April 2012 Archives

A few weeks ago, during a post-dessert foray through Barnes & Noble, my eye lit upon a book resting on a table, notable for its thickness and heft, entitled 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die (And 10,001 You Must Download). Now, normally, when I find a book that looks promising, I look for it in e-format but in this case, the treeware version called to me.

Book coverThis is 960 pages of musical history, profiling in chronological order the editors' choices for the most influential recorded songs - by decade - beginning with Enrico Caruso's O Sole Mio, recorded in 1916, and ending with the Gorillaz 2010 recording of Stylo. Each song is described in terms of its influence, with tidbits of trivia about the artists, the context of the recording, and in many cases, other artists who covered the song or who were influenced by it. Some great photos accompany the text.

If you love pop, blues, or rock and roll (sorry, country fans...the British editors knoweth not what they do), you should get this tome. While I'm not familiar with many of the songs - I lived through but ignored the whole punk genre, and continue to ignore rap, for example, and the Anglo-centrism of the editors focuses on some UK artists I never heard of - you may still be interested in how they fit into the progression of musical history. And, frankly, any book that recognizes the genius of Dolly Parton's Jolene has something going for it.

And for those songs that are familiar, the accompanying stories and trivia are fascinating. For example:

  • None of the Beatles played an instrument on Eleanor Rigby.

  • Pete Townsend so admired Smokey Robinson's lyrics in The Tracks of My Tears that he lifted one of them to entitle the Who's Substitute.

  • Macy Gray and Marilyn Manson grew up in the same Canton, Ohio neighborhood.

  • Aerosmith's classic Walk This Way was inspired by a scene and line in the Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein.

  • When Jimi Hendrix purred "move over Rover" in Fire, he was referring to an actual situation where his bass player's mother's Great Dane was interfering with his attempts to put a move on Jimi's girlfriend in front of the fireplace.

  • Lani Hall, the singer on Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66's Mas Que Nada (one of my favorites, by the way) learned the Portuguese lyrics phonetically, and sang them so convincingly that Brazilians thought she was a native speaker.

  • The editor assigned to Paul Revere & The Raiders' (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone labels that band "the first great punk band," and then makes a convincing case. Incidentally, did you realize the band was formed in 1958.

  • The drummer on Peggy Lee's 1958 hit, Fever, played with his bare hands, without  sticks. 
And, finally, many artists have recorded Save The Last Dance For Me, but the first #1 hit recording belonged to The Drifters in 1960. The lyrics of the song have a special meaning for the writer, Doc Pomus, because he...well, you'll have to get the book to learn the rest of the story.

Photos from book

Back Yard as a Terrarium
April 29, 2012 7:20 AM | Posted in:

Last Wednesday, the high temperature in Midland was 104°, which was not only a record for April 25th, but the highest temperature ever recorded in the city in April. Couple that kind of heat with our outdoor watering restrictions, and our back yard is toast - literally. (OK, not literally literally, but blogger hyperbole literally, so work with me here.)

We have an ongoing discussion about the kind of makeover that will bring some semblance of livability to that space, but thus far we've reached no consensus. (Translation: I'm waiting on Debbie to tell me what to do.) In the meantime, we've decided to fill the yard with large, rusty, redneck sculpture, like so:

Photo of our metal horny toad

Every back yard should have a metal horny toad covered in deadly spikes. I won't be surprised if some covert federal agency shows up on our doorstep demanding to see our registration for this device as a WMD. In fact, it's difficult to imagine a work of art that's more dangerous in one's backyard. Well, unless you're a collector of Shi Jin Song's sculptures:

Photo of a deadly rocking horse
 
Makes our horny toad look like a cuddly Beanie Baby, huh?

You Ninja, Yu
April 28, 2012 7:02 AM | Posted in: ,

Scott Chaffin is one of my blogger heroes; The Fat Guy would be on my list of Blogs I'd Pick If Stranded On A Farm-to-Market Road Between Quitaque and Turkey (that's in Texas, ya'll). He writes with a deceptive country-boy self-deprecation that completely fails to obscure a wicked wit, sharp intellect, and laser-focused insight. He loves country music (the non-Nashville, Texas Outlaw kind) and is a cricket fan. I might also mention that he's currently putting a whuppin' on cancer.

