Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mockers, Sat night misc.

This season of the year the mockingbirds are in full throat. One on the southeast corner of the yard is a particularly talented singer, running out long, sweet riffs on themes only heard in the mockingbird repertoire. He could appear with any jazz combo that ever played. Unfortunately, like a jazz artist, he does his best work after midnight.
There was a little piece in the Vicad today about mockers being able to recognize people who had messed about with the birds' nests and taking aggressive action against those people. It was pretty neat, but anyone who's ever studied on mockers would not doubt their intelligence. Scientific types have observed that mockers with complex songs have better luck hustling the chicks.
A team of US scientists has found that mockingbirds living in variable climates sing more elaborate songs.
Complex tunes, sung by males to impress females, are likely to signal the birds' intelligence.

All of that story can be found in the BBC Website.
In similar, sorta, vein, scientists have found that rooks, a crow cousin, use tools in ways thought beyond bird brains.
Rooks have a remarkable aptitude for using tools, scientists have found.
Tests on captive birds revealed that they could craft and employ tools to solve a number of different problems.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, came as a surprise as rooks do not use tools in the wild.

Read all that story here. It's cool; go read it.
You no doubt remember the stories about crows being able to count the number of people in a small group and to know when a human was carrying a gun.
Sometimes I will briefly misread a shrike for a mockingbird. There seem to be lot of shrikes this year. Shrikes are fascinating. A songbird, they have developed as raptors, birds that prey on small mammals and lizards and like that. As their claws are weak, shrikes impale their small victims on thorns or even the barbs on a fence. I have to admire a creature that has learned to do things not natural to their race. It's sort of like French heavyweight boxers. They're seldom any good, and it's amazing that they even exist.
The Pilot reports that someone has nominated Little Me as one of the most fascinating people in the Coastal Bend. I cringed at first and then remembered how many TV shows are devoted to the narcissistic maunderings of vapid but nubile young women and their moronic consorts. Anyone who liked those shows would see her as fascinating.
After all the hoohah about the readers selecting coverage at the paper, someone wrote in and complained about the interminable Fatal Funnel series, and Vicad editor Chris Cobler told the correspondent too bad. The same thing happened with the comic-strip vote, when the readers threw the silly Baldo strip off the page and the editors picked it up regardless. They even give it privileged spot on top of the page. Don't be too taken in by the idea that readers select content.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Me does it again

Little Me, the Vicad arts reporter, continues to share with us every detail of her fascinating and glamorous life. We are so lucky. In today's Page 1 piece she wrote, in part, "… I had horrific visions of perky girls named Brandi and Christi using their hot pink talons to try and stuff me into a 52-layered white cream puff that weighed as much as Rhode Island. …" Apparently someone named Aprill-with-two-ells is entitled to make a little fun of someone named Brandi-with-an-eye. To me one is a month, misspelled, and the other is something I like after dinner, likewise misspelled. Neither is a name. Little Me's solipsism just knocks me out, but not in a good way.

Monday, May 25, 2009

National dogs of Uruguay

The Internet is such fun. Noodling around this weekend, I found a site devoted to a breed of dog called the perro cimarrón, billed as the national breed of Uruguay. They are good sized, descended from the dogs that came with the Spanish and Portuguese, and look like something that would be a hog dog around here. They are listed by a breeder as being good for hunting large game, working stock, and guard duty. Some of them look a little blackmouth cur and some look a little pitbull. There are a lot of brindle coats.

Go to this site to see samples of the cimarron. Click around on the pix and videos ("perros trabajando") to see the dogs working the Hereford cattle that predominate in that South American country. Like many real working breeds, the cimarrones look to vary considerably in appearance. Hate to think what the AKC would do if they ever got ahold of this likely looking breed of dog. What cachet to have a cimarrón to walk on the sidewalks of New York. That cimarrón means 'wild.' (Bands of runaway slaves in the Caribbean were known as maroons and the name came not from the color but from a corruption of the word cimarrón.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cool site

A friend sends along this site, called You Are What You Eat and featuring photos of the contents of people's refrigerators and a short description of the people involved. Never mind "the eyes are the windows of the soul"; try "The fridge is the window of the soul."

Something to remember on Memorial Day weekend

A sad byproduct of the Mid-Eastern occupation with the long tours and stressful conditions for the U.S. military forces has been a disturbing rise in suicides by troops. From the WaPo:
The Army's biggest challenge is that its volunteer force is in uncharted territory. Many soldiers are now in the midst of their third or fourth combat tour, and Army surveys show that mental health deteriorates with each one. Senior Army officials said they are focusing more resources, including extra mental health counselors, where troops are returning from multiple deployments. This year, Fort Campbell, Ky., which is home to the frequently deployed 101st Airborne Division, has had 14 suicides.
You can read the whole thing here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Commerce in P.L.

Walgreen's is building a new store on the corner of Virginia and Texas 35. I'm tickled to have a Walgreen's, but just a couple of blocks up Virginia there are two little locally owned pharmacies. In the little shopping center catty-cornered from the new store we already have an H-E-B with a pharmacy and a CVS drugstore. Isn't this excess? Guess we'll see what shakes out from all this, but surely someone will die, and it will probably be the little shops.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goofy spam

A note from my old buddy Max Fernandez, who has somehow escaped my memory:
Would like you have a good mood!
I want to introduce a good web store, where sells all kinds of electronics: mobile phones, laptops, TV, camera and so on.
I bought a motorcycle there. It is very nice and with lower price. I think it is reliable and competitive with so good quality and reasonable price. You can have a try. The website is:(www)
Hope you can enjoy yourself in shopping from that company!

