Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Insights on the Economic Crisis

I opened the door today, when the mosquitoes were clear
Three hummingbirds came in, or so it would appear
Two left and one remained

We tried all day
Using brooms, sweet talk, hanging things, an open door
That last ruby hummingbird just would not leave

He or perhaps it is a she
Sleeps so lightly, with the bill pointed up at the sky
Like a miniature swordfish

Up and up it flies in the ceiling …
It must be a horrible feeling
Come down and out the door, will you then?

I fear it could die
Unless it could fly
Out my door

He or perhaps it is a she
Sleeps so lightly, with the bill pointed up at the sky
Like a miniature swordfish, but praying

It landed on me
It was in reach
But the hand within six inches, and off we will go

When not roosting it perches by the window
Watching the other hummers play
And cries

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bay Progress

Here's some more reconstruction on the bayside docks, this time at the end of Lantana Street. The crane is needed to put in new concrete pilings so the carpenters can finish out the deck. There are approximately 186 docks along the bayside that were affected by Hurricane Dolly, according to a friend who surveyed them. By the way, if you need some marine dock carpenters, I know of several. Hopefully you won't need Mr. Crane.

From what I can tell there are only three or four companies that have a crane, barge, and tug like this rig. However, this is the only active one I've seen, such as also being over at the new Parrot Eyes previously. I guess docks can't be insured so it's mainly a cash proposition, and a slow-going one at that.

But it's good to see things starting to bounce back.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rain, Rain, Rain

I got this chart from Weather Underground, showing the total precipitation over the last three days. That light purple area of 9 to 11 inches of rain is just to the town's north. It looks like we got four to six inches for sure, as compare to only and inch or two at the official Brownsville and Harlingen airport weather offices.

And that's fairly impressive, without even having more than a stalled cool front and a small coastal trough. Take a look at the stats already:

  • Harlingen reports 28 inches to date as compared to an average of 21 inches, excess 7 inches
  • Brownsville reports 30 inches to date with an average of 20 inches, excess 10 inches
So it looks like SPI got an extra dose of rain that is not showing up on the books. It makes me wonder if somebody is has an official weather station on the island to confirm that we got a ton more rain than our inland two cities.

And what a strange year so far. It rained around July 4th due to an easterly wave that came up from Campeche Bay. For a town that prides itself on something like 300 days of sun a year, this sure was a wet one, Hurricane Dolly included.

The good news is that drier air is starting to filter into Central Texas so the rest of the week should be better after another wet evening and perhaps another morning.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What is beach sand?

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. -William Blake

Beach sand is some amazing stuff, and there's all kinds of it, from the black sands of Diamond Beach, Hawaii to the ultra-white sands of northwest Florida. Sand sculptors and geologists know much more than I would, but let's just say "sand" is no simple thing. The common ingredient is silica in the form of quartz, which makes up a majority of the sand on our beaches. Then it gets interesting.

Clay, shell fragments, minerals, limestone, gypsum, and even fossilized bones can be present in beach sand as well. Our local beach sand is fairly high in clay content because of erosion of sedimentary Rio Grand Mud, which has a reddish brown color. If you've ever seen the "clay turds" on the beach after the dredge deposits some sand on the beach, you're looking at pure Rio mud. Funny, "Isla Blanca" was rather misnamed because the sand is a brownish color, not pure white, simply because of the clay content.

Then there's the Laguna Madre, which also provides a bunch of black mud of its own due to rotting sea grass, along with a vast reservoir of calcite - a form of limestone. I have many very large calcite crystals from the Port Isabel channel area, some rods about 3-4 inches long or roses of several inches in diameter.

You'll notice some very old shells on the beach too, some turning a brownish color due to leaching and mineral deposition. These dark shells are probably over 10,000 years old when the island first formed. Mineralization is most likely from iron in the form of hematite; also, fossilized bones will also assume a darker color. One academic paper blames these minerals on the Trans Mexican Volcano Belt, if you're into petrography and words like "

Yeah that was my reaction too, what-pathic?
Go see a huge Mastodon tooth at the Beachcombers Museum on Pompano Street ... easier to pronounce ... it is very dark colored.

But a case can be made that the SPI area between Mansfield Cut and the Rio Grande has a very special kind of beach sand, like none found elsewhere in the world.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Thrill of Crossing the Causeway

As many know, I live like a reclusive hermit and rarely go to the mainland unless under marching orders, a truly unusual thing. But today I did and coming back to the island, it was that same thrill that grips you by the back of the throat and the seat of the pants: South Padre! Gosh I love this place. I tooled along in my 10 year old (now very rusty) truck and gave the Main Drag the once-over.

