Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Things develop

When we made the great boat trip last week, we could not but notice all the many lots platted along the Intracoastal. Big ole expensive palm trees stand lonely against the sky when you look in from the water. There are about a brazillion lots platted along here, and they look blessedly unsold. By chance, I fell into a conversation with a woman who peddles real estate down here. She told me that not even the cheaper lots are moving in those developments. She also told me that house deals for buyers who look rock solid, with high down payments and good credit, are often blowing up because of financing problems. We may have to wait a bit for the total devastation of our scruffy little paradise.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gummint giveth, gummint taketh

I learn from the pubic prints that the US gummint, grateful for my more or less 45 years of faithful labor, is going to give me $250 in the next little while in the hope that I will give the economy a goose with it. In the meantime I learn from my cigar dealers that the US gummint is going to fund part of the health program for children by raising the tax I pay on stogies by about 40¢/each, raising the cost of a bundle of 25 smokes by $10. I intend to order nine bundles before the tax increase goes into effect on April 1, so I will probably do more to goose the economy of Nicaragua than the economy of the US. That is a big enough raise in price to make a guy cut back to no more than a couple of cigars a day … not a happy prospect, but pore folks have pore ways, and I feel pore enough to have taken a temporary job with the Census.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

& more carnage in the trade

Steve Olafson writing in HoustonPress blog about staff cuts at the Chronicle that were covered only minimally in that paper's pages:
The layoffs at the Houston Chronicle cut much deeper into the editorial side of the newspaper than the announced company-wide 12 percent reduction that was announced by publisher Jack Sweeney. By the count of newsroom workers who survived, 27 percent of the paper's editorial staffers were let go yesterday.

Read all here. A week ago Sunday in the San Antonio paper, the editor had a column bidding farewell to more of the departing newsroomers. Irreplaceable talent and experience are being mindlessly discarded; they will not be replaced by "citizen journalists," no matter what the more deluded Web denizens believe.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Journalistic cavils

A guy who sends me stuff, guy who knows a thing or two about newspapers hisownsself, sends me a cogent blog post on redesigning newspapers as an exercise in futility. It was written by Joel Achenbach for the WaPo Web site. In part:
I am loathe to criticize the hard work of colleagues in this beleaguered newspaper industry, but it would seem to me … that they think newspapers no longer need words. … There's a vow to rid the paper of long and dense stories. But let me pose a question: Is there any evidence that any format change at any newspaper has made a difference in the bottom line?

The post was prompted by a redo of the Orlando paper. You can read the whole thing here, and it is worth reading. I am in complete agreement with all of it. One of my many quarrels with the Vicad these days is their pages filled with meaningless graphics wrapped around nine-inch stories. Sometimes a thousand words is worth more than a picture. Got a story about finance? Go to a stock photo site and lift a photo of a stack of $100 bills. Got a story about the Middle East? Go to a stock photo site and pick up a pic of a camel crossing a sand dune. Hackneyed is hackneyed, verbal or visual, and that is hackneyed. I would sooner read a 19th-Century paper that was a pure mass of solid eight-point type than try to find the real information on the frothy pages of a modern newspaper.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Huckleberry Finn adventures

Tuesday night a friend called with a short-notice offer of an adventure the next day: He had to deliver a boat down the coast and would I be interested in coming along?
Not only Yes but Hell, yes, I would be interested.
He picked me up early Wednesday, we met the rest of the party, and drove over to the embarkation dock at Point Comfort. The boat was to go to Rockport for a diving job, so the route was south down Matagorda Bay, then a right at Port O, and south, or more westerish really, on the Intracoastal Canal. A phone call en route changed the destination to **Adrift.
It was a fine trip, with lessons in Bay Rat history and folklore, the idiosyncrasies of the waters along the way, and a chance to wonder at the marvels of modern technology, as a GSP mounted above the wheel drew a line down the path. A boy of about twelve would probably make a good boat driver if they outfitted the boat with thumb controls. The alternate pilot was an old waterman, raised in Port Isabel, and one of those natural engineers who are so entertaining to listen to.
An excellent adventure and one I would happily repeat. I would bet that very few people got to see a whooping crane yesterday. Just another reason for life in paradise.

My pilot was a piratical character with long history on the bays.
Every few miles there was an osprey sitting on a post, watching the water for dining opportunities.
Rara avis … we saw two whoopers working the grass on the shoreline of Welder Ranch.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Distraction, depression

Sorry i have written nothing lately. Been distracted.
This bit of G&D from our very own Ron Paul, quoted in the Financial Times:
At some stage – Mr Paul estimates it will be between one and four years – the dollar will implode. “The dollar as a reserve standard is done,” he says. He sees little hope for other currencies where central banks have also created too much liquidity dating right back to the early 1970s.

