Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten SPI Stories

I haven't done this before, but I thought it would be fun to jot down the top stories of 2009. These are in no particular order and if I missed something, post it up in the comments!
  1. Leaning Tower of SPI got kerspoded
  2. Red Tide invaded for two months
  3. Beach renourishment happened
  4. No hurricanes hit SPI in 2009 (sweet)
  5. Home Rule was passed
  6. Paragraphs opened - now we have a book store!
  7. Isla Blanca is still open to the public
  8. Mostly recovered from Hurricane Dolly
  9. Mercado Days continued
  10. OK here's you chance folks, we need a tenth, people's choice here
Very special mention:
  • Rescue of Mohawk the dolphin by Scarlet Colley and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, one of the true highlights of the year (thanks Rob!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feliz Navidad

After over 15 years we bought a real tree, a nice little Vermont balsam fir sold by a company recommended by Sandy Feet. It is much cuter than my camera gives justice. Have a happy one, y'all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

When Things Fall Apart

A not copyrighted picture of Ocean Tower implosion, December 13, 2009

The leaning tower of SPI is no more than a four-story pile of rubble today after all the excitement and "Oh my God" experiences of the implosion. It was all over in like five seconds; people cheered and then went to breakfast at Denny's or McDonald's. The island quickly reverted back to its quiet old Sunday ways, after one heck of a good thrill.

For all the cheer and optimistic spin, I found this a deeply depressing icon of our times. Perhaps this comes more naturally during the Christmas season, especially one in these terrible recessionary times of high politics and below-the-belt infighting. Here we have a signature emblem of boomtown enthusiasm and the best engineers available, and it literally all had to be brought back down to the Earth.

It's also a personal issue with me, since the contracting work has all but stopped, and I fear the impending doom of - ghasp - looking for work, even punching a damn clock. It is especially fitting after a major flame-out on the SPI Forums, in which I inadvertently accused a nice person of being "Tim." Apparently this "Tim" person must be really, really disgusting, since there was talk of me getting sued for slander! Gosh what can I say, I messed up and profusely apologized, but somehow it was like a large building was just imploded.

But just like the sun that is now feebly trying to burn off the persistent morning fog, we endure. There are smiles, the nice people you meet on the street, the nice things that take your mind off the negative, the opportunity to change to the better and follow some of those New Year's resolutions, and the promise of big things for the future like the myth of the Phoenix, a bird that rises from the ashes.

Onward through the fog!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Electric Palm Tree

It's getting a little like Christmas around here too!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Farenheit Eight-Two

Saturday was such a wonderful day. Here is a white buzzard of some kind, down at the docks by Palm Street Pier. Warm skies and temperatures prevailed.

Here are some of the Mercado sponsors, including Ann, Dan Quandt, and our fearless leader, Nancy. I have lots more Mercado pictures but it was a glowing success, and many sold off loads of their product. Thanks to people like the above! The locals and visitors loved it. This is what our town is all about ... and money was raised for sea turtles, the humane society, and the public library as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Community Center and Town Square

Port Aransas Community Center

I am still confused about why the town needs a community center and a town square, costing millions of dollars. So far, the rationale has been "the town has spent all their money on the tourists, nothing on us residents, so we want a piece of the pie." And that bothers me.

Of course I had to post such negative thoughts on the SPI Forums, which nearly caused a revolution. Several posters quit on the spot, like "Sam how dare you?"

My main point was that there were plenty of other large projects to fund, such as redesigning Padre Boulevard to make it more attractive and accessible by foot traffic, although I really wasn't opposed to having a town square and community center - especially if you knew pretty much what you wanted. But the fact remains, nobody really knows what we want, other than we want something.

The logic seems to be that a 20 million dollar bond will only cause our property taxes to go up about 5 to 7 cents on the rate, so what's two or three million for a community center? This is remarkable given the fact that new town hall went over budget by a couple million, and people howled in protest and disgust - how dare you waste our money like that? I don't get it.

Further, other projects include not only Padre Blvd but also Gulf Blvd that runs next to the ocean: this avenue needs better parking, beach access, and drainage. There is no drainage on Gulf Blvd, so when that street floods, the whole island floods. People are complaining about vehicles being parked on their lawns on the east side of Gulf. Yet here we are talking about a senior citizen activity center and a grassy patch that maybe can be used for a few small concerts and "mercados" a year?

Perhaps I simply suck as a politician, and can't understand it. And some act like if I oppose the community center and town square, I am directly insulting them and their citizen rights. The only downside I can see is that if the land deal fails, we won't have a new place for the fire station (which by the way, many oppose because they already have a fire station that could be rebuilt).

But I thought I would clarify my thoughts on the issue. I am not opposed to acquiring land for a community center and a town square - whatever those thingies are - but those are pretty far far down my list of priorities and I haven't seen where operating and maintenance funds would come from, other than that good old "trust me" wink and nod that seems to prevail on this sandbar.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On being a waiter

That's some city cafe in maybe Spain about 1910. The waiter is walking down the curb towards the camera. He's really mean, or as the five dollar word is, "brusque." He probably was a socialist and had a pistol in his pocket.

The American wait staff scene is soooo much different. There again, so were the times and the people.

Part Two

It is more rare these days but in many places abroad, such as in Europe, the waiters at the nicer joints get a full salary and health and bennies. Here in the US, the business model is "I'll pay you minimum wage and you make your own dang tips." Of course I am grossly over-exaggerating. But according to my daughter, you even have to "pool" your tips, even worse. It's pretty obvious why service is so much different though, American versus old style.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

All along the water tower

The water tower mid-island on SPI has grown a queen's crown and yes there are three dudes messing with the rigging again, getting the tower ready for sandblasting and painting. I missed the fellow on top standing up on that pointy thing in the middle, whatever it is. Oh, and here's the lyrics to 'All along the watch tower.'

"There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief, "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief. Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth, None of them along the line know what any of it is worth."

"No reason to get excited," the thief, he kindly spoke, "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke. But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate, So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl'

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Nasty but Pretty Picture

Image source: Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife

Those dark red streaks indicate very high concentrations of Red Tide. It was still offshore between Mustang Island to Mexico like this on October 27-28th. It has become a quite popular picture, and could win some prizes.

Be nice to see some sandy blue-green there instead, eh?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thinks Assyrian

Check out this Assyrian babe Linda George while I write a spot here. Yeah, some Michael Jackson schtick at first but then she gets into her groove with the local stuff.

Anyway, I just happened to get interested in the Assyrian language, and bopped around the Inter-Web as is my usual style. Assyrian pre-dates Arabic, Semitic, and Greek languages by a wide margin, thousands of years, and might just be what the "babel of Babylon" was about in the Bible, although I don't understand that rant either.

So anyway, there's the map and the dark green areas show where you might find a few Assyrians still living, at least the ones that haven't been exterminated yet. It was once a huge empire encompassing parts of Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Their religion is similar to Greek Orthodox, which is why they're constantly being exterminated - because they're not Muslim.

Maybe a feel for the music before we get too wild here, OK?

I duly plan to take mental journeys to other places such as the Mayans in Mexico, and see if I can find some of their native music which (haha) ought to have at least one imitation of a Michael Jackson song. Oceania? Mali? The mind reels.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rock Balancing Rocks

Wow, look at all those rocks ... we don't have a real native rock within a 50 miles down here on our SPI sandbar. A fellow named Mark Bailey gets his kicks by balancing rocks in odd positions and photographing them - quite an art I should say. When I lived up there by Block Island, we'd stack flat rocks for trail markers. This dude is tippy-trippy. I find it rather pleasing...

