June 2011 Archives

Light Field Cameras: Another Segway?
June 30, 2011 6:26 AM | Posted in: ,

Remember how the Segway was going to revolutionize our lives and rock our worlds? I guess the little teeter-scooter has done that, if your life revolves around leisurely touristy tours of certain major city downtown areas. Anyway, we're now on the brink of yet another life-changing technological breakthrough, the Lytro™ light field camera and while the initial hype does look impressive, I remain skeptical that this is not simply another Petite Lap Giraffe.

I don't profess to understand the science behind the concept of a light field camera, but in practice, it appears that such a camera uses software to perform certain light-capturing functions that traditional camera hardware can do well but not perfectly or completely. The result can be photos in which the point of focus can be changed after the fact, or that can be converted from 2D to 3D on-the-fly. There is a certain amount of "that's so cool!" evoked by clicking on various parts of the photos in Lytro's Living Picture gallery, and watching those parts shift into focus while the rest of the photo blurs out of focus, but I'm not sure the same effect couldn't be achieved with a clever bit of Javascript (and, indeed, it appears that the gallery is powered by jQuery with a Flash wrapper; never fear, it does work on iOS devices).

It does occur to me that this technology...this whole concept, in fact...presupposes that print is dead. Shifting points of focus, or changing perspective, or 2D/3D conversions aren't too applicable to painted pieces of paper. That's not necessarily a bad thing, or a wrong-headed approach; after all, what percentage of the photos you look at nowadays are delivered via screen instead of print? For me, it's probably over 75%, although I'm don't actually know how to go about estimating that.

Well, anyway. I'm all for technology that makes cameras smarter, faster, and more capable in low light conditions. I'm impressed by the promise of photos that offer enhanced post-camera processing flexibility. Can Lytro actually fulfill the hype by bringing to market a camera that achieves these goals? I don't know; I clicked on the "Reserve a Camera" link and got my name in the hat to find out more as things progress...but I'm also on the waiting list for one of those awesome Petite Lap Giraffes, too.

Fast Company has some insights regarding Lytro, including an interesting comparison of the company's prospects to those of Dyson, the vacuum cleaner company.
I realize that picking apart the logic of any television ad is like taking candy from a fish in a barrel, but GMC's recent "I Vow" series touting its Sierra pickup line seems to push the envelope for damning with faint praise. Here's my cogent analysis of what the commercial says vs. what it really means. (Don't thank me for these revelations; this is just what I do.)

What it says: "I vow to be ready to go whenever you are."
What it means: "I have an ignition switch, battery, and starter."

What it says: "I vow to work even after the sun goes down."
What it means: "I have headlights."

What it says: "And I vow to take a tank of gas as far as she'll go."
What it means: "I will not violate the previously-thought-to-be-immutable laws of physics regarding the conservation of energy and matter." Actually, I have no idea what they're saying here, because this is one of the most nonsensical statements in the history of advertising, and that's saying something.

There's also the puzzling issue of genderizing the tank of gas, referring to it as "she." The social and psychological implications are overwhelming, and space doesn't permit their analysis. Perhaps later, when the presidential campaign is completed.

Here's the ad in all its underwhelming glory, if, like a persistently annoying gnat that hovers on the periphery of your consciousness, you sort of knew it was there but couldn't be bothered to focus on it:


According to Wikipedia, there are about 200 bicycle sharing systems worldwide. Fewer than 10% of those are in the United States, and one of those is the B-cycle program in Denver

B-cycle is actually a multi-city program, with installations in six other US cities (including San Antonio). We checked out the Denver installation today and found it to be an impressive service, but highly dependent on the having the right infrastructure.

The concept is simple: check out a bicycle for a nominal fee (which is charged to a credit or debit card) and use the bike for short trips throughout the service area. If you use the bike for trips of less than 30 minutes, you're not charged any additional fees; longer usage times incur increasingly expensive fees. The idea is to keep people from tying up the bikes for long periods, thus making them unavailable to others.

You can buy a 24-hour pass, good for unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less, for $6.00. Residents can purchase memberships that provide more access, and also provide automatic tracking of mileage, average speed, time ridden, etc., thanks to the GPS and RFID technology built into the bikes and the checkout stations.

Denver has 500 bikes in the program, with 50 check-out stations scattered mostly around downtown and in the most popular retail districts that are accessible via the city's amazing network of bike trails.

And it's those bike trails, as well as a general overall bike-friendly philosophy that make the B-cycle concept successful. It's one thing to have access to the bicycles themselves; it's quite another to have a safe and enjoyable environment for using them. 

