New Party Animal: the Chameleon

June 27, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby



The candidate does not have the temperament to be president. Do you want that finger on the nuclear button? And just look at the record, one of deceit, possible criminal activity, and I won’t even get into the private list of adultery and money shenanigans.

These are my one-size-fits-all talking points for our two major presidential campaigns. The accusations work perfectly to describe either Hillary or Trump. (Those are good shorthand names not to confuse.) Get out the mud, crank up the outrage and throw those epithets. But for all the billions spent, the bromides unleased in speeches, and the circus of the conventions, let us be perfectly honest: you have already made up your mind. If you’re a Texan you probably will make lots of noise, mostly about how bad the opposition candidate is, and you probably won’t vote. All hate and no cattle.

Here’s the problem: you really can’t stand either candidate, but one is your party’s nominee, and you’ve got to go through mental gymnastics to sooth your soul. How to rationalize, how to spin, your selection, so that you won’t feel like you sold out? An example: you really liked Ted Cruz, and really hate Donald Trump. You thought evil thoughts about that bragging, arrogant clown, but now Trump is your party’s nominee. Yes, that successful business tycoon whose few bankruptcies are easily outweighed by his shrewd negotiations, the many jobs he’s created, including that of food taster. Besides, anyone but Hillary. Or, you backed Bernie Sanders, and can’t stand Hillary, that scheming, overachieving witch, who lied, cheated and collected blood money from Arab dictators to get to the top. But Bernie is history, and you are left with your party’s only nominee, Hillary, that crafty, brilliant and experienced diplomat who will be our first female president, and about time.

Either way with either candidate, don’t feel special that you have betrayed your principles in the name of winning. It’s done all the time. Let’s take Ted Cruz, so unpopular with his fellow senators who don’t miss him (he was gone from February to June) that even his best friends don’t like him. Cruz has ripped Trump as narcissist and a bully. “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies … in a pattern that is straight out of a psychology text book, he accuses everyone of lying . . . Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it … the man is utterly amoral.”

As for Trump vs. Cruz, the Donald referenced a report from that bastion of responsible journalism, the National Enquirer, (“Martians Eat the Washington Monument!”) which had identified Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, in a photo with Lee Harvey Oswald months prior to the JFK assassination. It’s going to take some making up for Cruz to support Trump, but what you bet that happens? Same for Carly Fiorina, who said about Trump: “He does not represent me, he does not represent our party, and I do not think he can be our nominee.” Ah, but Trump about Fiorina: “She had the one good debate, she went up and then she dropped like a rock, and she never resonated with the people. So I mean, Carly’s not going to do the trick.” Another time he said, while watching her on TV: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

In March, Marco Rubio dismissed Trump as a “con artist” and “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency.” Rubio also criticized Trump’s physical features: “You know what they say about men with small hands … You can’t trust them.” In turn, Trump mocked the Florida senator as “Little Marco” and poked fun at his tendency to sweat on the debate stage and drink lots of water. Yet 180 degrees later, the Florida senator said he’ll not only vote for Trump, he’d be willing to speak on his behalf at the GOP National Convention this summer. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of serving in a Trump administration.

Some high-profile party members have said they will pass up the convention entirely. Then there is our former governor, Rick (Oops) Perry. He was the first prominent GOPer to publicly criticize Trump and question his conservative credentials, calling his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism.” How things have changed. This from Perry: “He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people, and he will listen to them. He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.” There are more prominent Republicans who have changed their tune, going from “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” to “Stand By Your Man.” Their about-faces are “for the good of the party,” or, “I will support my party’s nominee.” John F. Kennedy once said, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Not for these chameleons.

Democrats have it much easier, since the only opposition was from supporters of Bernie Sanders, and they’re on summer vacation from high school. But for Americans who find themselves deciding between being hanged or shot, rationalization is hard. So Trump supporters, try these out in the mirror with a straight face: Good walls make good neighbors. Would you want YOUR taxes made public? His former wives say he was the best ex they ever had. For reluctant supporters of Hillary, drop these bon mots in conversation or use them as bumper stickers: Females for Emails. Take the T out of Trump. I’d rather be baking cookies.