Scott's a besbol junkie, a mutated mix of Yogi Berra and George Will, and reading Scott's insights on baseball is more fun than actually watching the game - there's about the same amount of spitting going on, but a bit less scratching. And so it is that I found myself inspired by his ode to Yu Darvish after the Rangers pitcher handed the Yankees their heads a few nights ago. I was particularly inspired by his riff on the description taken from this article of the young, extremely-well-paid Japanese pitcher as a "bad-a** ninja."

So, Scott, this one's for Yu:

Ninja Baseball Player
Image created via blatant ripoff and mashup of this, this, and this.
Once again, Photoshop trumps talent.

My Excellent Podiatric Adventure
April 27, 2012 6:56 AM | Posted in: ,

On Wednesday, for the first time in my life, I consulted with a podiatrist. I've had pain in my right foot for several weeks, and it's not getting better on its own, despite my dancing three times a week and continuing to wear bad shoes. Go figure. I decided to consult an expert so that I could stop ignoring my own amateurish advice and ignore that of a highly educated professional instead. 

I had this conception of what a podiatrist's office would look like. I envisioned something out of a Dick Van Dyke Show episode, essentially frozen in the early 60s, except with arcane equipment scattered around. I was spot on. 

Photo of waiting room

Yes, those are my actual unretouched feet, patiently (ha!) awaiting the results of x-rays. But that's not the focus, because they obviously pre-date the early 60s. Look instead at the décor! 

To be honest, the surroundings weren't off-putting at all. Quite the opposite; they engendered in me a calm and comfortable feeling, sort of like settling into the parlor of a favorite aunt, not that I recall having any aunts who had actual parlors. The artwork was classic Starving Artist Nature Scenes With Ducks motif, and it blended perfectly with the peeling green plaid wallpaper and verdant armchairs. This waiting room was anti-hipsterish to the point of being absolutely cool. I'd go back in a heartbeat just to enjoy the ambiance. 

I think all doctors' offices should be similarly decorated, because I can remember when they made house calls, and I'm all about nostalgia nowadays.

Pebble: The future of watches?
April 26, 2012 6:36 AM | Posted in: ,

Meet the next millionaire-making personal-electronics phenomenon: the Pebble smartwatch.



This unassuming wristwatch is designed to interact with - control and/or be controlled by - your iPhone, iPod touch or Android smartphone, via Bluetooth. The face is so-called ePaper, a display that's visible in bright sunlight, like a Kindle, and is also backlit for viewing in the dark. The watch can access a wide variety of apps, and more intrepid owners can write their own apps to add capabilities to the device. Instead of building in all sorts of capabilities that would increase the size and complexity of the watch, it piggybacks onto your smartphone and appropriates its features. You can download any number of "faces" to customize the look of the phone - it always displays the time when it's not engaged in more exotic tasks, like measuring the distance to the pin on the 8th hole of your favorite golf course, or displaying caller ID for incoming phone calls, or keeping track of your bicycle route.

If you're an Android owner, you will even be able to view incoming text messages on the watch. Apple doesn't allow external access to such messages so this won't work for your iPhone; you can argue whether that's a good thing or not. 

I've mentioned Kickstarter a few times in the past, and have "invested" in several projects via this group-source financing tool. But the Pebble is far and away the most successful project I've run across. According to its Kickstarter page, more than 40,000 pledges now total more than 60 times the original $100,000 goal.

You can still get in on the funding for this project, which is accepting pledges for another three weeks. Depending on your level of backing, you can get your own Pebble before it becomes available to the general public.

Scary Prairie
April 25, 2012 6:30 AM | Posted in: ,

According to The Weather Channel, the temperature in Midland today will hit 105° In recognition of this dubious achievement, I offer the following.

