"Trip to Houston Museum of Natural Science worth the price" by: Jessica Shepard

   A few weeks ago, my best friend Jessie and I managed to carve out a Saturday just for ourselves to enjoy some air-conditioned entertainment at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
   As usual, the museum had several limited-time-only exhibits amongst their permanent ones.
   I think the hardest part was trying to choose which ones to see since you can’t just buy one ticket and see them all.
   So, out of “Pompeii: The Exhibition,” “Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life,” “Death by Natural Causes,” and “Victoria: The T. rex” we decided on the second and third.
   Apparently, it’s been so long since I was at the museum I’d forgotten how much tickets actually cost.
   Or, perhaps, it was more like I hadn’t had to pay by myself for a long time either, so, that also factored in to which exhibits we would see.


"Boring summer: Making money and not lifting a finger" by: John Sample

   What a boring summer. You just sit around and make money in the stock market.  
   Getting your monthly statement from your retirement account climbing in value has to make you feel better month after month. We are hitting new record highs and it is hard to believe that anything will change any time soon.  
   We will have the FANG stocks announce earnings this week.  
   Only 24% of the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index have reported to date - almost 90% exceeded expectations. 
   Moreover, earnings reports have come in at a growth rate of 74%, which is the largest gain since 2009.  
   I’m aware that these are reports for the second quarter of this year, which is past history.  
   The market hasn’t moved further north solely due to concerns over what the Delta variant of Covid will do to our economy headed into the winter.  


PSA: Is Roth IRA better for young workers?

   If you’re early in your career, you’re probably not thinking much about retirement. 
   Nonetheless, it’s never too soon to start preparing for it. 
   So, you might want to consider choosing a traditional or Roth IRA. Which is better for you? 
   There’s no easy answer. 
   Depending on your income level, you can make tax-deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and your earnings are tax-deferred, meaning taxes are due when you take withdrawals. 
   With a Roth IRA, contributions aren’t deductible, but earnings and withdrawals can be tax-free, provided certain conditions are met. 
   It might benefit you to choose the Roth option and essentially pay taxes on your contributions now, especially if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket when you retire. 
   Also, a Roth IRA allows you to withdraw contributions – but not earnings – at any time, without penalties. 


"Baptism is an outward declaration of what has taken place on the inside" by: Caleb Gibson

   What is Baptism and what is the meaning behind it? 
   Baptism is what takes place when someone makes a public profession of faith. 
   No one would know what we believe unless we told them. 
   One reason God instituted Baptism was for it to be a visual aid for the church. 
   When we watch someone go under the water, we are seeing ourselves. 
   We all, as a church, have been baptized and been in that place.
   Jesus once said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. 
   “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
   Because baptism is an important step in the life of a believer, it is good to ask some questions. 


"Reel Reviews: ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ banks on nostalgia from the first film" by: Jessica Separd

   Even as a child, I really wasn’t into sports and that hasn’t changed since I became an adult.
   That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed 1996’s “Space Jam” movie featuring one of the most iconic mash-ups between old-school cartoons, and evil alien theme park capitalist, and basketball great Michael Jordan.
   It was unexpected, but hilarious and featured a slew of pop culture references for its day.
   Plus, the soundtrack is still pretty awesome to crank up when feeling nostalgic!
   Sadly, Jordan declined a sequel back in the day and the concept has been languishing for several decades with a variety of attempts at having leading athletes taking up the mantle once more.
   So, naturally, I had high expectations for the standalone sequel that came out this month, “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”


"Fall Armyworm control in pastures" By Dalton C. Ludwick, Holly Davis, Sonja L. Swiger, and David L. Kerns Extension Entomologists Texas A&M AgriLife

Fall Armyworm caterpillar with inverted Y design.

   Recent rainfall events have been a major problem this summer. 
   As a result of this rainfall, fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) are thriving across the northern, central and eastern portions of Texas.
   Below is some information on the biology of the pest, how to scout for them, and control options to mitigate damage. 
   Biology and Damage
   There are two strains of fall armyworms (FAW): the corn strain and the grass strain. 
   The corn strain usually appears in the spring and early summer and feeds on crops such as corn, sorghum, and cotton. 
   The grass strain, which is the strain that infests hay fields and pastures, generally shows up after significant rain events from mid-July through fall. 
   The corn strain is known for being resistant to pyrethroids, while the grass strain is susceptible to pyrethroids. 


"Missing a dog who kept me going with lots of games" by: Mike Reddell

   Jessica has already devoted a column (below) to our beloved Padme who left us last week.
   I wanted to put a final note to her comments.
   I’ve been blessed with some fine animals in my life – my half Rottie-German Shepherd Sam was as good a companion as I could imagine.
   In my books, Padme joins the pantheon status that Sam has in dogs.
   She was as much sports minded as I was – at least in our respective earlier years.
   One year, as I tried to get my fingers and arms to regain golf-related muscle memory, I was working on the short irons.
   Padme never missed a chance to get involved with any sports and seeing this new kind of ball she hadn’t seen before, she began the catch the high arc shots in her mouth.
   It looked painful and I tried to dissuade her without any luck.


"Losing best animal companion hits harder as an adult" by: Jessica Shepard

   Last week we made one of the hardest decisions ever as a family – we had to euthanize our beloved dog Padme.
   While it was an emotional decision it wasn’t that hard since we’ve had nearly a month to discuss it together.
   As an Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix, Padme was always an active, loving, and playful dog.
   Even well into her senior years and it only seemed to catch up with her in the past month or so.
   She’d made it to a bit over 13 years before taking a downhill turn with her arthritis and having a stroke.
   We were fortunate enough to have the time to prepare ourselves for losing her.
   And honestly, I’m grateful for that now.
   At the time, all I saw was her wasting away and becoming less like the dog I remembered that liked to jump on the trampoline with us, played soccer with Mike, or even escorted mom to the bathroom on her nightly potty breaks.


"The better things get, the more nervous you should be " by: John Sample

   Another weak start to the trading week.  
   This falls after last Friday’s drop in various averages and indexes moving the trading week into negative territory.  
   There are multiple reasons such as dropping interest rates, inflation and the delta variant.  
   Of course there is the fact that we continue to push new record high levels and profits are being taken.   
   The real interest is that there will be something that does cause a correction or even a bear market that will end up being referred to as unexpected.  
   While I find it difficult to invest any significant amount at market highs, it is really hard to disregard the earnings reports that are coming out.  
   Last week the financial sector reported earnings which were significantly greater than expected.  
   This week we will have companies like Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson.  


PSA: The right emotions can be useful in investing

   You might have heard that it’s best to leave emotions out of investing.
   But is this always true?
   Certainly, some emotions, such as fear and greed, can cause an investor to buy and sell at the wrong times and for the wrong reasons.
   But other emotions might work in your favor.
   Consider joy – the feeling of happiness you’d get by achieving an important goal.
   If you can visualize your child walking across a stage, receiving a college diploma, you might be motivated to keep investing in a 529 plan or other college savings vehicle.
   And if you can envision yourself enjoying a comfortable retirement, you’ll be more inclined to keep investing in your IRA and 401(k).
   Also, think about the most powerful emotion – love.
   If you have loved ones depending on you, you’ll need to protect their future.


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