Sunday, July 30, 2006

Umbrella Wars, Part Two

Based on continuing complaints, the Town has decided to consider regulation of beach umbrella set-ups, as follows:

Sec. 13-24 Regulations of Shade Devices on the Public Beach
No person or entity may place shade devices, chairs or other physical devices on any portion of the beach within the Town of South Padre Island located seaward of the
Historical Building Line, unless the shade devices or equipment is being used by a member of the public in the immediate area. The placement of such devices on the beachwhen nomember of the public in the immediate area is using the same shall be a violation of this ordinance, and any devices left unattended for more than thirty (30)minutes shall be presumed (see below for Rebuttable definition) to be in violation of this ordinance and subject to a fine as provided by Sec. 21-1.

I'm not too sure this is going to work - in an earlier blog I had proposed a permit system for beach vendors, since they were infact "soliciting" on the beach, which is an illegal activity (legally speaking, the Town can issue permits and not be in violation of its own ordinances). A permit system would allow a reasonable amount of beach umbrellas in known "turf" areas so the vendors wouldn't fight over prime locations. In fact, I'm not so sure the proposed ordinance is really justified or can solve the problem, given the loosey-goosey exemptions to the rule. But that's what is being considered that Wednesday - things could change.

The other item of possible controversy is a 1.6 million dollar shortage in the contruction costs of the new municipal center. This shortage would be made up in a general obligation bond and a bank.

My research shows that the "real" cost when you include interest payments is another $250,000, bringing the true shortage up to 1.85 million dollars.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Voter Lotto!

As usual, the Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau is my source of news-if-the-weird. This time it is whether a voter lottery could be implemented, as is being considered in an Arizona referendum. As most of you know I’m dead set against gambling but with high level politics … all bets are on!

The idea is to get more folks in the voting booth, like with promises of cash pay-outs and stuff. Hey, if the candidates are gambling on an election because they want to win, why not us? By definition, politics IS gambling. Why not expand upon the concept, ratchet it up a notch? Can you imagine the following conversation in a 7-11 convenience store: “Give me two Kinkys, one Bell, a couple Mean Grandmas … oh heck, throw in a Perry just for good measure.”

No more need for complicated nerd polls that we can’t understand. I mean, what’s with all of this plus or minus three percent hooey? In a Lotto there is always a clear winner! The booty gets divided up between the state, the winner, and the candidates, even-Steven. “Today, One Mean Grandma’s campaign chest grew by $189,000 today, thanks to Mr. Maurice Brown of Houston who drew the winning combination and the power ball.”

Open the floodgates, I say, even Internet political gambling. The only thing I’d like to require is for some voter education. Like maybe on the back of those tickets or email receipt you get a picture of the candidate and a short blurb on their “planks.” Yep, those could become collector’s items like Cabbage Head dolls. I can just see one of Kinky, playing his kazoo, with a statement that “If I’m elected, the biscuits will be more plentiful and the buns will be warmer.”

This sure would beat all the shady money donated anonymously by shady people … like those who want casino gambling on South Padre Island.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dies Caniculares

Let’s see here, there’s the dog-star so it must be ‘dies caniculares,’ the dog days of summer. There are lots of people on the Island, although by all counts not as many as in previous years (which makes me question all this growth stuff and giant condos, but so be it). The surf is almost completely flat, for want of a nice tropical storm but please no hurricanes our way. The fishing is slow but there’s enough ‘tourist trout’ to keep the peeps interested.

Anyway, it is rather warm, although not as warm as the interior parts of the country. We're still below 90 degrees. That is thanks to the sea breeze and a patch of some relatively cool water offshore. You can click on the picture to get a better view and there’s a little teeny patch of blue off South Padre Island.

Those swirls mean something, namely warm water circulating in the yellow and red colors. I happened to find these graphics on the NOAA website and thought they were cool. Apparently, warm eddies are kicked out by the Loop Current by Cuba and Florida. Warm eddies have higher sea altitudes than surrounding waters, due to some complex physics they’re still trying to understand. There are two heading our way, to the left of the Loop Current. You can see these as – for lack of a better word – boobies.

Hey, Mom, it’s the dog days of summer and I had to write about something! I hope you all are having a safe and fun summer so far.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Isla Blanca Saved!

This just in: yesterday the Cameron County Commissioners voted to prohibit any development on Isla Blance Park. We're not out of the woods yet ... but thanks to all those who supported saving Isla Blanca.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Our Slightly Buzzed Century Plant

The century plant (maguey) is an interesting plant. It grows like a weed on the Island, which is why we have a huge one in front of our house. Also called a century plant, one day it will make a shoot, flower, and die. Indeed, it is considered a sacred plant in Meso-America. Its traditional uses were so making fiber and Pulque, a fermented drink.

I was going to entitle this post “How to make homebrew tequila.” Actually, tequila can only be made from the blue agave, ‘Agave Tequilana.’ Well, they don’t grow here, so let’s get over it. However, we can experiment with making fake Mezcal, which could be just as fun.