Read the whole thing here.
Forget the second-half recovery if you believe our guy Ron.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Border madness of a different sort

David Burge, the man who writes the hilarious and non-PC IowaHawk blog, posts a story he wrote for Garage Magazine about a journey into the dangerous borderlands on a quest for a legendary Big Daddy Roth custom car reported to exist outside a sex shop in Cd. Juárez. It sounds like quests all border hands have all made into the maw of the monster. Like any good quest story, it involves dangers overcome and a goal reached. He writes:
From the crest of the bridge I can see the Rio Grande. Physically, it’s a muddy concrete ditch with an extravagant name. It’s the army of uniformed agents on either side that indicate its real significance: it defines an imaginary line, separating two worlds, creating big risks and even bigger opportunities. Opportunities for treasure hunters and smugglers, for immigrants, for gringos seeking a little high-quality debauchery.

Read the whole thing here. Guy catches the Hunter-Thompson-style craziness mode.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weak, weak, weak

Someone had a letter to the editor in the Vicad this morning complaining that the paper had become weak, playing off an embarrassing typo in a headline. (At least I hope it was a typo; I would really hate to think that a newspaper copy editor did not get the weak/week distinction.)
As if to prove the point about weakness, there was a story on Page 1 today that pained to read. The lede:
As in most cases in the mid-60s, Victoria Hispanics making it big was a taboo, and nothing to be disseminated by the city's news media.

The discerning reader will ask just wtf that means, beyond the obvious sense of grievance emanating from the writer. Then, further on:
Cisneros knew he was leaving, but the idea of working with his childhood friends and performing with who they would perform with on the tours was, for him, a way out.

More infelicitous writing is hard to imagine. The writer, Manuel De Los Santos Jr., is some kind of editor. Makes the skin crawl to contemplate what he might do to someone else’s writing.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer discontinued print publication today, though a Web publication is apparently hoped for. Also, the Tucson Citizen will end up the same kind of dead this week, most likely. Someday soon a major American city will be without a printed newspaper. It will not be a good day for the republic.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Sat night miscellany

How does Nancy Pelosi sleep? I am not talking about a bad conscience; she is a politician and presumed bereft of conscience until we see evidence otherwise. I am talking about the mechanics of closing her eyes. She has had the ol' face tightened up so many times that her eyebrows rest about three inches above her eyes, and she looks constantly surprised. Or how can she sneeze, for that matter?
The Guardian of the UK published a list of a columnist's picks for the best books about journeys in South America (really Latin America, as they include Mexico). Read it here. Don't understand how the guy gets in Love in the Time of Cholera, a novel, but rejects other novels.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Failings of financial journalism

Last night Jon Stewart had on his show Jim Cramer of the CNBC show Mad Money. It was not the usual Stewartian goofing; Jon really laced into Cramer for failure to warn the public of the brewing mess in the financial world. Cramer was contrite. The Newspaper Death Watch site has a couple good links today on the same topic:
The business media is in self-flagellation mode and with good reason. Editors are beginning to pick up the pieces and wonder how they managed to miss the biggest economic story of the last 50 years. Liberal commentators are having a field day.

Read it all here. A couple of good links to articles exploring the inadequacies of the press as to the extent of the mess before it finally blew up in all our faces.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hey, Nimrod

If the quality of our invective is any barometer of the state of our world, civilization is in some trouble. I always kinda wondered where the standard forum insults -- asshat, dill weed, like that--come from. Most were probably amusing once, maybe even a couple of times, long ago, but have lost all sting and merely mark the user as an unimaginative twit who spends too much time messing about on the Internet. One of forum insults I have really never understood is Nimrod (usually uncapitalized) and used something like weakling or lame-o. According to Wikipedia:
Mention of Nimrod in the Bible is rather limited. According to the "documentary hypothesis" of the Bible's origin, the Jahwist writer(s) make the earliest mention of Nimrod.[1] He is described as the son of Cush, grandson of Ham, great-grandson of Noah; and as "a mighty one on the earth" and "a mighty hunter before the Lord". He also appears in the First Book of Chronicles and in the Book of Micah.

I distinctly remember outdoors mags when I was a kid as using Nimrod in the sense of great hunter. The whole Wiki entry is interesting and you can read it here. If Nimrod was the grandson of Ham, then he was black, as in the Bible Ham is the progenitor of the black races (the Ethiopians are Hamitic).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mexican collapse (cont.)

