Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wily sighting

We spotted a sleek coyote, all gray-ticked and handsome, running uneasily across Tx 185 just south of the plants this morning. Figure he was hunting in the fog and got caught like a vampire in the sunrise when the fog lifted. As many coyotes as there are in our world, you seldom see one.
This week I was sitting on the east porch when a big hawk nearly nailed a squirrel in the street out front. The big bird gave the tree rodent a fright and then sat in a tree waiting for the little Scurius to come around his telephone pole and expose himself to further attack. Meantime, one of our vicious thug cats sat at the foot of the pole watching with interest as the squirrel chattered and cussed. Finally the bird gave up, and the squirrel made his way up the pole and went trotting off on the wires.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sad news

I get too many e-mails with that heading. The latest, with a link from the Austin America-Statesman:

"Joe Bean

"Death Notice

"BEAN, Joe, 51, public affairs specialist, of Austin, formerly of Lamar, Mo., died Thursday. Services pending with All Faiths, south location."

Joe Patrick Bean was the ed-page editor for a good part of the time that I worked at the Vicad. He was a really bright guy with an almost-Aspergery way of fixing on topics and gnawing at them. People used to complain that he was too far left for the city. I always felt that no Lutheran has been very radical, Martin Luther himself excepted.
Joe loved reading and edited the book page when my wife was reviewing books. She always said that he was a pleasure to work with because he so loved books and reading. You could always talk books with Joe.
He was a history major and a history nut. He specifically loved the history of Ireland and was partisan in a way that probably exceeded most native Irish. His last visit to Ireland, he sent us a note that he couldn't bear to go see the Giant's Causeway because he would have to travel in the north – I believe he called it the Six Separated Counties – and didn't want to spend a cent or a minute up there.
He had become interested in photography and traveled around to places where he could find photo ops. We saw him for the last time this year when he passed through our village and ate lunch with us on his way to look for birds to photograph. We have a Joe P. Bean butterfly photo, a gift when he left the Advocate, hanging in the living room. He was one of those people who make life more interesting, one of those you keep tucked back as little treasures in the cupboard of your mind, and it is indeed sad news that he's dead. We'll miss him.
Joe's Facebook profile.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I have always liked columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, considering her both a reliable journalist and a genuine patriot. She recently had a nice piece faulting the idea of the citizen journalist bringing truth to the world through the Internet:
If newspapers were to truly fail across our society -- and most probably this next year will be crucial -- we will have no guardians of the little truths that keep societies sane, we will have no daily history of where our society has been, where it is and where it is going, we will have no institutions to force our attention to the wide variety of issues facing us and not just the ones we would choose on the Net.

She makes the nice point that most Internet reporters are people with some crank to turn. Read the whole thing here, and for lagniappe read the two columns following this one [just click on 'next date' at the top].
We used to be able to read Geyer in the Vicad, and my wife, genuinely wondering, forwarded to the editor a link to the Geyer column along with a note asking why we no longer get Geyer. He responded that local reader input – guest columns, letters and such – was taking the space and was more important for a paper like ours. Today, the Sunday ed page had two Ruben Navarrette columns [Navarrette doggedly harps on only one theme, over and over, favoring something very like open borders with Mexico and, please, a little more guilt from you vile racists who resist the idea] and a column by Andres Oppenheimer. Nice to have that local input. Geyer's right that this next year will likely be crucial to newspapers' survival; I'm not optimistic about our paper's chances.


Just heard 'Oh, yucko!' from the next room, and it wasn't rendered in the cooing grandma voice that is the usual delivery these days. For the moment there are no dogs barking. They will soon bark, though … I'd bet on it.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Walked along the seawall a little while ago. There were two guys fishing in the bright sun. Seems like a good way to evade the joys of family togetherness for a few hours. They were in a good mood, offering up 'Merry Christmas' with big grins and kidding me about the dog.
My mother, dead nearly 20 years, was born Christmas Day of 1910 in Cuervo, Guadalupe County, New Mexico Territory. The store-bought materials, mostly nails, cost less than a dollar in the house where she was born. It was a dugout built into the side of a mountain. Her father was a tubercular, what they then called a lunger, from Georgia. He came west in the hope that his TB would get better. He finally died in 1927 in Wichita Falls. The family, four kids that survived infancy, lived just a bit behind the closing of the frontier, but in a time that things were still pretty raw. Momma rode a stagecoach from someplace-I-forget to Ft Stockton in '15 or '16. She probably saw as much change in a lifetime as anyone should have to bear, from stagecoaches to men walking on the moon.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Filthy weather and high winds. This pic recapitulates a fog shot a few days ago. We sent this one out as 'Surf's up, a la **Adrift.' The primo said he thought he detected a pipeline in those little whitecaps.
Just disposed of some leftover leg of lamb in a little bogus curry, just a roux with chicken stock and curry powder and garam masala added … now the house smells like a Ft. Stockton motel lobby. That's not a bad thing. I love curries of all sorts – Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Burmese.
We are bracing for a week-long menagerie with a large assortment of adults, children, and dogs all bashing around in the same 1,600-ft ecosystem. Should be interesting. I meant to say something else, but it escapes my scattered mind right now. A Merry Christmas to all or Whatever.
Not a lot of ads in the paper the last couple of days. Hear they've lost two more sports writers after losing the third or fourth sports editor in a year. Workers' paradise it ain't.

Monday, December 21, 2009


It always gives me the creeps to read about anyone of any eminence who is a follower of Ayn Rand. That Alan Greenspan adhered to her ideas about laissez-faire capitalism should have by itself disqualified him from any post affecting public policy. Rand more or less declares that individual people should behave as if they were corporations, with no obligations to anything larger than their own avarice. Woman I used to know who lived in a student rooming house west of the UT campus early in the 60s said that there was a Rand follower in the place. The other girls finally had to put a note on the door that read 'Even Ayn Rand flushes the toilet.'
A fine comment from a blog I like: 'I have a great deal of respect for Ayn Rand. Name anyone else who has been able to intellectually justify Sociopathy and who still has socially acceptable followers after this many decades.' None but the very, very young should nurse enthusiasms for Objectivism or Rand, a silly, vain woman and a crummy writer in the deal.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas open house

We went to an afternoon party today. The host and hostess are a couple of people interested in history, particularly local Victoria history. The guests were a civilized lot, well read and engaged with the city and the world. A principal topic of discussion was how much they hate the Vicad these days. These are the readers who made up the subscriber base of the paper forever, and they're alienated from it and feel betrayed by an editorial policy that ignores their tastes. I remember in Austin in maybe the early 80s the locals got so mad at the editor of the American-Statesman that you'd see bumperstickers reading 'Impeach Ray Mariotti.' I was amazed at a town that felt that strongly about its newspaper, but I guess newspapers have always been important to us of a certain age. Too bad the prevalent sentiments about the Vicad are distaste, disgust, and feelings of abandonment. Wonder how the year-on-year ad revenues are looking.

Here's a grin, even a laugh

Friend sends me this link, featuring a chorus of giggling babies. It's really neat.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pot-kettle dept

On-line insult on a forum: 'Macc, I can see by your spelling and writing, you have the I.Q. of a ball ping hammer.' Why does that tickle me so?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Funny gibberish song

You remember how, when you were a kid, you'd do a sort of sing-song 'Eek, oik, onk,' pretending to be speaking Chinese? An Italian singer does the same thing with random noises that have the rhythms of English in 'What English Sounds Like to Foreigners.' Go here to see and hear it. It's really a hoot. He knows the melody, but the words are something else.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ryder sea scene

Browns rather than grays, but the same fuzzy-edged feel as our fog.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Onward through the fog

Seems like we've been foggy for days. This afternoon, the bank of fog moved just a little way offshore and made things look like an Albert Pinkham Ryder seascape, the harbor area all ghostly but tranquil. You could see it a few blocks to the west, moving across the street and headed south for the bay. Everything was some shade of gray. It was even better in person.

Really laissez-faire capitalism

A Reuters article tells about investment opportunities in the Somali pirate enterprise:
Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel.
"I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation," she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony.

Read the whole story here. I knew a guy had to sell his better guns to settle a breakup, but never anyone who had to give up an RPG in the family-law court. For some unfathomable reason the U.S. has imported a bunch of Somalis and settled them in Minneapolis. It appeared to me in a layover in the airport there that the clean-up crews were mostly Somalis … another shining example of American immigration policy.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday night misc.

