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.