Denver has a quite laid-back attitude toward cyclists. For example, although cycling on downtown sidewalks is technically discouraged, as long as you're not out of control, nobody really cares. Cars give cyclists the benefit of the doubt, a refreshing change from the often hostile attitudes we encounter in West Texas. And, as I mentioned previously, Denver's system of dedicated bike trails, and clearly marked, wide bike lanes make it possible to get almost anywhere by bicycle without competing with auto traffic. 

Thus, while such a program sounds attractive for any city, it would be less so in practice than in theory for most locations. A successful bike sharing program first requires a culture of bicycle acceptance (or, better, encouragement), followed by creation of an infrastructure to support the program. For many (most?) cities in the US, I suspect this is never going to happen. More's the pity.

If you ever find yourself in downtown Denver for several days, I highly recommend trying out the B-cycle system. It's a great way to get around the area without worrying about driving or parking. The bikes are well-maintained and easy to ride, even for an inexperienced cyclist.
Last February I posted a brief review of Air Display, an iOS app that lets you use your iPad (or iPhone/iPod touch) as a second monitor. At the time, I had tested the app for only a short time and had done no real work using it.

For the past few days, I've been working from a hotel room in Denver and now have hours of experience using Air Display to turn my iPad into a second monitor for my 13" MacBook Pro. Or should I say, "attempting" to turn my iPad into a second monitor?

When it works, Air Display is a quite effective helper app, and increases my screen real estate by more than 50%. I use it in the following ways:

  • Menus - Adobe CS5 applications are infamous for their extensive menus which can consume your workspace and leave little room for the actual task at hand. Using Air Display, I can shift Photoshop's or Dreamweaver's menus onto my iPad and free up my entire MacBook display for the work.

  • Secondary applications - At any given time I'll have around a dozen applications open. Only a few of them are essential for the work I'm doing and I'll keep them on the notebook's screen. The others can be shifted to the iPad.

  • Separate browser tabs - Using Chrome's tear-off tab feature, I can move a browser window to the iPad while keeping the active window open on the MacBook. That's what I'm doing right now, in fact, with a separate tab on the iPad open to my previous blog post, while typing this on the notebook.
This is all wonderful in theory, but Air Display has some quirks that will drive you to distraction until you figure out how to work around them.

The initial connection process seems to be iffy. Since it requires that the Air Display apps be running on both your computer and your iOS device, if either of them aren't cooperating, you don't get a connection. I've found that after waking up my notebook and iPad in the morning, I need to quit the iPad app, and restart it - sometime a couple of times - before a connection can be made. Also, occasionally the iPad's screen will be blank (it should show your computer's wallpaper). For a while, I thought that indicated that the connection had not been made, but I discovered that dragging an application's window or a browser tab over to the iPad will, in effect, bring Air Display to life.

I also found that I had to disable my notebook's firewall in order to have a reliable connection with Air Display. I don't know if that's a quirk that's associated with the hotel's WiFi system; I didn't have that issue when I tested it at home. But if you're on the road and having problems, you might try this, assuming you're willing to live with the security implications.

And, finally, I've noticed that the longer Air Display is running and active, the slower it gets. This behavior is manifested by an increasingly jerky cursor movement, a disappearing cursor, or one that doesn't move at all. When this happens, a rebooting of the iPad and a reconnection of the Air Display software is often required to restore the original operation.

While these are not insignificant quirks, I must admit that Air Display has become an essential part of my "road warrior" toolbox. I'm willing to live with its eccentricities because when the app is working as it should, it makes a tremendous difference in my efficiency. 

Burn now, learn later
June 23, 2011 4:09 PM | Posted in: ,

While the immediate economic and ecological impacts of the recent wildfires and ongoing drought in West Texas are inarguably negative, there are still some positive aspects to the situation. Steve Nelle is a San Angelo-based wildlife biologist with the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, and he has authored a short and quite interesting assessment of the likely ecological impacts and outlook for recovery from those fires.

He first takes aim at those who attempt to minimize the seriousness of the impact of the wildfires. I have been guilty of occasionally succumbing to the fallacy that since fire is a "natural phenomenon," it must be on the whole a positive thing, once we look past the obvious negative impacts on human endeavor and property. As Nelle points out, that's a naive perspective, especially when considering the multiplying effects of ongoing acute drought on fire-ravaged rangelands. 

In one study, soil erosion after a severe fire (like those around Possum Kingdom Lake, and in the Davis Mountains) was 7 to 10 tons per acre over a 2.5 year period, and more than 100 tons per acre in other locations with differing slopes and subsequent rainfall totals. It's hard for a layman to envision the actual impact of this kind of erosion, but given the relative thinness of topsoil throughout our region, it sounds quite serious.

As far as the grazing outlook for the burned areas, the studies generally seem to indicate that it will take at least three years for the pasture to recover, and that assumes at least average rainfall - not a comfortable assumption for us at this point. Some local ranchers are anticipating that it will take 20 years for their land to fully recover from the conflagrations and drought. Any way you slice it, that's a severe impact.