Photo of dry grass

If my lawn is already looking like this, imagine what August is going to bring. OK, just kidding (sort of). This is an overly bleak perspective of the grass the developers planted to hold down the soil in the new phase of our neighborhood. It was a lush green up until a couple of weeks ago. Now? Uh, not so much. In fact, it looks like a good candidate for a wild fire (Heaven forbid!).

By the way, despite a concerted effort at research, including almost three solid minutes of googling, I still don't know what species of grass this is. This is especially troubling because I was actually on a grass judging team when I was a mere lad in 4-H. Bet you didn't know such a thing existed.

Note: I was going to title this post "Passed Grass" (you know, like a euphemism for death and all that) but found that I'd actually used it before. Dang.

Mystery Slab
April 24, 2012 6:34 AM | Posted in: ,

A new house is going up a block from us, and we're really puzzled about something. Below is a photo of the concrete slab that was poured last week, showing a sunken...something. There are no plumbing or electrical connections, and the space isn't big enough to be a living area (it's about 8' x 10'). Any ideas?

Photo of a concrete home foundation

Yellow-headed Blackbirds in Midland?
April 23, 2012 6:01 AM | Posted in: ,

We went for a walk around the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, primarily to check out the new homes under construction. My usual practice is to stick my point-and-shoot camera in my pocket before leaving the house, just in case we encounter something out of the ordinary. I was glad I did.

Photo of a yellow headedWe've had multitudes of red-winged blackbirds roosting around our ponds, and they've even been venturing into our yards, which I haven't seen until this year. So we weren't surprised at the noisy flocks of those birds around the north pond. What we were surprised to see were two black and bright yellow birds on the ground next to the water. I grabbed my camera, zoomed in as closely as I could, and managed to get two photos before the birds spooked and flew away.

It wasn't until I googled "yellow chested birds" that I discovered the identity of the pair: yellow-headed blackbirds. I hope they stick around; they're beautiful birds.

Photo of two yellow headed blackbirdsPhoto of two yellow headed blackbirds

Ballroom Dance Playlist
April 22, 2012 2:37 PM | Posted in: ,

Last night's Ballroom Dance Society dance was the annual event where we use prerecorded music. It's sort of a fundraiser, since we save the cost of a live band, but it's also a chance to try out some new music (and to dance to an entire evening's worth of tunes that are never off-rhythm or out-of-tune!).

I had the responsibility of assembling the playlist, which is simultaneously fun and terrifying. Picking music that I think others will enjoy dancing to - and trying to make sure they feel like their money was well spent - is a little intimidating. But we've also been dancing long enough now that I think I have a pretty good feel for what will go over and what won't. Last night's lineup was well-received, and more people than usual stayed until after the last song. That's saying something when it involves almost three hours of music with less than ten minutes of break time, total, although I think prerecorded music gives you a chance to sit out a tune here and there if you know that one is coming up that you'll enjoy more. And everyone did, because we provided the playlist for each table.

A prerecorded playlist also allows you to plan the progression of dances, mixing up the tempos and musical styles so that it doesn't get boring, and there are some chances to "rest on the floor" with a slower-paced song.

Anyway, if you're planning your own dance - and why wouldn't you? - below is what we cut a rug to last night. All of these songs are available via iTunes. The dance step shown for each tune is a suggestion, not a requirement. Some of these songs lend themselves to multiple steps.