Simply think of one reason to justify the spin in your spine. Your children will be proud.


Ashby spins at





National Ceviche Day

June 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining, Travel Blog

While most people think of Ceviche as a dish made with ocean seafood, this recipe demonstrates the cultural diversity of the dish. Peruvians incorporate potatoes and corn – two major staples of the Peruvian diet – as well as lake trout. The result is delicious. And there is no better place to enjoy it than at the foot of the world’s #1 landmark: Machu Picchu

A Ceviche and Pisco Sour class is included, complimentary, for all guests at Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel (

Recipe for 1 portion of ceviche

-6 oz. trout
-3 tablespoons lime juice
-3 tablespoons morrón pepper sauce
-1/2 teaspoon ground garlic
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/teaspoon chopped cilantro
-1/4 red onion sliced julienne
-1/4 Peruvian corn
-1/4 yam
-Salt & Pepper to taste
Garnish: lettuce, corn, limo hot pepper rings, yam strings.

Cook the corn with some anise seeds, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Cook the sweet potatoes, then peel them and cut them into matchsticks. Marinate the trout in lemon, salt, pepper,
cilantro, garlic, ginger, and onion. After two minutes, marinate again adding the pepper. Add ice cubes to the preparation to preserve freshness and lower the marinade’s acidity. Remove ice. Garnish with lettuce, onion, hot chili peppers cut into rings and crispy yam strings.

Pristine Bay, Honduras

June 24, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog


June 20, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby


THE BLIGHT BULLETIN — Published by and for the residents of Running Rats Acres.

It’s about those campaign signs, but first, fellow citizens, once again your Board of Directors of RRA wishes to bring you up to speed on our neighborhood events, concerns and lawsuits. Actually, we are not really up to speed on some projects. Our Christmas lights are still up since Homer Lugnut moved and took his ladder with him. (The warden confiscated it.) We feel the lights are so much trouble to take down we might as well leave them up till next Christmas. The neighborhood swimming pool is still under quarantine by the Health Dept. even though most, but not all, of the toxic chemicals have been removed, as have the family of alligators. There is no news about the sink hole, the carbon test on the Widow Malcontent or Constable Tom “Smack” Truncheon’s brutality and Breathalyzer appeal.

Currently our biggest problem involves front yards signs. Up till now we have ignored the rules against billboards, feeling that they not only bring color to the neighborhood but are informative, telling us where the nearest tattoo parlor can be found, ditto with the bail bondsmen. But in this super-charged election year, some order and couth must be observed. For instance, the “McCain & Palin – Hero & Zero” signs are getting a bit weather-beaten, not to mention the “I Like Ike” and “Tippycanoe and Tyler, Too” posters. In more recent campaigns, “JEB! The Smart Bush” and “Rick Perry — Nobody’s Perfect” signs should be removed, along with the Mucklucks’ banner: “Cruz in 2020-24-28 ad infinitum.”

Although we believe in the First Amendment at times, and the Second Amendment first, some taste limitations must be imposed. Signs questioning the true birthplace and citizenship of, say, a communist Kenyan, are acceptable, along with those demanding the truth about Benghazi, but we must draw the line on signs reading: “The Establishment Is Insane,” “ISIS Lives at 123 Deadend Drive” and “Free the Waco 100 — Viva Bandidos!” While we admire the poster reading: “Mr. Trump — Build Up That Wall!” the Ronald Reagan estate is suing for plagiarism. Yard signs dealing with treason, sexual preferences and accusations of arson will not be tolerated in front yards. What you put up in your backyards, horse stalls and RVs on blocks is your business. While on the subject of offensive words and slogans, some of you have applied bumper stickers such as: “Ask Me About Voter Fraud,” also: “My Child Is A Honor Dropout” and “It’s Not the Ovary Office.” Placing such stickers on your own pickup or tractor is fine, but stop sticking them on other people’s vehicles as that could lead to violence. (We’ll have an update on Oscar Ocelot’s condition next week.)