Bad Truck, Bad Truck!

My poor truck is sulking because I offended it again today, but for good cause. I don't mind the rust or fixing the 11 year-old Ford wonder of technology, but this has been the pits. Several island car shops have totally screwed me too - I know, not the truck's fault but she has to put up with the abuse all the same. But today she "ran out of fuel" with nearly a full tank of gasoline and I about kicked the **** out of her.

Well that would be the latest rip-off car shop that installed a fuel pump inside the fuel tank (why God, why do you allow humans do put fuel pumps inside a fuel tank?). I'm having Charlie B of Beach Services look at her tomorrow, and try to say some nice things to the old gal.

And a good girl she has been, only 67 thousand miles on her and a strong engine. We've been all over Texas in it, and way up the wild end of the island by Mansfield Pass on the beach. We've hauled I don't know how many tons of stuff for our home and our friends. She has a special sixth sense in case I've had a beer or two, which is especially endearing.

I can handle the A/C needing to be redone, or the horn needing something to make it work, or that rusty hood latch that makes me think I need a tetanus shot when I touch it. But it can be unnerving to have repeated failures when I only burn a tank of gas every month, and barely get 80 miles in between breakdowns.

Sell her off into slavery? Cash for Clunkers? No way. I swore this would be my last car, and while I might be proven wrong, have faith in the old gal. But maybe I've worked on too many 1950 and 1960 Fords that you could actually rebuild. If I bought another pickup, it would only rot just as fast in the salt air, and I'd probably get something used anyway. We'll see how it goes; I think she'll be able to be a dependable ride again after we fix her all up. Charlie can do the easy stuff and Danny over in Port Isabel can do the rough stuff.

And as a compliment to my truck, it always breaks down right in my parking lot. Now that's a classy girl.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Cool Bird Cam

That's right, these are real pictures taken from a bird cam!

One of the more interesting scientific studies I've read was about how pelagic birds such as the Albatross hunt in the open ocean. The images and study are found in this link.

From picture A to F, the bird cam shows nothing, an iceberg, a killer whale, some other albatross, a ship on the horizon, and the moon.

The big finding was many bird cam pictures near the killer whale, which became a major finding because that's where the albatross found dinner! Yes, they did lots of diving there, the 3 birds that were equipped with miniature cameras taped to their back feathers.

That confirms my earlier supposition (see older blog post) that these birds can find fish very well. But this study says they won't forage and dive into the ocean for a meal unless something really big is there, such as a killer whale, pod of large tuna, marlin, or whatever.

Anyway I thought that in this age of computerized cams everywhere, the bird cam was pretty darn cool.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eric's Wedding

A lovely bride indeed!

That's my son Eric and my daughter Samantha, all gussied up for Eric's wedding to Cari. Yes, I need some pictures of Cari because she's quite a looker, nice gal. A few pictures are rolling in, after yours truly (me) forgot the camera at home. It was a beautiful day after a week of the rainy stuff.

Here is Lori and I, trying to act solemn.

Now who on Earth would that be?

Monday, September 21, 2009

20 Million Dollar Boondoggle?

The Town of South Padre has about 17,000 tax paying accounts for property taxes, about 6,000 inhabitants on average, something like 2,500 legal residents, and about 900 voters. Yet we want to vote yes or no about a tax bond this Election Day in the amount of 20 million dollars. Whoa, that's a lot of debt per capita there.

The reason for the bonds is three-fold. One would be to do something on Padre Boulevard, the main drag, although we're not sure what. Another would be to redesign Gulf Boulevard, the street by the ocean of course. And the third would be for a "town square" concept with an old church and maybe a new fire station.

There is no information that I could find on the town website, not anything in the "document center." Not even a notice about upcoming elections in the November Election Day polls, which includes a constitutional amendment for preserving the Texas Open Beaches Act and adopting Home Rule. I still can't find anything about a bond election. What happened? This is big stuff.

According to what I can tell, some bond attorney or consultant said we could safely borrow up to 16 million on the "muni" bond market, and then raised it to 18 and then 20 million dollars. So I guess we're borrowing money just because we can. But what the heck are we going to spend it on? We are paying interest on that money, possibly 3 percent or so, which comes out to ... hundreds of thousands of dollars over 15 years.

The feeling I get is that of the three options to vote for, the Gulf Boulevard option is a lame duck and might fail. It was half-baked, no real plan, and definitely work in progress by a consultant and committee.

The town square idea might pass, but if it does not, we'll have to find a place to build a new fire station with that grant money and "Obama stim." Really, the concept of a town square is pretty stupid, it's just a large, shabby deconsecreated church and parking lot, not something that could become a cool town square like up in New England, or even Georgetown, Texas (a nice one).

Then there's the Big One, Padre Boulevard. I can't figure out what the heck the Aldermen intend to do there. One thing I heard was to replace all the wooden electric poles with concrete ones. Does that sound silly to you too? Maybe there's some big vision with lots of money from Texas Department of Transportation, but I'm clueless here. Yes it's true, we don't even own the roadway and only control slivers of land where the sidewalks are. Amazing. I'd like to see exactly where I'm spending all my money.

Being how it is the third week in September, not too long until November Election Day in the first week, I can only wonder what is going on. In comparison, the last bond elections for the municipal center and birding center were 5 to 7 million each, and widely spaced apart; the taxpayers didn't even have to repay the birding center, which was funded by a local sales tax for the Economic Development Board. May I add that the bond for the muni center became outright war, and there are bad feeling to this very day because of it. So here we have 20 million dollars on the table to be voted up or down ... and there's nothing there.

It's like people want this to fail, or perhaps the bond election is languishing for lack or attention. But I don't understand it. If I can't be convinced, I am behooved to vot "No" because lack of a vote cold mean "Yes." Remember, there are only 900 voters and I suspect only 700 or so will even show up, at best, since there are no local board of aldermen elections.

I have an open mind, so if anybody has a clue please let us know.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Rainbow

In honor of Banned Book Week - and nice recent drought-busting showers - I write about The Rainbow and rainbows. Nice double rainbow for a cheapo camera, eh?

D.H. Lawrence wrote The Rainbow in 1915, which had little to do with rainbows as much as the sexuality versus sensuality of a young married couple. It was immediately banned as pornography and the writer was prosecuted and all the published books were burned. Today, The Rainbow seems to not even be very racy, but back then it was quite a witch hunt.

When I was at the University of Texas I was in the Plan II English Department, where I happened to discover that the Ransom Center had the very manuscripts that D.H. Lawrence wrote The Rainbow. This was rather mind-blowing in itself, the boxes of lined paper that the author actually put his hand to in pen in long-hand, in three revisions and a master editing version that was typed by a secretary. Naturally, I also had the final published version as well. My paper tracked the changes over the four versions, while at the same time following where D.H. Lawrence was living and his biography. It was rather cool stuff.