Friend sends me a sports-journalist Web site with an interesting, sorta, discussion of the Advocate's situation. Go here and browse through it, as shop talk is always interesting. The thing here is that the Vicad sports editor job just came open for the third or fourth time in a year. That's a hell of a burn rate on sports guys. Some say that a micromanaging editor makes life unbearable for newsroom help such as the sports editor.
We went to Goliad Saturday for Market Days and had a fine time looking at all the flatland touristers, even bought three canisters of spices from the guy who sells there. I can recommend the spice guy as one of life's great bargains, as he sells about a kajillion different spices for $2.50/good-sized container and makes acceptable jokes in the process. Met an former colleague and his smart and pretty wife for lunch. Said former colleague bailed from Vicad for a weekly paper and is making more money and suffering less misery.
Earlier this week the paper ran a piece on some old rancher gal. It could have been entertaining and interesting; let me show you why it wasn't: Kid who wrote it said, 'Her father gave her age-suitable jobs.' That sounds like it was written by a school administrator. Think of the possibilities there for a little life in the writing. "Her father sent her out to toss corn to the chickens in the yard' or 'Her father put her in the garden to pick hornworms off the tomatoes' or whatever he sent her out to do. She would have remembered that first job vividly and given some immediacy to the story, and a good writer would have asked for the details and any good editor would have asked for some specificity.
We can beat this holiday thing. I've only heard the wretched 'Drummer Boy" song once this year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Midwest unrest

Iowahawk, one of the funniest bloggers around, recently reran an old post about violent demonstrations in the Upper Midwest, insurgencies supposedly triggered by cartoons depicting satirically the image of Vince Lombardi.
Over the past five years, the volatile Midwest has produced violent rage like the knockwurst output at Milwaukee's venerable Usinger's -- sudden, repeated, and in long unbroken strings. One of the principle [sic] catalysts was the rise the Uff Da insurgency, led by the enigmatic Pastor Duane Gunderson, who seek a unified Lutheran caliphate stretching from the Great Plains to Lake Huron, and the banning of non-Big 10/Pac 10 apostates from the Rose Bowl. Gunderson remains in hiding, but his influence was seen last year in the widely publicized Lutefisk desecration riots that rocked the Heartland amid the pancake breakfast holidays.

To read the whole thing, go here. You'll have to scroll down five or six posts, but it's worth it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Next: Cycle path killers?

One of the more puerile features of the Vicad these days is the goof-on-the-street brief, where a reporter goes out and asks random people their opinion on various topics. Sometimes they are cogent comments, sometimes they are drool, but they are all reported seriously. In the one that ran today, a respondent is identified as a 'nature path physician.' Guess the kid who did the interviewing hadn't heard of naturopaths [not that that's an all-bad thing]. Too often ignorant reporters take a stab at unknown words and miss, and then there's not an experienced editor to excise the error.
When I look at the photos of the current staff, I think that the pix could have come from a middle-school yearbook. Those kids are so young. I hope they're still getting allowances from their parents, as I'd hate to think of anyone trying to live on a reporter salary these days. Former colleague of mine once said that it was a sad thing for someone to reach middle age and still be living with roommates or in an efficiency apartment in a bad complex, be driving a 10-year-old compact car, and taking all vacations visiting family to save hotel room expenses. That's the lot of a reporter on a smaller paper. Unfortunately, on a big paper, the reporter's lot is likely to be imminent unemployment.
Brett Arends, in his ROI column on MarketWatch, writes on the crunch that is bearing down on journalism. His concluding paragraphs:
So long as news tries to live off online advertising alone, the future for journalists is not bright. Journalism may become like acting or being a musician: There will be fewer full-time jobs, and they will pay poorly. A lot of news writing will end up being done by amateurs, those with day jobs or by kids just out of college, sharing rooms in Brooklyn, N.Y., before they go on to "real" careers.
What that may portend for the quality of reporting is another matter. If we end up living on a content diet of propaganda, celebrity gossip and free blogs, too bad.

You can read the whole thing here. Arends has some painful numbers on the possibility of newspapers being able to make the nut by selling clicks.
And the paper today was thin, despite this being the traditional season for big ad sales.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The oystercatcher's plight

From a CNN news story on the San Antonio Bay situation:
The U.S. government warned consumers Sunday to avoid oysters from San Antonio Bay in Texas after investigators found the oysters caused a highly contagious virus.

Get all the scoop here on the virus outbreak that has closed down oystering in the bay.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Awareness test

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, even though jurors will often give it credence. To find out something about your lying eyes, go here and take the awareness test.

Speaking of oystercatchers

There was a tiny story in the second section of today's Vicad on a problem with San Antonio Bay oysters. Surely they could have made some effort to expand on a story that touches on a major industry hereabouts.
And some other birds, jes cuz I've got them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It is doing as threatened

Just stepped outside with the [unwilling] pups at about 10:45, and there were little white flakes falling amongst the icy rain we've had all morning. Bad thing, that, and a filthy day overall – rain, snow, wind, cold. Where's my subtropical paradise?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Elizabeth Warren for president

Harvard law prof Elizabeth Warren nails it on a Huffpo post:
Pundits talk about "populist rage" as a way to trivialize the anger and fear coursing through the middle class. But they have it wrong. Families understand with crystalline clarity that the rules they have played by are not the same rules that govern Wall Street. They understand that no American family is "too big to fail." They recognize that business models have shifted and that big banks are pulling out all the stops to squeeze families and boost revenues. They understand that their economic security is under assault and that leaving consumer debt effectively unregulated does not work.

Read it all here. Oddly, it seems like the Ds have conceded that populist rage to the Rs, where it is expressed in the hostility of the Tea Bag Insurgency, which seems to miss the role of Wall Street in the current debacle. The American middle and working class have been under steady siege for 35 years, and it doesn't look to get better. Piece in the paper today about more than 200 jobs lost in Victoria. They apparently weren't great jobs, but they were jobs and now they're gone.


Our harbor continues to swarm with out-of-town oyster boats, all stacked on top of the locals. Harbor looks like a mall parking lot, or maybe the way mall parking lots used to look. The problem is a lot of bays up the coast are not in business this season. The situation is noticeable, even to the NYTimes:
When Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston on Sept. 13 last year, the storm buried nearly 8,000 acres of oyster reefs in sediment from the Bolivar Peninsula, state wildlife officials said. Half of the oyster habitat was wiped out, destroying the livelihood of more than 100 fishing operations.

Read all that here. Taking a living from the water is a hard and unreliable occupation, but I'm grateful that someone continues to do it. Losing our fresh seafood would be losing a good part of the reason to live here. Talk to a shrimper or oysterer, and sooner or later he will get almost poetic about the beauty of the water and the feeling of being in control of their little world when they're working. They cling to their boats and way of life, I have read, in a way that vexes economists, who expect them to abandon their work and find other jobs. I suspect economists don't love their calculations like shrimpers love their bays and boats.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, no … not snow

Friend from my much younger days sends along a pic of a red-tailed hawk and some sort of prey. Sez it's shot through his kitchen window, and the bird usually hangs around hoping to pick off a dove or quail. Looks like he got mammal meat this time and can surely use the calories in that snow. My friend says it's the most he's seen in the 23 years he's lived in Alamogordo.
On other snowy fronts, Mike the Pirate sends along a prediction of 20% possibility of snow right there in Evilopolis on Friday. Having driven through that ill-built town in rain, I'm really horrified to think how it would look in snow. The murderous bastards would be stacked up like cordwood beside the freeways. El Paso had the road over the mountain closed and various public facilities out of service in their snow [pretty much the same snow as Alamogordo]. Meantime, here in paradise we continue gray, soggy, and afflicted by the coastal clammy cold that bites to the marrow of the aging bone. I'm ready to bolt for the tropics … but I'm usually ready to bolt for the tropics.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A link to make your head hurt