In answer to several residents’ inquiries, the Electoral College has nothing to do with electricity or universities. Voting this year will be at the Aaron Burr Elementary School (formerly the Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, but the name was changed when civic activists pointed out that Hamilton was only a war hero and established the nation’s financial system, but knew some slave owners, while Burr was a great shot). On another matter, our Congressman replied to our petition to bring plumbing to the neighborhood with a personal email from a staff member: “Dear Occupant, your plea is very important to us, but currently all the Congressman’s aides are busy with other whining constituents who only pester us with their complaints when they want something, but we never hear from them during campaign fund-raising drives. Your snivel will be taken in the order it was received. Current waiting time is (pause) late next month. The Congressman would love to answer each letter, email and scrawlings on paper napkins, but he is currently on a month-long fact-finding trip to Cozumel and Monaco.”

The entire neighborhood suffered greatly in the Tax Day floods (that’s April 15 since most residents don’t pay taxes) and asked FEMA for help. Fortunately, FEMA had declared RRA a disaster area even before the floods. As one government official put it: “Running Rats Acres not only set a record, but one more time and you retire the trophy.” In news of our neighbors, we congratulate Bennie Bob Squat, Jr. on his election as president of his fifth grade class. This is the third year Bennie Bob has been elected president of the fifth grade. Mary-Sue Alice-Mary Gumwad announced she is marrying Jon Jim Gumwad. “We like to keep our genes in the family,” she explained through her keeper. The posters you see nailed to poles and piles of tires reading: “Lost – Freddy – reward” should have noted that Freddy is not the Corncobs’ dog. Frederick, but their 30-year-old son who escaped when the postman accidentally left the drawbridge down. Speaking of our postman, Mr. Malcomb Missent, would like all residents to know he is beginning his literacy lessons next month, so postal service should improve. And a warning: the block wardens in charge of rabid dog alerts, using more than one leaf blower at 3 a.m. and garbage rules (the city is supposed to pick up, not deposit), do not like being called “block heads.”

Getting back to yard signs, “Cruz Control” and “Lose With Cruz” have been so overused, redundant and repetitive that the RRA board has put a limit of 20 such signs for each yard. Please leave up those Christi, Santorun and Huckabee signs since we all like a good laugh. On the other hand, Trump posters, placards and bumper stickers are not only welcomed but encouraged. You can pick up more of them at Elmo Crabgrasses’ place. They are in the garage which he has converted into a man cave. Look under the bar, and late at night, look under Elmo. Finally, some anonymous residents have asked what happened to their Clinton and Sanders yard signs. Remember the neighborhood Memorial Day picnic and bonfire?


Ashby is neighborly at






June 13, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby


GALVESTON – This is the Rosenberg Library Museum (“The oldest free public library in Texas”) which is showing a collection of Republic of Texas currency, along with other paychecks from the King of Spain, the governments of Mexico, the Confederacy, plus assorted letters and documents. And you don’t have to be a Crockett scientist to see if we can turn a big buck on the deal. I enter the building and go to the lady at the front desk. I say, “I’d like to see the exhibition of Texas currency.” I get a blank look. “There may be something on the fourth floor,” she says.

I go to the fourth floor and find a librarian. She points me to a small room across from the big room. I ask: “Do you have any pamphlets or leaflets about the exhibit?” No. (I had read that there is a self-guided audio tour, but I forgot to ask and no one volunteered.) I enter a dimly lit room with 11 glass cases, each showing some artifacts that are, well, museum quality – documents, letters, coins, dollar bills. The cases sport various titles: “Revolution,” “Republic,” Nine New Capitals Without Capital,” (I like that one), “Drowning in Public Debit’ and so on. This collection, which runs through Sept 30, is the work of Jim Bevill, a Houston financial adviser and collector, who has also barrowed some items from fellow collectors. .