DISCLAIMER: folks in Texas are allowed to make something like 40 gallons of beer a year for personal consumption (hah, most of us make hundreds!) but distilled spirits are a definite no-no. So I’ll get you as far as a Pulque-like beer and leave it to your imagination as to the distilling part.

Using the Internet I found no single recipe, since some called for draining the flower shoot (Pulque) or using the plant stripped of its leaves (Mezcal). Heck man, we’ll try both. How on Earth you drain the flower stalk could be quite an experiment, but the idea would be to put a hole in the stalk and collect the juice in a glass jug or something. One has to be careful though, since plants are large and the leaves are armed with spikes – the Jaws of Death if you will. I’d probably save this juice in a sterile container in the refrigerator … until after he next step.

Working on the plant pulp itself sounds like quite an ordeal. First you have to cut off all the leaves with a very sharp, large knife. Then you cut the plant off at ground level, leaving a large pineapple thingy, fittingly called a pińa. This must be baked or roasted several days to draw out the sugars, rested for a week, and then crushed into a mash. I’m thinking of a beach fire and maybe using a big hole in the ground for the baking job.

So now we have some flower juice and mash, which we can add together because we really don’t know what we’re doing here! Anyway, I would put on my beer-making hat and get out the ole 5-gallon stainless pot and add the mash, some nice malt barley, and some hops just because I’m weird. Boil for and hour, cool down fast, and add some really kick-ass yeast, maybe a Belgian Abbey, maybe something champagne (you want +11% alcohol, right?). The “natural” way is to let the local wild yeast do the job but nobody really believes that hooey anymore.

To save on having a whole book here, you ferment, watching for small uncontrolled explosions, and then decant into a glass carboy (water bottle) for at least a week, and then bottle or keg for several more weeks. No telling what we’ll have here, buddy! Sam’s ‘SPI Daze” Beer?

I let you know how it goes …

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Still Are Fish in the Gulf

Here's a picture for the boys and girls. We had a great offshore trip on Saturday and my son did really well - I got a large red snapper but he got the bragging rights. For the gals, that's Captain Tim showing one of this best sides for ya!

The boat went to Seebree Bank, about 22 miles to the northeast. The waves were low, maybe 1-3 feet, so there were very few "chummers" who got sick (why on Earth do you eat all that silly junk food?). I don't want to do free advertising, but you can check the marine weather on the Internet and if seas are three feet or less, you will have a smooth ride - you simply can't get a better deal because a charter costs maybe a thousand smackers. Just watch the 24-hour cancellation rule or they WILL charge your credit card. I paid about $70 per person for 8 hours.

Yes, there are still lots of snappers, tuna, mackerel, shark, and mahi-mahi out there; there are a few in this picture (sorry, there were lots of happy people in front of me). I have blogged before about over-fishing and why we have to throw back all those little fish, since catching and throwing them back into the sea usually means instant death, anyway. Why do you think the shark, dolphin, and cobia hang out under the boat, anyway? Why don't the regulators allow folks to keep all fish and count the small ones towards the total? Jeez, we threw back five times as many fish as we landed at the dock ... a real shame to me. That's the law and the boat enforces it strictly, though ... we just get over it.

But for once I forgot all that sorry-ass stuff and had a good time. We ran the boat's store out of beer by noon and thanks to the gentleman from a Monterrey nightclub who brought along five cases. You rock, Raymund! Most of us tipped the crew pretty good, and some folks even shared fish with those who didn't catch jack. Nobody left the boat with a sad face. My son will be telling fisherman lies for a couple of months now, which makes me feel good!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tecate Taquache

Here’s some land for sale, up quite a bit from the $180,000 purchase price of last year. It is OK, although I feel a twinge of remorse for the birds and opossums and other wildlife (not to mention tons of feral kitties) that party there and on the abutting empty lot. How do I know they party there? You’ll have to go to the end of this post to see!

I had attempted to get some conservancy folks to buy the land, but at such high prices and small sizes they all balked. I don’t know all the ropes or how they did a little bird sanctuary down by Pompano Street, but I had good intentions. So far there are no takers. So, I’m resigned to seeing the front-end loader eventually scrape the lot flat, and then they bring in a crane to sink foundation pylons and … like I said, it is OK because I’m a free market man, just frustrating for my inner convictions.

Fortunately, at this price it should be on the market for quite a while. We might even get another fall and perhaps a spring bird migration out of it – may I remind the gentle reader that we had birders camping out on this property because of all the rare birds. I saw the one fellow’s last book and these guys aren’t no slouches … just their camera tripod is worth more than all my high-tech gear put together.

Now in the thicket, which is rare on the Island anymore, it is dense scrub you almost can’t penetrate. There are burrow holes and nests for all kinds of wild stuff. Our dogs always go nuts when walking the area, what with all those gamey smells and critters. And those possums – called taquache in Spanish – are obviously having a great time.

Happy 4th!