There are some positives, to be sure, including a great reduction in cedar (allergy sufferers, rejoice!), and reductions in the rattlesnake population. And if weather patterns change and provide more rainfall, the resulting grazing should be better than before - assuming anyone is still around to run livestock to take advantage of it.

If nothing else, the situation provides an excellent laboratory for scientists like Nelle to study the long-term impacts of wildfires and drought, and for ranchers to implement new techniques to optimize their use of the land.

People Watching
June 22, 2011 8:47 PM | Posted in:

Random observations of the variety of humanity that inhabits the downtown regions of Denver, Colorado.

The girl came flying down the street on her bicycle with a grin on her face, as if she knew a special secret. She had long dishwater blonde hair, and was wearing short shorts, a halter top, and angel wings. 

A tall thin young man stood ramrod straight, cheeks puffed out as he furiously blew into the black tube protruding from the bagpipes under his left arm. He was dressed in full tartan kit, from the tam atop his noggin to his, well, cowboy boots. A full-sized chromed milk can stood next to him, an optimistic receptacle for tips. The sounds he produced could be heard for blocks.

Wrapped tightly in a thermal blanket, eyes shut hard but with a peaceful countenance, the tiny sleeping girl couldn't have been more than sixteen. It was not yet 6:00 a.m. but the early commuters didn't give her a second glance, curled up on the sidewalk down the street from the four star hotel.

Two men are playing chess on the stone board permanently mounted in the median between the bus lanes. One is dressed in a charcoal gray business suit and has a bluetooth earpiece; the other is wearing a dirty tank top, ragged shorts, and rope sandals to go along with his sombrero. They both have laser focus on the game, seemingly oblivious to the motley group of five men of standing around them with equally rapt attention to their moves.

The bulky middle-aged woman of indeterminate ethnicity, dressed in brightly colored clothes and a matching wide-brimmed straw hat, sat in her wheelchair and scowled while the police officer searched the bag hanging from the back of the chair as if it contained a bomb. 
That would be fact, in fact, and it's none other than Amazon.com founder and gazillionaire Jeff Bezos who's backing the project. 

The clock, as designed, will tick once a year, have a century hand that moves once every 100 years, and a cuckoo that, well, cuckoos once every 1,000 years. And the whole shootin' match is being assembled in a ginormous tunnel in the Sierra Diablo mountains, on land that Bezos owns and for which there isn't really any other good purpose so...why not?

This is dramatic scenery, by the way, laying just south of Guadalupe Peak, and about as rugged a stretch of landscape as you wouldn't want to traverse without a healthy supply of water and some good snake-guards.

I guess I somehow missed the fact that Bezos spent some of his formative years in Houston, and his family has ranched in South Texas for many years.

Also interesting to note is that the general contractor for this project is listed on the website as Swaggart Brothers, Inc., headquartered in Oregon, which is presumably how Bezos found them. But their website doesn't list this as one of the projects they're involved in. You don't suppose they're a little bit embarrassed by this job, do you? It's not exactly the sort of thing you brag about to your fellow hardhats in the local bar, unless it's to crow about the huge amounts of dough you're no doubt extracting from a certain eccentric billionaire.

I guess this project makes about as much sense as the Blue Origin spaceport Bezos is building in Culberson County.

Tip of the hat to Neatorama

Throwing Green
June 17, 2011 4:15 PM | Posted in: ,

I don't know what category this goes in, but I picked "Art" because it's the sort of thing that probably draws big bucks in a Manhattan gallery. Heck, for all I know it really is a piece of performance art:

Photo of a can of green paint spilled in a parking lot

It wasn't until I imported this photo - which, incidentally, was shot in the parking lot of Academy Sports this afternoon - that I realized that the dark stain off to the right gives the scene a weird 3D look, making the paint spill and can appear to be floating above the asphalt. That alone qualifies it as art in my book.

Note to whomever lost control of their Valspar: don't cry about it; I can assure you that this paint looks much better where it is than where you had planned to put it.

Random Thursday
June 16, 2011 1:17 PM | Posted in:

I should be working but I've scanned and am in the process of retouching 382 photos for a client, an old-school photographer who still does it the old-fashioned way. After a while, the last thing I want to do is look at a computer monitor, so here I am...uh...well...anyway...

  • Looks like we're headed for a record string of consecutive 100+ days. The current record is 14 days - which is actually pretty tame compared to some Texas cities; we were in Dallas during the Great Heat Wave of '80 when it topped the century mark for a staggering 42 straight days. Today should make ten for Midland. So, these are good days to sit in an air-conditioned room and ponder random stuff.
  • Verizon continues to roll out its 4G LTE wireless network, announcing that it's being activated in 19 additional cities today. That makes 74 cities, only five of which are in Texas (Bryan-College Station, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Temple-Killeen). I guess anyone west of I-35 is just out of luck.

