November 2012 Archives

Ask and Ye Shall Receiver, or Not
November 28, 2012 9:28 PM | Posted in: ,

Have I mentioned that we got a new A/V receiver a couple of months ago? Astute Gazette readers may recall this tragic post in which I documented our tragic inability to watch 3D movies at home because of our tragically old-and-busted equipment (which was really neither, but technology is a harsh mistress).

It's a Pioneer SC-57, and it's supposedly the first all-digital amplifier to hit the consumer market. What does that mean? Danged if I know, but it sounds impressive, both in terms of specs and in actual listening. But, man, was it a major headache to hook-up and configure.

Here's how it looks inside our built-in cabinet:

Photo of Receiver

Note the three boxes atop the receiver, all of which are reminders of my shortcomings as an audiophile. The squatty one on the left side is Pioneer's WiFi receiver that theoretically allows the receiver to lock into our home network, but Pioneer's instructions for configuring it are inscrutable and so its primary purpose is to look tech-y-ish.

The two boxes with the glowing blue eyes are 50-watt Dayton digital amps, and I have mixed emotions about them. If I had more competence and/or patience, they would be unnecessary, because each of them powers a pair of stereo speakers on our front and back porches, respectively. The receiver is supposed to have the capability of doing that itself, by routing signals from two of its speaker outputs to the second and third zones, but, again, I never could get that configuration to work. I know I'm overlooking a simple setting somewhere, but after a couple of hours of fooling with it - including countless trips out the front and back doors to confirm that, yes, we have no decibels - I gave up and went to Plan B. 

Plan B is actually documented in the receiver's user guide, and while this may sound like rationalization (and it probably is), it's a superior alternative, apart from having to spend another $200 to make things work right. This approach doesn't tie up the aforementioned speaker outputs, so I can have true 9.1 surround sound (although there is that pesky detail of having only seven installed speakers). It also gives a tiny bit more control over the sub-zones as I can more quickly adjust the volume of the porch speakers via the amplifier control, whereas there's a fair amount of button pushing to do it via the receiver.

Regardless, I consider it a victory to now have functioning multi-zones, along with the 3D capability. 

Regarding the latter, while 3D is still barely out of the gimmick phase, it's still pretty cool in a nerdy way. And, best of all, it works right out of the box...or, technically, boxes, since it require three of them to give those lovely glasses their raison d'être.

Christmas Decorations 2012
November 25, 2012 7:51 PM | Posted in:

In an unprecedented and probably unrepeatable display of common sense, I decided to no longer venture onto the roof to hang Christmas lights. I'm going to use a pogo stick.

OK, just kidding. About the pogo stick, not the roof climbing. I feel confident that I could continue to walk around on the roof, untethered, leaning over the eaves to insert those little plastic tabs under the shingles, but why tempt fate? The roof line isn't getting any flatter, nor the ground below any softer. But we still need Christmas lights - we've always had Christmas lights - so I took a different approach this year. 

Instead of painstakingly hanging several hundred lights along the eaves, one at a time, I elected to mount them around our windows and brick arches. 

Painstakingly. 

One at a time. 

Using a hot glue gun.

Several hundred.

So, instead of killing myself, I just killed time. Seems like a reasonable trade-off, doesn't it?Actually, I think they turned out pretty well...appropriately festive without being too gaudy.

Photo of Christmas lights

Incidentally, while the camera in the iPhone 4s isn't a terrific low-light instrument, it still yields a passably pleasing image, and the new Panorama mode is the bees knees.

We also found a sparkly fake Christmas tree in Fort Stockton, reminiscent of those tinsel trees that were so popular back in the swinging Sixties. This one works for us because it's, well, flat.

Photo of a tinsel Christmas treePhoto of a tinsel Christmas tree

We don't have a lot of free floor space that's appropriate for an old-fashioned, conventional, fuddy-duddy round tree, so this one works well, especially when viewed from the right perspective. Kudos to Debbie for adding the lights and the odd decorations that look like crimson squid (which, I'm sure, is a traditional addition to a nativity scene in some culture, somewhere).

My only regret is that we left the plush toy that sings Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer in Fort Stockton.

Dad: A Major Award
November 22, 2012 11:36 AM | Posted in:

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts about events during the life of my Dad, who passed away in early November.

The year was 1955. I was three years old and my brother was about six months old, and our parents were in Chicago, a long way from our home in the Texas Panhandle.

They had traveled to the Windy City so my dad could compete in - wait for it - a chicken judging contest. To this day, I still don't know what's involved with chicken judging, but it was apparently a big deal back then (it may still be; feel free to enlighten me), and my dad was also apparently quite good at it. So good, in fact, that he won the competition, and this Major Award:

Photo - Tropy

The inscription on the trophy reads thusly: 1st Award - Senior Poultry Division - Pfizer 3rd Annual Livestock Judging Competition - November 28, 1955 - Sheraton Hotel, Chicago, Illinois. (I never realized until now that this occurred on his 32nd birthday.)

I can't find any additional information about this event. Pfizer still has an animal health division, and it's involved in some collegiate livestock events; livestock judging continues to be a big deal at the high school and college levels, but I don't find a lot of mention of adult judging competitions. It's probably safe to say that this represents something of a bye-gone era.

But the trophy isn't the end of the story. While it's the sole remaining tangible evidence of his accomplishment, I suspect the more exciting reward as far as my parents were concerned was the $2,000 cash prize that accompanied it. In today's dollars, that equates to more than $17,000 and that surely represented a large percentage of Dad's annual salary as an agricultural extension agent. Mother tells me that they bought a bedroom suite and several wool rugs for the house, and she bought Dad a .22 pistol.

