Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday miscellany

We spent the weekend in San Antonio; it was a mixed blessing. There were times that Loop 410 was so cluttered that we took an hour going eight or ten miles. On the plus side, we visited with close blood kin and old and dear friends, and came home with prosciutto and wine and cheese and such. Something to be said for city life.
Somebody had a piece in some paper lately demonstrating that the price of gasoline was a mere flea bite for people's budgets, but I think he was calculating from a yuppie's budget, not from the budget of a villager who drives 40 miles each way to work a low-wage job.
The Kansas City Star had a recent story on the malign effect of high gas prices on small towns around there.
[E]conomists predict that over the next few years, the country could see a migration that would greatly reduce the population of Small Town America - resulting in a painful shift away from lifestyle, family roots, traditions and school ties.

Read all that story here.
And the sudden abrupt sinking of large American newspapers goes on. From a piece in the Guardian of the UK:
In the first three months of this year, print advertising sales by American newspapers charted their biggest drop since records began in 1971. And it was the eighth quarterly drop in a row.

You can read the rest of that with a click. For years, newspapers earned outrageously high profit margins. Twenty percent was not unusual. The investors who have bought publicly traded newspaper stocks expect the money to continue to gush like that, and that won't happen ever again.

Friday, June 27, 2008

& du this jour, too

So, I pick up the Vicad this morning and the first line that falls under my wondering eyes reads, "The third man, who's age was ..." Once again, my emphasis. That's not a typo; it was made 'who's' on purpose. Miz May Kirkman shoulda taught them better back in the 6th grade. You gotta consider that those words were written by a reporter who would no doubt haughtily assert her literacy and then vetted by an editor and a copy editor and I guarandamntee you those folks believe themselves experts on language. Tsk, tsk.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cringe du jour

From the skyboxes, the teasers above the nameplate, in this morning's Vicad: "Victorians come together to get a little girl a new bike after her's is stolen." Emphasis mine; horror yours and mine [or should I say your's?]. No doubt done by the graphics person who made the little blivet with the bicycle art. Graphics people believe that words are just another graphic device, with spelling concerns no more than captious niggling.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Death knell continues tolling

The Vicad today had a front page that looked like it was copped from National Enquirer, with posed pics of the DA and police chief looking grim and forbidding. Then there was a story on a b-b-q guy with a headline type using fire for filler. Not as bad as water or sand, both of which they've done in the past, but just because you can cobble up a bogus novelty type doesn't mean you should cobble up a bogus novelty type. But things can get worse:
An Indian company will take over copy editing duties for some stories published in The Orange County Register and will handle page layout for a community newspaper at the company that owns the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily, the newspaper confirmed Tuesday.

To read the whole pathetic story, go here. No Indian can begin to pick up the nuance of language in a news story written for an American readership. Even a lame American copy editor will do the job better, if not cheaper. [Not disputing that there are a lot of lame copy editors in this country.] The pursuit of cheap wages reaches new nadirs daily, and the degradation of the news business continues apace.
I notice the Vicad has a hunting special tab coming out Friday. What next ... a Halloween special in August to try to peddle ads?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bounty of the land

We're in luck lately, what's with goodies out of the back yard. About a hundred years ago, **Adrift was touted as the next Fig Capital of the World. You could buy a lot in town and get five acres outside of town to grow your figgy fortune. The idea gained less traction than a developer might wish, but figs still grow great here. The lots and plots sold have grown some tangled titles that sometimes jump up and make problems even now. We're so awash in figs that we can't eat them fast enough ... no doubt I'll derange my digestion by eating too many, but they are sweet and ripe. If you lived closer, I'd give you a bowl of figs or tomatoes to take home.

Monday, June 23, 2008

They came for the semanticists and I said nothing because I was a semiotician ...

One of those poor little peroxided airheads on Channel Zero reported today that there had been sentencing for a kid who put 'anti-semantic' graffiti on a Victoria temple.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gas & fish & stuff

Some local shrimper was heard to say that when the price of a gallon of diesel was greater than the price of a pound of shrimp at the fish-house it was time to park the boat, a local manifestation of a global phenomenon. From the London Evening Standard:
Worldwide protests over the rising price of fuel escalated today, with the Philippines presidential palace besieged by lorries, fishermen burning their boats in Thailand, and Spanish petrol stations running dry as haulers blockade major roads.

and deeper in the story:
One [Thai] fishermen's group said more than half of the 50,000 fishing boats under its wing are being kept ashore because of the high cost of diesel.

