Hotwheels fire alarm in the kitchen

After the smoke cleared in the microwave

I was on kitchen patrol earlier this week, focused on rinsing a bowl in the sink when some unexpected loud popping and sizzling noises from a few feet away caught my attention.

So, I turned and saw smoke billowing out of a microwave that sits on a cart and serves us as our emergency backup microwave.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

I scrambled around the edge of the kitchen counter and peered in, but all I could see was a cloud of gray smoke and flames while being hit with an incredible stench.

As I screamed for help from my wife, our son, Sam the Chihuahua — anyone — I found the right button and shut the microwave down.

When the smoke cleared, I saw four Hotwheels cars inside the machine. Flames were still coming out of two of them.

The culprit

Meanwhile, our 3-year-old grandson was in the living room screaming and crying.

it wasn’t a coincidence.

While his Papa’s attention was focused on the dishes, Solomon had loaded up the microwave with his favorite toys and somehow found the power button.

Now he was distraught because he thought he had destroyed his favorite Hotwheels.

We gave it a few minutes and then removed the cars with a wet paper towel in case they were still hot. The Hotwheels were all badly singed, and a tire had begun to melt on one of them.

I told this story to my friends Ed Godfrey and Linda Lynn, and all they could come up with were some bad puns.

“This gives new meaning to Hotwheels,” Ed said.

“Were the tires FIREstone?” Linda asked.

Hardy-harr-harr.

We consoled Solomon while also making it clear that he is never again to touch the microwave or put anything in it. Ever.

The cow had long left the barn, but we took the ultimate step to prevent a repeat of the near disaster.

We unplugged it.

Phone tracking: ‘They are listening.’ Maybe

The Springs
A Sunday morning adult class at The Springs Church of Christ in Edmond

First off, let me say up front that I am NOT wearing an aluminum helmet as I write this. And our windows are not covered with foil to keep mind-controlling radio waves out.

But sometimes weird coincidences happen, especially with our cell phones.

Hope RisingI was sitting in a Sunday morning class on the topic of ‘hope’ at our church a few weeks ago, listening to a lesson presented by Chad Hellman, Ph.D., a University of Oklahoma professor and co-author of the excellent book “Hope Rising: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life.”

Dr. Hellman discussed subjects like how childhood trauma impacts the future lives of children, and how pursuing “hope” as he defined it can help people — young and old — set goals and achieve them as they pursue a better life.

My wife, Paula, was seated next to me, and near the end of Dr. Hellman’s presentation she got a text alert from Apple news on her phone. It promoted an article on the order of “12 steps you can take for a happier life.”

Paula showed me the alert on her phone’s screen and whispered “they’re listening.”

We both smiled at the irony.

But it’s happened before. We’ve been in the car on trips having conversations on some topic when ads served up by Facebook on our phones eerily matched the subject.

Cue the Twilight Zone theme.

If you search “is my phone tracking my conversation” online, dozens of articles will pop up on the subject, including this one from the Washington Post that seeks to quell our fear.

Here’s the bottom line based on interviews with experts:

“It’s an old wives’ tale,” said Eric Seufert, who founded the marketing consultancy Heracles Media and runs a popular blog for app developers. “It’s this kind of mythical, horrific, but ultimately untrue, fear.’

‘The short answer is: No, your phone isn’t listening. But why is this rumor so hard to shake?’

Other articles take the possibility more seriously that conversations are being tracked by our phones, including this one from Fox News headlined: “You are not paranoid: your phone really is listening in.”

So, it’s a mixed bag of believers and skeptics. I only know from my own experience like the one during Dr. Hellman’s presentation on a Sunday morning.

Excuse me while I go look for some aluminum foil.

The Thunder Way sets the NBA gold standard

Thunder presser
Thunder GM Sam Presti introduces the team’s 2022 draft class to the OKC community as the players listen.

I‘m not sure how other NBA teams welcome new talent to their community, but the OKC Thunder way may be the gold standard.

On Saturday, the Thunder welcomed their four 2022 draftees to Oklahoma City with a special press conference at the Clara Luper Center just west of downtown.

The event was streamed on the Thunder app, so we all had a chance to watch it. And it was an intriguing hour that provided some insight into the team’s new players — Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams.

Paula Daigneault
Thunder coach Mark Daigneault and Paula Stafford at introductory press conference

But for me, it afforded an opportunity to see and hear Sam Presti describe what he saw in each player well before the draft that ultimately brought them to the team.

It’s obvious that Presti pours a huge amount energy in learning all he can about the players, their personalities and their families, in addition to assessing their level of talent.

I loved the way he described watching the players in various settings months or years before the moment their names were announced. 

And how he uses locations of historical significance to introduce new players to the community.

All of that’s probably the reason broadcaster Dan Patrick described Presti last year as “the best GM the NBA has seen in a long, long time.”

I agree with that assessment, even if I’ve complained about every inch of the Thunder’s tanking strategy over the past couple of years. I don’t think that playing to lose is fair to their fans, players or corporate sponsors.

But that’s just me.

Thunder capFolks like my friend Steve Buck are all in on losing on purpose because they say the end justifies the means. I’m just hoping the NBA will come up with a way to nullify tanking as a strategy.

Anyway, I thought the press conference was a huge success, and the players said all the right things, as did Presti.

I also had a secondary reason for watching the Thunder introductory press conference. My wife, Paula, was invited to attend as a “community draftee” by the Thunder through her role as an employee of NAMI Oklahoma.

She sat on the front row during the press conference, and had the opportunity to meet Thunder coach Mark Daigneault and the new players. And Steve Buck’s middle school-age boys went with her, so it was a win-win-win for everybody.

“It was an awesome experience,” she said. “I gained a whole new respect for Coach Daigneault and for the way the Thunder introduce their players to the community. It was a great event.”