How come my favorite artists all got banned? Even in the 1970s, books like Huckelberry Finn was banned from some schools and libraries, and there were the famous "music wars" where Frank Zappa confronted the US Senate regarding a possible ban on nasty rock lyrics (remember Tipper Gore?). Today, the epicenter of book banning is the Texas Education Commission, which pre-approves books for all the public schools K through 12. They're pushing evolution as an "alternative" to intelligent design and pushing bible classes now.

I'll leave you with that scary thought. Perhaps it is best to reflect on ... a rainbow.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Offshore Frigate Birds

When out offshore fishing about 45 miles off SPI on Sunday. We didn't do very well on catching and releasing huge billfish, but we did see some marvels such as the Frigate Bird. I wish I had something better than my $99 automatic camera, but was lucky to bust off a few decent pictures before they headed off to sea after checking out our baits.

These birds ran in a flock of maybe 6 or 8, gliding along with impossibly large, crooked wings with a long narrow tail and a white head. Three flaps of the wings and they seemed halfway to the horizon.

By the way, seeing Frigate Birds are supposed to be very good luck for fishing. Sure enough, I think we caught a small dolphin fish right after they departed.

That's one of the reasons why I enjoy offshore fishing. Sure, "catching" is always nice and the company is always top shelf, but you always see something totally mysterious and completely new out there in the Deep Blue.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Happy Labor Day

We work so hard, or some of us lately have been looking for work so hard, it's about time to celebrate that socialist, commie even called Labor Day. It's origins go back to the Pullman Strike in 1882, when a bunch of US Marshals killed a bunch of labor protesters. A bill was rushed to US Congress to give everybody the first Monday in September the day off. The origins and meaning of Labor Day have been lost over the years, basically an excuse to go get drunk and make whoopie on the last weekend of summer.

So far, the event hasn't resulted in a massive turnout for SPI tonight, although I would expect more people tomorrow. The last firework shows are tonight and Saturday at 9:15.

But let's talk about the labor movement for a minute. Because some hard-core corporations and business leaders were abusing their labor force, unions, collective bargaining, and labor arbitration was invented. I never went for that stuff, always an independent worker or a sole proprietor, but the fact is that in the last 8 years, the average American has lost wages when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, productivity has gone way up, meaning we're working our tails off for less money than ever. Somehow, this "new world order" really sucks.

But let's forget all the deep thinking and heavy thoughts. Have some fun, darn it. Be real careful and safe, since there might be some amateurs out there. Happy Labor Day Weekend of 2009.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Mya

Here's Ted Kennedy single-handing a 60 foot schooner called the 'Mya.' He was an expert at doing this, and while he loved taking family and friends offshore for a sail, he basically did it all despite a crippling injury he had in 1996. I don't know if the Mya was an Alden design or some other racing schooner design, but she was a fast girl and Ted Kennedy was one of the fastest sailors. I could only drool about possessing such a boat down here on SPI.

You know, I don't care what in the cotton patch you think about Ted Kennedy and his brand of politics. Go tell it on the mountain. But anyone who could single-hand a two-masted sailboat with five sails, wow, this guy was good. I can almost see the man putting the autopilot on two points lee of the wind and cranking up the main, then the fore, then the staysail, and if it's not too windy, the jib. Ahhh, turn off the pooter diesel and set the lines just so.

Very few people can even attempt to do this, although I think I could give it a whirl because I grew up on sailboats. Not that I ever had a million dollar sailboat. You have to give credit to Ted Kennedy because he could handle 20 lines all by himself to win or place in a sailboat race.

Like a punk kid like me, Ted was always in the shadow of his brothers like John and Robert, who were both assassinated by retarded redneck assholes. But nobody shot poor Ted (although the hatred exists even today), and thus the legacy of the Mya continues today. Last I heard, one of the family hauled up the American flag halfway up the main halyard of the Mya, just as they would do a century ago. The poor Mya has nobody to love her anymore, something I find quite sad.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Another Season Passes

photo credit: Sandy Feet

There are still a bunch of people on SPI, although the massive droves appear to be gone until next year. It was a good year, aside from being dry. I guess a bunch of rain would have hurt the tourism industry, but we're ready for rain now.

It's my favorite time of year now, all the way until when the first cool northers blow in sometime at the end of October or early November. It's when us islanders start doing stuff, like that remodeling project or fixing the lawn (if it would rain, thank you). We're looking at a new back porch patio door, for example. I had to go to remedial school just to learn how to get the engineering and permitting in the works! Fortunately, I know the local engineer and the building permit dude, so all isn't that bad - just involves pushing some paper for Texas Windstorm and of course, paying more money than you originally thought.

On the news front, not much to report other than Dewey the city manager abruptly left office on Thursday morning, details not known and nobody is talking. The body surfing was good yesterday and we might hit the beach for another session today. Sure is nice on the beach now, honest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Feeling "Music-y"

For some reason the media somewhere mentioned Woodstock and the glory days of rock 'n' roll and well here I am. In addition, Les Paul, guitar inventor and wizard, died today on the 13th. I could talk island scuttlebutt, county corruption, or why a SPI forum really sucks but naw, other things are on my mind: musica.

Lets try this for starters: 'Star Spangled Banner'

Oh yeah baby, get your ukuleles and kazoos in the "up" position and let's play along. Hey imagine doing this when they set the fireworks off? No problem if you hit a bum note, you got cover! That's really what us islanders are about, having fun.

But you have to admit that Leo Fender and Les Paul, the electric guitar gods, were pretty smart. See, the guitar strings were metal, and the guitar pickups were simply electromagnets powered by some electricity: if you changed the closeness and frequency of the metal strings to the magnet, you change the frequency of the electrical current. It is no coincidence that Leo Fender and Les Paul used to play with radios, since they new about frequency and amplitude issues. I'm still trying to figure it out!

For you acoustic players with no metal strings and a hollow body, your pickup is more like a small microphone, although most the good ones are piezoelectric. If you need a link for amping your D'Jambe or something, here ya go.

Well OK, you can get lost in the sauce on that link, moving right along. I really don't know much about this but I can say, SPI has a recording studio at Dave's and we have some talent you wouldn't believe, like the "digital mixer man" who lives here and has a shop over in Bayview, mastering folks like Joe Ely and stuff.

Let's play the good music and drown out these rats who complain all the time. Kumbaya ...

Monday, August 10, 2009

WTH, Let's Save Mohawk

According to Scarlett Colley, this is Mohawk, a baby dolphin who not only got a prop scar but ended up with some yellow fishing line all entwined into his skin. Hey some kids are like that. So we were out on Scarlett's boat and took this picture -- how cool is that? We got kinda bummed though, because if Mohawk isn't rescued, he or she will most certainly die. Anyway, Mohawk is called that because of a bad prop scar on his head. Or her's. Mama ain't talkin'.

So yeah what to do? Scarlett says getting the boat, equipment, people, and stuff is like a couple of thousand dollars. It is strictly regulated by the Feds and you need hired pros or something. Sounded steep to me too, but we'll see. We've raised money for sick musicians, an island museum, sea turtles, and all kinds of strange things and a couple grand wasn't all that hard. I know my wife is a heckuva fundraiser too when Samantha was a dancer in high school. For now, try this site for contact information - the SPI Nature Center website appears to have been hacked.