The room is vacant except for me. All I need to expand my own small collection of Texana is a big brick and a bag. This brings us to our latest get-rich-quick scheme. You see, for years, if not generations, Texas stuff sat around gathering dust. I have a Republic of Texas two dollar bill I bought for five dollars. I see one is now on sale for $500, but here’s the hang-up. During the Republic’s 10-year life minus three days, the struggling little country put out bills with different names, signed by various officials, printed in different hues. Their worth today varies greatly. Some were printed in Houston, some in Austin. My bill was printed by Xerox,

They came in odd denominations, and, yes, Texas did have a lot of three dollar bills. The government found that it could pay its employees and debts by simply printing more money which, in turn, created monumental inflation. When introduced, the so-called red backs had a value of 37 and a half cents to the U.S. dollar. Eventually, the value went to two cents. By 1842, the government of the Republic of Texas would not accept the bills for payment of its own taxes. Incidentally, many of the notes, especially the red backs, appear as orange-colored because of the quality of the ink. It has been suggested that the “burnt orange” color of The University of Texas came from this coloring. What if the notes had a maroon hue?

Here are a few items of interest I picked up: The star notes, which had a Lone Star in the upper middle, were not money, per se, but rather interest-bearing notes (similar to a treasury bill) that circulated by being endorsed over to the next payee. The red backs were redeemed by the government and then cut-cancelled, that is, they were sliced several times in the center to keep them from being redeemed again and again. These notes are very valuable to collectors. A few notes, never redeemed or cut-cancelled and escaped the knife, are valued even more. So if you have a bill that is cut up, it’s not damaged. It’s still worth money – to you.

Interesting facts: Only two Texans’ pictures are found on red backs. Deaf Smith is found on the $5 bill while Stephen F. Austin is on the $50 note. Both died before the notes were issued. Another warning: Not all red backs are authentic. The original notes were hand-signed in brown ink while the reproductions all are in black ink. Texas pushed along with its various currencies until it joined the United States, and a main reason for joining was money, or the lack thereof. In 1850 Texas was given $10 million for all the land it had claimed outside its present state boundary. With this money, Texas paid off all its debts, including the redemption of all red backs. It’s a shame we had to sell, because today we could vacation in Santa Fe and ski in Aspen without ever leaving Texas.

Now, about getting rich. For years I used a white plate with lots of blue designs – drums, flags, in the center are two mid-19th century artillerymen next to a huge cannon, and an officer on horseback. All are dressed in fancy, Napoleonic uniforms. Vintage Texas tacky. This flowery plate was given to me by my mother who explained that the fad in the past was to make dinner plates to celebrate historic events. This one noted the Mexican-American War, but the European artists, not knowing how U.S. soldiers, especially Texans, dressed, drew them in European-style uniforms, Hence the Mounted Texas Rangers look like the Grand Duke’s Wachovian Grenadiers.

A friend gives me a page out of an auction house catalogue. The top reads: “Texas Campaigne China.” Below is a photo of my plate, same drums and flags around the edge, except that in the center is a general on horseback. The info says this ho-hum kitchenware was marked on the back “Texian Campaigne” and was produced in England between 1846 and 1852. The plate pictured in the catalogue is stored in a glass-faced box in a vault in New York City. Mine is not of that rare sort, because on the back on my blue plate special it reads – let me find it — “Texian Campaigne.” Huh? But the authentic plates were marked with the initials J.B. My plate is only marked by — ”J.B.” And here’s the going price for my blue ashtray: TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! To paraphrase Capitol One, what’s in your attic?


Ashby’s currency is








June 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby



THE DEN – Stay down! Don’t go near the windows! I need a periscope to see what’s going on. You may ask why I am hiding under the couch. It’s because the entire neighborhood is under a Take Shelter Alert. It seems a gunman is stalking Running Rats Acres, shooting at people. Cops are swarming the area. The SWAT team is here with its tanks, artillery and submarines. (Like many an American town, mine has received vast amounts of weapons from the Pentagon to fight terrorism, and this time they really need them.)