Everywhere was sign of Dolly destruction but it didn't bother me in the least. Some locals took great offense to some wayward signs on T-shirt shops and my heart warmed as I spotted that even the bank - some goofy towers on the First National - got the snot whacked out of it. Yep, I went to the bank, too. It made me smile when I saw those disheveled towers.

The island looks fine to me, a little scruffy especially in the rain but I know things will get better. Perhaps if you were expecting something more you don't belong here. And I suspect the typical tourist, visitor, or second homeowner really doesn't care as long as they have the beach and the bay. That's what it's all about.

In a way it's a shame because it really is the best time of year, aside from all these storms. It is so quiet, and you can do a U-turn in the middle of the road without hardly looking. As I did by Ben's Liquors because mama wanted some hooch for when she got back from late PHD classes. Hey I was on a roll today, wasn't I?

Arriving home, I noticed that the wild field grass invading my lawn had grown two inches since I left, and wondered how that could possibly be. Dang that stuff. It's not Johnson grass and I've heard it called "Guinea grass" but most of us use unprintable cuss words. There is always manana, another wonderful day on the island, and plenty for me to do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A difference one day makes

click picture to enlarge

I went to town hall today and on a whim decided to stop by the Wanna for a beer and a look at the ocean. This is actually low tide, as opposed to high tide which comes about four o'clock in the morning. I was sitting on the steps down to the beach and this wave nearly got me wet. As you can see, yesterday's seaweed is now in the dunes.

A few hearty souls with body boards and flippers tried to get outside but got severely pummeled, and played on the inside with the first sandbar simply because they kept getting blasted backwards. The undertow and rip was really serious, although this family with little kids didn't seem to care.

Amazing, since Hurricane Ike is over 500 miles away. I shudder to think of the surf tomorrow. Let us hope the erosion and dune damage isn't so bad.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Me Too, Babe

Malia got a little excited in the seaweed today, as you can tell in the picture. Why do some dogs do that? It was hard to catch her really grinding the stuff into her back because she was flopping around so fast. Holding onto a beer, a camera, and the dog was quite a challenge - but us locals are pretty coordinated sometimes. "You crazy puppy" I said, and she did it some more.

We have the routine down, a sniff in the dunes, a roll in the seaweed, and off to the water and a walk of a mile or two. We came back and hosed off as much as the dog or I could take. Aside from some seaweed and some disturbance from the tractors closing off some accesses because of IKE, it was a very fine excursion today.

By the way, thanks to our veterinarian friends from Dallas who suggested lots of beach walks for Malia, which cured her foot-pad problems.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Whaddya Think, Mr. Ed?

Well it looks like even more ocean swell from Hurricane Ike, and Mister Ed would be pleased about that! He's a favorite TV show of mine from the 1960s. I didn't know the old boy surfed, gosh, I am impressed.

If alive today - he passed on quietly in 1970 - I'm sure Mister Ed would have loved last night's Sea Turtle Fundraiser. Local Nancy Marsden got an international award from them! That was really cool, and a good time was had.

Question for ya: I'm playing with the notion of applying to be on the Home Rule Charter Committee. Lori says OK, and others say it's alright, no bad signals yet, but I wondered what I'm getting into here. A wee bit of the south end of a north-facing Mister Ed?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Thousand Mile Waves Again

Nice evening shot of the Gulf from the footsteps of the wooden access by the Seagull Condos during a high tide (click picture for a big shot). We walked the dog and went out a ways and when the next super-wave from Gustav came in, were buried in water almost hip-deep. The spongers - boogie boarders in other words - had problems even getting outside for a wave. For some perspective, I would estimate the third bar at 5 feet and the fourth sandbar at 6-8 feet when cresting. I will check the waves tomorrow when they aren't curling down so bad. The "real" short-board surfers were on one side or the other of the Jetties or right in the middle of the Ship Channel.

Yes, the dunes got smacked a little and you can see some railroad vines rooted as if in the air because of the erosion, but it doesn't seem so bad.

I hope to catch the tail end when body surfing can get me some epic 100 foot runs on a swan dive , the crawl stroke, and a dolphin kick. That's my game. Hey, for waves coming from a thousand miles away, not bad and I'm not complaining.