April 2008 Archives

MLB is in another time zone on business, leaving me and the Dog Faced Girl to fend for ourselves, a task for which we each are woefully ill-equipped. In fairness to Abbye, the fact that she's aged, infirm, blind, and lacks opposable thumbs gives her some legitimate excuses that I, for the most part (hold your snide observations) lack. 

Take the task of making coffee, for example. Now, one of the things my wife does to ensure that our home is a little bit of heaven on earth is prepare our fancy-schmancy coffeemaker the night before, so that when I arise at precisely 5:26 a.m. and stroll into the kitchen, while she's hammering out mileage on the treadmill I'm dispensing a cuppa joe so fresh it's like a slap in the face from Miley Cyrus. 

She makes it look easy, but I'm finding there's more to it than meets the eye. Monday night, for example, I set everything up, carefully measuring three cups of water and four scoops of coffee that would yield my expected three cups of java. I failed to consider the effects of overnight evaporation and water loss during the brewing cycle, and had to resort to sucking on the bottom of a soggy #4 flat-bottomed filter to get my RDA of caffeine on Tuesday morning. If that paints a sad mental picture, I assure you that the reality is worse. 

Last night, I was determined not to repeat that mistake, and I didn't. I achieved that goal by grasping at a higher standard of incompetence, as I failed to remember to put any water at all into the coffeemaker. 

I can't wait to see what awaits me in the morning. I'm pretty sure that I'm approaching the end of the possible ways to mess up this task, but if things go badly again tomorrow, I'm putting Abbye in charge. She couldn't do any worse.

Al Jazeera visits Midland
April 29, 2008 9:05 AM | Posted in: ,

I did some quick searches on a few local blogs that I thought might have already covered this, and found nothing. If you had a more timely report, please feel free to provide a link in the comments. 

I stumbled across the following YouTube videos after following an unrelated Google link. They are a couple of 11-minute programs produced by the [infamous] Arabic news organization, Al Jazeera in September, 2007, and are entitled Main Street USA - Midland, Texas. The reports focus on the role that faith and religion play in the public and private lives of our citizens, and, of course, how they influenced George W. Bush. Midland residents will recognize many of the individuals interviewed during the course of the filming. 

The underlying message is that Midland is a city of "Christian fundamentalists," a term used with great frequency, and applied both to individuals as well as the community as a whole. It's hard to tell if the Al Jazeera report is using that word as a term of disapprobation; if so, the irony is thickened given the network's Muslim target audience. 

Regardless, I found the reports to be fairly evenhanded, especially considering their source. A local Muslim was interviewed and expressed his happiness at being able to live in a community where he can practice his faith without fear. In a rational world, that should be a revelation to his counterparts in the Middle East, or at least a source of cognitive dissonance, but I'm not that naive. 

The most disturbing thing about these reports is not the content of the videos, but the comments left on YouTube regarding them. Read them at your own risk, if you're easily offended.
 

By the way, if you define "fundamentalist" as being someone who believes that there are certain doctrinal truths given down by a holy and just God that we as individuals and collectively as a nation ignore at our own peril, then I willingly place myself firmly into that category.

Neighborhood Killdeer
April 28, 2008 2:53 PM | Posted in: ,

Killdeer are exceedingly common throughout the US, and they're even regularly observed around bodies of water in our arid part of the state. Still, I haven't had the opportunity to observe them up close until a family took up residence around the stream and pond located in our new neighborhood.

I shot the following video this morning. It was unusually cold for this time of year - temps in the upper 30s - and the killdeer chicks were seeking warmth under mama's wings. The only problem is that there were too many of them and too little of her to go around. You'll also see a short clip of the "distraction behavior" killdeer use to draw predators away from their eggs or young.

I apologize for the shaky video, as I am too cheap to buy a camera with image stabilization, too unskilled to hold a zoomed-in shot steady, and too disorganized to remember to grab a tripod.

My Wife is a Squirrel Mule*
April 25, 2008 11:11 AM | Posted in:

One of the things I hated to give up in the relocation was the view from my desk onto our back porch and yard, which provided a reliable tableau of bloggable wildlife action. My new setup has the window at my back, and it looks out on the front driveway, a much less attractive setting for observations of nature. 

So, I was as surprised as my neighbors to find myself lying on my side in the driveway yesterday around noon, long lens on the camera pointed to the undercarriage of my wife's SUV. The reason was that I had glanced out the window just in time to see one of those wily ground squirrels run under her car. That in itself wouldn't warrant anything more than a couple of additional glances, but the squirrel piqued my curiosity by displaying his own. He stood on his hind legs and peered at the underside of the car, as if inspecting it for defects. He moved down the length of the vehicle, repeating this behavior, and then he climbed inside the rim of the left rear wheel. That's when my own inquisitive nature took over and I grabbed my camera. 

I approached as stealthily as I knew how, and eased myself onto the concrete. However, the squirrel was nowhere to be seen. I circled the car and seeing no reaction, I finally slid under it to inspect the wheel well (half expecting to be ambushed from above by a rabies-crazed varmint who'd been plotting this moment for weeks). Nothing. Nada. Zip. 

I assumed he'd slipped away, blocked from my view by the car itself, so I returned to the house. As I put my camera back in the bag, I glanced out the window again, just in time to see him unfurl himself from under the car and drop to the driveway, not unlike the creatures in Alien, only hairier and less slimy. So, he'd been hiding somewhere up there all along. 