My favorite gloom-and-doom site, Calculated Risk, is the source of this link about a woman on food stamps buying a house that cost $700k. I keep seeing these stories and understand that the intent is that I should pity the house buyer. I don't wanna seem harsh, but I'm angry at everyone in this business – buyer, appraisers, lenders, Realtors. You name 'em, I'm unhappy with 'em. If the taxpayers of the Republic are expected to bail anyone out of deals like this, then the taxpayers are the souls who deserve pity, and there is something grievously wrong at the top of the heap. I want to read about indictments, trials, long sentences for fraud, not tearjerker stories about lumpenproles deprived of their granite countertops.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, a time devoted to gluttony and not really a time that they try to sell you anything you didn't really want to buy anyhow. A grand success today, with three kinds of wine and four kinds of guests, all well matched – an artist kind of friend and charming wife and a historian kind of friend and engaging ladyfriend, and all entertaining in different ways. My piratical buddy even dropped in and took a copita with us. He was steaming because the Vicad today was $1.50 by the single copy. The editor's rationale was that it was just a great value today because of all those wonderful ads or something like that. Betcha lots of people went to the paper machines with their customary couple quarters and were annoyed to find that they needed more.
We ate the traditional things with only a few kinks and quirks – green beans were seared with garlic and red pepper flakes and the cranberry sauce was a chutney. I made a tub of absolutely traditional cornbread dressing, something I dearly love, and found a fellow zealot among the guests. Between us, we put a pretty good hurt on the dressing. Two kinds of dessert – little pumpkin tarts and some killer pecan-pie muffins. We are grateful for plenty of food and vino and the digestion to enjoy it, for gorgeous days when it's snowing in Chicago, and for friends. I even smoked a contraband Cuban Romeo y Julieta afterward. I hope everyone's day was as pleasant as ours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


A blog site styled 'South Texas Chisme' takes a slap at the Vicad's bogus Creationism controversy here. Whenever the question of evolution is put out in public, a frightening bunch of grasseaters crawls out with goofy ideas, many of them legally suspect. Appeal to supernatural authority is invalid in an argument. Tangentially but related in a way, I notice that some Muslim movement is seeking to squelch worldwide anything they construe to be disrespectful to Mohammed. Not the way the civilized world operates, Abdul.

Mine, mine, mine

Look at this vid clip for the ultimate evolutionary advantage for Thanksgiving. Wife found it on a science blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The unkindest cut &c

We took the smaller dog, Moose/Mousse/Mus, to the vet this morning for that little operation. They called this afternoon asking to have him picked up, though the original arrangement had been to keep him until the morning. This dog has a vocalization that could be called a scream rather than a bark. I worried that his adjustment might raise his range to some equivalent of a canine castrato countertenor, a high note beyond human tolerance, a note that could be used to break up prison riots. Hard to know so far, but his ebullience seems intact.
Went into town this morning for a doc's appt for the wife and decided to catch some testimony in the trial of the guy accused of doing in a kid who purportedly had ripped him off for a few bucks. The defendant, Sebastian Mejia, was up on RICO charges with a lesser of murder. He was described as being a Texas Syndicate boss for Victoria. The accused took the stand, a very rare thing, and handled himself pretty well, an even rarer thing. On cross-examination he sparred skillfully with DA Steve Tyler. Course, the defendant had the advantage of having heard all testimony against him and having some time to dream up explanations and counter stories. I don't know yet what the verdict was.* Visited a bit with Gabe Semenza, who was there for the Vicad. Glad to see they're covering notable local trials again. Trials are as much fun as a news reporter can have, with drama and conflict and, sometimes, life and death on the line. Readers find them fascinating.
*Jury found him guilty, and he'll be going away for a long time. Notice a memorial classified ad today for Polo Conchola, little boy whose murder set off a series of gang trials a little while back.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Nah, not more tangos, but a Vicad complaint. There is a newspaper routine called localizing a story. If a wire story or press release comes in that has local interest, a reporter will make some calls and insert the results into the info furnished from outside. I may have missed it, but I didn't notice much in the paper about the Texas Supreme Court rehearing a case of some local interest. From an Associated Press story featured on Yahoo Finance:
The fight began in the late 1980s after the well-known O'Connor family of South Texas and Exxon failed to renegotiate royalty rates for decreasingly productive wells. After Exxon plugged the wells and left, Emerald tried to re-enter several in 1994. Smaller drilling companies routinely reopen plugged wells after signing new leases with the landowners.
But in Emerald's case, the company says, efforts to re-enter more than 30 wells were blocked by numerous obstructions. Among them were a tool known used to break up well casings that still was loaded with explosives, upside down drill bits and steel debris, according to lawyers and court records.

Read it all here. I believe the only thing in the local paper was a similar wire story without any local embellishments. I emphasize the possibility that they covered it and I overlooked it, but I don't think so. My wife came in from a flying trip to Austin carrying an American-Statesman with the story, asking what there had been for coverage locally. Seems to me that this is a story with enough Victoria interest to merit a couple phone calls by someone in the newsroom, and maybe a story of sufficient local interest to rate the front page. Texas Monthly gave it ink in the November issue, with the High Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor quoted.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


The e-mail footnote that makes me immediately hit 'delete':
Send this message to at least 5 people and your life will improve
0-4 people: your life improves slightly.
5-9 people: your life improves according to your expectations !
9-14 people: you ' ll have at least 5 surprises in the next 3 weeks.
15 or more people: your life improves drastically and your dreams start to take shape.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Carlos G

I knew a guy, Aggie chemist by education, who was in Argentina during WWII, sent to gather intelligence on possible German doings down there. Carlos Gardel was killed in a plane crash in Colombia in 1935, but the guy said that Porteños would say, '¿Por qúe te fuites, Carlitos?' [they say fuites instead of fuiste, I guess, because they talk funny Spanish in Buenos Aires.] Even now, 70 years after his death, Gardel is an icon in the city. You see his image all around. Do you think that in 2040 people will still be going to Graceland?
Listen to him singing 'Mi Buenos Aires Querido,' a beautiful song to his city.
And here, just because I found it, is a couple in a movie dancing to 'La Cumparsita.'

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Oh, well, you'd recognize it if I hummed it to you. It's 'La Cumparista,' and maybe the best known tango extant. The funny thing is that it's a Uruguayan composition. The Argentines swarm all over the tango, but Uruguayans have decent claim to a lot of tango history, though they seem rather staid for such inflamed music. The Argentines claim Carlos Gardel, the main man of tango, whom I have also seen identified as Uruguayan by birth, French by birth, and Italian by birth. Gardel is still a presence in Buenos Aires; we spent a few days in his old neighborhood, Abasto. He was a good-looking guy, always pictured in a snap-brim fedora. I wouldn't venture an opinion about his place of birth. Here's 'La Cumparsita,' along with wonderful old photos of Montevideo. A professional dancer told me that the tango is a fiendishly difficult dance, with complicating hooks and flourishes. To me it always sounded like a straightforward 1-2-3-4 or maybe 1-2, 1-2. But, then again, I can barely cross the livingroom without banging into the coffee table, so what do I know about any kind of dancing? The music knocks me out. We went to a concert in Madrid of music by Astor Piazzola, whom I recommend to you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scientist tats

Scientists have a nice take on the world. They are curious, intelligent, willing to be delighted, some of my favorite people. The Loom on the Discover mag site has a bunch of scientist tattoos, and they are a lot more fun than Mickey Mouse smoking a doobie. Lots of Darwin, an inordinate number of trilobites, many formulae, molecules, an archaeologist's trowel. Go here and see them. They are fun.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The oyster boats are a-comin

Oyster season is on, and once again about half the boats on the coast are here because San Antonio Bay is open to oystering while many bays are closed. Sometimes you can count a dozen and a half boats out there working. At sundown, everyone heads for the harbor. We had a pint of oysters last week, and they were very good. I can recommend an oyster from **Adrift anytime.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A question worth asking

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, a panel addresses an point worth considering:
With student debt rising and more of those enrolled failing to graduate in four years, there is a growing sentiment that college may not be the best option for all students.

Read all the piece here. We have worked ourselves into a froth of egalitarianism so frothy that some insist that every single breathing high-school graduate should be going to college. That's absurd; half the population is of below-average intelligence. To force those people into classrooms is to betray them and the ideal of education. And, given the cost of college these days, it's likely to leave a lot of people with joke educations and a big debt. We'd do better with a well-considered program of vocational education, leaving college for the academically adept. It would be of more benefit to the less scholarly of our young and would guarantee us a supply of trained workers to fill useful jobs. Tried to get a handyman lately? Paid a handyman lately?