  • Who says old-fashioned attention to detail by skilled craftsmen has disappeared? Well, no one, probably, but I can't think of a better way to introduce the following video, which shows an Indian artist hand-striping the gas tank of an Enfield motorcycle. I can't draw a straight line with a rule, so I find this highly impressive. [Link via Neatorama]


  • I was going to post a link to an article listing the "10 Most Poisonous Spiders on Earth" but it creeped me out, so you'll have to look for it yourself.

  • Don't you hate people who post their musical playlists? How narcissistic is that, assuming that anyone would be interested in knowing the last ten songs that came up on your iPod?

  • Of course, the exception is if your musical tastes are obviously superior in every respect. Well, like mine...

    • "Cry Cry Cry" by Trick Pony - Another "laughing on the outside, crying on the inside" song because the girl friend left

    • "Nothin' About You Is Good for Me" by Tricia Yearwood - In which she explains why Trick Pony is crying

    • "We're From Texas" by Eleven Hundred Springs - Another in-your-face, unabashed anthem celebrating just how cool we are

    • "Delicious Surprise (I Believe It)" by Jo Dee Messina - In a perfect world, Messina would be in Taylor Swift's shoes

    • "American Woman" by Lenny Kravitz - Is Kravitz this generation's Jimi (and by "this generation" I mean anyone who's thinking "Jimi who?")?

    • "Baby Rocks" by Phil Vassar, who is not to be confused with Phil Vischer

    • "Little Bit of Life" by Craig Moran - A happy redneck song

    • "No Trouble on the Mountain" by Mario Biondi - I may have mentioned this one before; Biondi is an Italian jazz/blues singer with a distinctive voice.

    • "Until It's Gone" by Radney Foster - Foster is an under-appreciated Texas (born in Del Rio) songwriter and singer who might have been the first country artist to record with Darius Rucker before the latter became a big country star in his own right.

    • "Cool Me Down" by Jenai - Is Jenai this generation's Carlene Carter (and by "this generation" I mean...well, you know)?
  • I've submitted a few phrases to The Phraseology Project but none have come up yet on their portfolio. I'm trying not to take it personally, seeing as how it's so cool.
OK, I guess I'm ready to head back to the retouching. But I swear, if I see one more photo of a high school senior posing with a brand new Hummer or 'Vette...

Fredericksburg Fire Ant Sightings
June 15, 2011 11:19 AM | Posted in:

Sure, the Texas Hill Country is overrun with fire ants, although perhaps the drought will knock them back a bit, as it seems to be doing here in West Texas. But that's not the kind of sighting I'm referring to.

Several folks were sporting cutting edge Fire Ant Gazette fashions at last week's family reunion in Fredericksburg, including the Great-Niece, The Nephew, and the soon-to-be Niece-in-Law. You'll note that The Nephew is modeling the avant-garde and highly sought after Missing Ant tee, while the GN is rocking the new Fire Ant Onesie (even though she's probably closer to a Twosie).

As usual, click on the photos to embiggen.



As always, you can get your own Certified Genuine Fire Ant merchandise (motto: "Cheap but not Inexpensive") from CafePress. I've reduced the markup on all merchandise to zero, meaning that I'm relying on sales volume to help me achieve my financial goals. I'm beginning to think there's a flaw in my strategy, but I'll be darned if I can figure it out. 
You know that bit of dialog in Joe vs. the Volcano, where the chauffeur, Marshall, (played by Ossie Davis) is giving Joe (played by Tom Hanks) some fashion advice? It goes something like this:

Marshall: What kind of clothes you got?

Joe: Uh, they're like these I'm wearing.

Marshall: So you got no clothes.

That exact line of conversation applies to Midland's bike paths. Technically, we have 'em (although they're just called "routes" and are indistinguishable from "streets") but from a practical perspective, we have no bike paths.

I suspect that if you were to poll all the bicyclists in Midland about their wish list for making the city more bike-friendly, the ability to safely ride from north of Loop 250 to south of the Loop and back again would be at the top of the list.

Of the nine major intersections along Loop 250, only three (Thomason Drive, Tremont, and "A" Street) are generally safe for cyclists. The Garfield intersection is dicey, depending on the time of day, and all the others are accidents waiting to happen. Loop 250 presents an almost insurmountable barrier to anyone wanting to commute by bicycle to a destination that's on the other side of that highway.