I wouldn't be spouting off on this if I hadn't seen Mohawk several times now, who seems to be spouting just fine right now in spite of prop and fishing line injuries. The fear is that that the fishing line will cut into the baby as it grows, literally slicing its fatty outer layer. Pretty gross but that's why we are so concerned. Please can you help?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More Island Scutlebutt

As the dog days of August roll in, with not a hint of tropical moisture except for some dew, thoughts shift to the more mundane - or at least mine do. I'm pretty oblivious to most of the island rumor mill, although from time to time I catch some of it.

The biggest one is "forms based code" instead of zoning, which appears to be a nice idea although it so politically charged it could explode. One innuendo is that some powerful islanders are trying to sneak it in the back door before us poor sleepy-heads can figure out what happened, and I shall not name names.

The seafood, music, redfish, beer and bait festival will he held sometime in September, not the November time slot like the last two years. We wish it goes well -- I'll be there for a day for sure. The rumor about that one is soooo outlandish and extreme you'll have to bribe me for the inside scoop.

Meanwhile, some residents of the "E" district on the bayside want to kick out everyone except for the residents themselves, thinking themselves far superior to anyone else. That's funny, I live a an old bungalow and think the few travelers we get here are cute, especially the girls who walk to the bay thinking it's the ocean. Of course I have to help these fine Americans find their way, right?

A bay dolphin named Mohawk was found with fishing line wrapped all around it, and I was on Scarlet Colley's boat when she shot film of it. A rescue is underway to save the poor fella.

I guess y'all know the oil washing up on the beach was soooo last week. That was interesting, as the media jumped all over that, not that it had any effect on the tourism. They never did find the source of the crude oil "plops," but there's absolutely no problems now and there is no oil on the beach. There is no jellyfish or seaweed on the beach either -- now that's a little unusual.

Sea turtle nestings are slightly down on SPI as compared to last year, although Jeff George says that turtles are cyclical, good, and not to worry. The nesting season is pretty much over although we could see a couple in August as we have in the past several years.

The Home Rule Commission I sit on only has one more meeting and then we're finis, done. Yay! Every property owner gets a copy and if you have can vote here, there'll be a vote on that and some amendments to the Texas Constitution -- not sure if anyone has any elections of interest.

It's still dry here and unless you sprinkle or have a sprinkler system, your vegetation looks like heck now. It's the driest I've seen it in years or maybe decades. They say Rockport to Austin is even worse, but we're suffering pretty bad. I may lose some plumerias, bummer. The water table is just too low. Even the land crabs have disappeared.

The possum, on the other hand, has reappeared. I saw two tonight. It's almost possum trapping season although not cool enough yet. This year I'm going to mark their back with a painted number to see how many come back from the end of the road!

The Camp Craft gals and thesbians are are up their usual and wily tricks and happiness, and there's no shortage of fun with these gals. Us poor men ... where's the glory and love?

So-and-so got divorced and looks like a million bucks, Rob's wife is having a baby, and Lucinda smiled about a new boyfriend from the old days, all good stuff.

Aside from trying to ID some jerk doofus on the SPI Forums, and coping with the summer weekend crowds, not much else report other than is was great to see my daughter for three weeks. Until the next update,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Psst ... Wanna Blow Up A Hi-Rise Condo?

Well that's what OTI on our little island was supposed to look like, although construction stopped last year because it started leaning, and was never completed. In fact, I nicknamed it the "Leaning Tower of Spizza." Word on the street is that a demolition contractor is checking out the building to blow it up. So being resourceful, us islanders wanted to have a raffle to pick somebody to hit the switch. Yes ladies and gentlemen, YOU could reduce that building to rubble in a few seconds ... just imagine your proud kid doing the honors!

Technically we're not blowing it up, but "imploding" it down in a nice pile so nothing next to it gets toasted. Lots of technical stuff if you're into dynamite and kersplosions (link here).

Aye, us Texans love a good blast, except the dogs that is. We were depressed when we found out that the Texas Clipper, a ship to be sunk for a reef 17 miles off our jetties, wasn't blown up. It turns out they should have listened to us, because the way they did it the Clipper sank on her side. Blow the darn thing up, man, and give us some thrills too.

So, what do ya think? We all know that there'll be a dummy switch and the Master Blaster will really set off all the timed charges, but heh-heh, YOU could bring down a hundred million dollar condo all by yourself as we watch from the South Flats.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ozone Holes and Global What?

About a week or so somebody released study findings that the new kind if air conditioning gas was horribly warming the planet. The majors such as the Washington Post finally stumbled on it, maybe on some RSS feed. Link here.

Back a decade or two we outlawed conventional Freon, a has used for all kinds of air conditioning like your house and car - and many more uses such as making foam plastic to being the propellant in asthma medicine. That Freon was eating a hole in the ozone layer. Remember the ozone hole?

The replacement has an ominous name, HCFC, whch was patented by the same company who made Freon (hint, hint), the ozone hole nearly went away, and all was a remarkable success. However, it turns out the HCFC or whatever its called is between 1000 and 4000 times more potent than carbon dioxide as far as potential global warming. It could end up cooking us to death.

How fitting. I'll read the paper but I guess that these new-fangled air conditioning chemicals can last for 1 to 5 decades in the air for extra-lasting effect. Supposedly it's not Earth-shattering news, but isn't it amazing how we solve one problem and then another turns up as a result?

And in Breaking News ...

I think I just passed some gas.

My bad.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Economics Sucks

from The Economist

I'm not saying that all economics is stupid is as stupid does, but let's face it, the people running the major corporations and many aspects our government mislead us, lied, and couldn't predict the recession. Back in my college days, us engineers, pre-law, pre-med, and liberal arts students couldn't figure out why anyone would want to get a major in economics, much less why anyone would be foolish enough to actually pay for an MBA. As it turns out, many of these little economic wonks ended running key aspects of our country - and that we were right all along.

Now don't get me wrong, I know many accountants, auditors, and business leaders who are not only super bright but also some of my favorite friends. I'm talking about the people who brought us the Savings and Loan Crisis, the Dot-Com Crisis, and the Idiot Crisis of 2007-2009, which isn't even over yet.

And then we have government officials like Bernanke, another economics major, who really thinks we can fix the economy and employ more American by using the "manure spreader" method of stimulating the economy. In order to save money we need to ... spend more, of course, and go into debt for at least a generation! That's a liberal view expoused by what we call "Keynesians." Others want more of a freebooter system, I mean less regulation and more global trade, even though global trade is off by some 30 percent. Then you have financial institutions that laugh all the way to the bank, such as Sachs having their best querter in a long time and a need to compensate their fund managers more than ever.

Now tell me if you can make any sense of this mess. I am sure that economic theory is mostly a work of wishful thinking and fantasy. Indeed, economic powerhouses hired those in Game Theory and Options Modellers, statisticians and computer engineers, to explain how even non-rational behavior is rational, and doing so we can reduce risk, make the economy better, and make a ton of money in the process. It resulted in the worst international economic failure in 80 years - and we caused it, all of us together.

But here on our little island off the coast of America, things don't seem so bad. People come here in droves, I guess to escape the mainland and the crappy recession as well. We don't talk much about economics here on the island except for the budget, which is mainly a game for old economics majors who have taken to drink.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Not Much to Report is Good

In these days when we all seem to need something extremely daring, provocative, embarrassing, nasty, political, and full of intrigue - or at least some passing fad - it's nice to say I have absolutely nothing to report other than we're happy and doing well. Gosh, what would Paul Harvey say?