At that point, my wife walked out the front door to head back to the office, and instead of doing the expected and natural thing - running away - the ground squirrel leaped back onto the frame of the car! I told her what was going on, and we agreed that she'd pull slowly out of the drive, while I waited, camera in hand, for what I was sure would be a dramatic squirrel evacuation (unaccompanied, we hoped, a gooshy squirrel flattening). It never came. That little fella remained hidden somewhere under the SUV as she drove out of sight. 

I'm sure that Claydesta has a sufficiently profuse population of ground squirrels that one more won't make a difference, and I hope that the unauthorized passenger had the good sense to vacate the undercarriage upon arrival at my wife's office. The last thing we need is one of those guys playing the role of gremlin under our car, chewing on wiring and what-not. Or worse, hitching a ride into our garage and setting up shop where the potential for damage is even greater. 

The upside to the situation is that I apparently didn't lose as much in the move as I feared, from the perspective of getting a view of the natural world outside my window.

*No, not that kind of mule. This kind of mule.

Random Thursday
April 24, 2008 6:36 AM | Posted in:

Wow, it's been a while since we've done one of these. Bear with me while I get my bearings.
 
  • Today is Trash Day. We've never had Trash Day before, so this is a big deal. Our new neighborhood doesn't have dumpsters, so we have to wheel our city-provided trash cans into the alley to await pick up. It makes me feel like a dutiful suburbanite. But, it's an egalitarian system. No one can monopolize the trash receptacle, as is the case with a dumpster. You can generate all the trash you want, but it won't get hauled off unless you can fit it in your personal container. Well, except for the neighbor across the alley, whom I've never met and who, noticing that we've got two containers (a temporary situation until we're completely unpacked), felt comfortable putting some of his overflow trash in one of them. I guess that's what neighbors are for.

  • My nomination for two of the worst commercials on TV nowadays goes to FreeCreditReport.com, whose ads feature a band whose lead singer is bemoaning his poor status in life, attributing it to the fact that he failed to check his credit score. That oversight led him to (a) have to work as a waiter in a seafood restaurant, and (b) drive a beat-up sub-compact which is so, like, not really him. I can imagine how that might make a real waiter feel, knowing that his or her livelihood is being held up as an example of failure. And if you're a waiter driving a sub-compact? Well, you're a loser with a capital L, according to those commercials.

  • On the flip side, one of the better ads belongs to Nutrisystem's weight-loss pitch to men featuring Dan Marino and Larry the Cable Guy. This is a stroke of marketing genius, getting a still-chunky rednek to proclaim how he lost the equivalent of four bowling balls of gut on the diet plan. I'm not convinced that anything will sell the average American man on a weight loss program, but this approach probably has the best chance of success.

  • By the way, sauce and gravy are very tough to deal with. Speaking of food, how would you like to make a living as a food photographer? It's not all peaches and cream (well, unless it is peaches and cream); as the lead-in quote implies, there are challenges. Fortunately, we have Michael Ray's Food Photography Blog to help us overcome them.

  • We've discovered that Abbye doesn't like reverse osmosis water. She's been drinking tap water for the past dozen years, but the new house came with an RO system so my wife started filling Abbye's kitchen bowl with that purified stuff. We noticed that she rarely drank in the kitchen, waiting until she went back to the bathroom where another bowl was filled with good old Midland tap water. There's a saying about teaching an old dog new tricks, but who knew it extended to hydration?
In closing, let me extend my sympathies in advance to Texas Rangers fans, for whom this summer appears likely to be long and brutal. After last night's embarrassing 19-6 loss to Detroit, the Rangers are one game away from wresting the worst record in MLB from Washington, and they've already got the worst home record in baseball. With the Mavs heading for a quick exit from the playoffs and the Cowboys reportedly signing another thug, these aren't good times for Metroplex sports fans.

Fire Ant Sightings in Austin
April 18, 2008 6:44 AM | Posted in: ,

The local Destination Imagination teams competed at the state level a couple of weeks ago and did very well. Here's a report from Cindy Hammond, proud mom of one of the participants (and here's the back story, via the MRT):
The Midland High School level team ... ended up taking 2nd at State and are advancing to the Global levels held at the Univ of Tenn in May. A 5th grade team also took 2nd place in the elementary division and is going to Globals as well. All 4 Midland teams received medals at the State tournament. The two 6th grade teams that went received a 5th & 4th place medal. So, it was a good day all around. I will point out that the High School team is made up of 9th graders from Midland Freshman, Lee Freshman and an 8th grader from Abell Jr. High. They competed against 15 other teams in the High School division (9-12 grade). So we are quite proud!

The High School team also won a Renaissance award. The Renaissance Award is for demonstrating extraordinary amounts of effort and preparation, or outstanding skill in engineering, design or performance. (I had to look this one up on the internet. We've never won this particular award before.) The team received a DaVinci award at Regionals.
Here's a photo of the proud members of the High School Destination Imagination team:

 
Photo of Destination Imagination team

And proud they should be. Congratulations to all! But that's just the beginning. Not only was the group skilled and intelligent, but they also had the presence of mind to take along their Valuable Fire Ant Merchandise (in this case, two coveted ceramic coasters). And thus we have the following officially documented Fire Ant sightings:

 
Photo

You might think that this is the first Fire Ant sighting involving someone wearing tinfoil pants, but then you've probably never been to one of my family reunions. You can also read these kids' minds: I can't believe Elizabeth's mom is making us do this! 

This next photo requires a little more explanation. Cindy gave me permission to use it only if "you can make me look younger." Well, I gave it my best shot, but, frankly, it creeps me out:

 
Photo

I don't know who that person is on the right.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

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