I've been giving this some thought and there's a simple solution: create a bike/hike path that connects intersection of "A" Street and Loop 250, and Airpark Road just west of the Claydesta Post Office. I chose "A" Street because it's the only "3-way" intersection with the Loop, meaning that it's got much less traffic, generally speaking, than the others. Plus, there's a pretty logical route extending from that point that has absolutely no intersections with traffic.

Having trouble visualizing how that would work? Here's a map:


View more details regarding the Proposed Airpark Bike Path.

The blue line represents the proposed route. It basically parallels the fence line of Midland Airpark. I'm sure there will never be any other type of development along this route as long as Airpark is operational, so that space seems perfect for a six or eight foot wide path.

I said the solution was simple; I didn't say it would be cheap. This route is almost exactly one mile in length. Depending on who you believe, the cost for a bike path is $50,000 - $1 million per mile. I suspect ours would be closer to the lower end of the spectrum due to the relatively flat ground, but that's still some serious change. And that doesn't include the required bridge over the drainage channel at the intersection of "A" and Loop 250.

On the upside, I assume that the City already owns all the property over which this route runs, as part of Airpark. If that's the case, the project would involve potentially messy easement negotiations.

I have no idea whether this project is feasible, or how one would even get it off the ground. I'm sure there are grants for this sort of thing. It just seems to me that opening up a safe conduit past Loop 250 for cyclists and hikers would be something the city would want to pursue, and it would finally allow us to rightfully claim that we've got a useful bike path Any thoughts or ideas you have would be appreciated; leave 'em in the comments.

And, as long as we're brainstorming and thinking big, consider how this could be the first leg of a path that would extend around the entire perimeter of the Wadley/Garfield/Loop 250/"A" Street square. This 4-mile stretch could become a real showcase for Midland's commitment to improving recreation and alternative transportation opportunities for its citizens.
We wrote about this last year when the IRS first announced the list of nonprofit organizations who were in danger of losing their tax-exempt status due to failure to file some required paperwork. At that time, the list contained about 150 organizations that had listed Midland as their headquarters. 

This is a potentially big deal for such organizations because it means that donations are not tax deductible, which in turn could affect their income if their donors find out, and could affect their donors if they don't (those IRS tax audits are probably not much fun).

The IRS has now published its "Automatic Revocation of Exemption List" and it still has 108 Midland organizations. You can either go to the IRS website and download the two big spreadsheets for Texas, and do a sort to find the Midland-based groups, or you can just scroll down this post. Personally, the latter seems to be an easier path.

I suspect many of these organizations are defunct so this won't matter one whit. I know some aren't, because we're members of at least one of them. Can you guess which one?

Note: I realize that some of the following organization names are incomplete, but that's how they appear on the IRS spreadsheets. The spreadsheets have EINs so if you're really curious and diligent, you can search for a cross-reference to identify the organization.

