calendars and I can personally attest to the quality and beauty of each of them. I look forward to the 2013 edition.

You can get more detailed information from Bob himself on these works of passion at Texas Tweeties through his contact form.

I almost forgot! Bob also sells his photos to the General Public. The variety and quality of Bob's endeavors will leave you, like good Mexican food, wanting more.

Thanks, Bob

I could go on and on with more accolades about my friend Bob Zeller, but I think you get the gist of this post. Bob is a one of a kind man with talents and virtues unmatched and unchallenged by other men.

I hope I didn't embarrass Bob too much with such effusive praise, but I know he would never shine the spotlight on himself and I wanted to share a part of his story with the world. Besides, friends like Bob come along once in a lifetime and I am blessed and honored that it was my lifetime that he came along in.

Just remember that the quiet guy living next door might turn out to be the "Bob Zeller" in your life, therefore  it might be a good idea to say "howdy" to him a little more often. The blessings headed your way could be as bountiful as those I have received by doing something as simple as writing a blog post about San Angelo, Texas.

Thanks, Bob.

Disclaimer: I ask for nor receive compensation of any kind from Bob Zeller for writing this article. I wrote it because I wanted to. It's that simple.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Homesick Texan - Visual Healing Included

The images you will see below represent a piece of who I am.

I am a Texan. A died-in-the-wool, 100%, I'll Brag About the Lady That is Texas Till My Last Breath Texan. Texas is my home. She is the Damnedest Lady You Ever Saw that welcomes me with open arms every time I go back and caresses me with a kind of comfort only she can give. An inexplicable peace of mind that reassures me that I am an Eternal Piece of Something Blessed by God.

I have not been Home in almost eight years, but She is in my heart every waking minute of every waking day. My wife thinks I'm nuts. Maybe I am. One thing is certain, however. I am a Texan.

By the Grace of God I am a Texan.

And I am homesick. 

The Damnedest Lady You Ever Saw 
Caddo Lake

Lake of Bluebonnets   

East Texas Woods
Fishin' Hole
Gulf Coast
Bird's Eye View   

         Good Night From Big Bend         

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 4, 2012

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary...

Thus begins the Declaration of Independence, (full text at link) a document so powerful that it would change the course of World History. This amazing manuscript was adopted by representatives of the Original 13 Colonies on July 4,1776 and concluded with these stirring words, "And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." 

More on the Declaration here...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Escape the Heat Wave! Visit Michigan or North Dakota!

With record setting heat engulfing much of the country, I thought today we'd take a look at places in the USA that would be a welcomed vacation from the oppressive heat.

Sit back, grab a cold glass of lemonade and grab a pen and paper so you can take some notes on some outstanding vacation spot that are sure to make you forget about the oven you just escaped from.

  • How about a canoe raft or kayak down down the cool waters of a Michigan river? tells us "Of the 120 major rivers in Michigan, The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has designated 16 as “Natural Rivers External Link to help preserve, protect and enhance the finest systems for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations. Among them are the Two Hearted River and the Fox River, both located in the Upper Peninsula. In the Lower Peninsula the Au Sable River provides excellent canoeing and kayaking, as well as wildlife viewing, not far from Interstate 75." 
To learn more about cool summer fun in the Upper or Lower Peninsulas , click on the official travel guide of Michigan -

North Dakota  
  • From adventures to zoos, North Dakota has much to offer for vacation fun. North Dakota has also been named the "Friendliest State in the US" bu Cambridge University as well as the most affordable state in which to vacation by the AAA.
  • Here's a short list of some fun things to consider when visiting North Dakota from

     Does your family like to golf? We've got 124 courses and you can play all weekend for less than a single-round in other states.  Check out the Jack Hoeven Wee Links course where kids can play for just $1.
    Does your family like history? We've got dinosaurs, forts, earthlodges, museums and legends like Theodore Roosevelt, Lewis and Clark, Sakakawea, Sitting Bull and Gen. Custer.
    Is your family adventurous? North Dakota has mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fossil digs, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, waterparks, skiing and snowmobile trails.
    Does your family like nightlife? You'll enjoy concerts, shopping, dining, semi-pro sports and festivals. And nothing beats camping under millions of stars.
    Does your family love animals? There are more wildlife refuges here than any other state, four zoos, a National Buffalo Museum with live herd, including three albino buffalo ... and much, much more. 
Michigan and North Dakota are great vacation destinations for anybody, with tons of family and outdoors recreation as well. When you get there be sure to mention The Lower 48 (Plus 2)!

And remember, to get a FREE Michigan or North Dakota travel guide, look in the right side barn and click on the "Free Travel Guides" link.