Perhaps it is simply the summer, when the media is starved for attention and everyone is saying "Who cares?" Even Governor Palin's decision to quit her job in Alaska was ho-hum. I could bore you with details of how my contracting business got slow again this summer, something I've noticed increasingly over the last several years. There again, I've managed to make even or slightly more than the previous year when filing taxes, so maybe I'd better chill out. Knock on wood I won't be working at Dirty Al's next month for minum wage plus tips. I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.

Traveling? Hell no, I used to travel everywhere when I was younger, and have a huge wedding deal to save up for in Austin for my son Eric. If I go anywhere else it will be to the Bahamas this December. I mean, traveling sucks! Anybody who likes traveling for the sake of traveling is sicko. To me, it's hard work and often grueling. If somebody puts me on a cruise ship with a thousand other people, I think I would commit suicide. Too bad driving into Mexico with my truck is too dangerous, though.

But it's a very mild hurricane season, things are going OK, we don't have the cold air like in the Northeast, and it's not too dang hot by the beach. The town politics is its usual BS, so I won't report it, other than to say everything seems delayed. Michael Jackson is STILL dead, and Obama as President hasn't resulted in instant communism. It's a good feeling, not much of anything to say. Isn't it amazing how much there is to say about nothing? Shakespeare noted this in his best comedy, Midsummer Night's Dream.

It shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream’, because it hath no bottom.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Happy 4th of July

Have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July.

You know, in July of 1776 things weren't going so well for the Revolutionaries. After a triumph in Boston, Great Britain's ships began to filter into the port of New York and gradually take over most of the state, with over 30,000 trained troops. General Washington got his butt kicked over to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, having half the men and no training at all. We lost the 'Battle of Long Island,' which was really a little town called Brooklyn. Not good.

Two years later, in 1778, the Revolutionaries had real cause to celebrate, after whupping the British in several major skirmishes like Trenton and Saratoga; a treaty was convened, and July 4, 1778 is when we started really celebrating July Fourth. It was a very happy time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Problems on the Bayside Street Ends

I'm looking for some help here, as I'm deeply conflicted. Here's the issue: on some nights or even during the days, people camp out on the street ends, often leaving a nice pile of beer containers and trash, and sometimes partying quite loudly and smoking whacky tobaccy. These street ends, which number more than 20, are like mini-parks and several offer pretty good fishing as well. So we're trying to figure out how to control that, which keeping the public roadways public and improving on bay access (nice sunsets, too). The rowdy behavior happens mainly during the peak summer tourist days and the 4th of July should be a real corker if this beautiful weather keeps going.

We have all kinds of ordinances against parking in the street, noise, littering, drinking, loitering, peeing in public, and all kinds of nuisances and misdemeanors in addition to the state laws. But a group of concerned residents want more, such as to have curfews, no parking, no fishing, and more signs. Here's where they start to lose me - if we already have the enforcement tools, what good will putting up three signs do? You still need a cop or a code enforcement officer to make the patrols, do surveillance, and catch the perp. Frankly, I never saw a sign that was very effective, that is unless it says "Free food, free gasoline, free prizes."

So we have about three to five street ends that seem to have a problem, as well as some very irate residents. It certainly isn't all of the plus-20 street ends that have a problem, and our street ending doesn't. So you have some very vocal citizens who want something, anything to help them. So the question is how to address such a legitimate concern while not over-regulating the whole bayside of the island.

My initial thoughts are that there is a mightly temptation to write an ordinance and put up signs as a "feel good, law and order" kind of thing. Remember, we still have all the enforcement tools and that is exactly what it is - public land. "Public" means not just the property owners on that street, but anybody legally here in the United States. I also fear that some of the draconian rules could prevent me from enjoying my street end - what if I want to fish at night under a full moon? I just don't know, other than some people think such an ordinance would make their street safer, raise property values, and make the neighborhood more "friendly." (Do you see the irony there too? Friendly for kicking people off your street?)

Basically I think you're trying to run off anybody you don't like.

I realize that we don't have the Open Beaches Act for the bayside, which on the Gulf requires open access to the beach as if it was a state park. You can't discriminate against non-locals there. And I realize there is bayside one street in particular, named Campeche, that is the problem child that needs to be addressed -- it has the best shore fishing on the island. But obviously, I'm deeply conflicted abut how to proceed. Thanks for any thoughts.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Let People Jack You Around

Here's a picture that I found that reminds me of all the evil people who try to bring you down and give you a hard time. It's a picture of "Saint Anthony having Doubts" by none other than Leonardo Michelangelo when he was only 13 years old. It reminds me of folks who routinely attack me on the forums. Perhaps you have your own negativity to deal with as well.

The only remedy is to laugh and smile, and all the harpies, gremlins and boogies will immediately vanish. Begone, you useless twits of my imagination! Hah-ha! Poof, they're gone...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Now We're Cookin'

Well we finally did some shopping so we have that mysterious stuff called food. We've been eating too much restaurant and junk food with Lori at work and then at school all evening. It feels good to look at the refrigerator now.

I'm way off my gardening this year because of the severe drought, so nothing is growing ... some tomatoes, onions, and herbs would have been nice. It's just too blasted hot, and the sandy soil just won't hold any water. In fact I put out the hose the other day to water some plumeria and the water just went straight down - I was wondering if I was inadvertently watering some place in China.

And that's a shame because I always had an herb garden up in Austin. The rosemary turned into giant bushes, and I learned that if you got a cilantro patch going, leaving some seeds to replant, you'd have cilantro all the time - and some rather strange caterpillars. Chives were a little bit more of a challenge, so I went to small, multiplying green onions just fine. Thyme, rosemary, dill, ginger, Oriental lemongrass. and others were a pleasure to snip with the scissors and just throw in the pot, in the pan, or onto the grill. Dried stuff from the supermarket just doesn't work as good, so maybe this fall it will get better for gardening.

I don't eat a lot in the summer but somehow, making a small amount with just the right herbs really does something. Even parsley, now that stuff is good for ya!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tiki Summer Days

It's hard to believe that Memorial Day came and went, and now it's full summer, and hot enough to prove it. The island business and traffic seems to be jumping along quite well, steady so far. Anyway, this picture appealed to me, the old car, the bikini babe, and the Tiki - now that's summer for ya!

We're lucky so far, since although we need the rain the weather has been kind to us. There were a few good offshore fishing days right after the wind quit after memorial Day, but it's back up to 20 to 30 MPH and I couldn't hitch a ride on a boat - so surfing will have to do. Gosh I love all kinds of surfing, and the ocean breeze makes it feel cooler.

Ah, the Tiki. Not sure what it means than tacky bars with weird drinks like the Zombie, Mai Tai, Scorpion Bowl, and Navy Grog. Of course, the Wanna-Wanna has a similar three-rum drink with the similar two-drink limit - it'll make you "wanna" a little too much I guess. It's about the glaring sun, the shocking moonlight, the secret looks at cuties, the lazy, tacky, do-nothing days of summer. Let's go build a semi-pornographic sand castle, yippie!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Barking Gull

Here's my new pet, a laughing gull. It comes every morning to finish off what the kitty cats don't eat. Malia the dog barks at the gull. The gull barks back at Malia. It's really quite something as they bob and weave, bark, shout obscenities at each other, and then laugh like fools.