  • 710 A A GROUP
  • 951ST FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION
  • AMATEUR ATHLETIC UNION OF THE
  • AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
  • AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF BANKING-
  • AMERICAN PRAISE INC
  • AMERICAN REVOLUTION BICENTENNIAL
  • ARTWALK MIDLAND INC
  • AUXILIARY TO THE NURSING HOME
  • BALLET MIDLAND
  • BASIN FILM SOCIETY INC
  • CHARLES TOLBERT MINISTRIES INC
  • CHARM BEST KAZSUK MEMORIAL
  • CHILDRENS ACHIEVEMENT CENTER
  • CHINA FOUNDATION INC
  • CHOICES FOR CHILDREN INC
  • CHRISTIAN OILMANS ASSOCIATION
  • CIRCLE S RODEO MINISTRIES INC
  • COMMITTEE OF TEXAS INDEPENDENTS INC
  • CREAGER FAMILY FOUNDATION
  • CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS MANAGEMENT
  • CROWN ROYAL HISPANIC SOCIETY
  • D L CRADDOCK EVANGELISTIC
  • FREEWILL FOSTER HOME INC
  • GREATER MIDLAND FOOTBALL LEAGUE
  • HIS HANDS EXTENDED
  • HISPANICS FOR OPPORTUNITY PROGRESS
  • HOPE FOR GIRLS GROUP HOME INC
  • ISA-THE INSTRUMENTATION SYSTEMS AND
  • JUST DANCE COUNTRY CLUB
  • KEY ENERGY SERVICES INC VACATION PL
  • LIFE CHANGE ASSOCIATES INC
  • LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL INC
  • MARINE CORPS LEAGUE
  • MIDLAND ALLIANCE FOR THE MENTALLY
  • MIDLAND APARTMENT ASSOCIATION INC
  • MIDLAND AREA EXXON ANNUITANTS CLUB
  • MIDLAND AREA FOUNDATION INC
  • MIDLAND BLAST SOCCER CLUB
  • MIDLAND CHAPTER OF AMEICAN BUSINESS
  • MIDLAND COIN CLUB
  • MIDLAND COMMUNITY DAY NURSERY
  • MIDLAND COUNTY FAMILIES-IN-ACTION
  • MIDLAND COUNTY YOUNG LAWYERS
  • MIDLAND EXXON CLUB
  • MIDLAND FOUNDATION INC-TEXAS
  • MIDLAND INDEPENDENT ADULT SOCCER
  • MIDLAND LEE YOUTH CENTER INC
  • MIDLAND MUNICIPAL POLICE OFFICERS
  • MIDLAND TEXAS ALUMNAE CHAPTER OF
  • MIDLAND VOLUNTEER AUXILIARY TO THE
  • MIDLAND WIRRAL SISTER CITY ASSOC
  • MIDLAND YOUNG LIFE BUILDING
  • MIDLAND-ODESSA TRANSPLANT EDUCATION
  • MM CYBERTECH GROUP
  • MUSEUM HELPING HANDS INCORPORATED
  • NATURAL GAS PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION
  • NEWCORP RESOURCES ELECTRIC
  • NOAHS ARK ANIMAL RESCUE & REFUGE OF
  • PALMER DRUG ABUSE PROGRAM-TRAINING
  • PATHWAYS TO A BETTER LIFE INC
  • PEGASUS CLUB OF MIDLAND
  • PERMIAM BASIN CELTIC HERITAGE
  • PERMIAN BASIN AIDS COALITION
  • PERMIAN BASIN AUTO CLUB
  • PERMIAN BASIN CHAPTER OF THE
  • PERMIAN BASIN CHAPTER OF THE
  • PERMIAN BASIN CHAPTER OF THE
  • PERMIAN BASIN COOK-OFF INC
  • PERMIAN BASIN COUNCIL FOR THE
  • PERMIAN BASIN CRITICAL INCIDENT
  • PERMIAN BASIN MEASUREMENT SOCIETY
  • PERMIAN BASIN MEISTERSINGERS
  • PERMIAN BASIN OILMANS BASS
  • PERMIAN BASIN OPEN ASSOCIATION
  • PERMIAN BASIN PAWN BROKERS
  • PERMIAN BASIN WOMENS GOLF
  • PERMIAN CHAPTER OF CREDIT UNIONS
  • PRAIRIE HAVEN INC
  • PROMOTING HOPE INC
  • RADIO MINISTRIES
  • RANCHLAND HILLS WOMENS GOLF
  • RENWOOD PRODUCTIONS INC
  • SERENITY GROUP
  • SOCIETY OF ST VINCENT DE PAUL
  • SOUTH EAST NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
  • SOUTHWEST LYNX SYSTEM INC
  • SPINA BIFIDA ASSOCITION OF TEXAS
  • SPIRIT OF SALVATION MINISTRIES INC
  • TALL CITY BASEBALL ASSOCIATION INC
  • TALL CITY ROAD RIDERS
  • TEXAS AND SOUTHWESTERN COLLECTORS
  • TEXAS EXTENSION EDUCATION
  • TEXAS FAITH-BASED CENTERS FOR
  • TEXAS FEDERATION OF WOMENS CLUBS
  • THE MISSY RASNICK MEMORIAL
  • UPTOWN BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL
  • VANCE MCDONALD EVANGELISTIC ASSN
  • VISUAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT INC
  • WEST TEXAS CRIME PREVENTION
  • WEST TEXAS EARTH RESOURCES
  • WEST TEXAS EPILEPSY ASSOCIATION INC
  • WEST TEXAS FREEDOM CORPORATION
  • WEST TEXAS OLD FIGHTER PILOTS FOR
  • WEST TEXAS WRITERS INCORPORATED
  • YDF
  • YOUTH CRISIS CENTER INC
  • ZETA PHI BETA SORORITY INC

The Goose Whisperer
June 14, 2011 6:38 AM | Posted in: ,

Sorry about the post title; it's the best I can do at 6:30 a.m. Anyway, this story does deal with a goose - a one-legged goose at that.

Earlier this month, someone noticed that one of the three geese that have taken up residence at the ponds had an injured leg. One of our neighbors arranged to have the ailing goose netted and taken to a local vet clinic, where it was determined that the leg needed to be amputated.

The procedure was successful, although an infection complicated things a bit. After a stay at the clinic, the goose was returned to the pond on the afternoon of June 13th. I captured the triumphant release on video:



It's probably safe to say that many of us in the neighborhood have mixed emotions about the geese living at the pond. They make an awful mess, but they're also fun to watch. I doubt that there's any ecological benefit to having them around.