Song Title Artist Dance Step
Song Title Artist Dance Step
I Just Want To Dance With You George Straight Cha Cha
Pennsylvania 6-5000 Glenn Miller Swing
Brown Eyed Girl Van Morrison Rumba
My Dream Is You Suzy Bogguss Slow
Tennessee Waltz Unknown Waltz
Some Kind of Wonderful Little Milton/Delbert McClinton Swing
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life Stevie Wonder Rumba
I've Got You Under My Skin Rod Stewart Foxtrot
It's Now Or Never Elvis Presley Cha Cha
Blue Tango Unknown Tango
Fine Cindy Morgan Swing
Moon River Henry Mancini Waltz
Sway Pussycat Dolls Rumba
Boy From New York City Manhattan Transfer Swing
I've Got The World On A String Michael Buble Foxtrot
Old Time Rock And Roll Bob Seger Swing
Waltz Across Texas Willie Nelson Waltz
Fly Me To The Moon Frank Sinatra Foxtrot
Big Bad Handsome Man Imelda May Tango
In The Mood Glenn Miller Swing
Kokomo The Beach Boys Rumba
Mambo Italiano Ray Gelato Mambo
Beautiful Day For Goodbye George Straight Waltz
Oye Como Va Unknown Cha Cha
Mustang Sally Rascals Swing
Route 66 Natalie Cole Foxtrot
La Cumparsita Alfred Hause Orch Tango
Neon Moon Brooks & Dunn Rumba
The Best Is Yet To Come Michael Buble Foxtrot
The Last Waltz Englebert Humperdinck Waltz
Watermelon Man Julie London Swing
Oh, Pretty Woman Roy Orbison Cha Cha
Don't Stop Gin Wigmore Swing
Smooth Santana Rumba
If You Don't Know Me By Now Teddy Pendergrass Waltz
Jalousie Alfred Hause Orch Tango
Moondance Michael Buble Foxtrot
Wild, Wild West Escape Club Cha Cha
Girl From Ipanema Big T and the Badda-Bings Rumba
South Side Stomp Jenai Swing
Forget You Cee Lo Green Cha Cha
Could I Have This Dance? Anne Murray Waltz
Stuck On You Lionel Richie/Darius Rucker Slow
Mack The Knife Bobby Darin Foxtrot
Spanish Eyes Al Martino Rumba
Open Arms Journey Waltz
Save The Last Dance For Me Michael Buble Cha Cha

You snooze, you bruise.
April 11, 2012 8:59 PM | Posted in:

We're really enjoying our new iPads, although I think I'm getting along better with mine than Debbie is with hers. According to Apple, the iPad is a bit heavier than its predecessor, and while I can sort of detect that extra weight, she's experienced it up close and personal, as it were. (As it was? As it is? As it ever shall be?)

In fact, she may be the only person on the planet who's experienced self-induced blunt force trauma via her iPad, and not just once, but twice. See, she likes to read in bed and...well, here's a professional artist's rendering of the brutal sequence of events that will tell the story better than I ever could.

Artist's Rendering
Professional Artist Rendering
Professional Artist Rendering
Professional Artist Rendering
Professional Artist Rendering

Thus we see the hazards associated with attempts at nocturnal multitasking, wherein reading while sleeping with a heavy object hovering over one's face can lead to a literal rude awakening. And, believe it or not, there was blood. I told her she's going to have to start sleeping in a football helmet with a faceguard.

The first time this happened, I threatened to blog about it, but relented and chalked it up to "just one of those freakish things." But twice makes a meme and we're all about memes here at the Gazette. Plus, I told her I was going to do this. But you're my witness, in case her heavy iPad lands somewhere else tonight, if you get my drift.

Eggs-it Here
April 9, 2012 5:58 AM | Posted in: ,

As Bill Engvall says, you might be a redneck if you have Christmas lights up on your porch year-around. Photo of the wreath on our front doorThat's an unfair characterization. A lot of people like the looks of little twinkly lights, and I'm of the opinion that you fit the redneck stereotype only if those year-around lights are strung over a Christmas tree made of Bud Light empties tied together with baling wire. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But what if you still have a Christmas wreath on your front door in April? What does that make you? Well, we're probably still rednecks, but not for that reason. Take a look...



Debbie discovered the nest and the eggs only after taking the wreath off the front door in preparation for putting it atop the credenza in our bedroom. I'm glad she did, as it would have made for an unpleasant surprise around June or so.