Sun misc

A couple funnies from comments on blogs:
'25% of all employees are pretty much debt-weight …'
'I spend my days applying for jobs which I don’t get and working at a job I HATE for minimum wage, which involves stalking shelves and not writing.' Oughta be easy to sneak up a a shelf, as they are immobile and insentient. That one, unfortunately, is from a journalism blog. Better the poor fool not get a job in the journalism trade.
And then, a bit of gaudy prose from a cigar site, describing a smoke – '… creamy, rich and mild at the same time it is so smooth to the palate that the smoke actually feels silky like chocolate milk, with hints of honey nuts and Maple.' Dunno if you'd wanna smoke that or eat it with strawberries for breakfast. Some of the silliness of wine has slopped over onto the honest seegar.
And, finally, this morning in the Vicad there was a subhed reading, 'Economic slump means less trees will be bought this year.' My goodness, a copy editor who doesn't know that trees are a count noun and get 'fewer' rather than 'less.' A small booboo but a telling one. I always want to blue-pencil the '10 items or less' signs in some stores, since items are also a count noun.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Vicad today had a short piece on a guilty verdict against an HPL gangster. [HPL is Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos, not Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos, as given in the story.] It was a noteworthy conviction, and the paper gave the trial not a line of coverage. We had HPL trials maybe five or six years ago, following the shooting death of a little kid in a trailer south of downtown. His daddy was purportedly a Raza Unida member, and a bunch of HPL guys shot the hell out of the trailer and accidentally got the little boy. Then-DA Dexter Eaves tried them on a state RICO approach, so anyone taking part in the operation at any point was considered as culpable in the whole. I think it was a generally effective prosecution. I don't know why this trial got no coverage. Paper had two of us on the earlier trials, one morning and one afternoon, and then we collaborated on the writing. People snapped up the papers. It was a good story, and it's a pity this trial didn't get coverage beyond the verdict. In a bumbling way the Victoria gangs do a lot of harm, and readers are interested to know about this kind of law enforcement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Welcome home, vets

A wonderful set of videos of dogs welcoming home their returning soldiers here. Awwwwwwww. Beats parades.
Remember, the people who attacked us on 9/11 are people who believe that dogs are unclean … don't tell me that all cultures are the same.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Odd trend in Mexico

Poor Mexico falls ever deeper into moral chaos. The mean hillbillies from Sinaloa state who mostly run the narco business have put their wives to work in the trade or at least put them in the way of danger. It's a very non-Mexican thing to do and makes holes in the social fabric of the country. From the LATimes:
Two days before Christmas, federal police arrested Miss Sinaloa, the state's reigning beauty queen, and seven men, all of whom were paraded before television cameras and accused of trafficking cocaine. A cache of high-powered weapons and tens of thousands of dollars were seized from their vehicle.

Read the whole story here. In many ways, Mexico is as patriarchal and misogynistic as ever it was, but women do a lot better than you would think. At UACJ, I taught a lot of young women who were engineers at maquiladora plants. They were good students, not surprisingly, and most retained that charming way that Mexican women have. Mexican feminism lacks the man-hating edge that you often see here, though Mexican women have a lot more to be angry about.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More newspaper shoptalk

There is a new order in journalism being undertaken here in Texas. Guy who sends me stuff sends me a link to a NYTimes story:
… Led by Evan Smith, the former editor of the highly respected Texas Monthly, The Tribune is a nonprofit attempt to use a mix of donations, sponsorships, premium content and revenue from conferences to come up with a sustainable model for journalism that neither depends on nor requires a print product.
Smith is getting a salary of $315K. Seems to me they could pay him about $65K and hire five more journalists. Fact is that Smith runs me nuts – a slightly prissy-seeming yankee and, worse yet, a vegetarian. Read all here.
On recently there was a list of stressful jobs that are ill paid. High-school teachers claim stress at a 65% rate, while 62% of reporters report stress, but – get this – median pay for teachers is $43,000 while the median pay for reporters is $32,900. Read all that one here. I had a friend who quit reporting to teach. She immediately increased her income by about 50% and bragged that she could afford to order tea when she went out to lunch. I'm appalled that J schools continue to produce graduates with no prospect of decent employment. Of course, J-school profs enjoy decent employment.
Figures released last Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that average daily circulation dropped 10.6 percent in the April-September period from the same six-month span in 2008. That was greater than the 7.1 percent decline in the October 2008-March 2009 period and the 4.6 percent drop in the April-September period of 2008. Get all that here on Yahoo.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bye bye jobs

A note on sfnblog about some migration from Canada to India … unfortunately it's jobs doing the migrating as the Toronto Star sends some newsroom staff work to Asia.
The parent company of Canada's most widely read newspaper yesterday announced it would ship more than 100 newspaper jobs overseas, Bloomberg reported. The announcement comes even as Torstar Corp. today posted third quarter gains, according to Editor & Publisher.

Read the story here. I don't see how non-native speakers of a vernacular language can possibly catch nuances of usage. I worked for a lot of years for a typesetting house in Austin that did wonderful work, the finest composition for university presses and textbook publishers. Eventually the jobs went to India, and the company no longer exists. The quest for cheap labor is a curse of the modern world.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More bird stories

We live by a wooded watercourse, and there are some neat birds hanging around in it. Wife said the other night she stepped out quite late with a dog and looked up to the utility pole where I took pic of the vulture. She said there was a big ol horned owl up there watching the faunal traffic underneath the street light. We have lots of owls, both little screechy ones and the big ones. Horned owl against the sky looks about the size of a garbage can.
Another resident in the woods lately has been a good-sized hawk of some flavor. Haven't caught it sitting to determine exactly what it is. My neighbor said the other day he was outside chatting with a friend when the hawk swooped down on his pup, Prissy, a Chihuahua about the size for a meal for a big hawk. He said he hollered and Prissy squealed, and the hawk let go and went on.
Been perfect weather here in paradise; I hope it continues. This weekend is Breeders' Cup Day, so we'll go up to San Antonio for the holy rites and observances. It's always great racing, the best horses in the world. Two years ago we watched the simulcasts at Maroñas, the racetrack in Montevideo. I even won a couple of bucks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Punch-up in the newsroom

There's a wonderful story growing at the Washington Post, an actual fistfight in the newsroom involving an older editor and a sensitive reporter with a hyphenated name defending the honor of the WaPo's version of Little Me. Ya gotta read it to appreciate it, but suffice to say it was the last happy act of an old-time news guy against the incursions of the dreary new breed. Read it all here on Rumors on the Internets and hope that editor Henry Allen finds some sort of niche elsewhere. We need his kind as a bulwark against horrible writing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Niggles & nitpicks

For a start, a funny thing from HuffPo on those odd, 'random' quotation marks used by the benighted. They are funny photos of signs, available for your amusement here. The what-the-hell? quote mark is one of life's little mysteries, along with 's as a plural form.
And then a couple of goofy usages from comment sections on sites:
'They need to have a cattle prawn when we land …' [would that have something to do with the surf-n-turf?] and '… he is just trying to get everyone's goad.' [That one, you suspect the writer was almost in the right neighborhood and just went a little astray.]

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Good morning to you from your little birdy friend

View from my front porch this morning. I always wonder if our loitering zopilotes have got the word on me from somewhere. ['You hear, Tiburcio? That old guy by the bay's gonna drop any minute.'] This one looked so regal drying his wings this morning that you could paint it on the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Oklahoma.
Sugar Magnolia came down to dine today. We went to the ArtBoat for their open house. Fun stuff to look at and a good weekend.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

An old profession offers new opportunities … Arrrgh

Tom Sawyer would be happy to see the present-day possibilities in the pirate trade. There is piracy all over the globe, though most commonly off the Horn of Africa and on into the Indian Ocean. Here is a Slate story about the Brits negotiating with Somali pirates who've grabbed a British couple.
And here is the Weekly Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services.
And if you want to see the geographical distribution of piracy, here is a map of pirate attacks. You can click on the pointers and get details of attacks. A lot of it sounds like petty thievery carried out in port.
Better future in piracy than print journalism, plus there remains some public regard for pirates.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Well, Col. Travis, use your cell phone to call for reinforcements

The results of hiring callow, cheap help are often really funny. The Vicad's Erica Rodriguez writes about the theater in Ganado, "Alvin Svoboda never thought a job as a 15-year-old video projectionist would play out this way." Swoboda is – get this – 71 years old, which is to say he started running movies more than fifty years ago. Poor little Erica doesn't know that a half century ago, movies were on film and running a projector was a skilled job. Read here. An editor should have caught something like this, but …

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In case you lack a natural talent for bad writing …

An old-and-dear sends along to me a link to a blog called How to Write Badly Well. Written by a Brit named Joel Stickley, it's a grin or two. Under the heading Always use a thesaurus:
She manipulated the garment in a cogitative mode.
‘Hmm,’ she vocalised. ‘This attire is verifiably marvellous. What is it constituted from?’
‘From the most meritorious velveteen,’ defined her interlocutor, simpering coincidentally.
‘Is it?’ iterated the party of the first part. ‘That’s felicitous.’