Stuff like this tickles me inordinately.
Mad Mike Austin cozened us into a kayak paddle this morning, out about 7:30, back at 9:30. It was fun, we saw a gator and myriad birds, and I will be needing Tylenol tonight at bedtime. He may have some pix posted at his place.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now, if they'd only make land developing a felony

There are times when the Texas enthusiasm for harsh punishment seems like just the ticket. Consider this:
In a recent case that even raised the eyebrows of a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, a woman in the Lone Star State was sentenced to 99 years in prison for mortgage fraud. … Though other recent Texas mortgage fraud convictions have seen prison sentences of between 18 months and five years, Kandace Yancy Marriott of Gun Barrel City, Texas, got the maximum sentence possible …

Read all here. Bet about a million scamming RE agents and loan originators did a serious pucker at that news.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sun night miscellany

As I have remarked before, my wife runs on our front porch a sort of Golden Corral buffet for vermin. Besides the resident vermin, we get volunteers. This young marsupial is either fearless or stone stupid. The bull cockroach on the wall is an extra on the dining scene.
Friend Mike Austin has been poking pretty hard at the Vicad news policies and has been doing it on the blogs sponsored by that same paper. Sometime in the night Saturday they struck back and pulled his blog down. He says he will be doing business in the near future at That will cost them some clicks.
On the advice of counsel -- that would be my primo, who is a defense lawyer -- I just read The Nine, a book by Jeffrey Toobin about the inner workings of the Supreme Court these last few years. I recommend it highly; it will make you appreciate Sandra Day O'Connor and leave you cringing about the decision in the 2000 election.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Discontents II

After dropping Vince Reedy, the Vicad has now proceeded to drop the Howevermany-years-ago-today column from the paper in favor of three days of that silly damn Hocus-Focus and three of a bridge column. The days past is a regular stop for me, and I have been unhappy with absences lately, and now we learn that it is gone forever. I found the glimpses into the past interesting and informative. My unhappiness is likely to be as naught to the anger of the history nuts of the city, for whom a century ago is almost current gossip. My wife said she often discussed the historical articles with our neighbor, a lifelong Coastal Bender, who always read them with great interest. It was nice to feel so close to a world where people took excursion trains to Port Lavaca and where the fire department used horses for traction for the pumpers.
Then there was a story today on the sixth anniversary of the truckload of dead immigrants. This after an interminable series of stories on the subject. An engaged friend wrote to me, "I think the Advocate should either open a fatal funnel gift and curio shop on the site or give the whole thing a rest. It's not exactly something I would want my city to be famous for. …"*
Sugar Magnolia noted in a comment an embarrassing blunder in a Page 1 piece today, but the real doozy on the front page was a headline reading, "VFDs are in dire straights." People, people, people, if it is dire, it is a "strait," not a "straight."
*Late note: I had lunch with this correspondent today, and she told me that the matl quoted was a comment from the Vicad board. Makes the sentiment even more telling.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Journalism and its discontents

Last Thursday the most interesting thing in the printed Vicad was a full-page ad for a barbecue joint. It told the story of a black bourgeois family in Victoria County and was a fascinating piece.
Sunday, Vince Reedy, a former editor of the paper, had a 30 column, explaining that he was being dropped for reasons of saving space, I suppose for more important things. A lot of old-time readers esteemed him. Guess the space saved will be for more writing by such as arts reporter Little Me. In a weekend piece she wrote of being "regulated to the sidelines." Think she meant "relegated." You gotta keep your clichés straight in the writing business.
We drove up to Sugar Land Sunday and bought a new iMac to replace the faltering eMac. Been struggling for a month or two with a whole mishmash of difficulties. In a few days it should be all hooked up, and, I promise, I will post more often. Computer problems just wear me out

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The baby is Lily Jane White, b. Feb. 13. The other lily grew in our front yard. Lily and her mommy have been intermittently visiting of late. I feel a little bad about crushing the pretensions of others to the superior merits and beauty of their grandchildren. Lily is accomplished at crying, sleeping, eating, and the production of organic fertilizer. We encourage her mother to eat garlic in the hope of educating in the baby a palate in later days; I do not know if this theory has any validity, but it seems worth a shot.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Apropos of nothing in particular … the pic is of a trailer full of big ole jugs of wine. It was parked on a main street in San Rafael, Argentina, and sorta sums up the whole deal with wine down there. Those are four- or five-liter bottles, and those folks run through a bunch of them. It is refreshing to be around people who drink wine as an everyday matter and do not make a big deal of it. They will pour fizzy mineral water into a glass of red and add an ice cube on a warm day just to make a thirst quencher, will ignore our rules of what wine goes with what food, and generally please themselves with the wine they drink. Vino is one of the really great things in life.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday misc

We worked a smooth month for the gummint, picked up a few paydays. So, of course, the dryer blew up early last week, by chance costing about a week of census wages to replace. It was about 14, 15 years old, but, still, how do the fates know how to move on us with such precision?
All of a sudden, it is gummy, sticky hot, and shorts are the thing. When we perambulated the pup around the block about dusk I realized that the sun was setting way to the right of the east-west line that is the seawall. Time really sneaks past us while we are flailing away at life.
The primo, only living human with whom I share pre-1950 memories, spent a couple of days here in paradise with us. One of the annoying characteristics of the ongoing process of mortality is the fact that there are fewer and fewer people that share most of our history. I will think, "I only know Whoozis there for a little while," and then I will think about how long that little while is, and it will sum up to 25 or 30 years.
In spring, I always contemplate the A.E. Housman poem, "Loveliest of trees the cherry now." Been doing it for more than forty years, since I was twenty myself.
LOVELIEST of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Take from seventy springs my sixty-six and see how your math comes out. Best be carpeing them little diems as fast as my gnarly old paws can snatch them up.