Anyway, she quickly rehung the wreath on the front door and the mother bird promptly returned to attend to the eggs. I have no idea if they'll hatch, as the bird flies off every time we walk by, and the eggs may not be getting their minimum daily requirement of feathered butt. I'll report on whether we eventually have a brood on our front door, or if we can finally switch over to a more appropriate seasonal entryway decoration.

I'm sure you're wondering, what kind of bird is it? It's a little gray one. Who do I look like, John Q. Autobahn?

Technical note: I filmed this using my little GoPro HD camera. It's perfect for maneuvering into tight spots you can't reach with a standard-size camera, video or otherwise, and it's auto-focus, good low light performance, and fisheye lens makes it a good choice for no-look close-ups. (In other words, I couldn't see what I was filming.)

Kill 'em and Color 'em
April 8, 2012 8:45 AM | Posted in:

Debbie and I were strategizing the other day about how to incorporate the severe watering restrictions into our lawn care regimen. We're resigned to the fact that the grass will probably die when the heat of the summer hits, but we're not interested in putting in fake turf.

So, I was opining that we should just go ahead and bite the bullet and apply Roundup™ to the grass and get on with the brown look. Debbie was OK with that, but then she pointed out that weeds would spoil the uniform deadness. Hmmm. 

I had a brainstorm. What if they made Roundup™ in colors, and you could just roll it onto your dead lawn to kill weeds, while also re-introducing the green that we all want to have. You know, like this:



I admit it might need a tweak here and there. For example, Roundup™ is actually a herbicide, not a pre-emergent. Plus, finding big honking rollers might be a challenge. But I'm just the idea guy; you mooks can come up with the implementation. My work here is done.

Five Book Mini-Reviews
April 7, 2012 7:10 AM | Posted in:

There's a good reason for the solid non-blogging going on around here lately: I've been reading. You know, like, books. You might find something of interest among the group, so here are some brief reviews. The linked titles lead to Amazon.com, where you can either order the hard copy version, or download the Kindle version; some of these books are also available via Apple's iBooks app. The ratings are my subjective assessment, where 1 star is any text of any Obama speech on the Constitution, and 10 stars is the Bible.

Five Book Covers

  • Knox's Irregulars, by J. Wesley Bush, or, as I know him, John. It's a little strange to read a book by an author you knew before he became an author. I've never met John, but I've followed his various blogs and Facebook postings for years, and he's shown kindness by pretending to read some of my stuff. He's something of a Renaissance man, with many interests, talents, and skills, and so it was not surprising that his personality and background permeates his first novel. Knox's Irregulars is a good representative of an increasingly underrepresented literary genre: hard science fiction. It's also possibly the only representative of legitimate science fiction that has as its underlying and undisguised theme God's grace expressed through a reformed Christian theology. Intrigued? You should be. It's a good story and well-written, set on another planet, in a distant future that has many disturbing similarities to our present. The attractive tech comes in the form of combat suits, ala Iron Man. (Did John Steakley invent this genre with Armor?) My rating: 7 stars

  • Hammerhead, by Jason Andrew Bond. Well, how about that? Another hard sci-fi novel. This one has nothing to do with sharks, or least, not the kind that live underwater. The attractive tech in this book is a combat helicopter capable of doing intricate maneuvers at mach 3 speeds, but the real interest is in the disparate team of good guys who grudgingly seek to undermine a global plot to, you know, end life as we know it. Characters are painted with rather broad brushes, and the plot requires you to suspend belief at several key junctures, but overall, a good way to spend some time. And don't be surprised if you see this one translated into the big screen in a movie starring The Rock. My rating: 6 stars

  • Dead Iron: The Age of Steam, by Devon Monk. I have to admit that I'm smitten with the idea that a woman would write a steampunk zombie werewolf novel with some majick, a witch, and possible dwarvish folk thrown in for good measure. Now, my pal Mike S. wasn't too impressed with the book, but I think this was also his first encounter with the genre and he had different expectations. Me? I'm all about steampunk zombie werewolf novels, and if you are as well, grab a copy. It's well set up for a sequel, too. My rating: 8 stars

