Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Lori's Birthday! An Anniversary!

Calling all SOB's ... calling all SOB's. Saturday we're celebrating Lori's 50th birthday!

It is also our 25th anniversary ... did I mention I had a birthday as well?

We'll be at the Wanna-Wanna for the Bongo Bogs for sure about 8:00. That's the main event, although we might rent some umbrellas and hang out on the beach earlier ... later, who knows? No presents needed other than your smiling faces. She's into the low-carb Atkin's diet if you're thinking something like a desert. This is a big one, folks, so let's show Lori a good time.

OK Here's the Deal: we'll be on the Oleander Street access (Bougainvillea) on Sunday starting a little after 10:00 a.m. and lasting until ... who knows?

UPDATE #1: We're trying to do a big shebang on Sunday on the beach, with sand castles, swimming, and more. Location is being decided as we speak.

UPDATE #2: Lori was accepted to the doctoral program at UTB! Only ten out of 200 made it. We're already on a roll!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Boogies

Our dog is really nice and affectionate but one thing she does not like is "the boogies." Those would be the SPI opossum. Our dog can sniff one at 50 yards. She even knows it when I talk about "the damn tequatche," the Mexican word. It drives her nuts!

This island has a serious case of the boogies.

I don't know how the possum know, but one of them always has to check our porch for cat and dog food every night, as if they were New York cops on rotation. I've cornered them many times. Of course, poor Malia our dog looks like she's going through two layers of hurricane-proof glass. She doesn't like the boogie to say the least. We have to close the bedroom doors so she doesn't freak us out in the middle of the night.

I've been through the Town thing where you use a humane trap and try to catch the varmints. It didn't work that good here because I caught all my house cats, who are pigs. Old Jeff across the street caught three possum and two wild cats in one trap, probably an island record, but I didn't have any and I have great bait.

Can't we do better? I hate to think we should mow and pave over the entire island because we can't take care of a very simple animal control problem, them and the feral cats.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Global Warming Burgers

That contraption there is a solar concentrator built for about $450. The design was suggested for use in Africa to help provide power and cooking heat. About 25 flat mirrors can "dial in" the sun to focus on the nerddle there, which can reach extreme temperatures of maybe 1,200 degrees. Pretty cool huh, like space age?

The scientists did agree that the only side effect was sometimes it caught on fire. I sure hope they're working on the safety aspects if they export it or sell it commercially, but from a Dave Barry perspective that even makes it a better project.

So my business model would be called "Global Warming Burgers" and we would have organic veggie burgers to bison. I think you might need a space suit to operate it, which I'm sure the kids would find fascinating. Poof, your burger is done! It's all in the angle of the mirror dangle I believe. Of course, business hours would have to be in broad daylight, but who really wants a burger on a gray day anyway?

Speaking of burgers and space age stuff, the New York Times reports that the crapper on the International Space Station just went kaflooie, and yes company is coming over next weekend. Maybe they need one of these little honeys, think? That's called taking care of business!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Let's Talk Boats

I think I'm in love! Here is a Carolina Skiff from a company that sells traditional hull designs called Spira International. They just don't make boats like these anymore, unless you build one yourself or find one somebody else built. In fact if you Goggle "Carolina skiff" you'll get about a dozen models of fiberglass bay boats that don't even look remotely like the above picture.

Sure, you'll need to build a hull and buy a motor - I like the old Evenrude two-stroke 25 HP engines - but it certainly is cheaper than buying a new fiberglass wonder that costs as much as a brand new pickup truck. Besides, see those high sides and pointy bow: they're more seaworthy. I'm looking at $75 for plans and about a grand in cheap lumber, fasteners, fiberglass and paint. I haven't priced an old motor and trailer, though.

Lori wants a nice Bimini Top for shade in the middle, which is fine with me as long as I can cast and troll off the stern. Shade is good down here on SPI.

The one pictured is a 19-foot Carolina with a Vee bottom to handle chop and spray better. It is harder to build than the flat bottom version so I'll have to think about that. We'll see, but all sounds like fun to me - and the gas savings sounds like a real winner!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Memories

I write the day before Memorial Day, when the island celebrates the beginning of summer. Indeed it was a packed island the last two evenings, with fireworks and all. But somehow, this Memorial Day event was depressing to me.