And on further in that vein. It's got various samples of bad writing. Read it all here. I don't know how far he can stretch this gimmick, but it might be worth checking back occasionally.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not just bad weather here

From Yahoo News:
Figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations show that average daily [newspaper] circulation dropped 10.6 percent in the April-September period from the same six-month span in 2008. That was greater than the 7.1 percent decline in the October 2008-March 2009 period and the 4.6 percent drop in the April-September period of 2008.

Read all here.
I saw Alfalfa there at the Vicad claiming a 50-50 advertising-to-editorial ratio. Perhaps he is innumerate, like so many editors, or perhaps he doesn't understand that full-page ads placed in the Vicad by the Vicad aren't actually revenue-producing pages.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Weather, &c

There's a cloud to the south that fills up the sky, and we had a little rash of thunder and lightning earlier. Wunderground has us at 100% for rain tomorrow. You don't see that very often. It's still nicely cool, though muggy. Cooler weather brings certain joys, including the pleasure of stews and pot roasts and such. Occasionally of late, H-E-B has had whole pork loins, all bagged up for a buck a pound. I snap one up every time they do that; pork goes for something less than half of comparable cuts of beef. When I'm at the meat counter I like to mutter 'swine flu - swine flu- swine flu' under my breath. Just want to keep the price down. One of my top-five meals is a stew made from pork and turnips. It came from the NYTimes about ten years ago and calls for lovage, celery leaves, or parsley, and white wine, chicken stock, or water. I like it best with celery leaves and wine, though I've never tried it with lovage. For the recipe, go here. Try it … it's really great. Pork gets nice and tender and the turnips are sweet when browned and braised.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Socialism for the Realtors

Saw a Victoria real-estate guy on TV this week arguing that the $8k tax deal for first-time homebuyers should be kept on.
From the Big Picture econ blog:
A recent Brookings Institute analysis (found via Barrons) demonstrates persuasively that the $8,000 subsidy actually costs $43,000 per extra house sold; worse yet, the new $15k tax credit will ultimately cost $292,000 per home.

Read it all here. What the real-estate business needs is to let house prices find their proper level, not bloodsuck gummint money to hold on to glory days now gone. Lot of people that holler a lot about the free market and the oppressive gummint are first in line when the gummint's handing out cheese.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dead souls

Paul B. Farrell, who writes on MarketWatch, has come to be one of my favorite Web commentators, mostly because he sees the existence of a strong moral factor present in our unhappy financial situation. Faber writes:
Jack Bogle published "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism" four years ago. The battle's over. The sequel should be titled: "Capitalism Died a Lost Soul." Worse, we've lost "America's Soul." And worldwide the consequences will be catastrophic.

This piece was published on Oct. 20; it's titled "'Death of Soul of Capitalism' Bogle, Faber, Moore." Look here. The unhappy truth is that most of our present problems are attributable to ugly and unfettered greed as practiced by a bunch of amoral greedheads in the financial sector of the American economy. Not denying the role of mindless acquisitiveness in the general public, but the heaviest guilt lies at the doorstep of the Wall Streeters, who are still grabbing it with both hands and glibly justifying their greed as a just reward for their great work. Someday the people of this country will snap to what's been done to them by the bankers and hedge-fund managers. I hope things get vengeful when they do snap.

Bleed, bleed

I was reading in the NYTimes the other day about more reductions in the number of newsroom employees at that paper. Fewer reporters, less news coverage.
The New York Times plans to eliminate 100 newsroom jobs — about 8 percent of the total — by year’s end, offering buyouts to union and nonunion employees, and resorting to layoffs if it cannot get enough people to leave voluntarily, the paper announced on Monday.

Read all that here. Then, when I went from that story to my Gmail, i found that a guy who sends me stuff had sent me a thing about TV stations running high-dollar obituaries in markets where newspapers have faltered. Read that here. Gonna be hard for the genealogists of the future to look up the ancestors on those clips. In a few years, the technology that records those deaths will be obsolete, unlike print, which stays current forever. Every day I note the large number of big death notices in the Vicad. The paper's management may be happily booking the big bucks from paid death notices [and some days the paid obits must compose a large part of the revenue, but the obits should be listed as liabilities, as all those old people gone are newspaper readers, irreplaceable in these post-literate – hell, illiterate – times.


Been watching TV stuff about the shortage of H1N1 flu vaccine. The customary bunch of anti-vaccine people have come bubbling up, discouraging people from getting the inoculation. Robin Cook, MD and pop novelist, writing on the Foreign Policy site about the possibilities of an Influenza A pandemic behind a genetic mutation by the crafty flu virus;
… What the world needs -- and considering the current swine H1N1 pandemic, it needed it yesterday -- is a real plan for rapid expansion of its ability to produce vaccines against influenza A, so that output at any given time can be quickly ramped up to meet the sudden need associated with the appearance of a truly dangerous, new subspecies like our might-be novelistic killer H5N1/H1N1. Governments in both the developed and developing world must take on the job, as this is a worldwide threat. Although vaccines are a 20th-century technology, they remain the most powerful weapons we have for the very real 21st-century threat of influenza A. That is not to say that basic viral research should not also be encouraged and strongly subsidized. The more we know about these mysterious entities the better, as there surely will be far more efficacious small-molecule antivirals in the future as well as antiviral biologics, which might even have more promise in the long run.

Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Town Hall Meeting!

Pore ol Vicad's been touting the meeting to discuss the relative credibility of on-line and print publication. Bunch of peasants with pitchforks intended to go to ask questions about other problems. My wife even intended to go but decided she didn't want to make the drive to town. We figured we could watch the livestreamed cast of the meeting and know what was happening. When we dialed it in, there were a total of four watching. Then the cast wouldn't cast, so they just gave up. I don't know whether to cringe or snicker … is there a word for that sensation? This round goes to print, simply because a paper doesn't suddenly fade in your hands and become illegible. I trust someone who attended will file a report on a blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My favorite paleocon

Pat Buchanan tickles me; about half the time he seems dingdong loony and about half the time he's dead on with his observations and proposals. He writes:
If jobs are available in the United States, Americans should go to the front of the line to get them, ahead of illegal aliens. And as there are six Americans out of work for every job opening, it is time to call a moratorium on immigration. Why are we bringing into the United States over a million legal immigrants a year to compete for jobs against 15 million to 25 million Americans who can't find work or full-time jobs to take care of their families?
Who is America for – if not for Americans first?

You can read the rest of this column here. He also disapproves of our foreign adventures and mucking about in places where we have no business.

Cajun charcuterie

At the muddied-over Festival Acadiens we sat through a demonstration on Cajun smoked meats presented by a charming lady from Poché's in Breaux Bridge. The next day we went out there and had a wonderful lunch of crayfish etouffée and barbecued chicken with excellent sides of the down-home sort. Then we went through the meat market at the front and bought andouille, smoked sausage, and tasso. Dropped ninety bucks on stuff the doc wouldn't approve of. I've already used some of the tasso and smoked sausage in a couple of beany deals, frozen andouille against gumbos to come. They ship, as you can see here. Acadiana is such an entertaining place.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Press stuff

Edith Ann, a sanctuary-seeker from the Advocate blogmess, has a quote today from A. J. Liebling: “People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.” For years after WWII, Liebling had a column called 'The Wayward Pressman' in the New Yorker mag. Nothing like that around today that I know of. Liebling was, for my money, the most entertaining journalist in the country in the middle third of the 20th Century. Contemplate this great lick, the opening lines from his biography of Louisiana politician Earl Long: 'Southern political personalities, like sweet corn, travel badly. They lose flavor with every hundred yards away from the patch. By the time they reach New York, they are like Golden Bantam that has been trucked up from Texas – stale and unprofitable. …' Know anybody writing today that has better chops that that? Today is Liebling's birthday … bow your head in a moment's homage to an ace writer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Public service announcement

Maybe a year ago I was listening to KVRT while I was driving – the only time I listen to the radio – and they gave a green-bean recipe that sounded wonderful … fresh beans, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes. It sounded so good that I came home and found it on the Web site. Been making it ever since and recommend it highly if you want a change from green beans simmered with pigmeat in the classic Southern fashion. Had some for dinner tonight. Here's the recipe. I recommend it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art Camp rolls on

Another painter due in for the ArtBoat session this fall is the aptly named Rebecca Byrd Bretz of Austin. A couple samples herewith, 'The Heron' and 'Buk-buk McCluck.' Byrd's her middle name and apparently birds are her interest. It's always fun when Art Camp's in session.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rose's bar

This sculpture is on the grounds of the local tourism bureau in Lafayette. It kinda tickled me.
The newspaper in Lafayette looks pretty healthy, with lots of retail advertising. The focus of the rag is on local news, very thoroughly done, less worry about the affairs of the wider world. They may be on to something. The local alternative rag also looked sound for ads.

