Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's midnight, fireworks are sounding all over town, the blue dog is cowering in the bathroom, and my guests have departed. Had a splendid group of friends and a great meal. A fine evening and a good year to all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas [little boys' delight edition]

Folks, I don't have to make weird things up ... the world provides them. The Catalans of Spain are a singular bunch of people. The singularity extends to their Christmas customs. They add an extra character to their creches, traditionally a little shepherd boy squatting with his pants down, evacuating, as we say. They've expanded from that to putting in eminent people in the same role, caught with their pants down, but not in the usual way. Some recent ones have included the Pope and the Queen of England, not to mention American presidents. You have to read the whole story here and watch the little vid.
One of the interesting insults of age is the partial loss of hearing. What happens is you lose the consonants and pick up the vowels when people speak, then guess what the whole thing was when it was spoken. Sometimes, you just smile and nod, hoping that was the appropriate response. It saves asking Huh? over and over.
I was astonished a couple weeks ago when I heard my wife say something from the next room about 'foxy gays farting.' That's the sort of thing that can't be dismissed with a smile and a nod; it demands an explanation to the baffled auditor. Turned out she'd received an invite to a Boxing Day Party. Oh, well.

Coastal Christmas

Despite a chilly norther that's blown in, it's pretty good here. We opened our presents this morning. I'm happy to report that I got a new veg peeler and can opener, juniper berries, cardamom, and black mustard seeds, plus a splendid pepper grinder from my best foodie buddy. Oh, and a new toothbrush. At this point, we like utilitarian or consumable for our presents. We're gonna have prime rib and a good bottle of Chilean red in a bit. Good friend's coming across the street to join us.
My mother was born a hundred years ago today in a dugout on a homestead claim in Cuervo, Guadalupe County, New Mexico Territory. She saw a lot of change in her lifetime, from riding in a stagecoach to watching men walk on the moon.
The mobile with the flamingos lives a couple blocks down the street from us. The inhabitants pay attention to their place; herself calls it The Martha Stewart Trailer.
I hope everyone else had as good a Christmas Day as the one we've enjoyed. We actually have some tomatoes getting ripe in the back yard. Paradise!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

OK, OK, can't resist 'em

A nifty job of putting clips together to make a nice little vid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A real smile

A digital rendering of the Christmas story. Click it and enjoy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Poking the tiger

Crazy Koreans are messing about with bad joss. Look on this map of shipping traffic in real time. Click on it to enlarge, then put your little rectangle over the coast off Korea. Someone on another blog points out that there's not a bunch near Korea. Click on a ship and you can even get data on the individual ships, vessel's names and speeds, country of registry, and like that. Pretty cool, huh?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wings over the border

From the world's worst newspaper, an odd bit of borderiana:
A Mexican drone crashed in El Paso's Lower Valley, sparking a federal investigation and raising questions about why the aircraft was in U.S. airspace.

Read it all here. The story didn't say anything about cargo on the little-bitty airplane, but it would surely have occurred to the narcos that radio-controlled planes would be a nifty way to move stuff across the border. I should thing that anything like this flying anywhere near Ft. Bliss would be likely to upset the U.S. military more than a little. The comments are nearing 500 on this story and some of them are a hoot to read.
In other border news, doctors in Cd. Juárez have been on strike this week in protest against the impotence of the Mexican gummint against the violence in poor Juaritos. Doctors can get caught in the middle when the shooting starts. Cartel gunmen have been known to barge into hospitals to put the finishing touches on botched assassinations, and those people don't much worry about collateral damage such as nurses and doctors and non-target patients.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inspired madness

One beauty of the Net is the possibility for truly peculiar people to put themselves forward and to find each other. This Brit with his crooked teeth is a prime example:

Ain't it wonderful? Vid thanks to Oompa Ma, who knows my delight in such.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

PSA, sorta

My friend McKee, kayak paddler, archaeologist, cemetery boffin, a guy I met while I was working for the Vicad, has a ladyfriend, charming woman, who scuffles dealing antiques and tchotchkes at various trade fairs and such. Her HQ is the Canton First Mondays. She has a Web site here that is kinda fun to look at, and she might have something that appeals to you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Tis the season

We went to town Tuesday, mostly doing some clean-up Christmas shopping. I was at the big mall around 11 that morning, and if I were subject to feelings of loneliness, I woulda felt lonely, because there weren't many people around. I have no idea how retail receipts are running this year, and I understand that it was a weekday. Still, things looked sparse, with clerks outnumbering customers. Whipped through Ross Dress for Less checking out the goods on the day of the Old Guy 10% Discount. Not much there ... they seem to have spaced out their merchandise to make it looked stocked but with much less actually on the racks. We ate lunch at the intermittent pizza joint - Melanzana, I think - next to Hastings, which joint I am happy to see is operative for the moment. It's a shrunken descendant of the lamented Toscana, but the food is top notch and service was good, not always true in the last go-round there. I bled out money at the customary rate of about $60 an hour, and was happy to get home. Truthfully, I've done most of my shopping this year on the Internet, as I imagine a lot of people have done.
More in anger than sorrow, this story from the Guardian about a bank in Ireland paying out outrageous bonuses while the people of that country are beat bloody by demands for austerity to bail things out. Wonder if there are any POed Paddies who remember how to build a bomb?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday travails and pleasures [mostly pleasures]

We ran up to Goliad yesterday to hit the Christmas market and visit friends and their new house. Goliad is refreshing among SoTex small towns. It is clean, lively, and seems to be thriving, in contrast to such sad dumps as Bloomington and Refugio, places that are hangdog and defeated. Refugio has history, Refugio has some nice old buildings, so why doesn't Refugio have tourists swarming around for Christmas shopping? If I knew how a village can be made to thrive, I'd bottle it and sell it, but anyhow Goliad seems to have found the recipe. Regrettably, Ralph with the cheap spices wasn't there this weekend. I'd meant to restock some things. Maybe we'll catch him later.
Our friends have built a beautiful new house in a bosky dell a few miles out from town. They scuttle out for their jobs and get home as quick as they can, and I don't blame them. It was a fine thing to see, and peace comes dropping slow, with critters domestic and wild and lots of native flora. The full-length windows were crowded with ladybugs who'd miscalculated a hatch because of the warm weather, a move they're no doubt regretting by now. No traffic on Hennig Road, no madding crowds, no noise. These folks have it figured out.
And a bonus: 'In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.' -John Adams

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I love it

Pipe this. Kids' underclothes imprinted with 'Read the 4th Amendment Pervert' done in magnetic ink that will show up on the TSA's scanners. This is a proper spirit of rebellion.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Long time no tango

And then I found this, a five-year-old Chinese girl, an accordion whiz, doing 'La Cumparsita':

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Antipodal mockers

The tui is a bird of New Zealand, a bird that goes even beyond our beloved Mimus polyglottus in mimicry.

More Woof Woof talking here, but embed is disabled, so you'll just have to click it.

Break time

We've been in the full family mode this past few days. It's a truly amazing thing to hear grown women doing sing-song falsetto coos about poopies, but that's life with a baby. This baby happens to be a creature of rare beauty and intelligence [i.e., our baby], and I had a good time with her and never hit one falsetto note. We sat out and smoked cigars, spit, and cussed the gummint. She has a sly, if as yet inarticulate sense of humor, and can actually eat spicy food. Can your grandbaby do that? Hah. I thought not.
And besides that, the top executives of the pirate crew came by Friday night for dinner. Last week, the Mad Kayaker and his light-of-love came to dinner. They even brought me a gift, a book of limericks, almost none suitable for a family blog. I love it. It has scholarly disquisitions on the development of the limerick. Maybe we'll explore that later.
So, a bit of slack until the madness of Christmas ...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

& a wee dollop of gloom

Here's a repost from a guy who dwells on Peak Oil. It's painful to see how many of our half-baked economic stimuli are predicated on the idea that oil will just keep on a-coming. We talk new big highway projects, car companies surging back, loads of cheap energy flowing just like always. Ain't gonna happen.