Perhaps the best storyline here - besides the assistance of an injured animal - is that the neighborhood rallied around the goose and contributed enough to not only cover all the medical expenses, but to also enable the beginnings of a fund that will be available for any future such uses. Many thanks to Deena Kargl and Melissa Tomlin for taking the initiative to get treatment for the goose and to mobilize a response in the neighborhood.

Driving the Noisy Roads of Texas
June 13, 2011 9:17 PM | Posted in: ,

I drove about 360 miles yesterday, mostly on I-10 and I-20, from Fredericksburg to Fort Stockton and then to Midland, and the overriding thought that sticks with me is..."wow, what a noisy drive!"

Interstate 10 is a patchwork of road surfaces, and the newest ones are also the loudest. The material used to surface the road is so coarse that the noise from the friction with the tires is just overwhelming, especially when compared to the smooth asphalt sections that come before and after. And it makes me wonder if TxDOT or anyone else has ever studies the long term effects of such high noise levels on drivers?

I'm sure it depends to some extent on what kind of car you drive. I would expect - hope? - that a Mercedes sedan would be quieter than my pickup. I'm sure that the type of tires also affects how much noise is generated.

Regardless, after several hours of driving on rough and noisy surfaces, I felt more tired and even stressed than had I been driving on the smooth asphalt of days gone by. If all drivers are affected similarly, that must impact driver alertness and mood, and not in a positive fashion.

I realize that the new surface materials are less expensive and are said to be longer lasting, but it's one more example of how "progress" adversely affects quality of life. But I suppose that's what the volume knob on the satellite radio is for.
There's no doubt that television technology has made great strides. We're on the threshold of having an 85" 33-megapixel TV to hang on our walls (for most of us, it will have to be in the garage, of course), or if that's too ostentatious, you can put in an order for Samsung's new 70 incher, if you're willing to settle for a mere 8 million pixels of Dr. Phil.

Scan of Magazine Ad
But for some of us, we harken back to a simpler time, when a guy (and not just MacGyver), with nothing more than five simple tools and sweat of his brow, could build his own TV, and a color one at that, complete with an "ultra-rectangular," 25" (315 sq-inch) screen that provides almost immediate access to 24 channels, more than you'll ever need if you're expecting quality programming.

The ad on the right (click to enlarge, and to dig that cool 70s 'do) appeared in the January, 1973 edition of Cycle Magazine, complete with a postcard (postage-paid, no less) to get more information about enrolling in the Electronics Home Study School offered by DeVry Institute of Technology (a Bell & Howell School). If you successfully completed the course, you got to keep the Bell & Howell Solid State color TV that you built. Plus, as the ad revealed, "You might even end up with a business of your own in color TV servicing."

The magazine also has an ad for Record Club of America: "FREE! up to 25 Stereo LPs or 15 Tapes (cartridge or cassette) with NO OBLIGATION to BUY ANYTHING EVER!" Did you fall for that one?
Some random thoughts - serious and not-so - about "Weinergate," the latest example of how skillful a politician can be in shooting his own foot. If only Rep. Anthony Weiner were so competent as a leader.

  • The seductiveness of the internet to cause one to do stupid things cannot be overstated. It's worse than alcohol or drugs in causing otherwise reasonable (and I'll give Rep. Weiner the benefit of the doubt here) people to do things that in other settings they'd find sick and laughable. You know, like we who are looking at him now do. "It couldn't happen to me," you're thinking right about now. Yeah, sure.

  • But, I confess that I am sorely, sorely disappointed in the internet. What are things coming to when a grown man like Rep. Weiner strikes up an "illicit" conversation with a "26-year old female" and it turns out that he's actually conversing with a 26-year old female, and not a 48 year old bald guy in boxer shorts? Is nothing sacred anymore?

  • Oh, by the way, did you catch Matt Laurer's interview with Andrew Breitbart on The Today Show? There was the faintest whiff of an inkling of the beginning of grudging MSM acknowledgment that, well, a blogger can actually be a legitimate source of news reporting.

  • Morally, Rep. Weiner has some obvious shortcomings (we're not going to pander to the lowest common denominator and address any physical characteristics), but politically, his biggest weakness is an utter failure to lie convincingly. Did anyone in America buy his "I've been hacked" story? Nope. Even John Edwards did a better job. So, Rep. Weiner, next time you're in this position (and we'll never say "never," not as long as Andrew Breitbart is holding a few more cards), you'd do well to heed the advice of that great Texas sage, Delbert McClinton:

Fire Ant Sighting - Singapore
June 5, 2011 7:10 AM | Posted in:

Remember the "Create a Haiku to Win a Cheap Fire Ant Wristband" Contest? An impressive number of you apparently have a lot of time on your hands, because we got some great entries from around the world, literally, including New Zealand and Singapore. 

