Ethel Merle Cook Hodges

October 15, 1937 – March 10, 2014

Ethel Merle Cook Hodges, 76, of League City, Texas, went home to the Lord on March 10, 2014. Her family will receive guests during a visitation from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Friday, March 14, 2014 which will be immediately followed by a Celebration of Life, both at Memorial Funeral Chapel in College Station, Texas.

Merle was born in Bryan, Texas on October 15, 1937 to parents Marvin Morris and Ottie Mandy (Lambert) Cook. She attended Stephen F. Austin High school in Bryan, Texas. She had many jobs in her lifetime from a soda jerk as a teenager, to a travel agent, to tax preparer, business owner, and as a cashier in the MSC at Texas A&M University before retiring to League City, Texas.

Merle was a devoted mother, grandmother, great-grandmother (GiGi), aunt, sister, and friend. She loved to fellowship with family and friends, loved to travel, was an avid reader, and enjoyed music immensely. Merle had an adventurous spirit, an infectious laugh, and a sparkle in her eye with every smile. She was loved by many and will be greatly missed.

Merle was preceded by death her parents, her siblings Barbara Ella Knight, W. Roderick “Rod” Cook, Morris Lewis Cook and Pansy O. “Pam” Pivonka. Survivors include her son and daughter-in-law Dr. John Hodges Jr., and Patty Hodges; daughter Teresa “Terri” Rogers; daughter and son-in law Barbara Alice Lobdell-Siems and Christopher Siems; sister-in-law Sue Cook; grandchildren Sara Eveland, Steven Hodges, Vincent Lobdell, Katie Lobdell, and Jake Lobdell; great granddaughter Presely Eveland, as well as many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Merle’s name to the Wounded Warrior Project.

Replacing the Instrument Panel Cluster (IPC) on a 2005 GMC Yukon

My speedometer was sticking so I wanted to get it fixed. I learned that in most newer GM vehicles – probably ones with electronic odometers – that the whole instrument cluster comes out. The GM dealer will charge you an arm and a leg for about 15 minutes worth of work that you can do yourself.

Doing a Google search I found that several shops offer Instrument Panel Cluster (IPC) repair/replacement. The catch is you are without a car while you ship it off and wait for it to return. I think it was worth it. I used because they’re cheaper than the other guys, and they repair in 1 day rather than replace in several. I also found their YouTube video – GM Instrument Cluster Removal – when I was researching “How To” repair/replace/remove the IPC.

$30.00 shipping outbound
$19.95 shipping inbound
TOTAL: $199.94

GM Dealer quote: $550.00

I saved $350.06!

How to connect YouTube with other accounts w/ new YouTube interface

With the new YouTube interface, some of the screens/options have changed.

This page shows you where to change the services you share videos, favorites, likes, comments, etc.

First, log in to your YouTube account and then go to

or click on the Settings under your account menu (top right). Then click on Sharing on the left menu. This should be the Sharing and Connected Accounts page.

Click on “Connect” next to the the accounts you want to connect such as Facebook, Twitter, orkut, or MySpace. Ofcourse connecting accounts requires you to have, and log in to, the accounts.

Click the checkboxes next to items you want to share like Comment on a video.

Click Save Changes.

That’s it.

Boeing 737 Takeoff

This is a cross-post from

I think I finally figured out the screen resolution I need to fill a youtube video viewing box. I set my screen and FSX to 1280 x 720. It makes everything pinched, but the outcome is widescreen 16:9. I also converted the video from Fraps’ AVI to MPEG4 using widescreen setting for both input and output.

This also gave me the opportunity to install an iframe plugin for WordPress so I can use YouTube iframes and WordPress doesn’t zap the HTML. Thanks to Túbal Martín for his plugin and shortcode and the link to YouTube parameters.

St. Louis Spare Ribs

Ribs on the grill at 12 noon

This Memorial Day weekend (2011) I wanted to do something different than last year’s Memorial Day Memphis Style. I was inspired by a video on YouTube called “St Louis Spare Ribs” and the information I read on the BBQ Pit Boys website, Barbecue Web.


I started by buying 9 lbs (2 slabs) of spare ribs from the butcher on Friday before Memorial Day. I had them trim the ribs “St. Louis style” which means they cut off the “knuckles” or the gristly rib tips on the edge opposite the “baby back” cut.

On Sunday, I started at 8 AM by trimming the flap of meat and fat off the meat side and removing the membrane on the bone side. I also cut each slabs in half. Then I spread on a thin layer of regular yellow mustard – the key ingredient to tangy St. Louis barbecue taste – and the rub.  Then I put the ribs in the refrigerator at 9 AM to let them get happy for 3 hours. I planned on starting the low and slow cooking at 12 noon.