Best holiday

As always, the excesses of Thanksgiving come through for me. I ate about six hours ago and intend never to eat again. I love cornbread dressing, maybe for the infrequency of its appearance. We have pretty much a standard meal, except for the cranberry chutney we have instead of that jellied stuff.
We have many occasions for gratitude: We stand upright and cast a shadow on days the sun shines. We have plenty of food and digest it well. There's a charming little girl churning around the house, throwing off giggles and glee. Nothing purer than the laughter of a little kid – no hip PoMo irony, no sarcasm – just unadulterated pleasure and delight in the present, emotions we olders catch only occasionally and for brief moments. We might oughta study toddlers for lessons in spontaneity.
On pleasure and delight, go here and find the magic of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, a voice so clean it will make you all teary. Can't embed, that's disabled. Poor Bruddah Iz did himself in with Spam and excess, I believe, and it's a loss for all.
And go here a raft of reasons that vodka is 80 proof. It's fun.
Mad Mike, the Pirate King, is back in our part of the world and has bought himself a motorcycle. Sixty-year-old bones knit slowly, but he knows that.
I hope everyone in the republic had as good a day as we did.

Monday, November 22, 2010

'Genealogy carried too far'

was the subject line on an e-mail from my wife, who's been on a genealogical tear for the last two or three months. She's been mucking around in Kentucky records and came across a wonderful quirky bit of research, some folks who have posted what they figure is their lineage dating back to Adam. Some examples of the assertions made about ancestry, jumping through the generations:
ADAM was born about 4026 B.C. in Garden of Eden and died about 3096 B.C. in Olaha, Shinehah. First man. Lived in the Garden of Eden until expelled by God. Name Meaning: man; red skin; red earth; clay; to be red. Patronage: gardeners, tailors. He married EVE about 4022 B.C. in Garden of Eden. (Click link for more on Adam and Eve) Children are: 1. Akilia (Aklemia) *2. SHETH(SETH) 3. Cain 4. Abel 5. Luluwa
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
BRUTUS (Brwt) APSYLVIUS , King In Britain who died about 1091 B.C. He married UNKNOWN and was the first King of Britain who ruled for 23 years. He leads his people out of Greece and settles on the island of Britain (in those days called Albion), where he becomes its first king, roughtly 1100 years before the birth of Christ. When a young man he makes a journey westwards and wandered forty-two years in Africa, and arrived, with his family, at the altars of the Philistines, by the Lake of Osiers. ...
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
SIR DAFYYD DAVID "SQUINT EYED" GAM was born in Wales and died October 25, 1415 in France. We are from the line of David Gam who was killed at battle of Aggencourt [sic] fighting for Henry V. His units actions got him knighted although he died of his wounds. ...
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
ROY THOMAS KASSINGER was born July 1, 1945 in Henderson County, Kentucky and married DORIS JUNE "JUDY" KASSINGER July 20, 1966 in Mclean County, Kentucky. Judy is the daughter of George Davis and Bertha Richardson and was born October 3, 1946 in Mclean County, Kentucky. (Adam and Eve are the 114th great grandparents of Roy Thomas Kassinger).

Pipe it all here. They claim to be pretty heavy on kings and such way back when but appear to have become rather more ordinary in these latter days.
Genealogy is interesting, but it's always felt to me like a term paper for no credit. I couldn't resist her nifty research site and ran a couple of my own lines back before 1650 here in America but saw no connection to Adam.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dog tucker for me

When I got back last Saturday from my little road trip, herself greeted me with a lovely plate of braised lamb shanks. Though they've gotten a bit dear of late, I've loved lamb shanks for years, started eating them in Chicago back in the late 60s. Because of rising prices for meat, New Zealanders find themselves eating lamb shanks and feeling reduced in circumstances because lamb shanks are considered fit for dogs down yonder. From the Press-News of New Zealand:
The price hikes are driving changes in eating habits.
Families are moving from expensive steak cuts to mince [hamburger] and lamb shanks, says William Eriksen, director of Auckland's The Neat Meat Company.
"They're getting the cheaper frozen cuts to try to stretch the budget out over the week, to try to feed their family.
"They're moving to cheaper cuts like oxtail, things that traditionally they wouldn't have fed to their dog a while ago."

Read it here and try to imagine that oxtail is cheap somewhere in this world.

Ron Paul Responds to TSA: Introduces 'American Traveler Dignity Act'

There's an interesting undercurrent of anger out in the ether about the obnoxious and invasive procedures at airports. Airport hassles make me so angry that I scarcely want to go anyplace these days. Yesterday, our own U.S. Rep Ron Paul throws a beautiful rant on the subject and says things that should be said more often and more loudly. We travel in misery, and it seems like the tearists have succeeded in disrupting the natural order of our lives.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Funny vid

They've got this thing you can do to make vids from input text. Some funny people are doing some funny stuff with it. I offer this example of goofy little cartoon characters discussing quantitative easing and the fed and like that.

And to boot, an economist joke I lifted from a site I like:
"A physicist, a chemist and an economist are stranded on an island, with nothing to eat. A can of soup washes ashore. The physicist says, "Let's smash the can open with a rock." The chemist says, "Let's build a fire and heat the can first." The economist says, "Let's assume that we have a can-opener..."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rancho San Fulano Huitlatepec, the Summer White House, my dacha

A couple of months ago, I bought some acres, nearly six of em, on the outskirts of the Greater Buffalo (Kan) Metropolitan Area. There are nearly 300 people in Buffalo, but mi ranchito is just outside the city limits, so escaping some of the hurlyburly of people driving to Drake's for morning coffee at 10. Imna run up there this week to try to figure out what to do with it, shelterwise. There are two good wells, fine prairie grass, a pretty good old barn, and a bunch of peace and quiet. The treeline comprises mostly pecans and black walnuts, and poking around you'd find wild asparagus, morel mushrooms, and blackberry bushes. May just buy a FEMA trailer and pop it in the back corner, though I'd prefer something a little more substantial.
How far wrong can you go with good fertile soil in a crime-free community? I don't really expect a Mad-Max denouement to the current economic chaos, but it would be a good place to be if there were one. If, as I suspect, we merely continue to slowly deteriorate and to unravel the pathetic remains of the American middle class, el rancho will also be a pretty good place to have on reserve.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Where's my pitchfork?

Want to know how low the American justice system has sunk? Wonder if the courts will provide a bulwark against the malefactors of great wealth? Snicker, snicker. One system for them, another for the rest of us. Be horrified by this story of a Colorado DA from the Daily Mail of the UK:
A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardise his job, it has been revealed.Martin Joel Erzinger, 52, was set to face felony charges for running over a doctor who he hit from behind in his 2010 Mercedes Benz, and then speeding off.

Read the entire enraging story here.
And for an extra cringe, from the Web site of the prosecuting atty who didn't press felony charges:
As an experienced prosecutor, Mark [Hurlbert] knows it is important not to simply secure convictions, but to seek justice. He makes victims a priority and is dedicated to providing victims a strong voice in the justice system. ...
I don't suppose disbarment is possible here for this DA, but it should be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Striking a blow for freedom

We went and voted yesterday, but without much enthusiasm. I managed to run the table, voting for Ds, Rs, Greens, and Libertarians. I think the only winning votes I cast were for county judge and precinct commissioner and, of course, one for my quirky U.S. Rep, Ron Paul. Rick Perry and his overweening ambition are starting to get on my last nerve. You can just see the little wheels grinding slowly beneath that fine head of hair, and what he's thinking is, 'I can be president of the U.S. Why not? That other dumbass Texas gov did it.'
A comment from a blog I favor:
Today a friend, who is quite well educated (Texas Law Review, published on NAFTA in 1993 and predicted lots of the related problems with NAFTA and globalized trade generally), said he heard if Rick Perry is reelected as Texas governor and wins by a double digit percentage then Perry will run on the top of the GOP ticket for President with Palin on the bottom. I laughed. Then I realized he was serious. Then I threw up in my throat just a little.