I shall always love our country, our flag, and honor those that served to defend our liberties and freedoms. But my growing suspicion is that the United States is not longer a leader of the world, the strongest country, or the most just. We seemed to have pissed away our former glory, accepted a President as a lunatic puppet king, and engaged our armed services in a ridiculous holy war that our Founding Fathers would find rather shocking. Even the mighty dollar, once the currency of global trade, is now frowned upon as worthless Yuppie coupons that must be redeemed for something of real value.

Back in the early 1800s many European observers predicted that the United States would only last a few generations before falling into a nasty dictatorship with a broken economy and eventually, anarchy. These predictions never came true, as today we are still a proud, industrious people. But there is a growing sense of frustration, with less than a third of Americans thinking that our country is going the right way - and confidence in the US Congress has fallen even lower, to 10 percent. What would Washington, Adams, and Jefferson say about that?

The notion that we caused all this ourselves - even by electing a President that should be found guilty of High Treason - is especially galling on this Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


It is true, scallops are native to this area in far South Texas. You can find a few old shells on the beach and according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are even some wild ones in the Laguna Madre, since they do net surveys every year.

It is also really good eating, although most scallops come from the colder northern climates. I guess the prospect of eating scallops lead me to write this article. It's expensive but you can get them cheaper at a real seafood store, frozen.

I didn't know this but in Europe they eat the whole animal, not just the center muscle known as the "eye." Us whacky Americans, I guess it's too gross although we'll eat oysters for some mysterious reason. Part of the problem is that the scallop boats that go out to sea are out there for many days, and scallops will die, lose moisture, and rot if not cleaned and refrigerated or frozen right away.

The "real thing" is catching them right out of the bay. I did that up in New England for a summer or two just a few times. We used old laundry baskets to get them. I wish we were positively infested with them down here ... I would give up all meat except for my favorite seafood!

Monday, May 19, 2008

This Is an Emergency Broadcast

For all the disaster planning and recent events around the world - from hurricanes in Burma to earthquakes in China - the US is no better prepared than ever in its history. According to numbers reported in the Washington Post, 93% of us don't have a clue about what to do in a natural disaster. As hurricane season approaches, perhaps it's a timely subject.

I will say that Texas has made some strides, although mainly in the field of top-down command control and how to work the evacuation highways. Incredulously, the Department of Homeland Security insists upon customs inspections not only at the check stations such as Sarita and Falfurrias, but the evacuation centers, buses, and collection areas as well. What a bunch of proverbial turds.

There is some good advice out there, although most of the effort is on policing. The typical response (and no offense intended to Clifford) is to motivate people to leave ... or make them put on a toe tags "so we can ID your crab infested body." I think we can do better than that.

In general we're talking about two types of tropical cyclones and hurricanes. The first is the type that is tracked for days if not weeks before a storm gets within 500 miles. This gives you lots of time to make arrangements, pack those special things that could be lost, and beat the traffic. A single mention of a hurricane in the Gulf can empty about SPI tourists in a heartbeat, with some locals to follow. Hurricane Dean is a classic example.

The second type are very fast, compact hurricanes that can blow up within a space of 24 hours. Humberto was such an example of a storm that was never predicted (well, I did but who cares). For this the strategy is what's called a "ditch bag" just like a survival kits when you go out to sea on a boat. You grab the ditch bag that has all your important papers, medications, and some useful stuff like Granola bars and Charmin, throw it in the car, and boogie.

Now I've been around the Island long enough to know that even in small storms like Emily (2005, just after moving down here permanently), Islanders will wait until the wind actually starts blowing hard before putting up shutters and plywood ... and maybe hitting the liquor store, get some groceries, and the going to the bank as an afterthought. If the storm looks like Category 2-3 or less, or a likely miss, this Island is known for some outrageous hurricane parties. Jimmy Buffet music blares and the margarita machine is fired up. Some bars have been known to have a "keg emptying party" for the locals to celebrate the event. I have to say that mooning the Weather Channel TV crew was a high point of my life (take THIS, Jim Cantore!).

I know, that sends the wrong message but I think the Islanders know the drill fairly well and just need to be reminded about that "ditch bag" and some simple precautions. I hope some public friendly gatherings can help drive the point home ... one idea was to have a party and hand out or sell waterproof bags with a waterproof zipper with maybe an advertisement on one side and a checklist of things to do on the other. Make it some cool events and opposed to the usual smack talk by burly cops and frightening weather weenies.