Read all the Brit story here.
The OPEC nabobs met and muttered something about producing a little more and it's all the fault of speculators. There is good reason to doubt promises of substantially more production on the excellent grounds that Saudi Arabia doesn't have the oil to pump. The predictable crowd is working itself into a predictable frenzy to drill offshore and in ANWR, a mere ameliorative whose benefit won't be delivered for many years, but one that fits with the conspiratorial world view of the predictable crowd. People really don't wanna get their heads around the idea that things have changed profoundly all of a sudden. Just heard an oil guy on TV say that yeah, maybe in ten or fifteen years we would see peak oil. My wife observes that must mean we're at that point right now; I tend to believe that we've already passed it.

Friday, June 20, 2008


The flood insurance bill came this week. It was a bunch, which my industrious wife managed to lower to a slightly smaller bunch by taking a much higher deductible. Insurance is one of the underdespised banes of modern life. Sit down when you have a little time on your hands and total up all you pay in insurance -- home, car, health. It will easily run up to a fifth or more of your total income. I wonder if people in, say, Spain, spend as much on insurance as do we. If you kick, they always say how much you'll love it when you need it, but in my experience when you do need it, you have to struggle to get the insurance company to pay you what you've been paying for all that time. I read that there is a vaccination against shingles and that anyone who'd had chicken pox likely had a virus present that could erupt in shingles. I've known two people who'd suffered attacks of shingles, and they found it pretty miserable. So, I asked at the doc's office about the shingles shot. They told me that it cost two or three hundred bucks and insurance wouldn't cover it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Left at loose ends

The little eMac woke up comatose Tuesday morning, leaving us essentially computerless for the last three days. We checked e-mails on the public terminals at the library, but what could one do when the pressing needs for connection arose? How do you Google Hope Savage if you can't get to Google? How to keep up with all the old friends around with quick e-mails during the day? The little Mac came home today, and life is already better.
The deadline for boats officially to finish the Water Safari was late yesterday morning. When we drove up Bay Avenue, there were a couple of forlorn and lonesome canoes parked by the flagpole and one table of people looking out across the water for their paddlers to appear. It was a rough year. My neighbor's son and grandson started out, but the youngster blew out a shoulder early on, so they had to scratch. Maybe next year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Canoe race update

Last night after watching 'Becker' I walked down to the flagpole to see if any arrivals were imminent. Guy said the Mynars had been due in at 11 and should be in anytime; it was by then maybe 12:10. I didn't see any lights and didn't feel like hanging around, so I came on home. They came in at 12:34. This morning around 6:30 there were only two boats in, the Mynars and one of the Belize boats but not John Bugge's, per my wife. I walked down around 11 and shot one coming in and then after lunch we watched another come in. By around 1:30 there were only six canoes lined up. Most years there would be a dozen or more by this time on Monday. Low water and a rough bay have apparently impeded progress and the drop-out rate has been pretty high. The town is full of strangers, and I use the word advisedly ... some are very strange by the standards of **Adrift.
Late news: By ca. 6:45 there were only 11 boats down by the flagpole. Definitely the scantest number in our years here. Usually, by this time there would be dozens of canoes arrayed in order of finish.
Late late news: Fifteen boats in at 9:15 p.m., Monday.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Canoe race

The big annual canoe race is on now. I've not gone down to the seawall to get latest reports, but as the word was the river was running low this year, it will likely be rather late before we get anyone coming in. This is the first year, I believe, since I've been down here in **Adrift that I've not covered the race. Here's a really good piece on the race by one Brad Tyler that ran in the Houston Press back in the last millennium. We'll no doubt amble over along just before news time to get reports. It's always amazing to watch the boats come in.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Shrimpfest in **Adrift-iii

Knowing that fortune favors the prepared, I try to have in my mind a rough plan of attack on the food stands at Shrimpfest. I was figuring on a Cajun pistol [a tasty bit of deep-fried bread stuffed with crab meat and cheese], corn on the cob, gumbo, and a brisket taco. Then someone I met in the morning told me that there wasn't a corn stand this year, so I had to scratch that one my mind but figured the rest of the fantasy would stand. Still, the corn was important in my plan, as we all know how important vegetables are to good nutrition. When I got to the fest grounds on the seawall, I saw that the Cajun wagon wasn't in this year either. So, I did a container of the fine seafood gumbo, followed that with a deep fried jalapeño wrapped in bacon and stuffed with crabmeat. I figured jalapeños count as a veggie. I know they grow on bushes ... i have one in the yard. The brisket taco was, at least, reliably there. The stand backed up to the bay, making a nice view behind. The guy cooks ace brisket, tender and juicy. Kids romped in the bay while we onshore stuffed ourselves. A table by the wagon selling funnel cakes had a sign saying funnel-cake eaters only. That way when you drop dead in the middle of eating the funnel cake, you don't fall in a graceless heap on the ground. I was kidding with a guy who had a funnel cake. He said he was gonna take it home and eat it with a glass of milk. It was a good but not great Shrimpfest. No carnival this year, which deprived us of some of the feeling of decadence so important to this sort of observance. Maybe they are a little nervous after the state cracked down after the girl was killed in Victoria.