And a joke a friend sent me:
"John Boehner will be the new Speaker of the House. It is the highest
elected office ever to be reached by an Orange-American." - Olivia

I noticed that Boehner had on an orange tie today at one of the press conferences. Could this be a secret signal to the other Orange-Americans that the time to strike is near? Nobody else in any of the political mobs wears orange ties. Boehner is such a hack. On the other hand, Nancy Pelosi is really creepy, a little more sinister than a hack. I spect the establishment Rs will be a little less pleased with their Tea-Party newbies the first time the TPers scuttle some move to shovel more gummint money on Wall Street. Assuming they would actually scuttle such a move.
And from German paper, Der Spiegel, a long and carefully written article on the American Dream that you can read here. It's very even handed and written more in sorrow than schädenfreude. For a long time, we ran an admirable country sorta devoted to the well-being of its citizens.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

'Oh, thank you, taxpayers!' 'You're welcome, Great American Car Co'

'US automaker Chrysler inaugurated a 570-million-dollar engine plant in northern Mexico Friday, the Mexican presidency said in a statement.' Read all that one here on Yahoo News.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy and unhappy endings

Got word several days ago that a friend had had a heart attack. He's one of our intermittent neighbors, a civilized and cultured man of sunny mien and ebullient nature, one of those folks always a joy to encounter. He lives in southeast Kansas and had ended up finally in a hospital in Tulsa, where he had a double bypass. This is the sort of news you hate to get since it so often ends sadly, but this time everything is fine and he's been up and walking and will go home soon. That's good.
And likewise about a week ago, a dog showed up in our neighborhood, apparently without a human attachment. She was a blue heeler, well socialized, personable, and companionable. We fed and watered her, scratched her tummy when she asked, and had begun to form those attachments that dogs call up in humans. Still, feeling she must belong somewhere, we made up a little poster and put it up a couple of places in town. Very promptly a woman showed up, and she and dog were joyfully reunited. Woulda been happy enough to keep the dog, but she already had a proper pack. That's good.
Today was a thing of beauty, with the wind abated and the sun shining benignly on our low-rent paradise. I finished last week's NYTimes big crossword, ate tacos at our excellent local Mexican joint, and took a profound two-hour nap. That's good. Fall is everybody's favorite season in places with long, brutal summers.
The Vicad has carried the wonderfully goofy epic of the transferred coach of the West HS dance team. The hearing for the ejected teacher sounded like an estrogen-fest, what's with females of various ages weeping and hugging each other. Seems like droves of people worked themselves into purple froths over an essentially inconsequential event. That's a little silly. Many years ago a guy writing about business said that corporation boards will uncomplainingly vote to approve huge budget items and will then argue interminably over something like a $25 wastebasket, because they actually understand the implications of a $25 wastebasket.
I hope tomorrow is as nice as today was.
Late news: The Houston Chron's take on the drill-team dispute is here. Patrick Brendel, mentioned above, had this on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Nil, baby, nil

A CNN story tells us that former estimates of petroleum in Alaska were off by 90% on the optimistic side:
The U.S. Geological Survey says a revised estimate for the amount of conventional, undiscovered oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska is a fraction of a previous estimate.

Read it all here. We gotta grasp the nettle ... we are running out of oil. There is less oil around today than there was yesterday. No amount of mad-dog drilling will put us back where we were in the 60s. We gotta learn to conserve and use other energy sources if hope to have any kind of future. Sorry.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vicad alum in Austin

Patrick Brendel, a St Joe and Notre Dame grad, worked for the Advocate in the mid-aughts before going off to UT-The Real One to do a Masters in communications or journalism or something. He's now editing The Texas Independent in Austin. He was a lovely writer with a quick wit and a nice sense of just the right word. Go look at what he's doing up in Babylon.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Costly but not helpful

Richard Vedder, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education puts out some fascinating stats:
Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000 parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree.

Read all that here. For 19 years I worked in a strange and wonderful typesetting shop in Austin. People who got to Austin at a certain point in their young lives, usually right after high school, wished nothing more than never to leave Austin, a land where it was always afternoon, a place where people go from adolescence to Social Security without ever passing through an adult phase. This type house employed a lot of proofreaders, and at various times I worked with a guy with a law degree, a guy with a PhD in botany, and more MAs than you could count. It was an astonishing place with all that talent and education working for nine or 10 dollars an hour. I often felt that those people would have done better to pocket their tuition money and go to the library and read for four years.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Now that's a blow

From a New Zealand paper, word on a Pacific blow that pretty much puts our worst Gulf hurricanes in the shade:
A typhoon that is so strong it is now classed as a "super typhoon" is roaring into the Philippines today with winds gusting to an incredible 354km [220m]/h and sustained at 290km [180m]/h.

Read all about the super-storm here. Something perverse in the human creature wants to see a storm that fierce, just to know how it is. We've been lucky this season, and I suppose it's safe to exhale and relax until next June. Oh, well, there's always the economy for worry-fodder. No off-season for economic worries.


Fascinating story on the CNN money page about the fate of this year's college grads:
... [A] whopping 85% of college seniors planned to move back home with their parents after graduation last May, according to a poll by Twentysomething Inc., a marketing and research firm based in Philadelphia. That rate has steadily risen from 67% in 2006.

Read all of that here.
And then to a law prof's blog here for some interesting comments on that disheartening stat, including, "85% of college students learn that four years studying 'american diatribes in adobe huts' has little employment value."
American education from K to PhD needs a serious reconsideration. I see today in the Vicad that the nebulous 'they' appear to be pushing for college educations for such as Down Syndrome kids. If a Down Syndromer can do it, it's not anything approaching a college education, and it's a cheat to call it that and a cheat on the Downers and their parents to make them believe in it.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Send it in care of the Birmingham jail

Nobody writes letters these days, save for my wife and her two college roommates, who crank off neatly written, English-major letters to one another from time to time. Even they are sometimes known to e-mail. Pore ole USPS is on hard times, and a story in the Vicad today tells us that the Victoria and Corpus mail-sorting facilities may be combined. The story was interesting, and the best thing was the last three or four grafs, doing their guy-in-the-street thing. The part with the guy in the street read
Slower mail service would be annoying, however, and would affect others, too. Especially those in the prison system.
"Sometimes I'm in jail," [the random subject] said. "And the people in there want to get their mail."

There it is ... my wife, her roommates, and people incarcerated. There is a grubby little town named Tornillo down the lower end of El Paso county. Someone once remarked that the place would have no post office at all were it not for all the mail going out to prisons. Maybe fifteen years ago there was a kid from Tornillo killed in some affray, gangish, I think. He left 19 siblings. Think of that ... his mama lost 5% of her children in one fell swoop. Funky little town, Tornillo.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


OK. OK, I'm piling on the Vicad, but a blog by Thomas Martinez got me this morning. I wouldn't have read it ordinarily, but it was published in the print edition. Martinez is the managing editor. On the subject of power, he wrote this:
... Basically, information is a currency or a trade. Those with access to the latest, best and most information have a high degree of power. A pratfall of this is you can never underestimate the importance of information.

So, I gotta ask: What the hell does that mean, that highlighted part? The sentence isn't ungrammatical, simply unintelligible.