Of course, "Barkie" has a sidekick, a nasty old grackle with even a fouler vocabulary. It imitates the cats, something I have never heard of before either. Sure, mockingbirds mock, but ... well these two aerial pirates are really something.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Adult Wrong-Doing Index

We could end up with a generation of "lost kids" due to recent recessions, wars, poverty, bail-outs, and yes even global warming measures. I stole the term "adult wrong-doing index" from a NY Times article about child welfare, which has been tracked since 1975.

It's really the correct way of looking at it, since the kids can't control their destiny. The Bush years set back the index more than any other time since 1975. Child poverty is the worst in a developed nations except for Mexico! Unfortunately, President Obama has been handed a situation where he really can't solve the problem, as it would take years to fix it. The economy, wars, and education have to be fixed first. There is not a tenth of the amount of money to get a start on the job.

No, I'm not one of those "Chicken Little" or liberal types that thinks the country is going to hell in a hand basket, but the situation certainly is bad - and getting worse. I see that in my kids, who are now in their early 20s and barely surviving without parental hand-outs (we have our own family bail-out system, too). Having a college degree doesn't mean a thing, other than incurring large amounts of debt, since the jobs simply are not there - and adults are competing for the same, low-paying positions. But in hindsight we're going fairly well in comparison to families who don't have insurance, jobs, lost their house due to foreclosure, got divorced, or have kin in the military who were fragged by their experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But why does the US have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world, and increasing after years of significant declines? Why is teen violence and "wannabee gangsta" violence up? Why is autism and asthma so high among children today? Something is obviously wrong, and the kids are telling us that in the numbers. Folks, those folks are going to end up running our country ... just something to think about.

Update - sorry for the bummer post, but the more I read the worse it is. Social security will soon run out. California, the leader of the US having a larger economy than many developed nations, will soon go bankrupt - already, a MILLION kids have been taken off health insurance in California over the last year. Sitting here in my comfy island beach cottage, living large and grand, I can only contemplate how horrible things could get. But we don't care ... the road goes on forever and the party never ends. Helluva thought for Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Mo' Dogs at Wanna-Wanna

Well shit. Bob the owner of the Wanna-Wanna pulled me aside today and said the Code Enforcement had issued orders that they would no longer allow any dogs. Violators could get a hefty fine, like $500. The reason was a dog that bit some kid down by Boomerang Billy's. It was a very small bite from what I heard, a mere nip. Several locals said the dog was a really nice mutt and the kid was harassing it. But the notice came and Bob told me in a nice way.

Well phooey, no late lunch there with my pup, no walks from those steps, no doggie bones that magically appeared from behind the bar, no buckets of water to slake the thirst, no puppy attention - and I guess no more money from me when my dog has the urge to go there. It was rather depressing.

This town is starting to have a major Sucking-Factor.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How Science Works

This is sorta funny - click on the picture to make it a little larger.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How To Fuck A Mast

The F-word has some rather unusual derivations over the years. It pretty much means what it means today. There are some interesting nautical and sailor-like derivations in the literature. One is the term fucksail, which was a foresail (like the jib sail) on a sailing ship, as translated from the Scottish. The Old Norse word fukja ended up as another salty word, windfucker. But the main, big mack daddy of linguistics was the more Germanic fricken, which meant "to strike, bonk, or copulate." Pretty much what you thought it was.

Now take the situation of a big old wooden mast on a big old wooden boat. The mast had to go right through the deck to the bottom of the boat. The mast was tipsey so they used all these ropes and lines to stay the mast. The last thing was to secure the deck or cabin around there the mast went through - or it would leak.

So using a bunch of wooden wedges and a large wooden hammer called a top-mall, you'd pound in the wedges. The wedge, the hammer, and the guy doing the pounding were known as fuckers, who actually were quite good at setting large masts. Indeed, one possible meaning of the F-word is "to wedge." Anyway, you had to shave the wedges right so they all matched up just so, and that's how you fucked a mast right.

As a final act of water-proofing and good seamanship, you had to securely wrap canvas around the wedges and paint it, a practice related to the word fucksail, which also meant a woman's skirt. Unfortunately, there is a connection.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cap-and-Trade Sucks

Yep, that's Tiger Woods throwing his cap and doing some trading with a golf iron, in a rather non-famous picture from about a year ago. But today's topic is "Cap and Trade" in the context of greenhouse gases. I don't care for it for several reasons, the primary one being that it is a secret tax on energy. Allow me to explain.

As was described in this rather okay NY Times article, cap and trade was a brilliant move for get reductions in a kind of air pollution known as sulfur dioxide, which was causing serious "acid rain" in many parts of the US. It combined the best of the environmentalist (read Left) principles within a free-market platform (read Republican Right). But it was a farce!

But here's why: the sulfur dioxide levels were based on the sulfur content in coal, fuel oil, and natural gas. Nearly all industries had an "allowance" or cap based on really stinky fuels such as high sulfur coal and "Bunker C" fuel oil. So to comply, all a company had to do was to purchase clean Wyoming coal or switch to natural gas, both of which were very low in sulfur. Reductions of 12,000 to 50,000 tons were possible nearly overnight! This was considered as being one of the best Clean Air Act measures every done but to me was the most deceptive.

But there is not way you can cheat the system with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a function of caloric and BTU content. You can't play bait-and-switch. So a cap on CO2 becomes a tax, plain and simple - unlike sulfur dioxide, where many companies made money. Then consider that in all areas that tried the Kyoto Agreement and cap-and-trade, such as the EU, CO2 emissions still rose upwards, instead of going down. Prices for everything also went up, since energy is involved in making most tangible things.

I consider myself as an environmentalist and have been in the field of work since about 1990, and I don't want to be confused with the current Republican rhetoric that is happening today regarding climate change issues. I will say that I could see right through the cap and trade issue with sulfur dioxide, and that was a big ole joke.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The tail of 2009 spring birding

That's an extremely rare mangrove warbler that Scarlett Colley shot with her super-camera. From what we can tell that's a solitary male but Scarlett things there might be a female around. Scarlett is adorable, and makes kissy squirrel sounds to attract the male into poses like this.

But alas, this year was the pure-D worst for spring migrating birds that I've ever seen. Sure, we had some unusual birds, but few were on the island and most were up the Valley. The cool fronts were wimpy and there was no water or bugs or seed for the birds to want to hang around here. Now the season for summer offshore birds starts, soon as these giant waves will calm down and we can get on a boat without going airborne. I've seen some very strange birds out like 30 or 40 miles into the Gulf, and wish I knew more about them, large and small.

But I am happy to say that Scarlett's mangrove warbler is a full-time resident of the Laguna Madre, a truly rare and very beautiful bird. Ask her to make that sound she makes to attract the male and I know you will smile.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Solar Pork

Have to love the title, what's all this about? Well, our little local paper published the strangest article about solar and wind power I've ever read in my life, and if you want to read it, try this link.

I must be fair, I wasn't at the meeting with SPI GO GREEN, a new company that wantonly promotes solar power, and the story writer did as best as he could. But gosh, such laughable statements as to say there's no wind here! By gosh, it's been blowing over 20 the last month or two and the average even for July is 12 MPH winds. We have wind, sir.

And then these chappies as the unmitigated audacity to claim that solar power is 20 percent cheaper than wind power! Now that's a lie - it should be the other way around. Hey, I think solar power is great but don't lie about the costs. Fortunately, the company also sells wind turbines so don't get me wrong.