And folks, if we get a one of the rare storms that form only 100 miles offshore, just forget the computer stuff and Aunt May's tea set. Grab the bag and go!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Aransas Pass and WiFi

There's a big brouhaha going on about a kind of wireless computer connectivity known as WiFi, since many people want it here on SPI. I originally supported the concept when Fred Mallet brought it up several years ago. Since then, not much has progressed about WiFi here and Fred moved to Aransas Pass.

Aransas Pass does not have municipal WiFi.

Now this is interesting because I have a serious case of "Aransas Pass Envy." Their park system is incredible and they put on a sand castle festival that is five times better than ours. Their marinas are really something, with lots of beach, bay, and offshore access. The beach might not be as nice as SPI but on just about every other account, for the same-sized town they have us beat, hands down.

So why did they not get municipal WiFi?

I don't have the luxury of having any exact reasons, town council discussions, or whatever but their Chamber of Commerce and other town links heavily promotes private WiFi as a tourist benefit and as a key strategy. Condos, rentals, restaurants, and bars heavily promote WiFi access. Once again, I'm getting a serious case of Aransas Pass Envy.

At least this isn't a boondoggle like the second causeway to SPI that would cost in numbers of hundreds of millions. But our Banana Republic political mentality sometimes leads to some very strange outcomes, such as rejecting ferry service (Aransas Pass, check), or municipal WiFi (not).

My point all along is that I support municipal WiFi but I wanted the budget numbers. None are available, and I'm starting to wonder if this is something that should be better done by private enterprise and not our Town. I'd rather invest in infrastructure, such as ... well we do have one public restroom to serve 5 miles of beach, I guess. Sometimes I worry about this place.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Second Causeway, A Boondoggle?

Recently there has been a big push for a second causeway on the north side of the Island. The traffic volumes don't support it right now and the Town's "position paper" is riddled with faulty conclusions and misleading assumptions. To be clear, I'd like to see a second causeway but the way we're doing it is all wrong, wrong, wrong.

The people who want a second causeway more than any other group are the developers of expensive condo property on the north side. They don't give a damn about hurricane evacuations, health, and all those silly justifications ... and to the buyers, paying five to ten bucks for the tollway to avoid the gruesome Padre Boulevard while speeding in luxury cars is appealing. Last I checked only one large condo tower was going up - if it doesn't fall down because it's leaning, or at least the garage already is. Simply stated, nobody lives up there now except a few coyotes and birds.

I'm certainly not paying big bucks like that and our friendly Winter Texans and Valley residents aren't either. Like the last Texas Legislature dictated, we're tired of all these tollways and want them stopped. Yet down here in La-La Land we think that's exactly the way to go, with a regional authority that has no representation from SPI. Folks, this is way out of control and signing some petition you don't understand is sheer stupidity. Of course we support a second causeway! It is all in how it gets done in the details.

It's a great reason to elect a new Governor because with Perry in place, such madness will continue amongst the Republican profiteers. And if you think a bridge twice as long as the Queen Isabella Causeway will only cost a hundred million, dream on teenage queen. Williams, Zachary, and others will gladly double or triple the price for you by the time the project is actually let out for bid in maybe five years.

I'm not that gullible and I'm fighting against the SOB right now, as is proposed.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


It was a big Saturday on the sand spit. On Sunday morning the island is very quiet, some possibly nursing varying degrees of a hangover … or just being Sunday morning quiet. It is completely becalmed and you can hear birds for miles, or a loud motorcycle going over the causeway.

The election was a big deal, with Bob Pinkerton, JoAnn Evans, and Rick Ridolfi winning by large margins. Jake threw a big election party with free booze and a band. Congratulations to all the contenders and the winners. I wonder if other towns have so much fun just for voting?

From Jake’s we motored up Gulf Boulevard to the Wanna, which was being rocked by the Bongo Dogs. They were in fine form and yes, I was their star Frog Player once again. Everything was going very well until a lady in a red dress did an incredible back-flip into the musicians. It looked painful but she recovered after revealing that she obviously wasn’t wearing any panties, which didn’t seem to bother anyone. She could have been electrocuted. All seemed OK.

Except for Cathy’s trombone.

I didn’t know until the close of the last song that the lady in red had bent Cathy’s trombone, right in that part that slides back and forth. I was wondering why Cathy started looking cross-eyed in those last few songs. David her husband told me “well yeah she’s pissed, she broke her ax!” I hope it can be rescued.