Monday, October 11, 2010

New nadirs of inanity

Vicad poll questions in last couple of days have included, 'Do you think small town festivals should stay small?' and 'Do you like Chinese food?' Beat those for dumb.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Czech Heritage Month

It was noted in the Vicad in a little two- or three-paragraph piece that this is Czech Heritage Month. Meanwhile, we are beat to death with Spanish Heritage Month stories every morning, generally featuring a vato-on-the-street interview about how the interviewee keeps alive Spanish heritage by eating tacos. A frequent correspondent writes, 'I had to go to VPL to find out October is Czech Heritage Month. I demand equal time! Where are the Czech Heritage Profiles, the kolache recipes, the Tarok instructions?' Meanwhile the paper continues to work itself into a lather about the brave new UHV being a Hispanic-serving institution and thus being eligible for some kind of gummint gravy. Is there a grant program for Slav-serving institutions? The paper notes that one of the advantages of UHV will be staffers who can speak Spanish to incoming students. I wonder if a student preparing to undertake putatively college-level work shouldn't be fluent in English?
Along the same line, Ghris Gobbler blogs that the guy who draws the Baldo cartoons was a better speaker than Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour. Yeah, right. Vicad's all excited about the Baldo artist being here. As I recall, when the paper's readers voted on which comic strips to cut, Baldo was voted off the island. The paper kept it on regardless and keeps it in a premier spot on the page. Don't take this republic of readers thing too seriously. If it's not what the editors have in mind, it's not happening.

COLA and inflation

If you pay attention, you've noticed all sorts of things going up in price or down in size or both. My fifty-cent can of sardines is up by eight cents, 16%. A can of tuna in water now has about two tablespoons of tuna and the rest is water. People complain that a half gallon of ice cream no longer contains a half gallon. The pic above makes the point. Someone remarks that it's deflation in things we don't buy and inflation in things we must have. Yahoo News reports that there will be no cost-of-living raise in Social Security payments in 2011. 'It would mark only the second year without an increase since automatic adjustments for inflation were adopted in 1975. The first year was this year.' And no doubt the third year will be year after next. Read the entire no-COLA story here. Of course, everyone's getting well off the stock market, so these small price rises don't matter.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What the pols have lost sight of

Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, "The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man's spiritual nature, of his feelings, and of his intellect. ... They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment." Left and right both seem impelled to meddle with people's personal affairs in one way or another. Not leaving people alone sins against the original intent of the writers of the Constitution. Imposing governmental will on people's religious practices, thought, speech, or personal preferences is evil.

i wanna be on his jury ...

From the LATimes: 'Police say a 45-year-old Memphis man angry over two teens' sagging pants shot one in the buttocks during an argument.' Read all here. Perhaps a little extreme, but still ... I'd do some jury nullifying.

Monday, October 4, 2010


The Girl, bless her, spent the weekend down with us, bringing, of course, granddaughter Lily Jane. This is Lily on the nice little playscape down by the seawall. She's fumbling for a twistgrip to make the thing go faster faster faster.

Your national future going down the pipes

Look at this vid on Zero Hedge of U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson questioning the Federal Reserve Bank Inspector General about auditing practices at the Fed. It's scary.
And here's Grayson on foreclosures:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New nadirs

Pore ole Vicad ... you think a paper couldn't possibly get any worse, but then they astonish by finding new depths. This morning they ran a story headed, 'Police shoot, kill family dog.' From reading the story, it would have been more truthful to write 'Police defend selves against dog attack.' Dumbutts at the paper went to some people who'd let their menacing dog loose on the cops and then raised a stink when the cops did what they had to do – shot the dog. I am told that editors complain the cops won't talk to reporters, but who can blame the police? The paper just runs whatever reporters hear as if it were established truth and evidence of bad police behavior. There seems to be an attitude in the newsroom that the cops are evil and people who tangle with them are the good guys. Cops aren't always right, but they're sure not always wrong.
They ran a story this weekend about a hoohah with the high school dance team. I remarked to herself that it would draw a world of attention because it's at the level that the locals get excited about. In the interest of open dialogue, the paper knocked out almost all the comments on the story, but Edith Ann has an informative post and open discussion on it.
Pore ole Vicad. It once was a pretty good little provincial paper.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Flat world

India hosts the Commonwealth Games, athletic competitions for former Brit colonies. It was their chance to show off. Look at these pix to see how that worked out. From the public prints, it sounds as if all was chaos, and athletes complained mightily. I'm not sure these are the people who can beat us on any kind of fair playing field.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Waddle, waddle, quack, quack

Well, waddling is sort of the natural gait for us porky sorts, but the quacking is a more recent thing. Too much water for too long. It's kept me inordinately indolent. So a catch-up of misc.
From a blog comment: "Tea Parties are for little girls with imaginary friends.”
And a headline that might fret conspiracy buffs: 'The Associated Press: SUV hits, kills Md. Green Party Senate candidate'

A story linked from DA Confidential,, a fascinating blog by a Travis County prosecutor. He tried a murder case and the guilty verdict roused strong emotions in the court:
The verdict capped a tense week in state District Judge Mike Lynch’s courtroom, where on Tuesday a witness and friend of murder victim Francisco “Pancho” Iruegas attacked Hernandez in court after testifying.

The witness was then attacked by someone in the courtroom gallery. Read all here in the Austin American-Statesman.
A story in Yahoo Finance talks about a looming monster, the imminent default of public pension plans:
Since 2008, New Jersey and at least 19 other states from Wyoming to Rhode Island have rolled back pension benefits or seriously considered doing do -- and not just for new hires, but for current employees and people already retired.
After telegraphing his intentions for months, [N.J. Gov. Chris] Christie spelled out the details of his proposal Tuesday. They include: repealing an increase in benefits approved years ago; eliminating automatic cost-of-living adjustments; raising the retirement age to 65 from 60 in many cases; reducing pension payouts for many future retirees; and requiring some employees to contribute more to their pensions.

Read all of that here on Yahoo Finance.
And more of the same, from Bloomberg:
U.S. state pensions such as Illinois, Kansas and New Jersey are in a “death spiral,” with assets at many insufficient to cover benefits, payouts consuming a growing portion of resources and costs rising twice as fast as investment gains.

Read all of that one here. Texas is not proof against this mess. When we speak of fixed incomes, we may be saying 'fixed' like that cat you took to the vet.
One morning recently, the pore ole Vicad had a front page with a story at the top about the trial of a couple of Mexican Mafia thugs and a plug at the bottom for Hispanic Heritage or History Month or whatever's going on now. Guess the layout editor didn't consider the possibilities there. The Mexican Mafia used to have its constitution posted on a Web site. Can't imagine the Sicilians doing that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept. 11

Today is the ninth anniversary of the tearist attack on America, and things are aboil. First, a Muslim group wants to build what they call a cultural center, the Cordoba House, very near the site of the World Trade Center. A bunch of people are virulently opposed to the center for various good reasons. There is no doubt that the Muslims have a legal right to put the center up if they want to. Now 'Cordoba' draws a blank for the average American, but you'd better believe it means something to Muslims. Cordoba – that's in Spain – was a center of Al Andaluz, the Moorish territory in Spain. Muslims still speak longingly about the days when Islam ran up to the Pyrenees. Cordoba means nothing to those who know nothing of Spanish history, but it symbolizes a lot to Muslims who wish for dominion over non-Muslim territories. We would probably do well to eliminate completely Muslim immigration to the U.S. Friction is inevitable and undesirable.
Then some crackerninny preacher down in Florida has picked up oceans of ink by saying that he was gonna incinerate a copy of the Koran. [Aside: This guy has whiskers of the sort I've always thought should bring enhanced time in sentencing.] I despise book-burners of any stripe, but if it's his book, there is no doubt that he has a legal right to burn it. It's the First Amendment freedom of expression. Guy has been given vastly more publicity than he merits, and I blame the doofus media for giving it to him. Also, the fearless leaders of our society have wrenched their backs bending over to propitiate Muslim opinion over this, saying to Americans, in effect, 'Please don't make them mad, or they'll hurt us.' Seems to me that they're already pretty well set on hurting us, and piling on to deny this preacher his constitutional right to be an idiot is contrary to the intent of the elemental law of the land. The source of concern is what is called the Arab street, i.e., the masses. Why does nobody ever worry about the American street? I suppose because the American street is too weak to offer up much resistance to the mauling it's taken for the last 35 or 40 years.