Shrimpfest in **Adrift-ii

The Miss Bay Rat beauty pageant is always a high point of the festival. It often seems that there will be no entrants, but the boys nip along on the brews during the day and talk themselves into it. Then, they apparently run home and borrow clothes from their girlfriends or wives. You would not mistake the contestants for shonuf real girls. Pipe the calf muscles on that one; not even city girls who wear heels can grow muscles like that.

Shrimpfest in **Adrift-i

Shrimpfest is our major annual celebration, held on the weekend of the big canoe race. Seeing the people out having a good time is one of the entertaining things about the big do. The number of tattoos divided by the number of attendees would be very close to one, and summertime clothes put a maximum of tattoos out there to admire. Herewith a couple of random tats that I liked. Just think what an orthodox feminist could do with the footprint tat ...

Friday, June 13, 2008


of William Butler Yeats, one of the best poets of the 20th Century. He is buried in a little country churchyard outside of the city of Sligo, in the West of Ireland. We made a pilgrimage there in the fall of '06. Writer's Almanac nudged me on his birthday.

Under bare Ben Bulben’s head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid.
An ancestor was rector there
Long years ago, a church stands near,
By the road an ancient cross.

No marble, no conventional phrase;
On limestone quarried near the spot
By his command these words are cut:

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!

You can read the entire poem here, and it's worth the little bit of trouble.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Go, Dennis, go

From today's WaPo:
Having failed in efforts to impeach Vice President Cheney, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) escalated his battle against the administration this week by introducing 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush, using a parliamentary maneuver that will probably force a vote today.

Read it all here.
The effort will fail, of course. Although the Ds were clearly given the Congress in '06 because of displeasure with the Iraq invasion and occupation, Dem leadership shunned the idea of impeachment, and the situation continues as it was before the mid-term election with talk afoot of an occupation going on for an indefinite time into the future. Defending himself against impeachment proceedings might keep W from further mischief -- like maybe bombing Iran -- until we are finally shed of him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

India report

and a lot of other places, too. The whole world's in tough shape for groceries. Thomas Friedman loves to write about how India is so great and is just gonna eat our lunch because they are better educated and harder working. The only thing they are is cheaper to hire. They can't even provide their own lunch. From The Independent of the UK:
... India has more than half of the world's hungriest people and its priority is to safeguard domestic supply. But it too has watched as the cost of food has soared, not just rice but cooking oil, pulses and even vegetables. India has this year forecast a record grain harvest but experts warned farm productivity will have to rise much faster if the nation is to feed its 1.1bn people and avoid a food security crisis. Around two-thirds of India's population are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods but agriculture is growing much more slowly than the overall economy.

Read it all here. Those 1.1 billion folks have a few millions of people who are functioning in the world economy; the rest are still living a primitive existence on the ragged edge of survival.

Mexicarnage goes on

From the WWN:
A 13-year-old girl was killed Monday evening when a sport utility vehicle she was riding in was strafed with gunfire during a car chase in the San Lorenzo area, as the violence in Juárez showed no signs of slowing.

Read the rest of the sorry news here. It's amazing that the massacres in Cd. Juárez haven't caught any national ink. It's like we can't be bothered to read about the killings just across the street. Poor Juaritos.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Rustic pleasures

We spent the past Th-Sun out on the San Saba. The occasion of the visit was the annual cemetery-cleaning and reunion at Fort McKavett. Near the banks of the San Saba there are lots of opportunities for the non-strenuous contemplation of natural beauty ... sit on the porch and smoke a cigar and watch the turkeys, amble down the road and admire the thistles. There were more than a dozen well-fed turkeys who hit the food bank that our host kept in the yard.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Drip, drip, drip

Someone asks rhetorically [or maybe even seriously], "Are we going to farm off our last inch of topsoil to grow corn for ethanol?" Another cogent question might be, "Are we going to drain our last aquifer for irrigation water to grow corn for ethanol?" The aquifers around the world are taking a beating. From a watery blog:
Scores of countries are overpumping aquifers as they struggle to satisfy their growing water needs. The drilling of millions of irrigation wells has pushed water withdrawals beyond recharge rates, in effect leading to groundwater mining. The failure of governments to limit pumping to the sustainable yield of aquifers means that water tables are now falling in countries that contain more than half the world's people, including the big three grain producers--China, India, and the United States.

I kited the link from the Aguanomics guy. Read the rest here.
For a map of overdrawn aquifers, click here. Notice how our overdrafts are mostly west of the 99th meridian, where to turn a quick buck we are piddling away water that took a long, long time to accumulate. It could be worse; we could be supporting hungry populations instead of greedy agribusineses.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Come back, Clarence, we need you

Developments on the science front, first from the NYT:
Starting this summer, the [Texas] state education board will determine the curriculum for the next decade and decide whether the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution should be taught. The benign-sounding phrase, some argue, is a reasonable effort at balance. But critics say it is a new strategy taking shape across the nation to undermine the teaching of evolution, a way for students to hear religious objections under the heading of scientific discourse.