But there's more. The newspaper article claims that when the power goes off - which it did 40 times over the last month, none of the solar or wind turbine stuff would work. What a crock! If you had installed switchgear you could at least run 1,000 or 2,000 kW if the sun or wind was working pretty good. That's only a few hundred bucks - the generator, solar panels, or wind turbine is what costs the big money. I mean really, nobody uses batteries, Mr. Ferrario.

Hey I love alternative power of all kinds but something about this story put me off. I do have to say the last sentence of the article really drove me crazy - that our area "is unsuited for windmill generation simply because the wind velocity is not reliable enough ...." The only time the wind stopped last year was right after Hurricane Dolly as I recall, and with 30 years of climatic data I can show how SPI is a prime area for wind power generation. As a matter of fact, the Texas General Land Office has been promoting it up and down the coast. Why are huge wind turbines being built on the King and Kennedy ranches if the wind is no good?

Hmm no rain that way either

Here's a typical shot of the tropics. Not shown are the large plumes of smoke coming from Mexico due to agricultural burning - but the idea is that the entire Gulf of Mexico is bone dry. Bummer, maybe in a few weeks we'll see some nice farmer's rains heading our way. Looks like a repeat of last year ... notice some interesting blobs starting to show up in the lower Pacific already. Oh well, dance for rain!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Booker Sam

Gosh that was fun - I got a video crew to shoot the Bongo Dogs at the Wanna-Wanna. This took some proverbial dancing around with the band (his wife runs the show), the video man (his wife runs the show), and the club owners (his wife runs the show). All this in a wild crowd that was full to the rafters. I have to admit, I was a little nervous we could even pull it off.

All for not a single dime. No money changed hands. Why on Earth would somebody be so foolish?

Well, we're trying to promote the island, plain and simple, and our long-range plan is to help Sea Turtle Rescue as well. It's free advertising for the video folks who also run eight webcams, the band, and the club. Gosh I don't even want credits for anything ... to be honest I'm lower than a "key grip" or deck ape. I just want to have some fun and promote the island.

Nothing sells the island better than a honking good band playing right on the beach, right? And aside from a few Twitters and emails, maybe talking in person a little, I didn't have to do much at all. Gosh, even the crowd was fantastic, and didn't crowd the stage to dance so the video dude could get some clean shots. But it was somehow quite satisfying. Heck, something happened and it was all smiles. That's my favorite kind of deal. Oh, and Guitar Dave says he'd love to have that for his local band, Port O Call. Hmm, gears be working now, maybe more turtle money?

Now if we can get Willie Nelson's daughter down here without any union, agent, or syndication hooey maybe we can light 'em up again! Well, you know, depends on if the girls want to do all that ... us men gotta stand back and see how the roll goes.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hubble Telescope at 19

Eric the "Sci Guy" at the Houston Chronicle celebrates the 19th birthday of the Hubble Deep Space Telescope, which was supposed to only last 10 years or so. The picture is a former star that blew up - talk about a bad day but it sure is pretty. The colors mean different chemicals. Anyway, another Space Shuttle mission should give it another 5 years of life and make the pictures even more awesome. Photo credit to NASA.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In Retrospect

I found some pictures of Don Wierenga, Sandy Feet's dad, some on his blog. The man passed away on Monday night all the sudden, a real shock. It seems like just the other day I visited and he seemed more fit than me at 78, working away at his beloved construction of his retirement cottage or thinking about some shrimp at the Wanna Wanna. Anyay, these pictures were from his recent work in Africa, where he helped people build things and make things work.

An educator for years, he found a passion to going into the darkest places to help people, such as when he helped build new homes for Katrina victims. When I grow up I want to be just like Don.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Zeste Things

I was rather surprised to see that our local deli, bistro, and gourmet joint on the island isn't doing so well these days. The name is "Zeste" (956-761-5555). I usually don't write about these kinds of things but they're so sad ... I was the only person there shopping for to-go yesterday evening and Mike, Lisa, Barry, and Amy looked real bummed-out.

The story is Lori came home from San Diego and caught something she described as "airplane flu." You know, coughs, fever, scratchy throat, the bug. So being a nice cabana boy and all-around fella I called in an order for ahi tuna, roasted duck, mussels in white wine, and a salad with so many things in it I can't pronounce them all. Is "Monteggio" the kind of cheese we had?

But good? Wow I hit on all cylinders there, a very happy wife. The cost was like 28 bucks with the sliced baguette bread but I added in a designer beer called 'Old Speckled Hen' or something I'd never had before. And yes, it passed "the Sammy test" for digestability with flying colors. All I'm saying is to please support your local business, and this is a good 'un.

Update April 20:

You know, last week or so has seemed like everyone was tired. I was way stressed and tired too, so don't take what I wrote too literally in the first paragraph. Phase of the moon? Trust me, Mike and Lisa are as energetic and funny as ever. They always brighten up my day.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Message from the Sturgeon General

Gulf of Mexico Sturgeon
"The General"

It turns out there are sturgeon in the Gulf of Mexico, although mainly from the Pearl River in Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle including the Suwanee. I had heard about it but I even found an official-looking USGS/Florida shebang about 'em. My brother in coastal Mississippi probably has 'em and doesn't even know it (hint - up the Pascagoula River). Sometimes I wonder if there were any in the Rio Grand watershed, as I know they like freshwater too. I love this quote: "Gulf sturgeon can jump six feet out of the water."

Not bad for a little old dinosaur.

Y'all remember the stories about boaters being struck by jumping sturgeon, especially those in personal watercraft. Heck we could ranch 'em down here, especially if they cleaned up the Arroyo Colorado. Only a crazy Texas Yankee would ever think about ranching sturgeons.

Why, all they do is munch and jump, mate once a year "like the sound of a creaking door," are extinct and on the endangered list, and you're not even supposed to eat caviar. Sheesh. But think about it, if you ranch your sturgeons right, they'll always come home for dinner just like little cow doggies. Why, I imagine some would even get names like "Ranger" and "Howie" and "Missy."

And what a picture that would be, YOU feeding some ancient dinosaur fish with huge nose hairs and really big sucker lips, built like an armored tank. I bet people would line up for miles and miles. Why a little bar would be nice, just like that famous bar in Florida that has hundreds of tarpon trolling for food scraps ... and the tourists go nuts, love it. Heck man, we only got the hardhead catfish that swarm behind Louie's. Let's get some class and pizazz down here!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"Don't drink the Kool-Aid"

I got a question from somebody in Houston about what is meant by "don't drink the Kool-Aid." This expression has become part of our regular speak now, so I thought I'd help such wayward folks along.

It origins are from a horrible, whacked-out religious mission that committed suicide in 1978 by drinking poisoned grape Kool-Aid, something that was premeditated by an odd fellow and wacko kook named Jim Jones when in a country called Guyana. But after a few decades, it took on a very different meaning.

This is not exactly correct from what I can tell, since The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test was published in 1968 by a guy named Thomas Wolfe. If you drank that stuff ou were high for about half a day or more, would listen to the Grateful Dead all the time, and would contemplate your navel a real lot. It meant stoned-to-the-bone.