The Oil Drum is one of those Internet phenomena that seem to justify the hopes people once held for the medium as an instrument for communication and education. Primarily concerned with oil, it features a lot of interesting posts and commentary. From recent post on conditions in Mexico:
It’s been difficult to read a paper or watch the news recently without hearing about the growing troubles in Mexico. The US military’s Joint Forces Command issued their Joint Operating Environment 2008 report recently that listed Mexico and Pakistan as the most likely states to collapse in the immediate future … Even 60 Minutes ran a segment about the rising drug violence.

Read the whole thing here. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a crank when I look across the river and see imminent collapse; I find some morbid reassurance in the gloom of The Oil Drum. The thing to remember is the cryptic remark that someone once made: ’In Mexico nothing happens until it happens.’ It may be fixing to happen.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Flying creatures in **Adrift

The two night herons, not realizing that it was daytime, spent a long time in a neighboring tree, seemingly befuddled. The exotic moth, with its sleek, modern lines, has taken up residence on the bathroom blinds. Probably not a good career plan, but who can argue with a moth?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remember …

Mexican morgues

From the WNW, a story on crowded morgues in Mexican border cities:
"Every organ speaks," says Dr. Maria Concepcion Molina, who gently removes packing tape from the head of her third decapitated victim in a week. The dead man's slack mouth and eyes still seem to pray for relief.
Bodies stacked in the morgues of Mexico's border cities tell the story of an escalating drug war. Drug violence claimed 6,290 people last year, double the previous year, and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009.

Read it all here. The campus of the UACJ where i taught in Wazoo had the medical school and the city morgue. I once listened to a night porter tell a group of teachers and staff about various supernatural manifestations he had encountered late at night; even educated people in Mexico are very willing to believe in ghosts all about. The people to worry about in Cd. Juárez are not the dead ones, though if you happen to think that violent death create uneasy spirits, the streets of Cd.J. should have heavy traffic in the deceased.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Original crime

From the Fresno Bee, an innovative sort of crime:
Three men who police say roped and tried to haul away a valuable Sago palm tree in northwest Fresno were snared by officers early today.

Read all here. My mother read proof at the Bee back during the Depression of the 1930s. She quit in a fury over something and would proudly tell that the composing room employees turned off their machines to hear her telling off the boss on her way out the door.
I have a couple of huge cycads in the front yard and have read that sometimes thieves steal particularly nice specimens to sell to landscapers.
I notice on the Bee Web site that the unemployment rate in the Central Valley is 15.7%, and that probably excludes illegal agricultural workers not doing the work that Americans will not do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Blood, blood, blood

Worst Newspaper in the World brings us more news of bloodshed across the Río Bravo:
CIUDAD JUAREZ - A fight between gangs at a state prison in Juárez left at least 20 prisoners dead and seven others injured on Wednesday, police said.

Read it allhere. Worth clicking through for the photo of a va-va-voom Mexican lady cop looking resolute, if they have not changed the pic for later editions. The federal govt in Mexico just brought more than 3200 troops into Juárez to try to suppress narco violence.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bad news on the coast

Per the LATimes, Cali unemployment is now above 10%, ranging considerably higher in agricultural areas. Seems like a golden opportunity to do something about the many illegals who are purportedly here to do jobs Americans reject.
The 10.1% jobless rate is the highest since June 1983 and not far below the 11% record set in November 1982 at the worst point of a severe recession, according to the governor's office. …

Read all that one here. Thankfully, we are better off here in Texas, but nonetheless a couple hundred of the few well paid jobs in Calhoun county have gone away, and Texas lacks a safety net for the unemployed. Apocalypse soon.

Bad news on the border

Ramón Rentería, a reporter for the world's worst newspaper, has a poignant column on getting the news of week-long furloughs for news staffers on top of all the other grief afoot in the world:
But nobody warned us that tomorrow would be here sooner than we expected and we would wake up one day with our 401(k)s in the economic sewer.
So, one Friday afternoon you're staring at the blinking cursor, thinking how you can poke fun at the fact that you've been furloughed for a week (a pretty way of saying unpaid vacation).

Read it all here. The EPTimes is a pathetic rag, circulating only about 73k
daily in a population base of something close to three-quarters of a million. Unfortunately, there is a low level of English literacy there and a general indifference to education. Poor Ramón, poor El Paso, poor newspapers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Goofing on words

From the blessed BBC, a bit of linguistic research news:
Some of the oldest words in English have been identified, scientists say.
Reading University researchers claim "I", "we", "two" and "three" are among the most ancient, dating back tens of thousands of years.

Read all here.