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.