We went to the Victoria Master Gardeners big plant sale this morning ... bought four tomatoes, a hibiscus, a rosemary [why does rosemary die in our soil?], and a Cuban oregano, a fragrant plant that looks like a decorative sissy and provides a real oregano flavor. Next best thing I could ask after the pork-chop bush that I long for.
Monday is the first public day for the Friends of the Victoria Public Library sale. There's never a better sale for filling the shelves with books you didn't know you needed until you saw them. Plus, it benefits the library, my favorite socialist service from government. It's there in the Bronte Room of the library. I'm gonna drive into town to shop there.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mon night stuff

A fine idea written up in the Guardian of Great Britain, on a plan in Belgium to sterilize all cats but purebred breeding stock:
"A cat can have one pregnancy every six months and 36 offspring in less than 16 months," said [an environmentalist].
The new project is the first to propose compulsory sterilisation nationally. It will be watched closely in other countries wrestling with ballooning cat populations.

Hear, hear ... here and petition your pol reps to follow suit on this idea whose time has come. I say this because we just got rid of a personable orange volunteer kitty, then had another feral feline show up immediately to chow down at the buffet on the front porch.

Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: How many can you afford?

One of Admiral Hyman Rickover's principles:
9. Optimism and stupidity are nearly synonymous.

Other misc: 'The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it' -- GB Shaw
And multi-level dumb-butt comment of the week, from I don't remember where: 'The Internet is the Doom's Day Machine, Plane and simble!!!' We all know he meant 'cymbal,' right?

On Labor Day, the condition of the American worker remains most distressful, but no need to tell you that. In The Vicad, we learn that the Caterpillar plant that may happen may be a big tourist draw. Will visitors come in steel-toed boots? Tone of the paper's been painfully rah-rah of late, beyond the reasonable boosterism of a provincial rag.

Friday, September 3, 2010

& now for a change from doom, a dog having a good time

A Chilean dog dancing merengue [disregard the title of the vid; meringue is what's atop lemon pie]

Road, radio, &c

I just did several days on the road, running through a pretty good swath of the middle of the country, from South Texas to southeast Kansas and then back by another route. In East Texas I once hit three radio stations in a row that featured voices with pompadours, oleaginous voices – pompous, pious, and portentous – nattering on about Gawd and the divine wishes, which are mostly unconsidered conservative. There seems to be some enthusiasm for Sarah Palin in that country, and it's disturbing. A guy named Michael Joseph Gross has done a nice piece on Palin for Vanity Fair magzine that reveals her as a vile-tempered harridan. From the story:
The intensity of Palin’s temper was first described to me in such extreme terms that I couldn’t help but wonder if it might be exaggerated, until I heard corroborating tales of outbursts dating back to her days as mayor of Wasilla and before. One friend of the Palins’ remembers an argument between Sarah and Todd: “They took all the canned goods out of the pantry, then proceeded to throw them at each other. By the time they got done, the stainless-steel fridge looked like it had got shot up with a shotgun. Todd said, ‘I don’t know why I even waste my time trying to get nice things for you if you’re just going to ruin them.’ ” This friend adds, “As soon as she enters her property and the door closes, even the insects in that house cringe. She has a horrible temper, but she has gotten away with it because she is a pretty woman.” (The friend elaborated on this last point: “Once, while Sarah was preparing for a city-council meeting, she said, ‘I’m gonna put on one of my push-up bras so I can get what I want tonight.’ That’s how she rolls.”) When Palin was mayor, she made life for one low-level municipal employee so miserable that the woman quit her job, sought psychiatric counseling, and then left the state altogether to escape Palin’s sphere of influence ...

You can read the longish piece here. For about thirty seconds in '08 I thought Palin was a breath of fresh air, a woman with a life trajectory that paralleled a lot of people I've known. I quickly concluded that she was coarse, trashy, vulgar, vain, and stupid. I've had no occasion since to change that conclusion. I really get the willies on behalf of the republic to see that a lot of people seem to think that she is fit for public office

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Been on the road since last Friday, covering a lot of country. Last Sat we went out to the Gillespie County Fair in Fritztown. Country fair exhibits are always entertaining, if a little disconcerting these days. New-to-me stuff included dates [they grow dates in the Hill Country?] and samples of alpaca wool amongst the wool and mohair. A reliable oldie was the quilts, as always lovely.

This one was a prize-winner and a bit unusual for its colors and the way that design elements break the frame of the pattern. Sorry it's but a cellphone pic, but you get the idea.
I had a terrible day on the horses, but herself was hitting them and got to buy dinner.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oh, woe

After a long run of rah-rah stuff on Cat and UH-V, it looks like the Vicad has set out on a Fatal Phillips series. Bum Phillips is an interesting guy, as who isn't at his age, and Gabe Semenza is a good writer, but a reader must ask if this is really necessary.
The UH-V story was covered more thoroughly and honestly by blogger Edith Ann than was done in the paper. As for Caterpillar, we certainly need some payroll that will benefit the great ruck of Coastal Bend humanity, but how often do we see these salvation-has-arrived stories degenerate into quarreling and chaos? Guess we'll find out. I hope it's true ... about the only good working-class jobs around here are in the plants, and we need more jobs like that. Working people may not be as sexy as two-steppin' tourists, but they will spend their checks at home, and on stuff like pick-ups and houses and swimming pools and groceries. I think that's good for the general economy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Collateral damage, cultural cataclysm

Ma Crosby's in Acuña, the Cadillac in Nuevo Laredo, the Kentucky Club in Cd. Juárez – classic border-town ginmills – are all barely surviving the narcoviolence in Mexico. I've wasted time and substance in all of these places. Ma Crosby's was the place to go for dinner in Villa Acuña. The food was good. When I was around there in the early 60s, there was an old man who hung around in the restaurant, Jaime Quiñones by name, as I recall, who was supposed to have been a general during the Revolution. You could eat your tampiqueña and then slip into the bar for a couple of drinks afterward, maybe smoke a La Perla. The Kentucky Club is a old, old joint with a long, heavy bar down one side and booths and tables down the other. The mirror behind the bar was all discolored and losing its backing, but you could still study yourself in it as you nipped along on a cervecita. Dignified bartenders and bow-tied waiters looked like they'd worked the job since the 1930s, and maybe they had, as it was considered a respected trade. Cormac McCarthy drank at the Kentucky Club when he lived in El Paso. The Cadillac is a couple of blocks off the main drag in Nuevo Laredo. Shoppers would drop in for a Ramos gin fizz or a big steak after a hard day of acquisition. The loss of any one is a loss to all of border history., and all will be mourned. From an NPR story:
Mexico's drug cartel war has killed more than 28,000 people in four years, but some of the collateral damage has not been as noticeable. A trio of famous, Prohibition-era cantinas in Mexican border cities, having survived more than 80 turbulent years, are in deep trouble.

Read it all here.
Maybe a block and a half from the Kentucky Club and down a side street was Tommy's Rendezvous. I used to take a copita from time to time with the piano player there, nice-looking and amusing guy named Javier. He was hell on the tourist ladies who'd drop in from time to time. Javier had two complete families, wife, children, house and all, one in the central part of town and the other farther out. I doubt that Tommy's place will survive if the Kentucky Club is tipping over.
If we can get everyone all in a swivet about the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, can't anyone get an armed UN delegation in to protect the in-its-way-sacred heritage of the border ginmill?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Guatemalan plane crash

Oh, that Onion. Give this a look. Onion-goofy and a grin.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Immigrants' children to be deported

An interesting story in the LA Times about a certain country's intention to deport children of immigrants to protect the particular culture of the place:
"We don't want to create an incentive for the inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers," [the country's chief executive] said.
Critics, including some government officials, said the decision would punish children by sending them to impoverished or insecure nations that their parents had left in search of better lives.