I'm still waiting for some photos of those lovely gifts set in exotic locations, but Li-Ern - who scored extra geek points by evoking Gollum's psychotic greed, and fonts, in her poem - has provided a couple from Singapore. Click on the small images below to see a larger version of each. (If you're skeptical that these pictures actually originate from Singapore, you'll just have to trust me. I'm the one who had to fill out the ridiculous DHS form to get the mailing through customs.)

I'm impressed with her use of one as an anklet. Following her lead, I managed to pull one over my foot and onto my ankle, but after a few minutes my foot began turning blue and I'm pretty sure that's not a good thing.


Overheard Bird
June 4, 2011 5:27 PM | Posted in: ,

All afternoon, while puttering around in the front yard, we've been hearing this odd bird call, kind of a plaintive "squawk," not harsh like a grackle's, but a bit more melodic. It sounded familiar to me, but I just couldn't place it. Nor could I discern its source.

Then, a few minutes ago, the call was closer and I was able to zero in on the apparent source...at which time I remembered where I'd heard it before. It was in this same scene:

Photo - Quail on top of roof

Do you recognize the bird? Probably not. Here, try this one:

Close-up Photo - Quail on top of roof

Yep, it's a quail - specifically a scaled or blue quail - apparently pretending to be an eagle or a hawk. I have no idea why a lone quail would fly up to a rooftop and walk along the ridgeline, squawking at the world. Lonely? Bragging? Defying? Who knows what goes on inside the brain of a quail? I certainly don't. But I suddenly got a craving for jalapeños and bacon.

Passed Grass
June 4, 2011 2:33 PM | Posted in: ,

So, you've finished edging and mowing the yard in the 90 degree heat, and you're happy to have that chore out of the way. You grab a bottle of water and ease into the chair on the front porch to admire your handiwork. Despite the watering restrictions, the lawn looks pretty darned good. You swing your gaze across the manicured grass and...what's this?!

Rogue bermudagrass seed heads in lawn

That, my friend, is evidence of a job gone tragically wrong, a symbol of everything that's wrong with society today, a reminder that man lives in a fallen state.

Or, it could just mean that I had sweat in my eyes and pushed the mower around like a drunken sailor.

Nothing that a pair of hand-clippers couldn't fix, of course.
Recognize any of these mooks?

Photo of the Murchies and Siegmunds

This is a photo of yours truly and MLB in one of the sumptuous skyboxes at Rockhounds Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Those other starstruck folks are Molly (the pregnant one) and Colin Murchie, whom you've met earlier on these pages

OK, they're not really starstruck; they're dazed by a combination of West Texas heat, stadium hot dogs, and the fact that the Rockhounds actually won a game. Plus, they're astounded at my fabulous fashion sense.

Anyway, Molly and Colin traveled all the way from our nation's Capitol to attend Molly's niece's high school graduation and we were privileged to finally meet them.

If you follow the preceding link, you'll learn that they're members of the Washington Improv Theater (WIT), and the group has once again been successful in this year's edition of the 48 Hour Film Project, winning several awards in the local competition. Here's more information about their film.

But, hey...you've got better things to do than click a buncha links, right? I understand, and for your convenience, I'm giving you the actual movie itself. Don't thank me; it's what I do. Enjoy. And if you're wondering, Molly plays the pregnant woman.

Relative from Tyler Korba on Vimeo.

Colin told me that this film was shot using a digital SLR. Pretty cool, huh? Oh, did I mention that Colin and Mollie have a new dog named Frankie who can do a high five?
I received an email this evening asking me to publicize an upcoming event that will raise money to build a no-kill pet adoption center inside the Midland PetSmart location. I'm happy to help with that cause, because it's an important one. Here's the jist of the appeal:
The Midland Humane Coalition is a non-profit no-kill animal organization looking to end euthanasia in Midland County. PetSmart has agreed to build a $750,000 shelter inside the Midland PetSmart location for them to find these pets homes if they can raise the money for the first year of operating expenses. 

Midland Humane Coalition is about $130,000 short on their goal of fund raising. These funds must be acquired by the first of July. 

Jake's Clays is hosting a shoot for them on June 24th-25th (flyer with more info here) to help raise them money for their adoption center. You can also go to www.midlandhumane.com to make a donation as well.
 
Please help us raise awareness about this organization's needs; it would be greatly appreciated! We need to get this information out there and help us raise the awareness about this worthy cause.
 
Midland needs a no-kill animal shelter like this. Every little bit helps; the Midland Humane Coalition and the babies whose lives are saved all appreciate the help.
 
Please consider making a donation to this worthy cause, or participate in - or better yet, sponsor - the clay shoot.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2011 is the previous archive.

July 2011 is the next archive.

Archives Index