Monday, April 21, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan | Fall Behind

If I had a Chinese menu it would say “Year of the Tree”. This has been the year that trees have played a big part in my outdoor activities. Recently I had, and wrote about, a tree that needed trimming. Due to a faulty chainsaw and a sore back, this event took much longer than it should have. I was finally able to complete the task. I trimmed the tree sufficiently then cleaned up the mess.
But as I returned home one day this past week I noticed something strange in my backyard. One of my healthy oak trees decided, since it was fall, that it would shed all of its leaves. The problem being that the leaves were still attached. The entire top of the tree had toppled to the ground. Instead of offering shade, now my tree seemed to try and prevent me from enjoying my yard.

Out & About • Patrick Lacombe | Brothers

I’m the youngest of three children, all boys. Yes, I’m the baby of the family. I hear people talk about the youngest sibling always getting more than the older ones, and though it may be true, the youngest brother is picked on occasionally to establish the pecking order in the family.
I remember a couple of little incidents that occurred. It was all in fun and I know my older brothers did not mean to hurt me, but when you are a kid, fun does trump compassion. The first involved an old walk behind lawnmower that Dad used to trim the yard.

LOOKING UP • JOE BAISDEN | Rejoice with those who rejoice!

Saturday before last, Janelle and I were winding down the day sitting in our den about 9:30.  Suddenly, we heard a blast seeming to come from near or in our back yard.  There followed another blast with the sound of a 12-gauge shotgun.
I jumped to my feet and hurried to the patio door for a closer look.  “Watch out!”
Janelle exclaimed, adding a couple of “Be Carefuls,” as I opened the door “Kaboom!”  “Kaboom!”  There followed a series of blasts.  I am on the patio by that time deciding that the noise must be coming from Fort Hood in a revival of the maneuvers that used to provide a continuous background of sound even as far away as Belton.
A trip through the house and landing on the front porch on the 20th Avenue side, I saw the sky light up with colorful sprays of fireworks.  Even then, the origin remained a mystery.  Believe it not, I thought some of the neighbors were setting off fireworks left over from the Fourth of July.  I kept that idea long enough to wonder why the Belton Police had not arrived in the area.

GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan | Too many choices

A couple of years ago I bought a new truck. With that purchase came a trial subscription to satellite radio. Now we all know that this is not really a gift because they like you and want to give you something to enjoy, it is trick to try and hook you. They want you to get used to the convenience of the radio and keep the subscription going. Well I didn’t fall for that. When the free trial was over I let it end. A month or so went by, getting e-mails telling me of the exciting things that were going on with my, now shut off, radio. Finally they made me an offer to get me back. It was a good deal, about the price of a decent meal, so I thought I would go hungry one day and splurge for the new radio subscription. Sure enough it was exciting, well fairly exciting, OK, just interesting. When this super cheap subscription was over I once again ended my agreement with them. But, they had one more trick up their sleeve. They now offered a full year at a greatly reduced price, well less than the face value if you just renew regularly. Of course there are a few tricks they use to keep you hooked. But so far I seem to be doing well with the deal.
The problem is that there are only about a half dozen “channels” that I actually listen to. I have yet to scroll all the way through the entire selections. I usually will go a few channels each way of my favorites. So far there is not a lot that really catches my ear. I don’t want to pay for talk radio, there are a ton of news channels. Even with my fairly eclectic musical taste, there are only a few channels that I leave it on for an extended period of time. There are some specialty channels that make me wonder how dull a person’s life must be to listen to endless hours of that music. I also don’t spend hours in my vehicle, my commute is fairly short. I don’t work out of my truck. So really the radio subscription is a luxury.