Read the whole thing here. The really interesting thing is that country is Israel.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lawyer stuff

A link from a lawyer blog I like leads me to a blog by a Virginia defense lawyer named Jamison Koehler, who posts some funny tweets from other defense guys, including:
No, I don’t think moving all your assets into the name of your ex-wife to hide them is a good idea. But she does.
When I said I accept green payments, I meant cash, not weed.
Convicted of committing the same crime last year?  The term you are looking for is “recidivism,” not double jeopardy.
You know the green hoodie the suspect was wearing in the videotape? Maybe you shouldn’t wear it to court.
Three felony convictions? Why, yes, I think that makes you a great candidate for probation.

Read them all here. Defending is hard. Had a defender tell me once that maybe the most frustrating defense was of an accused who is genuinely innocent of the crime alleged.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ann Coulter = Judy Garland?

In the grip of the summer downdrums that nail everyone in this unreasonably hot place. We're running heat indices around 105° most days, and there's no outdoor activity that is worth taking another shower for, so I keep my head down and waste the draining sands of life in piddling around on the computer – bless it – and trying to stay hydrated. This goofy little story stumbled across my screen today, product of BuzzFlash:
It may not be as controversial as the building of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, but if history tells us anything about the Religious Right’s relationship with The Gay, there should be a hot time, not only on the evening of September 25, when GOProud, the organization that claims to be “the only national organization representing gay conservatives and their allies,” hosts HOMOCON 2010, but during the lead-up to the event as well. GOProud’s special guest will be … let the trumpets ring out … Ms. Ann Coulter.

Read it all here. Gotta say that I've always found Coulter irritating and have always wondered about a woman with hands that appear to be the size of mine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Historical gore

Gems from a Web site, Murders and Outlaws: Early Murders and Bizarre Deaths in Kaufman County, 1860-1930:
A C Stark, ex-sheriff of Rockwall County was murdered at Lawrence.
*Subsequent article:
Lawrence times - 21 Jun 1877 - George W Garner murdered A C Starks.  Garner's wife procured some poison, visited her husband in the county jail and they both were found dead there hours later, though evidence indicated she had a broken neck.

Augustus Weimer, formerly of Terrell but recently living in Dallas, was stabbed and killed by W H Shanks, a little, bow-legged, red-headed carpenter of that city.

Two of William Bateman's boys were gathering peas on the farm.  They quarreled and the eight year old stabbed the twelve year old in the heart, killing him.

Henry Hill, colored, was shot and killed Monday at the residence of his wife in Happy Hollow.  His son, Temp Hill, age 13, was arrested for homicide.  Witnesses stated Mr. Hill was after the boy with a rod.  He was a coke fiend and an unbearable nuisance. [A note indicates that Temp Hill was acquitted, no doubt with the gratitude of the community for ridding them of the unbearable nuisance.]

The remains of A B Clark, were found scattered along the railroad tracks near Crandall Thursday night.  The remains were carried to Crandall in a tow sack.

Wade through more of this stuff here. And you thought newspaper were slanted and people were tough in 2010.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Doomed republic

Herself just got back from a couple days of grandmothering in Austin. Came in bearing ribs from City Market in Luling. May the giving hand never falter. She went up to the state archives to do some genealoging and found she couldn't get into the monster parking garage. Asked someone in the history center and was told that American Idol was doing auditions and the garage had started filling up at 4 a.m. These morons believe that they are gonna be stars. All the morons in the country think they are gonna be stars, likely because they turn on their TVs and see morons just like themselves.
The DJIA dumped 265 points today, there are places in Cali with basic unemployment upward of 20%, the Russian wheat harvest is so low that they are limiting international sales, and these ninnies think they're gonna be rock stars. I'm telling you, the republic is doomed.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Late-breaking news

It's late Friday night, and who could resist this collection of journalistic tritetudes from the LA Times?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lookie here

A connection from the Denver Post to a photo site showing some engrossing color photos of America in 1939 to 1943. You've got some of those famous Russell Lee Pie Town, N.M., photos but in color. I'm pretty sure Rosie the Riveter is eating with her friends in Picture #64. Scenes range from the Rockies to the rural South and big cities in the North. It's engrossing to look at those people 70 years back and think of how their lives were lived.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why the Europeans are sometimes superior

In this country, we tend to follow as celebrities some of the trashiest and dreariest people imaginable, small-bore vulgarians with no impulse control. Look how much better the Spanish do this. From the Independent of the UK:
The Duchess of Alba, the grandest grandee in Spain, is said to be able to cross the country from north to south without leaving her estates, and possess as many titles as the Queen of England and of higher rank. But despite wealth and her bluest of blue blood, Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva, 82, is being denied her heart's desire after her children scotched her plans to marry an antique dealer 24 years her junior.

Read it all here and be amazed how LiLo pales when up against against a really interesting celeb. Pipe the duchess's list of titles at the bottom and consider her forebear, the Duchess who probably posed for the Goya 'Maja' paintings.

Apparently there were complaints from some source, perhaps the lady's husband, about the fairly innocent nude, so Goya put some clothes on her and made her more lascivious and nekkid when clothed than when nude. Those Alba girls are such cut-ups.

All my life I wanted to see the Goya paintings in the Prado in Madrid and finally made it when I was 60. You should go to Madrid now; you could fall over dead during the holidays and miss this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Attn Bayrat

For a well-known author, sportsman, and raconteur who requested it, here is the site that we will euphemistically call 'Things my children destroyed.' Even if you're not the Bayrat, you might find some familiar things in this collection of mass destruction by kiddies.

Sunday night stuff

Was across the street this afternoon talking to my role model for aging and helping keep his wine surplus under control. One good topic is always how badly things have deteriorated for working America.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

Read the whole heartbreaker on the degeneration of American middle class here. It's from the Financial Times, a proper UK-published mag.
If I were young and frisky and wanted to see the world, I'd go off and teach English in faraway places. This, however, is an ad I wouldn't be responding to: Native speaking ESL teachers wanted immediately by Mongolia’s most prestigious ESL School. That ESL job site is fun to look at, notwithstanding.
Here's an interesting piece by Sen. Jim Webb, Saltine-Va., that ran on the WSJ editorial page.
And from a south-of-the border blog, Blog del Narco, these gory pix, photos of a Mexican massacre not too far from the busiest international land crossing in the US. This is an fascinating blog to browse, an aid to understanding just how terrible things are on the other side of the river.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Neat band

Somebody touted us off on this group a while back. They're really fun to watch and to listen to. I'm not sure anyone under 13 years should be allowed to watch the little gal playing kazoo on the first vid.

And as along as I'm tossing out quirky music, try Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele ace. Nah, really, he makes it sing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We love to boast about our extreme weather here, but the Great Plains states have some pretty scary stuff, too. Just last week an almost-two-pound hailstone was captured in South Dakota.
The damage is proof that it wasn't a typical South Dakota thunderstorm. Holes were punched through the top of buildings, and Les Scott will never forget what it sounded like.
"A guy throwing bricks at the house and many of them and it was scary," Scott said.

Read all here. Heavy hail is about the scariest weather I've encountered ... had an apartment totaled in Austin when big hail knocked out glass French doors and water from heavy rain poured in the place. I remember another a couple years later that left half the cars in Austin looking like someone had gone over them with ball-peen hammers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nor any a drop to drink

There's a site, Business Insider, that has wonderful, gooey doom in great measure and heaped up and overflowing. Look at this for some water doom. You'll come up on the Texas map, but click around to look at the others. There are too damn many people in the world, y'all, and they're all thirsty and hungry. Water is the next oil or maybe the oil after next.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Who could resist

Beethoven's #5 played surf guitar-style by The Ventures?