Otherwise it was a wonderful evening although we had to navigate carefully on the way home because of all the midnight traffic. I don’t recall it being so busy in the weeks just before Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lucky with the camera today

Aye, see the umbrellas, inviting surf, and really cool sand castle done by grand master Sandy Feet? We bombed in on one of those political things today at Wanna Wanna and had a wonderful time. It was very fun and thanks to all, including a guy named Jeff (hope I remembered right) who is the new Wanna manager. Rick, Bob, and JoAnn are running for office and today this was very fun. Below, and aside from my bean-pole friend Chas topping over 6-foot five, are the girls assembled in "power mode."

From the left, that's Nancy with her turtle proclamation and yes Turtle Week is coming up soon. World champion Sandy Feet is in pink next, and Ann is looking great. Next to Bean Pole Chas is Diane of slight build but an excellent yoga teacher and a jewelry maker like her husband standing there. Gosh I wish they let men watch them work out. And Stephanie on the far right is giving us a look that is just priceless. It's kind of like "hey you California chicks who think you're hip, don't mess with us." Naw, I made that up ... but that's a bunch of my favorites in that picture. Below, I took one more just wanting a field shot of the beach.

As you can see the volleyball freaks were at it pretty hard - or hardly playing - but everyone was having fun. Nice party and afternoon on the beach.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

'Splain this, Kirk!

Before I got my master's degree I was an English major at UT-Austin took lots of classes or stuff like linguistics, technical writing, and rhetoric. So imagine my confusion and consternation today when I read a political advertisement by Kirk Mills, who is running for Mayor of our humble town of SPI. First he writes:

"I keep reading in the Mayor's advertisements that he has all the contacts in Austin and Washington D.C. - this a a shame because what it shows is a complete failure ..."

This ends with a horrible run-on sentence of horrible composition that completely lost me. Perhaps Kirk is jealous or something, but let's let it stand. The real zinger comes a few sentences later when says he has close ties with Dr. Tara Rios Ybarra, "our new State Representative," which he helped elect with lots of cash and political gamesmanship.

So let's see here, current Mayor Bob Pinkerton can work the lobbies and committees and agencies and that is bad, but putting money on an untested freshman state rep is good? People who know about logic, rhetoric, and debating know better. A direct & clear contradiction!

Sheesh, that's like saying you're against all drugs while smoking a big ole fat marijuana doobie. My purpose is not to slam the good man, but point out that that's some horrible writing. One wonders if 17 years of law practice in the Valley has improved his ability to communicate effectively.

You have to read a bunch into the advertisement to really understand what is going on, since without the clarity the motivation can only be suspect. Early on, Kirk presents a message for "a new generation" of leaders and a very Obama-like message of "your choice for change." This seems strange because while the Town Mayor doesn't please all people all the time, and surely has made a few enemies, he rarely ever votes except in a tie. What changes does he mean? Expanding the travel budget so that three or four people have to go to Austin or Washington on a juggernaut trip when only one or two are needed? I must confess you cannot learn that from the words written in the recent issue of the Island Breeze.

Kirk might well turn out to become a good mayor after a year or two and that is not my argument. My argument is all about really crappy writing. Thank goodness I can see the humor and satire in it ... not that I would ever compare myself to literary geniuses such as Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, H.L. Mencken, William Faulkner, or Earnest Hemingway.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Five Stinking Years

On May Day 2003 President Bush held a news conference on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln to say that we had won the war in Iraq. Behind him was a poster flag claiming "Mission Accomplished."

You know all the gory details about how that didn't work, but let's just say May 1 is President Bush's least favorite day of the year. He simply can't put a positive media spin on it other than "stay the course."

If you want to know the truth, the entire event on May 1, 2003 was a staged affair. The aircraft carrier had to go out 40 miles to sea off Los Angeles because the handlers didn't want media shots of the LA mountains in the background. The "Mission Accomplished" banner is even more mysterious, not planted by the crew of the Abraham Lincoln ... or supposedly the White House. The latest spin is that the banner was meant for the aircraft carrier's crew, which I guess accomplished something by having a Presidential media release on their flight deck.


I used to love May Day even when there were bad stories about parading commies with armed rockets during the Cold War. But it was supposed to be a spring thing with may poles and fun. Now I feel ripped off.