& back from Lousiana

Maybe twenty years ago, when we first went over to Lafayette, a friend gave me a list of places to eat. I think the first was Dwyer's, a solid old joint right downtown where everyone in Lafayette is likely to eat sometime during the week. They feature a buffet meal at noon, a meal we have learned is the end of the day if you eat it. We usually go for the breakfast, featuring homemade biscuits and grits, if you fancy grits, and good, strong Cajun coffee. On Wednesday, a bunch of locals gather to sing old Cajun songs in French, and it's one of life's more valuable experiences.
Lafayette looks prosperous, no doubt off of oil prices. The streets are full of late-model cars and real estate prices are way above what they were in the past. That notwithstanding, the town has a singular feel to it, and a spirit that must be ancient, or anyhow a couple of centuries old. My primo maintains that the Cajuns are so much fun because they are the only tribe of Southerners that aren't pissed off all the time. 'Tis true; they are good-natured folks with sunny souls, not to mention superior cuisine.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hi Ho … off for Louisiana

We're about to set off for a long weekend of unabashed gluttony at the Festival Acadiens in Lafayette, La. Our customary approach in Louisiana is to eat, waddle around, then eat again. The festival provides the opportunity to hear some Cajun music and look at crafts between meals. If I lived in Louisiana, I'd weigh 300 lbs.

New lows

Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do. Guy who sends me stuff sends me a link to David Mann, the Contrarian, writing on the Texas Observer blog, who in turn links to a painful column, purportedly written by a staff dog, in the Waco Herald-Tribune, a formerly respectable publication:
Daily, I sit in queenly fashion up in my daddy’s downtown Waco office building, greeting visitors with barks. I enjoy watching them dance about the room as I nip merrily at their shoes or attack their pants legs. That includes the postman, whom I attack as if I were a Doberman.

For all the Waco piece, go here.
Mann writes
Obviously, this column was meant to be cute, but I find it rather depressing. The Trib is far too good a newspaper to waste precious column inches on material like this. Especially when all across the country non-canine reporters and columnists are losing their jobs.

For the Observer blog and the rest of Mann's comment, go here.
All is lost, fellow readers. Cutesy, untalented amateurs seem to rule the pages of our newspapers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


From a Vicad blog comment a little while back: "[K]eep in mind the old saying; 'Do on too others, that which you would want done on to you.'" Makes me wonder if Geo W is posting …
The paper seems to be making war on its own editorial page, given the poll it ran about reader preferences for the page. Advertising's been quite light lately; I eyeballed the paper late last week, maybe Friday, and estimated that there was no more than about 20% ad content. You can't pay the electric bill, buy newsprint, and put gas in the trucks on that kind of revenues. Interesting to watch, that sad deterioration in what was a pretty good little paper. My prediction is that we'll see a reduction in editions per week, maybe after the Christmas advertising season.

Not too common

Barry Commoner was a biologist and genteel rabble rouser. In 1980, he formed the Citizen's Party and ran for president with LaDonna Harris, Fred Harris's wife. His scientific training made him acutely aware of the degradation of the natural world. He said, "The peak of the [Presidential] campaign happened in Albuquerque, where a local reporter said to me, 'Dr. Commoner, are you a serious candidate or are you just running on the issues?'" Ran across Commoner mentioned somewhere lately and thought we could do with more of his sort today, people who just run on the issues. I don't believe he gave a damn what Goldman Sachs wanted.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Pistol-packing Celts

Herself took a genealogy class at the Victoria Public Library last week and enjoyed it. One tidbit that was funny was that the instructor said that you could accurately track westward migration of the Scotch-Irish by looking at states that issue carry permits to residents. Makes sense when you think about it … people who believe you have a right to go armed make it legal to go armed.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homeopathic ER

These Brits take some really funny whacks at goofy alternative medicine in this Youtube vid of a homeopathic ER. On the same vid you can click on another that pokes some wicked fun at vegetarians.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jes cuz it made me grin

Ed: "What's that mark in your nose?

Ned: "That's from my glasses."

Ed: "Have you considered switching to contact lenses?"

Ned: "Yeh, I tried them. But they don't hold enough beer."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fire the copywriter

Noodling around, I came across a little site for tourism in Morelos, Coahuila, that brought a smile:

To satiate the palate, there is goat, tripe and sweet caramels with walnuts.

Think that's gonna pull in the foodie tourists? Let me note that I am fond of goat and of tripe and certainly have nothing against sweet caramels with walnuts, but somehow the juxtaposition of the three is jarring in some real basic way. Not the three courses in my Platonic meal. If you ever thought you might like a visit to Morelos, Coahuila, go here and think about it. Looks like they run match races with quarterhorses. That might be interesting.
Maybe eighteen, twenty years ago when I was wasting a lot of time at Manor Downs, little quarterhorse track outside of Austin. I was watching a card of qualifying races for some futurity, deal where they may run eleven races with ten horses per race to find the fastest ten qualifiers for a race for a big purse in a couple of weeks. A race opened that had one horse in the porgram showing no form at all – no past races, no workouts, owners from down in the Valley, which was usually taken to mean doper money behind it. Horse opened at something like 15-to-1, proper odds from its record. In no time, it dropped to short-priced favorite, something like 7-to-5. The race ran, the mystery horse won, and I went looking for a friend with shedrow connections to find out what the hell. He said, 'Oh, that horse's been winning match races on airstrips on ranches all over northern Mexico.' Ahhhh. That won't be in the program.

Oh boy, ArtBoat's on

Dieter Erhard came in today from Guatemala, bringing a French guy and two of his fellow Germans, to hold his third Artcamp. It's a lot of fun … the resident artists work on projects from the 9th of this month until Nov. 1 then hold a two-day show. The Frenchman, Marc Duquesnoy, does concrete sculpture, as does Dieter. One of the Germans, Sascha Banck, does large-scale paintings, and the other, Daniel Berger, does large-scale concrete sculpture. Then, from Oct 24 until Nov. 1, they will be joined by four Texans: Cynthia Aldrete, Dion Laurent, Olivia's own Aubrey Parker, Russ Thayer, and Don Williams. Artcamp show will be Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. It's a bunch of fun; you can talk to the artists and see what they've done.
The ArtBoat was featured on Texas Country Reporter a little while back, and Dieter has a Web site at It's always nice having the artists in town. They are a bit of exotica in our little fishing village.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Too damn many people dept., revisited

Have I mentioned lately that there are too damn many people in the world? Well, I'll just take care of that right now. Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch and a bunch of rich guys have noticed, too:
So what's the biggest time-bomb for Obama, America, capitalism, the world? No, not global warming. Not poverty. Not even peak oil. What is the absolute biggest, one like the trigger mechanism on a nuclear bomb, one that'll throw a wrench in global economic growth, ending capitalism, even destroying modern civilization?

The answer, of course, would be overpopulation, and especially an overage of population that wants a high-consuming way of life. Read the whole column here. Guy seems a little overbesotted with Jared Diamond but realizes what a horrible problem we face with the overpopulation of the world. Wonder how many of these worried billionaires cited in the piece are staunch against more immigration? We have the resources in this country to thrive if we don't turn ourselves into the Third World by inviting a bunch of Third-Worlders in as cheap labor. Billionaires loooove them some cheap labor.
And then a Reuters story:
[A British researcher's] study of climate change adaptation plans by governments in the world's 40 poorest countries showed that almost all of them link rapid population growth to environmental impact, but only six had proposed steps to tackle it.

Read all that one here. We have a right to protect ourselves from the fecund peasants of the globe.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wilson Mizner

Wilson Mizner was one of those wonderful American characters, though he is now mostly forgotten. Once when he was in court accused of some kind of illegality he said something like 'Last night I won $____' and then pointed out to the judge that a professional gambler would have said "Last night I win $____,' so he, Mizner, must not be a professional gambler.
Mizner is author of one of the great quotes: “I respect faith but doubt is what gets you an education.”
Per Wiki:
In 1897, Addison and Wilson, with brothers William and Edgar, travelled north to the Alaska Gold Rush, which they spent bilking miners rather than looking for gold. Wilson operated badger games, managed fighters, robbed a restaurant to get chocolate for his girlfriend "Nellie the Pig" Lamore (saying "Your chocolates or your life!"), and grub-staked prospector Sid Grauman, later of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. He also met Wyatt Earp, who became a lifelong friend.