Just happened on it. I love that Fifties and Sixties surfer music for its essentially happy, angst-free spirit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why are we in Afghanistan?

So, there I was this morning, settin out and smoking a cigar, reading, and finishing my coffee, when i caught on the edge of my peripheral vision a blip of tiny motion down on the sidewalk. Thought at first it was a cricket, but it moved froggishly and, in fact, turned out to be a frog no larger than my thumbnail and smaller than a cricket. Thinking to save it from the murderous feline vermin my wife cultivates, I moved it to a potted plant on the side porch. It was a beautiful bit of miniature amphibia.

What I was reading was von Clausewitz, Principles of War, not that I'm that mad at anyone. Clausewitz, in his section on strategy, wrote:
In regard to mountain warfare in general, we should observe that everything depends on the skill of our subordinate officers and still more on the morale of our soldiers. Here it is not a question of skillful maneuvering, but of warlike spirit and whole-hearted devotion to the cause; for each man is left more or less to act independently. That is why national militias are especially suited for mountain warfare. While they lack the ability to maneuver, they possess the other qualities to the highest degree.

Or, don't mess with mountain people in the mountains.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inspiration to all eaters

This fat and furry little rascal, a marmot, nibbles its cracker with punctilious daintiness and obvious delight. As a fellow fat-and-furry, I salute him for his obvious good appetite.

I kited this funny vid from comments on a Serious Eats post. If you like food, Serious Eats is a fun browse, and there's a New York edition that makes understandable the impulse to live in that metropolis.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Got a note from and old-and-dear who happens to be the librarian here in **Adrift. Seems a county-wide blanket 10% budget cut will include the four libraries in Calhoun County. She wrote, in part, 'We need MORE open hours and activities for our children, NOT LESS. The bad guys are out there, ready and anxious to provide them with nurture of a sort, inspire them to illegal activities, and give them a home that's called a gang. Then there is the larger facility under renovation up the street. We're going to move into a larger library, and there will be NO additional staff hired? Sounds like all of us are going to be asked to work harder and do more, for less money.'
Governments all about the country at all levels are in terrible trouble, and something very like bankruptcy looms for several states. Still, libraries use such relatively piddling amounts of money and give so much to life ...
And, then, the Onion does one of their joke articles with more truth than not. Struggling High School Cuts Football—Nah, Just Kidding, Art It Is They chose Pennsylvania for this dateline, that state being as football-besotted as Texas.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Big boat race

The Texas Water Safari was postponed from an early June weekend and ran this weekend with a slightly attenuated field on high water. Boat #314 won, coming in at 7:40 this evening, several hours before the usual time. Most years, we're sitting down at the pavilion straining our eyes out over the bay, trying to catch a glimpse of a running light on a canoe; lot to be said for a finish in broad daylight.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A life well lived

Sometimes you come across a person in the public prints and wonder why you never heard of him before. Amedeo Guillet, recently dead, was an Italian aristocrat described by his biographer as 'too conservative to be a Fascist.' From the Financial Times:
Amedeo Guillet crammed rather a lot into his 101 years. He is best remembered for leading, on his white Arabian stallion, Sandor, a potentially suicidal cavalry charge against the tanks and 25-pounder artillery guns of Britain’s advancing “Gazelle Force” in the Horn of Africa in 1941. It was the last ever cavalry charge against British troops and earned the then Lieutenant Guillet the nickname Comandante Diavolo – the Devil Commander – from both his own men and an enemy that came to respect and even befriend him. Usually dressed like an Arab or Ethiopian tribesman, he became known in his native land as “Italy’s Lawrence of Arabia”.

And from Web site World War 2 Talk:
[The Italian commander in East Africa] gave Guillet command of the locally recruited Amhara Cavalry Bande, as well as 500 Yemeni infantry – approximately 2,500 men. With almost no armour, the Italians used Guillet's horsemen to delay the advance of the British 4th and 5th Indian Divisions when they crossed the Eritrean frontier in January 1941.
For nine months Guillet launched a series of guerrilla actions against British troops, plundering convoys and shooting up guard posts. At his side was his mistress, Khadija, an Ethiopian Muslim, for he never believed he would ever see Italy or [his fiancée] again. Two curious British intelligence officers pursued him: Major Max Harrari, later an urbane art dealer who would become Guillet's close friend, and the driven intellectual Captain Sigismund Reich, of the Jewish Brigade, who was eager to get on with the task of killing Germans.

Read the WW2talk post here. Pipe the pic of Khadija. Sounds like a guy who had a lot of fun in life. Our modern world leaves little room for men of Guillet's stripe to find their niches ... leading cavalry charges beats the hell out of trading stocks. Unfortunately, these are not times that favor romantics.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Public Radio

I listen to the radio only when I'm driving, and my station is almost always KVRT, the public radio station. Of late the KVRT announcers have begun nattering about HD radio and what a wonderful thing it will be. An old and dear has engaged himself against the UT public station in Austin and against HD. He got pissed when KUT set out to drop some longstanding programs generated locally. Once he got the management suits in his sights, he has persisted in his war against progress, for which all right-thinking Americans will commend him. You can see his side of the battle lines here. Austin's amazing in the way that people can get all fired up about something such as their public radio station. I remember maybe 20, 25 years ago everybody was so mad at the editor of the American-Statesman that there were 'Fire Ray Mariotti' bumper stickers all over town. That's real involvement with your local paper. 'Fire Chris Cobler'? Probably not gonna happen.
And off-topic, but interesting, this photo, meaningful today when the DJIA managed to ootch just above 10k, putting us back to where we were late in the last millenium.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

And a Happy Glorious 4th to all

We mostly kinda did our observance last night when the Pirate crew came visiting and we ate ribs and potato salad and sat out and drank wine. There was a little visible celebration coming from out on Swan Point, but I'm hoping for more tonight.
And for some of our accustomed decay, this, from Marist Polls:
'On July 4 we celebrate Independence Day. From which country did the United States win its independence?' A gimme, right? Everybody knows this, right? Look here for the results. Not as good as one might wish. Generally the older, the whiter, and the maler a respondent was, the more likely the right answer

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Obama makes expected immigration-amnesty move

And John Derbyshire, sly conservative, rips it:
Hoo boy, I've got a big fat juicy target here. Barack Obama delivered a speech on immigration. My mouth was watering.
The president did not disappoint. Every weary old cliché of the open-borders lobbyists was in that speech. "Nation of immigrants"? Check. "Seeking a better life"? Check. "Broken system"? Check. "Impossible to deport 11 million people"? Check. "Breaking up families"? Check. "They must get in line"? Check. "E pluribus unum"? Check. "Statue of Liberty"? Check. "Emma Lazarus"? Check. This speech was a cliché-o-rama.

Derbyshire is a mathematician, an immigrant himself from America's mother country, and thoroughly entertaining guy. Don't nearly agree with him on everything but always enjoy his take on things. I read the transcript of his weekly radio program here, though you can also listen to a rebroadcast.
The longer Obama runs, the less confidence I feel in his judgment. If there's a move that will anger almost everyone but the cheap-labor Rs and the racialist pressure groups, it's a move to hand out amnesty to illegal aliens present in the country now, and as far as most people are concerned, if the illegals are still here when the dust clears, there has been an amnesty. Why don't we find out if we can deport 12 million people before we just declare it impossible?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tango y fútbol

Perhaps one would do better to bet on the Argies in the next match, one against the Germans.

San Telmo is a neighborhood with a big street market, on Sundays I believe. They really dance tango in the street. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hurricane season

Well, Alex's about to be licking at the toe of Texas, and we're in for a couple, three days of hard rain falling, it appears. If it comes in as predicted it won't be stirring the BP spill into an emulsion that eats the north shore of the Gulf.
From an article on Grist by our very own Diane Wilson:
There are politicians out there -- we've all heard them -- who say this oil spill is just one accident and one accident does not a case make. Heck, one plane crashes and you don't stop flying, do ya? Well, this isn't just one accident. This is the biggest flame among the thousands of fires set by Corporate America on its Sherman-like march across the Gulf.