Paula group
The NAMI Oklahoma “community draft picks” that attended the Thunder news conference on Saturday.

Cattlemen’s: A birthday tradition like no other

cattlemens sidewalk
A sidewalk selfie outside of Cattlemen’s Steakhouse on the occasion of my birthday.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

This quote is attributed to baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra after he was once asked about eating at a famous restaurant in New York City.

Yogi could have been speaking about Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City in 2022.

Credited as being the oldest restaurant still operating in OKC and which once allegedly changed ownership at the roll of some dice, Cattlemen’s remains incredibly popular and busy.

Lunch at Cattlemen’s on my birthday with my wife has been a family tradition of ours for more than a decade.

So, today, on the occasion of my 69th trip around the sun, we made our pilgrimage to the mecca of OKC restaurants.

Located in the Stockyards City area adjacent to the Oklahoma National Stockyards, Cattlemen’s was playing to a full house this afternoon.

Of course.

And we didn’t arrive until 1:30.

But since there were only two of us, we were escorted to a table after a wait of only a couple minutes. Larger groups waited outside on the sidewalk.

The meal was awesome, as always, but what I really go for is the giant yeast roll that comes with the steak. It is my downfall. Oh, and the basket of melba toast that comes out with the salad.

Our waitress was so accommodating and took our photo as we sat at the table, then we followed up with a selfie on the crowded sidewalk outside.

cattlemens inside
Paula and Jim inside Cattlemen’s Steakhouse

As we were pulling out of the lot behind the restaurant after enjoying the meal, we looked around at the many western-themed businesses in the Stockyards City area.

“There wouldn’t be all these businesses without Cattlemen’s,” Paula said as she looked acoss the intersection of Agnew and Exchange.

You’ve got that right. Cattlemen’s definitely is the engine that drives the Stockyards City economy.

It IS too crowded. But people (like us) keep coming year after year. And it’s worth the wait.

Traffic stop on the Lake Road

lake road
The Lake Hefner Parkway

I was focused on the sports radio banter this morning and negotiating heavy traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway when my 2-year-old grandson began shouting “GiGi! GiGi!”

I didn’t pick up on it immediately.

However, Solomon was relentless from his car seat in the back. “GiGi! GiGi!”

Suddenly, a red Ford Escape cut sharply into my lane just in front of me. I looked at it and thought that it resembled my family’s vehicle. Then the Ford Escape slowed, put on its blinker and began pulling to the shoulder amid the heavy traffic.

That’s when I saw it. The small sticker on the bumper. That WAS our car. Then it hit me why Solomon was shouting GiGi! My wife Paula, his grandmother, had cut us off on the Lake Road and was pulling us over.

So, I pulled in behind her. She hopped out of her car and began running to our car.

I imagined the worst. Had someone in our family died and this is how she was going to break the news to me, here on the shoulder of the Lake Hefner Parkway?

I rolled down my window and she said, “I think I left my phone in your car.”

What?

Apparently, she had left the phone in the car when she buckled Solomon into his car seat. And her phone was critical to her work-from-home job.

After we left for Solomon’s appointment, Paula realized she didn’t have her phone, jumped in the car and began chasing after us. She managed to catch up on the Lake Road, but couldn’t get my attention until she cut me off with Solomon shouting “GiGi!,” his favorite name for her.

Paula crawled into the back seat and said “call my phone.” I called it and her phone began ringing from the back seat. She couldn’t find it and crawled back out.

“Call it again,” she said. I called, and it started ringing. She crawled across the back seat again.

I glanced back and saw it.

Paula’s phone was sticking out of the back pocket of her jeans. It had been there the entire time.

We both (sort of) laughed when we realized where the phone actually was.

And I’ll never let her live it down.

Ten-minute tour of OKC’s Grand Palace

The new OKC convention center looks out over Scissortail Park.

The first thing I noticed about the new Oklahoma City Convention Center as my wife and I walked toward the entrance Saturday was its proximity to everything.

To our left, directly across the street from the Convention Center was the massive Scissortail Park. Next door is OKC’s new Omni Hotel. The OKC Streetcar stop was just north of the hotel.

And to our surprise, we spotted Mayor David Holt sitting on a bench by himself outside the Convention Center. Naturally, we introduced ourselves and posed for a quick photo with him (of course) before walking on.

Now that’s proximity!

Saturday was Open House for the new OKC Convention Center, so I signed us up. Turned out to be an awesome experience, although not just because of the tour.

We decided we had enough time to grab some lunch before scheduled tour time.

As we waited in line to be seated at the Omni’s OKC Tap House restaurant, we spotted some long-time friends I’ll call “Brent and Valeri.”  We joined them in the outside seating area.

It had been years since we had sat down and visited with this couple, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Time passed, and before we realized it, we were 30 minutes past our scheduled tour time.

So, we paid our tab and walk over to the Convention Center. We faced a time crunch because Paula was scheduled to receive her first dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine in 45 minutes, with a hard deadline.

That left us about 10 minutes to tour the massive Convention Center.

Remember, this $288 million facility was entirely paid for with MAPS 1 cent sales tax. It features 200,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 30,000 square foot ballroom, among many amenities.

And it has that new car smell.

So, we rushed to the entrance and were greeted by ushers who pointed us to the escalators. We went up to the third floor.

There we found a long balcony that overlooked the park and featured an awesome view of downtown.

We snapped photos. We turned around and walked into a massive banquet room set up with tables like the dinner was tonight. We took photos. We looked down over the entrance three floors below. We took photos. We poked our heads into a smaller conference room maybe 50 seats arranged around tables. We took photos.

Then we hurried out.

It’s a grand palace, but our mini-tour didn’t do it justice. The vaccine was calling.

We’ll be back.