To begin at the beginning, a few hours ago on this pleasant spring Sunday morning, I was watching the talking heads on TV pontificate about Trump and Hillary, Hillary and Trump, Bernie and Hillary and Trump. Since I can multitask, I am also reading the Sunday papers all about Trump and Hillary, etc. Then the phone rings, which is unusual at such times since most people I know are sleeping off Saturday night’s Christening. Maybe it’s my wife, who has gone to church. No, it’s our daughter. “Dad, there’s a shoot-out in your neighborhood. Everyone is supposed to stay inside.” Huh? These things happen in other towns or even in mine, but always in other areas, not here. Oh, sure, we’ve had Bowie knife tournaments, bikers’ disputes, even a riot or two over Girl Scout cookies, but a cops-and-robbers shoot-out? Besides, we have a neighborhood alert system, so if anything untoward happens, such as a lost dog or pillow fight, a recording immediately goes out over phone, email and tom-toms telling us what the emergency is and what action to take: “This is your emergency alert system. Some rain or maybe a heavy dew is expected over night. Swim for your lives!”

I hear a thump-thump sound — helicopters. No, I am not paranoid, and those aren’t black coppers sent by Ross Perot to take me out — and not to the ballpark. Somebody is over reacting. True story: A few years ago a community around Sugar Land called 911 when their cable went out. This must be a similar case. Then my talking heads on TV seem to have a yellow banner running at the bottom of the screen. “Police action near the intersection of Fat Cat Circle and Blue Blood Blvd.” That’s right across the tracks in Nouveau Riche Estates, but still too close. Bit by bit the story trickles out. About 10:30 this morning, some guy wearing black shorts and no shirt, started shooting randomly at people. A constable showed up and his patrol car was shreded by gunfire. He decided help might be needed, and soon support poured in. Why not? It’s a slow Sunday morning and not much else is going on. The fuzz combs the neighborhood while more shots are fired. It turns out the gunman is armed with a pistol and an AR-15. We all-weather night fighters will explain that the AR-15 is a semi-automatic gas-operated rifle first developed for the U.S. military. Eventually civilians could purchase them and, as the NRA will tell you, every family should have at least three or four AR-15s in case some guy wearing black shorts and no shirt, starts shooting at you.

The phone rings again. It’s my friend and neighbor, Calpakis the Wily Greek. He says the cops are now backed by sheriff’s deputies, constables and the 82nd Airborne Division. “Do you have a gun?” he asks. “No, but I still have my bayonet from my days as a Marine infantryman. Do you have a gun?” “No, but something better. Landmines.” There is no traffic on the streets. I see the TV now shows live shots, so to speak, from the battle, and viewers are informed everyone should stay off the streets and away from windows. Ring-ring. My wife says, “I can’t get to church and the police won’t let me go home. Maybe I can get around a back way.” Hope she took her passport. Again I ponder this unreal situation. I live in a leafy, comfortable area which, real estate agents tell prospective buyers, is generally free of Viking raids, Comanche uprisings and outbreaks of ebola. This shoot-out may happen elsewhere, but it can’t happen here, as Nagasaki told Hiroshima. I crawl to the refrigerator to see if we can eat lunch here instead of following our original plans and picking up something. Not much luck. I crawl back to the den. The TV is showing more cops, and announces that a police helicopter has been hit by bullets five times. Bandits at ll o’clock high! A gas pump at a filling station across the street is hit by a bullet and goes up in smoke and fire. My wife arrives at home safely, her passport stamped.

We must now ponder just what is happening to our happy society when a calm, even dull, urban neighborhood can be turned into Baghdad-on-the-Bayou. A few years ago a local TV station — it was the Fox station, obviously — ran news programs showing almost nothing but crime news, entitled “City Under Siege.” Even today our local TV stations run news programs almost exclusively showing shootings, apartment house fires and high-speed car chases. Recently one station hit pay dirt: a reporter was covering an apartment house fire when a shooting occurred there. If a car came racing by, pursued by a fleet of patrol cars with red lights and screaming sirens, it would have been a television trifecta. But in this case, I like to know just how close the bullets are coming.

Now it’s all over. The cops start leaving, the helicopters are gone. It is safe to leave the house, so people start jogging and walking their pet pythons. Wait. The phone is ringing: “This is your neighborhood emergency alert system. There is a police action in our neighborhood. Stay indoors and etc. etc.” I keep thinking, if only Nagasaki had a few AR-15s.


Ashby is huddled at