Read all that one here. The miseries with oil will only grow in the coming years; it won't get any better with the petroleum situation.

Vuvuzela chorale

Everyone's complaint about the World Cup [besides the officiating] has been the incessant drone of the vuvuzelas played by the locals during a match. Some whimsical German classical musicians have undertaken to demonstrate the versatility of the vuvuzela by playing a Brahms chorale and the old chestnut 'Bolero.' Watch and grin. These boys are working hard.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Korea photos

There's been recently a gathering in Victoria on the Korean War, and way overdue it is. Here is a series of Korean War pictures that ran in Life magazine back in the day. Vets of that war are saying that attention must be paid. Texan T. R. Fehrenbach wrote a fascinating history of the Korean War titled This Kind of War. I used to have it, but I lent it out, and now I don't have it. I should; it's insightful enough that I believe it's required reading at the Army War College.

The blob that ate Florida

The videographer-narrator is a bit of a twit, but the film is righteously scary. Please, no hurricanes this summer. Poor Gulf. I'm just sick of the oiled-pelican pix.
Saw Internet chatter about plans to evacuate Tampa if oil gets into the bay there. Can't vouch for veracity, but it would seem like a good plan to have ready if things come to that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gooool! USA 1, Algeria 0, TimeWarner –10

For some reason, we got into the World Cup this year and have been watching matches for two or three days, enough to understand some of the pleasure. Yesterday, between the morning and afternoon matches, ESPN and ESPN2 disappeared from our TV stations. No World Cup. Seems TimeWarner just shut them down. I watched this afternoon's USA game on streaming Univision, which offers distractions and a small screen.
It sorta tore things for us with TW, an ongoing stone in our metaphorical shoe. Last fall, they somehow lost the last game of the World Series, and stations disappear all too often. We decided to cancel, and herself tried, first by e-mail, which is disallowed, then by phone, which is futile. After four or five stabs involving long waits, she finally got a human. Said human wanted her to present at Corpus, about 80 miles away, with some paperwork we didn't have. We get maybe three or four dozen channels when we get them and habitually watch about six of them. Mostly, chugging through channels, I see trashy people sitting around pools or in hot tubs making inane conversation and ogling each other. Then there are the bogus science shows, where the narrator says stuff like, 'Some say the noise may have been made by the creature' or 'Science hasn't yet determined ... [whatever goofy idea they're hawking].' We're still not disconnected, but we'll figure out how to do it. Then we may just live cable-free for a while and see how it feels. TimeWarner sux.
Addendum from the primo having his own TW problems out in the West Texas town of El Paso: 'Numerous phone calls, 3 days waiting for them to arrive to turn on service, and 2 trips to tw offices by biggs field. No service yet. Grrr.'

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Learn to Operate a Linotype!

You gotta be pretty old to even remember the Linotype machine. It was invented about 1885 and revolutionized the printing trade, allowing an operator to do the work of several compositors setting type by hand. For a century-old ad in the LATimes offering Linotype instruction, look here. I was lucky enough to catch the end of the age of hot-metal printing. It was hot metal because it used a molten alloy of lead, tin, and antimony to cast slugs – the line o' type – that were used to print. It mostly replaced handset type, done by putting one piece of type after another in a composing stick, a little adjustable gadget, held in the left hand. When I started in the trade in 1962, handset was still in use for some big display work and top-quality ad work, where the compositor made aesthetic judgments about spacing between letters.
Benjamin Franklin could have walked into the Stilwell, Okla., Democrat-Journal, put on an apron, picked up a stick, and gone to work pegging type. The Linotype would have been exotic to him, but he would've loved it for its mechanical ingenuity, and the big press, powered by an electric motor, would have delighted him. We even had a little job press powered by a treadle, and on that Ben would've been right at home. Printing was a beautiful way to earn your daily bread back when it was a skilled trade instead of an office occupation. I wish I could do it all over; it was a very well paid, respected trade, and you could do it anywhere that printing was done.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Friend sends me this link to the 'most revealing pin-up calendar ever.' All is exposed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Miracle of science

Take a peek at this vid, sent by a friend who sends me stuff, of a baby hearing sound for the first time, thanks to a cochlear implant. His face tells the whole story.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rebellion in the hinterlands

Lee Harris, writing for the Hoover Institution, has some cogent observations on the Tea Partiers. Despised by the Establishment, the movement has some good points, the best of which, Harris observes, may be a healthy disrespect for the Establishment. Harris writes, in part:
The lesson of history is stark and simple. People who are easy to govern lose their freedom. People who are difficult to govern retain theirs. What makes the difference is not an ideology, but an attitude. Those people who embody the “Don’t tread on me!” attitude have kept their liberties simply because they are prepared to stand up against those who threaten to tread on them. To the pragmatist, it makes little difference what ideas free people use to justify and rationalize their rebellious attitude. The most important thing is simply to preserve this attitude among a sufficiently large number of people to make it a genuine deterrent against the power hungry. If the Tea Party can succeed in this all-important mission, then the pragmatist can forgive the movement for a host of silly ideas and absurd policy suggestions, because he knows what is really at stake. Once the “Don’t tread on me!” attitude has vanished from a people, it never returns. It is lost and gone forever — along with the liberty and freedom for which, ultimately, it is the only effective defense.

Read all here. Here's to that attitude.


U-Haul indicator:
Sacramento to Austin $2087
Austin to Sacramento $932
Pore ol Austin fills up with even more Californians.
An interesting map from Forbes on migratory patterns here. N.B.: These map data are from '08, before unemployment blew up. No doubt movement is more frantic now and more people are headed out of places like Phoenix and Las Vegas. Still, it's kinda neat ...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Our govt in real action

I guess everybody in the world's already seen this, but it's pretty amazing, a video of a a D rep from North Carolina and a college kid who asks him a question. Looks to me like a simple assault, but I suppose nothing will come of it. Something should.

What is it with the Carolinas?

The horror!

Here, from the American Bird Conservancy, is a map to chill the blood. It shows the big dump in the Gulf and areas of importance for birds. What a mess they have made in our water. This will take years, maybe decades, to sort out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sat night misc

GM's Mexican employees make$26.40 a day, and US car companies are moving work down there.
Mexico’s share of North American auto production may rise at a quicker pace as General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC seek out workers making less than 10 percent of what their U.S. counterparts earn.

Read all that here. Thanks, guys. Could we shovel a little more money your way?

An interesting interview by German pub Der Spiegel Online with Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who leaked the Pentagon Papers:
Daniel Ellsberg: I voted for [Obama] and I will probably vote for him again, as opposed to the Republicans. But I believe his administration in some key aspects is nothing other than the third term of the Bush administration.

All that story is here.

And an interesting specter raises up out there in the bigger world. From The Telegraph of the UK, "Rising food prices could threaten political stability around the world, the UN's leading humanitarian official said yesterday." Read all that cheery news here. We are truly lucky in the US that we have loads of arable land we've not yet wrecked. If we can stop the suicidal tendency to invite the world in and crow about population growth, we are well situated to survive, and even thrive in, a time of food shortages.
Ag from the producer's point of view: "There are three easy ways of losing money - racing is the quickest, women the most pleasant, and farming the most certain." --William Pitt Amherst

Shrimpfest has been a huge success, with our usually empty streets full of cars and partiers. Had a first-rate lunch from the food stands - brisket taco, shrimp taco, and a big container of seafood gumbo. Good digestion is truly a blessing in the sunset years. It's reported that the local law had to drive one drunk home today, and that's the extent of mischief from Shrimpfest.