In modern times, people who were around President Bush #43 were said to have "drank the Kool-Aid" when doing the crazy things they did. At some point, Enron executives were known to have taken long drinks of the stuff. More recently, when handing out bennies to General Motors and Chrysler, or fixing the banking system, some pundits accused President Obama of "drinking the Kool-Aid." What on Earth did they mean?

Basically the term means to agree to some powerful status quo instead of thinking for yourself, and blindly following the leaders and making horrendous mistakes. I'm talking big mistakes, like the financial "experts" who got us in the worst recession since the Great Depression: they drank the Kool-Aid. The term doesn't mean that you're impaired, stoned, or dead anymore (funny sentence!). It merely means that you have no judgment and you messed up by trusting the authorities.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How models work

Ugh ... sorry folks, this post ain't about sexy Hollywood models with million dollars bods. But if I have your attention, I was really talking about computer models. There are a bazillion kinds of those things so let's narrow it down to Climate Change and Global Warming.

This is big news lately, with our President sounding like he wants carbon dioxide mandates and major folks like Joseph Romm (Climate Progress), Freeman Dyson (a major physics denier dude), and Thomas Friedman (NY Times Pulitzer winner) getting published all the same week, duking it out. And there are thousand of more major peeps banging the pots and pans as well.

What it all comes down to are several ensembles of computer models that predict sea level rise, ice coverage, differential heating, and technical stuff I won't bore you about ... other than all these models suck!

Say what, Sammy?

It's a rather existential question because any models that try to predict things into the future are based on humans, and most of the time Mother Nature has a different idea in mind. So global models for sea ice totally missed their mark, a horrible thing for the "modelers." What happened was that sea ice was supposed to break up in a decade or two, like in the Arctic and now even the western Antarctic. They blew it. The stuff is melting at an incredible rate never forecast by ANY computer model. What happened was a classic case of under-shooting because all models done by humans are fallible.

Then there are there is over-shooting, where some models show global heating right now, even in a mild cooling stage, although in the long term they are perhaps correct because the thinking is "Mother Nature took off a year or two from warming." Excuses, excuses, the models that predicted rampant global warming also failed. Poor Al Gore has been severely abused by these notions.

Then there are the ... what can I say, weirdos who predict "crazy weather" from global warming. These folks don't know the difference between climatology and today's weather and unfortunately must be relegated to the loony bin, as no model can support those conclusions except when modeled results conflict with each other, or somebody tries to bloviate about "super hurricanes." The only folks to get away with that trick was the original Farmers Almanac that predicted sun, rain, hail, sleet, and snow all in the same day in Boston sometime in the 1800s.

A model only works for about 5 years of predictive value and I'm going to leave it at that. We have absolutely no idea what will happen in 50 or 100 years. I'm serious! But before you dismiss me as having sentiments one way or the other, I can tell you that climate change is happening right now. I can also say that if the climate was not changing, we'd be in for some very serious entropy problems.

And so far, as good as our bazillion-dollar satellites and billion-dollar super-computers are, we really can't predict very much other than some obvious things that are already happening. This does not mean that they are bad. It means that climate modeling needs a new generation of thinkers who can plug in the right kinds of data without being so political about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Poof'n'Whiff Anniversary?

I had to ask Lori how long Poof'n'Whiffs has been, well, poofing and whiffing. She says four years and three-four months. It was before we moved from Leander to here on South Padre Island for sure. Moved in July, 2005 before Hurricane Emily.

Gosh, the dream it was back then, and many (including me at times) didn't think we'd ever move down to the seashore. People say I've changed since then - gosh I hope I didn't turn into an asshole again. Dang I hate that when it happens. It's been fun so far.

I guess in the next chapter, Sammie will get his own boat.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shower Politics

Not a great picture, but here's an outside shower, one I've been meaning to fix with new pipe, valves, and a shower head - and that ugly rusty deadbolt. I came across an interesting article in Salon about 'shower politics.' Basically, those who take a shower (white collar) before work are treated much better than those who take a shower after work (blue collar). The writer does a pretty good job of explaining our outrage at the AIG executives who got millions in bail-out money, while company workers like at GM are getting the ... pink slips and the boot.

Here on the island is no different I guess, other than we don't care when you take a shower ... its usually after getting in the sand or in the water because otherwise you'll get itchy and pack sand into the bed at night. That's where our humble outside shower comes in!

The shower analogy is a good one also describe water issues. In many areas of the world we consider tapwater a given, something you can waste. However, parts of Australia and the Caribbean are in a horrible drought and most rely on meager rainwater collected in cisterns. It wasn't but last year at this time the Rio Valley was so dry the Rio Grand stopped flowing. Shower water is often used to water plants, flush the commode, and other beneficial uses. So there are people who watch their water use and those who do not.

Oh well, as Texas Week winds down now, and the daughter has just left to go back to Austin, I think I'm ready for a ... shower.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Break 2009

Just catching up on things, noting the wonderful turn of the weather and more kids for spring break today, the few migrant birds and hummingbirds that have passed through, and mundane things like that.

I learned that Spring Break was invented in 1983 at the old Sandy Retreat hotel (which became the Mira Mar), where there parking lot was used for rock 'n' roll bands. The gathering was started by a bunch of Valley kids, not out-of-area college students. In 1984 the Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughn played there. Gosh, that was only 25 years ago. Steve Hathcock has a great story about the history in the last issue of the Coastal Currents local newpaper (sorry, not online). He has a rather amusing ending about Dionysus and how since ancient Greek times, people have been celebrating spring.

It's a break in things right now, as Lori and daughter head to Mexico for goodies and her boyfriend is checking out driving on the beach. Work has been quiet so I'll have to give them a jingle in a while. But it's definitely an "open door day," a good one too.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grass-mud horse

There is a huge controversy about censorship now in China, something I knew was always repressive but here's a new twist: a children's song about the "grass-mud horse" and it's battle against the evil river crab (which actually stands for peace and harmony).

The way the words are pronounced, "grass-mud horse" sounds exactly like "f*ck your mother," which technically is spelled very differently. Wow, all these kids singing that song, this IS creepy. I have never heard of such a protest since the Falun Gong massacre.

Where were the grass-mud horses when President Bush was in power, anyway? Compared to our fearless Chinese counterparts, we're a society of wimps.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last Blasts of Old Man Winter

Here's a computer model for Saturday's weather that shows expected rain and other stuff (click the pic to slightly enlarge). Most of the bad weather will be to the north, with some lingering showers in our area. It is expected to be cool the weekend, perhaps bad for Spring Break but good if we see some migrating birds. SPI is located towards the bottom center of the graphic in the pink part showing light rain.

So enjoy today, as a preliminary front is coming down with a chance of thunder this evening, some cool air, a secondary shot of cool air, and some over-running rain. By Monday things should be dry and on the mend - there are no big storms I can see behind this one yet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why Twitter is sometimes funny

This is a chain on Twitter posts that started when one of us found a story about "male enhancement pills" that said they didn't work. I'm "Whams."

  1. Whams@southpadrelive Dood, I don't think you are near cute enuff to do lap dances, keep the day job!
  2. JW WilsonsouthpadreliveForget the free lap tops-Where do I sign up for free lap dances
  3. WhamsWhams@southpadrelive TMI brudder!
  4. sandy feetsandyfeet@southpadrelive Thanks for that visual, JW (not!)
  5. JW Wilsonsouthpadrelive@sandyfeet Yea I take them so it will stick out enough so i don't pee on my feet