In Memory of My Dad
November 18, 2012 9:09 PM | Posted in:

My dad passed away a couple of weeks ago, following a battle with Parkinson's Disease. I want to post a few things about his life to honor his memory, but for those who didn't know him, I'll start with his obituary. I drafted it, and if you've never written an obit for a loved one, you may not realize how intimidating the task can be. Trying to capture the essence of a person's life in a few words is an impossible undertaking, especially for someone who lived almost nine decades. The best you can hope for is to write something that causes those who knew him to nod in agreement, and allows those who didn't know him to feel like they perhaps did after reading it.

You can judge for yourself whether I achieved this goal, but this isn't about me. At the very least, I hope the following provides suitable context for what will follow over the next few days or weeks.



Photo of my dadRaymond Donald Siegmund, long-time West Texas resident, passed away in his hometown of Fort Stockton on November 5, 2012 following a lengthy illness.

Ray was born in Gainesville, Texas on November 28, 1923. His parents were Otto Bernhardt Siegmund, a German immigrant and farmer, and Louise Emily Jander from Muenster, Texas.

Ray graduated from Gainesville High School, and was a proud and loyal graduate of Texas A&M University, receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Animal Husbandry in 1949, and a Masters Degree in Education in 1974.

His college career was interrupted by World War II. As a member of America's Greatest Generation, he entered the Army in February of 1943 and served in active combat in the European Theater as a light machine gunner in the 104th Infantry Division. He was awarded three Bronze Stars, as well as a Purple Heart as a result of a serious wound from a sniper attack in Germany's Hürtgen Forest that resulted in his honorable discharge from service in December, 1945. He carried the bullet from that attack in his arm for the rest of his life, and it was a recurring source of conversation among his friends and family, and of confusion and occasional consternation among medical professionals.

After returning to the States and graduating college, Ray began a 32-year career with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.

Ray married Melba Jo Sipes on July 21, 1951, in Wheeler, Texas, where he was working as a County Agricultural Extension Agent and she was employed as a secretary with the Soil Conservation Service. They became the parents of two sons, Eric Don, born in 1952, and Reid Brent, born in 1955.

In 1956, the family moved to Fort Stockton, where Ray had accepted the position of District Agricultural Extension Agent, supervising county agents in a 25-county, 52,000 square mile area. He retired from the Extension Service in 1980, but he didn't retire from working, as he became the full-time proprietor of the landscape business he founded, Trans Pecos Plants, thereby continuing his love of working with plants and trees.

Ray had many interests in his life in addition to his devotion to his family. He was an avid stamp and coin collector, golfer, and pecan grower. He exhibited more than a dozen county and regional pecans, and had two Texas state champions. His determination to make the West Texas landscape greener is evidenced by the many trees he planted around the area, including many of the Afghan pine trees that grace Fort Stockton's golf course (and occasionally annoy the golfers). He loved being outdoors, and while he was known to occasionally hunt and fish, it was enough for him to be outside just enjoying nature's wonders. His sons have vivid memories of trekking for what seemed like miles across the Edwards Plateau in search of unusual cacti and other native plants.

Ray was a man of faith, having become a Christian early in life, and was an active member of First Baptist Church in Fort Stockton, where he served as a deacon, choir member, and Sunday School teacher for decades, until his health intervened. He was a 4-H leader for many years, a charter member of the Fort Stockton Rotary Club, a long-time member, ambassador, and past president of the Chamber of Commerce, and served as chairman of the West Pecos chapter of the American Cancer Society.

Even though the latter stages of his illness had begun to affect his mind, he kept his gentle spirit, attitude of contentment, and sense of humor. He never met a stranger, and never tired of talking to people about his family, vocation, and alma mater.

Raymond was preceded in death by his parents and by two brothers, Robert and Joe. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Melba Jo of Fort Stockton, his sons Eric (Debbie) of Midland, Texas, and Brent (Lisa) of Fort Stockton. He is also survived by siblings John (Joy) of Denton, Texas; Martin (Jane) of Aledo, Texas; Alice Davidson of Muenster, Texas; Sally Bush of Arlington, Texas; Margaret Langford of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and David (Susan) of Fernandina Beach, Florida. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews and extended family members. 

Visitation will take place from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Thursday, November 8 at Heritage Funeral Home in Fort Stockton. On Friday morning, November 9 at 10:00 a.m., funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church, Fort Stockton. Graveside service will follow at East Hill Cemetary with Rev. Bob Schmeltekopf officiating both services. Heritage Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements. The family respectfully requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Wounded Warrior Project, First Baptist Church of Fort Stockton, or to your favorite charity.

Ten Years of Fire Ant
November 8, 2012 11:06 AM | Posted in:

Today's a semi-momentous occasion for the Gazette, as it marks the ten year anniversary of this blog-like thing. Due to a few other more important things going on - which I may elaborate later - I'm not going to do much more than note the event, but I figured it warranted at least a mention.

I know I haven't been the most attentive of bloggers lately (or for quite some time, to be truthful), and I doubt that many people are still coming here to because of my unreliable posting, but if you do happen to drop by, please know that I appreciate your faithfulness, and really hope you eventually find something better to do with your time.

Ten years isn't all that long in the cosmic scheme of things. I have socks older than that. But I suspect there aren't that many blogs that have been in continuous publication for a decade...including this one. I did shutter the Gazette entirely a few years back, for a couple of months, but I was lured back by the promise of fame and fortune, which I know will arrive any day now, unless it's dependent on my writing more regularly, in which case I'm hosed.

Anyway, that's about it for now. Have a piece of cake on the house, and maybe check back here from time to time. Maybe I'll have something new before the next decade is up.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2012 is the previous archive.

December 2012 is the next archive.

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