For my rub I made a variation of the Amazing Ribs, Meathead’s Memphis Dust Rub Recipe:

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder

I set up my grill with the left burner on low and a 13×10 drip pan on the right. I filled the pan with about 1/2 inch of apple juice, put the ribs in a rib stand, and put the rib stand into the pan. I added the rib stand this year because I thought the tilted grate method last year didn’t expose the ribs enough to the heat and moisture. This year I found the perfect sized pan, but the problem with the stand is that it’s too big to go into the pan the correct way – so that the ribs rest on the sides of the stand. So, I had to improvise and I put a strip of tin foil down the middle of the inverted stand and let the ribs drape over the strip.


Ribs at 5 PM

The key is 225°F for five to six hours. Open the lid sparingly (get it spare ribs, sparingly). As Meathead says, if the lid is open, you aint cooking.

My grill isn’t the most consistent thing on the market and I admit I’m cheap when it comes to thermometers so I just use an oven thermometer. My grill will vary by as much as 50 degrees with less than a 1/4 inch turn of the dial. I have to check it every 1/2 hour to make sure it’s not too hot or too cool.


I cooked the ribs for a total of 5 hours. I flipped the ribs in the stand at 2 hours in and 4 hours. In hour 4 I added some locally made, but pre-cooked, sausage. At 5 PM I took a knife to the ribs to test the tenderness – they weren’t tender.

I took the ribs in and put them in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. That didn’t help. They came out tough.

All that work and money up in smoke, literally. I give up. No more ribs from me.

On the flip side, the sausage was tough but good. The corn wasn’t quite what my wife was aiming for, but the pinto beans came out pretty good.



Rubix Cube Solution

Here is my shorthand version of pogobat’s video series “How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube!

3x3x3 Notation

6 Centers
8 Corners
12 Edges
Front face (F)
Back face (B)
Left face (L)
Right face (R)
Up face (U)
Down face (B)

Twists are normally clockwise. Twists counter clockwise are noted with an apostrophe (‘).

Solve Green Cross

Green cross

Start with green center on up. Twist an edge piece with one side green to the down face. Then turn the down face to orient the edge piece of the other color under its center.

Then make the other color the front face.

2F : This puts a bottom green edge piece on top, next to green center

F’ U L’ U’ : If the edge piece is in right spot, but oriented incorrectly. Start with flipped edge piece at the top center (next to green center).

Solve Green Corners

Green corners

R’ D’ R D: Have green corner in bottom right, below the corner it needs to go to. May be oriented wrong. Repeat the algorithm to orient the corner piece correctly.

This could take 5 times.

Top should be green and top row colors should be solved: top row complete

Solve Second Layer

Second layer

Make green side down

Orient an edge piece of the top-front (neither side blue) with its center color. The other color (top) of the edge piece will be the same as one of the centers of either the left or right face.

U’ L’ U L  U F U’ F’ : If left

U R U’ R’  U’ F’ U F : If right

U R U’ R’  U’ F’ U F : If all edges have blue before second layer is solved. Orient cube so that unsolved piece is in the center right of the front face.

Solve Blue Cross

With blue as top

F R U R’ U’ F’ : If none of the edge pieces have blue on top

F R U R’ U’ F’ : With blue L in back left corner. This makes a blue line through the middle.

F R U R’ U’ F’ : With blue line going left to right.

Finish Blue Cross

Finish blue cross

Looking at the sides of the edge pieces. They probably wont all match their center pieces.

R U R’ U R 2U R’ : If two edges do not match

R U R’ U R 2U R’ : If two matching edges are opposite sides. With one of them as front.

If the two matching edges are next to each other, orient cube so that matching pair top corner is right and away from you. Then perform

R U R’ U R 2U R’

All edge pieces of blue cross should be in correct spot and oriented correctly.

Solve Blue Corners

Get blue corners in correct spot.

U R U’ L’   U R’ U’ L : If none of the corners are in the correct spot. This should put one corner piece in the correct spot.

U R U’ L’   U R’ U’ L : With correct corner in top right front (near you)

This will get corners in correct spots, but not oriented correctly.

Orient Blue Corners

Orient blue corners

With 1 unsolved corner in upper right of front face.

R’ D’ R D : Twice

Keep the front face the same throughout this entire step! (I chose white as front)

Turn top so that next unsolved is in upper right of front face.

R’ D’ R D : Twice

Super Bowl or Social Bowl?

To coin a phrase, “the Super Bowl ain’t a scene, it’s an arms race.” (Taken from the Fall Out Boy lyrics.) The Super Bowl, or SBXLV, is going social, or more accurately advertisers are turning to social media with ad previews and contests and races (oh my).

Mercedes-Benz, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, is launching a “Tweet Race” in which four teams use Mercedes vehicles to race to Dallas. The teams are “fueled” by how many times fans tweet using a hashtag from their favorite team. Source: TODAY Show website | It’s the Super Bowl – let’s get social!.