  • Working Stiff, by Rachel Caine. I have to be very careful here, because I don't want to give any spoilers about the main premise of this novel (which is also likely to be the first in an ongoing series). At one level, it's a murder mystery, full of unexpected twists and turns, but what really sets it apart are the peculiar circumstances that come to define the novel's primary character. This one also has some plot holes big enough to drive a hearse through, but overall, it's quite entertaining. My rating: 7 stars

  • The High-Beta Rich, by Robert Frank. I threw this one in to prove that I'm not a complete philistine when it comes to literature. Frank is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and his particular beat is covering the lifestyles of the rich, famous or not. And by "rich," I mean "filthy, stinkin', over-the-top, life's-not-fair, who-needs-a-lottery-ticket" wealthy. It's interesting in a voyeuristic way to read about the excesses of the rich, but there's an oddly pleasing schadenfreude that accompanies the recitation of how some of them lose their wealth. And that's what this book is really about - the up-and-down cycles that are becoming increasingly common and extreme. (Beta in the title refers to the financial variable that describes the volatility of a stock vs. the market as a whole; the higher the beta, the more the stock's price will swing as compared to the market.) The author lays out a good argument for why the fortunes - forgive the pun - of today's wealthiest Americans have implications not just for them and those they employ, but for all of us as taxpayers and citizens. There's some intriguing and sometimes frightening insights as to where we may be heading as a society. It's a short book, easy to read, with just enough juicy stuff to keep you going through the more academic portions. My rating: 7 stars.

Elliptigo Bike: First Report
April 6, 2012 6:02 PM | Posted in: ,

We took delivery of our Elliptgo bike last Wednesday and we finally had some time today to play with it a bit. Here's a video of our trial runs up and down the cul-de-sac in front of our house.



I found the bike very easy to master; after about ten minutes, I felt completely in control. Debbie is having a somewhat steeper learning curve, but that's because she's been accustomed to riding on the back of a tandem bicycle for the past twenty years and hasn't had to worry about minor details like steering, shifting gears, and braking. But, as you can see in the movie, she's doing just fine.

The bike definitely provides a vigorous workout, which shouldn't surprise anyone who's used an indoor elliptical trainer. The motion is identical, although the bike has regular handlebars so you're not getting an upper body workout. (The thought of adding those moving bars to the bike is downright frightening.)

The bike itself is well-made, with quality components. The welds are thick and uniform, probably equal to the standards you'd find on a good mountain bike. The 8-speed gear systems shifts easily and reliably and the brakes are scary good.

Photo - Roller and railOne slightly disconcerting feature is the noise of the bike, caused by the rollers attached to the "pedals" sliding up and down channels (see photo at right). I can't think of an alternate design that would eliminate that noise, but you probably won't need a handlebar bell to let pedestrians know you're coming up behind them.

The bike comes with a owner's manual chock full of warnings and alerts about the dangers of riding this contraption. There are at least six stern warnings about the fact that you are very tall when astride the Elliptigo, putting you in danger of "serious injury or death" should you forget your height and attempt to ride under short things like power lines or taxiing aircraft. As you can tell in the video, I take those warnings seriously, donning my protective Fire Ant Gazette Anti-Trauma Baseball Cap. Don't be like me, kiddies; wear a helmet.

The Elliptigo owners community appears to be a large and active one, judging by its Facebook page. The sport is now spawning support industries, such as elliptical biking shoes (although as far as I can tell, they're just repurposing some athletic shoes for this type of riding).

I don't think this will supplant our regular biking equipment, but it will certainly be a viable cross-training (and pleasure cruising) alternative. It's especially welcome for those inevitable times that running is out of the question due to injury, something I'm dealing with right now.

Bottom line: the Elliptigo bike is cool enough, fun enough, and practical enough to warrant getting another one so that we can "ride" together.