Read all the Wiki entry here and feel a pang of regret that we don't grow 'em like that these days.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I > U

That being one of the T-shirt mottoes available from Despairwear, a site I stumbled on this morning. The house specialty is an all-is-lost hipness that resonates in the Zeitgeist currently operative. They have a Venn-Euler diagram of the Twitter phenomenon that is laugh-out-loud funny. If I had any occasion to wear shirts with writing, I'd go to Despairware and pick up some grins.

Mexican food of all sorts

Pore ole El Paso has very little to recommend it, but the sunsets and the Mexican food are beyond compare. El Paso lies at the intersection of three culinary biotic provinces, Tex-Mex, New Mex-Mex, and Mex. Little nondescript joints down on an El Paso corner would be the greatest Mexican food in town in most of the U.S.
Beth Kracklauer, writing in Saveur mag:
This is border food, and in this far western elbow of Texas, at the state's intersection with New Mexico and "Old Mexico", as some people out this way refer to it, that means a very specific convergence of traditions. There's the hearty, rustic cuisine of the cattle ranches and wheat farms founded in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua when the Spanish still claimed this territory. There's the Texan penchant for living large—an extra ladleful of chile gravy on your scrambled eggs, a thick blanket of melted cheddar on your nachos. And there's the abundance of chiles grown in the fertile valley just over the New Mexico border, which are stuffed with cheese and then deep-fried to make chiles rellenos at the beginning of the season, when they're still green; later, once they're ripe and red, they're dried, pulverized, and simmered to make piquant chile colorado sauce. It all adds up to an honest, spicy, intensely flavorful cuisine that's at once earthy and bright, spare and effusive, Mexican and Texan, Southwestern and norteño—food that makes borders seem like nothing more than lines on a map.

Read all of Kracklauer's piece here.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Yesterday was 'Respect for the Aged' Day in Japan. Just send cigars, corona size, maduro wrappers. Thanks for your respect.
Today was the autumn equinox, and tomorrow promises rain behind a front. Things could be worse … and they will.

Hey, congressman, wanna improve your approval rating?

Get a job in journalism. Journalists have a 43% favorable rating in the public eye; that's way better than members of Congress. Rasmussen Reports is a running source of stats from polls, and a recent poll from that firm indicates that members of Congress rate rock-bottom with the public:
With the health care debate raging in Washington, D.C., there’s one change Americans clearly believe in: Members of Congress have now surpassed corporate CEOs to hold the least favorably regarded profession in the country.

Read it all here. Hard to be sanguine about a country run by a group held in massive contempt by their constituents. Probably the right thing would be to vote against incumbents. Unfortunately, my U.S. Rep is goofy Ron Paul. I think he's right on two or three important things, and his constituent services are admired by all. I just shake my head at my own goofiness and vote for him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The weather has been milder lately, the time of the year when you can honestly believe that summer will end this year, evidence to the contrary. When I lived in Chicago, I was tickled by the way the people would run out on the first slightly springlike day, carrying blankets and wearing bathing suits, to pretend that winter was done. That's because a Midwest winter is as long as a South Texas summer. I've gone to the closet and fingered a couple of tweed coats against the day I can put them on again. We've had things going on outdoors. The birds, bless 'em for their perseverance and optimism, are passing through to the jumping-off spot of the island for the flight to Yucatán and points south. We have a lot of bright little ones hanging around in our trees. A couple days ago, the bayfront was all aboil with bait, maybe a half acre of little fish churning up the surface, while the brown pelicans dive-bombed them and the gulls hung around looking for opportunities. Herself said she saw small skates, flounder, and drum lying underneath the schools. A waterfront resident told her that the porpoises had been whuffing and blowing all night long. Everything ends eventually, even South Texas summers. But not yet, I think.

Here's an idea

From a post by Michael O'Brien in The Hill:
The president said he is "happy to look at" bills before Congress that would give struggling news organizations tax breaks if they were to restructure as nonprofit businesses.

Read it all here. The comments are not in favor of this idea.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jes noodling around

The Pilot, marooned from his old ship, hit a lick on his blog that reminded me of this Siegfried Sassoon poem, one with some nice images:

In me, past, present, future meet
In me, past, present, future meet
To hold long chiding conference.
My lusts usurp the present tense
And strangle Reason in his seat.
My loves leap through the future’s fence
To dance with dream-enfranchised feet.

In me the cave-man clasps the seer,
And garlanded Apollo goes
Chanting to Abraham’s deaf ear.
In me the tiger sniffs the rose.
Look in my heart, kind friends, and tremble,
Since there your elements assemble.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Balking on the border

For years, it's been one of those things that everyone knows and nobody mentions that bordertown school districts end up educating a lot of students from Mexico who aren't legitimately resident in the district. Generally the offense is ignored for reasons of carnalismo or for the extra money the outsiders represent. The schools in Deming, NM, used to just invite in the kids from Palomas, Chih. That deal is probably off now, what's with Paloma having moved into the medium time for doper crime. When I was working in Cd Juárez, I'd sometimes pass a yellow EPISD bus letting students off at the downtown bridge so they could walk on home to Mexico. A nervy school supe in Del Rio is resisting, no doubt to the relief of Val Verde Co taxpayers. It costs several thousand a year to educate a kid. From a CNN story:
For years, children from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, have attended schools across the border in Del Rio, Texas, but this week that changed for students who cannot prove residency.
The local school superintendent imposed new regulations to stem what he said is a long-standing problem for the district.

Read it all here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dog's life

Did you ever watch a dog's nostrils flapping and wonder what it would be like to know what he knows about the world? A writer named Alexandra Horowitz has done a book on the dog's way of knowing, and it sounds like a fun read. From a review in the Sun NYTimes:
Dogs do not just detect odors better than we can. This sniffing “gaze” also gives them a very different experience of the world than our visual one gives us. One of Horowitz’s most startling insights, for me, was how even a dog’s sense of time differs from ours. For dogs, “smell tells time,” she writes. “Perspective, scale and distance are, after a fashion, in olfaction — but olfaction is fleeting. . . . Odors are less strong over time, so strength indicates newness; weakness, age. The future is smelled on the breeze that brings air from the place you’re headed.” While we mainly look at the present, the dog’s “olfactory window” onto the present is wider than our visual window, “including not just the scene currently happening, but also a snatch of the just-happened and the up-ahead. The present has a shadow of the past and a ring of the future about it.”

Read all the review here. I'd love to know what the dogs know, just for a few minutes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A national debt of thousands

I was struck by the mainstream papers' characterization of the crowd at the Tea Partiers in DC this weekend – a couple of the national papers I looked at and the Vicad said something about 'thousands' of people gathering to protest. I looked at the pix that ran with the story and it looked to me like more than thousands, if you figure 'thousands' as being from 1,000 to 9,999. I think the big papers don't approve of the crowd's politics and so short-counted them to undercut their credibility. I don't agree with some of these people either, but giving them a fair count would be the right thing. Stuff like this is the reason that nobody trusts the big coastal papers to report the truth.
The cousins put a different slant on it. From the Daily Mail of the UK:
As many as one million people flooded into Washington for a massive rally organised by conservatives claiming that President Obama is driving America towards socialism.

Read more here. I very much doubt that there were anything like a million people there but feel pretty sure there were tens of thousands at least. I noticed this evening that Gwen Ifill on the News Hour said 'tens of thousands' were present.
I'm glad to see ordinary people angry enough to go tell the gummint, even if I'm not in sympathy with some of the motivations. On the other hand, anyone who was there to complain about the wicked bailouts of Wall Street has my complete approval. Apparently protesters were working from a Chinese menu of grievances.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Still life …

is how herself styles this pic. Those two are seldom still, so she's caught a rare moment. The smaller dog has failed two auditions for placement elsewhere and is getting rather comfortable here. In the whole world there is nothing better in its way than a puppy. All puppies are cute or endearing or something good. I'm sure he does more good for the blood pressure than Norvasc does. When I hold this one, he climbs up my chest to my shoulder and gnaws on my earlobe. I suspect he was taken too young from his mommy and is looking for a pap rather than Pappy. As I am a symphony of sagging flesh, he finds a lot of promising pendulous protuberances to try out; none avails. He does pretty well on puppy chow and has learned that activity in the kitchen often produces treats.
A week or so past, it came to me as I was wobbling on the edge of sleep that his name was Moose, playing on the tradition that calls a fat guy Tiny or a swarthy one Blondie. Or perhaps it was Mus, Mus musculus being the proper scientific name of the house mouse and he being mousy in color and almost in size, not to mention those beady black eyes. Or perhaps it was Mousse, as we have a thing of sometimes naming animals for food. My wife tried to trick me into a gratuitous cat by naming it Brisket, but the ruse didn't work.
The larger pup is named Roux, also a food word. Or perhaps Rue, because she was a little street dog when she applied for a position in our pack [or maybe Rue because I sometimes rue the day we took the crazy, yapping monster in]. Or it could be Roo, as a bow to her obviously Australian heritage.
Dogs are the best.