My goodness ... the pinheads are still trying to eliminate the teaching of the basis of biology. Read it all here,
And from the neat science blog, The Loom, evolution in action:
One of the most important experiments in evolution is going on right now in a laboratory in Michigan State University. A dozen flasks full of E. coli are sloshing around on a gently rocking table. The bacteria in those flasks has been evolving since 1988--for over 44,000 generations. And because they've been so carefully observed all that time, they've revealed some important lessons about how evolution works.

And, for all of that fascinating story, click here. We can't make it into the 21st Century if we can't make it into the 20th.

Dems, again, still

Barack O has passed the necessary number of delegates to claim the Democratic nomination for president. The Clintonians appear to be unfazed by reality and plan to keep on picking at the kid, regardless of the effect on his campaign for the general. From Maureen Dowd:
And, even though Democrats were no longer listening, Hillary’s camp radiated the message that Obama was a sucker who had played by the rules on Florida and Michigan, and then reached an appeasing compromise, and that such a weak sister could never handle Putin or I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket.

Read the entire NYT column here.
Bill was, I think, the ablest manager to hold the presidential office in my lifetime. He tended to tiny details of policy and appointed mostly able people to administer his programs. W, on the other hand, has mostly appointed hopeless but loyal hacks who would serve his political ends. Nonetheless, I really, truly don't want to live through another Clinton reign, even with a Clinton as vice president, what's with all the drama and hankypanky and Bill's frantic need for constant attention and the contemptible whining they emit when thwarted. Even with the poor opinion of the general public toward Republican rule, the Dems can bumble around and lose this election to a man who intends to stay W's ill-chosen course. I wish there were a third party loose in this election that was more than a bad joke.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Troubles in paradise

You've no doubt read that California is in another budget crisis, laying off teachers and such. There may be a hint as to why here:
According to new data from the Department of Public Social Services, nearly twenty five percent of Los Angeles County ’s welfare and food stamp benefits goes directly to the children of illegal aliens, at a cost of $36 million a month -- for a projected annual cost of $432 million.

The rest is here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Outdoor **Adrift fauna

The security system alerted on an intruder this morning, and my wife found this little Texan rooting in the flowerbed by the north porch. It's probably a poor season for grub eaters, dry as it's been. We're seeing very few June bugs, which started profusely last year in early May. Not complaining about that, or the lack of mosquitoes, but we could stand some rain down here. Watering gets expensive.

The Daily Double

Well, the Vicad hit the cliché double today with a lost-class-ring story and a big-zucchini story. The class-ring story had a lie/lay blunder that had us muttering darkly about the future of the country. They actually have video on the squash. A friend wrote, "so, the advo shot video of a big zucchini. i bet the plot is riveting, but i believe i'll pass, don't have time to get caught up in such emotional drama."
I think they've missed the big story. The cutline under the zucchini photo read, "Jack Dennis holds a 3 lb Zucchini that he plucked from his garden Wednesday morning. Measuring near 12" long, Dennis described the "Big Boy" as being nearly three times larger than a normal zucchini." If Dennis truly measures 12" long, as one would gather from the cutline, he's considerably smaller than the ordinary gardener. There's a story. As for vegetable video, you could better sit on the porch and watch the grass grow, or paint the bedroom and watch the paint dry, or watch golf.
World's best zucchini recipe, from, I think, Marcella Hazan: Cut the squash into matchstick pieces. Lay it out on a plate and salt it. After 15 or 20 minutes, pat it dry, shake it in seasoned flour, and fry it crisp in hot oil. Drain it on paper towel and put it in a bowl. With the side of your big knife, smash flat a clove or two of garlic and stick the smashed garlic down amongst the zukes. Sprinkle it all with red-wine vinegar. Beats the hell out of zucchini bread.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

War goes on

Nah, not the one in Iran. We seem to have adjusted to the idea that that war will last at least five more years and perhaps a hundred. I'm talking about the war in Cd. Juárez for control of the path for northbound drugs. From the World's Worst Newspaper, May 30:
This year's death count surpassed 400 this week, fueled by an ongoing war between drug traffickers from Juárez and Sinaloa.
From Thursday morning to Friday evening, there were at least 18 slayings, and unverified totals discussed among media outlets in Juárez and El Paso have put the total death count at more than 400.

Read the rest here. Eighteen corpses in a day and a half and nobody in the U.S. national media appears to have noticed the bloodshed, although the NYT did have a little piece on killings of police in Villa Ahumada, a small town south of Wazoo. Wonder why the lack of interest in what seems to be a good story? This is right across the street from an American city of three-quarters of million people.