I’m involved, sorta, with one of the teams in this race. Team S (hastag #MBteamS) consists of two Green Bay Packers superfans from Wisconsin, Todd Sanders (@tsand) and John Pederson (@ijohnpederson). Their coach is Pete Wentz (@petewentz), the singer that wrote the Fall Out Boy lyric. I’m twitter friends with Todd because of Higher Ed Web Conference as are a lot of his tech-savvy followers. I also copied one of Team S web pages about Participation on to this blog.

January 30 Texas Weather

So there you have it, 2011, the year we socialize, and we’re kicking things off with Super Bowl XLV, held February 6, the biggest party (i.e. social event) in the world. It promises to be a good game (Packers vs. Steelers) both on the field and on social media; may we all win.

It’s Turkey Time

It’s that time of the year when the leaves turn colors, and the wind blows, and the drizzling rain starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s Fall in Texas. It’s time to cook turkey! It’s Thanksgiving, or, at least it’s one week until Thanksgiving, and I bought a turkey fryer (COOKOUT SUPPLY COMPANY ELECTRIC TURKEY FRYER BY CAJUN INJECTOR) to make deep-fried Thanksgiving dinner.

The last thing I wanted to do was cook Thanksgiving dinner with an untested method on one of the most important meals we have all year. So, I got a sacrificial chicken and I fried it with the fryer a week in advance. It came out pretty good, but I learned something. Don’t be timid when injecting the bird. Don’t be afraid of tearing the flesh as this will leave holes for hot oil to seep in to and cook the hard to reach parts (near the leg joints). Anyway, here is a video of the chicken. Come back after Thanksgiving to see the real challenge.


I did a little research to find the best oil to cook with. The “All About Cooking Oils” page from was helpful. I don’t know how old that page is or how long it will stay up so I made a copy of it in PDF form.

Memorial Day Memphis Style

This is going to be a social media experiment. I want to share my experience as I cook ribs, and maybe get some feedback along the way. I’ll update this post along the way.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I want to try a new rib rub, Meathead’s Memphis Dust Rub Recipe. I already made wet Memphis ribs back in February, but now it’s hot outside (95 F) and it’s a holiday weekend. Next to July 4th, I think Memorial Day is the best day to bbq. So, this time I’m going dry and rubbed; sauce will be on the table.


3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder

2 quarts apple juice


Now, what sides? On Friday, I asked my wife if she would make potato salad. She wanted to make a pasta salad recipe that she found online. I thought maybe a 3-bean salad or corn or baked beans would make a good side dish. That’s how our ‘chat’ online usually goes: we throw out a bunch of ideas and pick one. Well, this time we picked them all. Saturday we went to the store and bought beans for the salad, corn, pasta, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary and a bunch of other things to make all but the baked beans.

Oh yeah, I also bought a big disposable roasting pan. I suggest that you get a slab of ribs and put it in the pan to see if it fits. I made that mistake with the brisket last year. I also bought mesquite chips and a small disposable pan to put them in.


Saturday night while I was preparing the ribs, she was busy making 3-bean salad and pasta salad – from scratch! She was cutting herbs, cooking pasta and beans and bacon, mixing, tasting – hum. That was so time consuming and exhausting that the potato salad would have to wait until Sunday.

My rib rub was a little different from the Memphis Dust ingredients. First, I couldn’t find ginger powder or rosemary powder and I didn’t feel like making them myself. I added about 1 tablespoon ground cumin instead. Second, 1/2 cup paprika is a lot! I ran out at 1/4 cup so that’s all I used. The final rub was plenty spicy so I left out cayenne.

I sprinkled the rub on the meat side of the ribs, wrapped them up in plastic-wrap, and put them in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.


I have a three-burner gas grill so indirect cooking isn’t too hard. I just turn on the left burner and place the pan on the right side of the grill. It is important to let the grill heat up and stabilize between 220 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

I poured about 1 quart of apple juice into the roasting pan, placed it on the right side of the grill, and heated the grill until it stabilized at about 220 degrees.

As you can see from the picture, the pan was a little too big for grill and I had to shape it a little to get it to fit.

Every few hours I would check the apple juice level and added more mesquite chips. You don’t want to open the lid too much because it lowers temperature and lets out all of the smokey, steamy, apple goodness. I think it took about 5 hours for my ribs to finish cooking.


It was hot outside that day – at least 95 degrees. I tried to make a video, but I don’t like it too much.

All in all everything turned out pretty good. The ribs were tender, the potato salad was creamy, the bean salad was crisp, and the p

asta salad was still good (after more ranch dressing).

As for the social media part, well, there wasn’t any. I guess I don’t have a big enough following because no one tweeted any suggestions. No one posted on my facebook wall how long to cook ribs or what temperature. And my video only got about 70 views in 1 year, and I was probably half of those.

As for take aways I’d say if you want social media interaction for anything you need keep a lot of people interested. You also need to put out the word well in advance. I made a good rub. I cooked the ribs for enough time to make them tender. Next time I either need a bigger grill or smaller ribs and pan.

Memorial Day Memphis Style