Rebellions and defections

Well, the Pilot and the Advocate have parted ways. He is now operating as he damn well pleases at
And the estimable Sugar Magnolia has bolted along with him and has set up shop at She starts off with a nice shot in the chops of the Vicad. Both are entertaining and merit a visit. I have long since found the Advocate blogs insufferable, too many and too shrill.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh, hell …

I was gonna make fun of the Vicad for putting 16 of septiembre on Page 1 while relegating the 9-11 anniversary back in the paper, but there's been such a furore about it on their Web site that I'll just pass.
Instead, I'll just pass along a cool link, a Plane Spotter site that you can use to find planes in the air around your location. They even show the flight #s of some commercial flights and their origin and destination. Fun.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jobs Americans reject?

From the Christian Science Monitor, a rebuttal of the idea that we need our millions of illegals because they take on jobs that native-born Americans won't fill:
Maybe it's a myth that Americans won't take certain jobs. In fact, a study by the Center for Immigration Studies used 2005-07 data to look at 465 occupations. Only four had a majority of immigrants in them: plasterers and stucco masons, agricultural graders and sorters, personal appliance workers, and tailors and dressmakers.

Read it all here. In a horrible economy like our present one, Americans will take the jobs they must to survive. We don't need the illegal aliens, though the Chamber of Commerce types do love cheap labor better than anything, even their country, and the googoo Dems love cheap votes better than anything, even their native working class.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why we had to step carefully

Our floor has been full of small, scurrying, noisy creatures all weekend. Entertaining but exhausting.
Another Labor Day and a worse one for working people than we've had in quite a time. Official unemployment is almost 10% and with the underlying underemployed, discouraged, &c. is probably more like 15% or 16%. As a symptom of the times, I read a lot of econ blogs and discussions of the situation. It seems like a certain sort of begrudging pinhead can be calm about multi-million dollar bonuses for Wall Street types but get their knickers all in a twist because a few thousands of auto workers managed to make very good livings. Relax, folks, it's all over. The only unions with any prospects these are the government employees, and they seem to me bogus unions for a bunch of petite-bourgeois clerks and functionaries. Reagan's war on the working class is a complete rout in the favor of the big bucks, the rent-seekers, and the low-wage employers. We once had about the best proletariat in the world – intelligent, industrious, and ingenious. People now can't even sort out the difference between lumpers and real working people.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coastal languor

We have The Girl down for the holiday, plus the Excellent Grandbaby, a very paragon of a baby, and a thoroughly charming 8-year-old boy who was a bonus from The Girl's marriage. He's full of vim and vigor, but the rest of us are mostly given over to languor, long naps, slow walks, and generally enjoyment of the slight break in the beastly heat. Tonight we had the classic coastal dinner – a big Cajun boil, with corn-on-the-cob, little potatoes, Janak's sausage, and two pounds of nice brown shrimp. To our credit, we ate every bite and then tamped it down with some very good watermelon, maybe the best we've had this year. Everyone is now ticking over at about 1,000rpm, even the disgustingly energetic boy, who went beachcombing this morning and fishing this afternoon. Even caught a little croaker, making the fishing expedition a success for him. For all of us, an almost perfect day in a very low-key way. Even the dogs have worn each other out.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Poor picked-on Kennedys

Well, some dastard of a journalist dares to question the drool about the purported oppression of the Kennedy forebears in Boston.
A Kennedy is dead: reach for the RTE cliché-bag, darling, revealing once again the national addiction for a tale of oppression.
So the usual journalistic, self-pitying fatuities have been freely pitch-forked over our airwaves, starting with the founding father of the Kennedys, Patrick -- "one of our own" (yawn, yawn) -- "fleeing poverty and famine on a coffin-ship". Only he didn't. Patrick's father was a prosperous grain farmer with 80 acres near New Ross, where there was no blight, and Patrick emigrated on a normal transatlantic vessel.

The author's name is Kevin Myers. His paper? The Irish Independent in Dublin. Read it all here. Everyone, Kennedy enthusiast or no, should read Seymour Hersh's book on the family. It'll get you over the mooshy ideas about the clan.

Econ reports

In a recent story dated, the San Antonio Business Journal dispenses some cold news about Texas employment: 'So far this year, the state’s oil and gas sector has shed more than 32,000 jobs through July 2009. And thousands of more jobs are expected to be lost before the year is up.' Read all here. Texas has been relatively lucky in the recent misery, but we aren't protected by some mysterious magic just because the state is doing OK so far. job losses in oil and gas will hit home around here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is this your dog?

Well, it could be.
This tiny pup showed up in the **Adrift Post Office, apparently abandoned. He's obviously a Chihuahua x something-else mix, smart and companionable, not house-trained as yet, but his trangressive exudations are measurable in scant tablespoons and he'll learn. A prideful and unafraid little dog with a nice style to him. Herself took him for first puppy shots; vet says he weighs 3½ lbs, and his feet are tiny, so he's not gonna be one of those cute puppies that end up weighing 50 or 60 lbs. Interesting coat, almost like a calico cat. Drop a line on comments if you're interested. [We thought the vet tech was gonna take him, but it turns out her kid was frightened of him.]

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tick … tick … tick

From the Washington Examiner: 'NEW YORK — Freedom Communications Inc., the owner of the Orange County Register, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection this week, according to a published report.' Read it all here. Freedom is the publisher of a slew of papers, including nearby McAllen, Harlingen, and Brownsville. The Register is their flagship paper. Bad times in the newspaper business.

Old, old crime story

Just to show that any newspaper has some saving grace, I give you the 'Tales from the Morgue' blog by Trish Long, the archivist at the El Paso Times, in a lookback on a Wes Hardin escapade published May 2, 1895. In part:
El Paso is no Longer Bad Medicine as it Were
Last night a quiet game was opened up in the Gem building and the game was moving along smoothly when a visitor to the city dropped into the game and commenced losing and was behind a nice little sum when a dispute arose between the dealer and the stranger. The stranger with the remark: “Since you are trying to be so cute, just hand over the money I have lost here,” placed the muzzle of a ferocious looking pistol in the dealer’s face. …

Read all the story here. Old John Selman killed Hardin Aug. 19 at the Acme Saloon, per the Handbook of Texas Online. Newspaper librarians know things you don't.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Teddy K

The last two, three days have been all Kennedy, all the time. Little piece in the paper about all the many Ks who stand ready to serve as our leaders, characterizing them as our Royal Family. No thanks … don't hold with royalty and especially not rabbity royalty. I have always considered Teddy K and George W as the strongest possible arguments for high inheritance duties.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A man named Bill Kauffman, in a blog named the Front Porch Republic, reprints an article he wrote in 2006 about Elmer Kelton:
Elmer Kelton loves his subject matter. He was born to it, after all. And if the Western is a ghetto, it is a remarkably rich ghetto populated by the likes of Edward Abbey (The Brave Cowboy), Jack Schaefer (Shane), Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove), and other novelists whose mortal sin, it seems, is setting their tales in open spaces rather than in the confines of the faculty lounge or city tenement. Elmer Kelton has an utter mastery of his subject; a distinctive, even arresting, point of view; and a narrative talent honed by writing for the Western pulps. His best work, The Time It Never Rained (1973), can be read as character study, regional literature, and philosophical novel: find me a navel-gazing New Yorker writer who has squeezed out a single book as rich, layered, and unsettling.

Read all the fine story here and mourn once again Kelton's passing. I kited the link from the 2blowhards blog, a frequent source of good stuff. Kelton got a lot of credit as a good writer but not as much as he should have. Guy was really great.