Random Thursday
April 5, 2012 6:30 AM | Posted in:

We interrupt our regularly scheduled non-blogging for this special programming:

  • Had a guy call me today about one of the websites I developed and maintained for a local organization. It hasn't been updated since I closed my shop last August, and he had volunteered to take it over and bring it up-to-date. The only catch is that he doesn't know anything about websites. He asked me if I could teach him what he needs to know to do it. My short, immediate, and firm answer was "no." I suggested that if they didn't have the budget to hire a professional, perhaps they'd be better off just creating a Facebook page. Anyway, it's a source of ongoing amusement to see how people underestimate the complexities of the web design profession.

  • Ooh...look what FedEx delivered yesterday. Watch for a report, assuming I survive.
Photo - Ellipitgo bike

  • I've been downloading and testing a variety of cartographic apps for my iPhone and iPad. I don't envision using any of them as a serious work tool, but I'm finding that there are some pretty sophisticated and powerful programs available for map making/viewing. For example, ESRI makes a free mobile version of its ubiquitous ArcGIS desktop software. It provides the ability to import and view a wide variety of map layers (e.g. Bing street-level maps; topography maps; etc.) and to pull in data from external GIS servers. You can also use your phone's GPS to update existing maps, and if you're already an ArcGIS user, the app integrates with the desktop version.

    Another free app, Avenza's PDF Maps, is a resource for topo maps, as it provides free downloads to your iDevice of all of the USGS 7.5 minute topo quads. The advantage of this is that you can use the maps even if you don't have cellular or WiFi access. The downside is that you can quickly consume the storage capacity of your device as each map can be up to 20mb in size. PDF Maps also allows you to import KML/KMZ files created in Google Earth.

  • One consequence of living in a semi-small city for three decades and having a fairly active social life is that one often has a personal connection to front page headlines. While this sometimes can be a fun and interesting situation, it's occasionally disconcerting and even heartbreaking. This story is an example of the latter. The driver who struck and killed the man crossing the highway is a former co-worker and current friend, and I know he's devastated by this tragedy, even though he wasn't at fault. Another story in yesterday's paper reported on the suspension of a local attorney for wire fraud; we were acquainted with him, and shocked that someone with his obvious charisma and potential would put himself in such a position.

  • On a much lighter note, here's a great example of turning lemons into lemonade. Many people complain about the recent trend toward glossy computer monitors that tend to reflect so much background that they're distracting and sometimes almost unusable. A company called Cybertecture apparently contends that that's a feature, not a bug, as they've essentially taken one of those reflective monitors, slapped it on top of a computer, hung it on the wall, and called it an intelligent mirror. It's a slickly packaged concept, but it's still just a computer on a wall, and it costs up to $7,700. I'm not sure the world - or at least the sane portion, however increasingly small that may be - is ready for it. Judge for yourself:

A Vicarious Ride Across Texas
April 2, 2012 9:07 PM | Posted in: ,

I can't remember how I came across this blog, descriptively entitled "Southern Tier Bicycle Tour- 2012," but it's one I find myself visiting daily. It's the account of a couple traveling by bike across the US, and while a good number of people do this each year (and blog about it), it's pretty rare that they choose a southerly route that takes them across some of the most desolate parts of Texas.

Beginning with their entry into the Lone Star State from Deming, New Mexico, continuing past Van Horn and around the Davis Mountains, and on into the Hill Country, the couple is documenting their impressions of Texas (and Texans). Their photography is beautiful, capturing not only some of the freedom and adventure (and angst) of unsupported cycling, but also the dramatic range of experiences that we Texans might sometimes take for granted. I recommend it.

You can start here if you like, as they first ease their way into lovely Anthony, Texas. If you read far enough, you'll eventually learn the meaning of "PUDs" (which, for my petroleum engineering friends, isn't what you think).

Their experiences in the Hill Country are especially interesting as they ride over some of the same roads - and make some of the same climbs - Debbie and I have done for years. I never had the forethought (or patience) to stop and take photos, although some of those hills are indelibly etched in my memory.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2012 is the previous archive.

May 2012 is the next archive.

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