Recently in Midland/Odessa Category
--Me, and probably every other driver in Midland, Texas
- A driver in a pickup turned left in front of me after the signal had turned green for me to go through the intersection. Having driven in Midland for decades, I anticipated that and had slowed. What I didn't anticipate was the woman in the small sedan hugging his bumper and completely blocked from view who never came close to making a legal turn, and who glared at me for almost t-boning her.
- A few blocks later, I pulled up behind an overly (in my opinion) timid driver who stopped as soon as the light turned yellow, causing us both to have to wait for the city's longest signal (an admittedly subjective assessment but after a day at the office, it's entirely warranted, if you know what I mean).
- Every now and then, something happens that restores my faith in humanity and I think that perhaps there really is some hope for mankind. Then I read Facebook comments and come to my senses.
- Forget Ebola. What I want is a concentrated scientific and medical research effort to find a cure for that strange malady that results in the loss of use of a person's left index finger the moment they get behind the wheel of a car in Midland, Texas. You know, the finger that activates the turn signal.
- Similarly, what is it about grocery store parking lots that cause otherwise sane people to acquire the emotional state of a rabid menopausal bobcat with hemorrhoids? Last night, a "lady" almost rammed me trying to get to a parking space before me (and I wasn't even trying to park). Fortunately, I was able to nudge her walker out of the way with my truck bumper and get on with my business.
- In keeping with the mindset that anyone who drives slower than me is an idiot and anyone who drives faster is a jerk, I believe that women drivers don't use turn signals because they're too preoccupied with cell phones, and men don't use them because they think that communicating their intentions is a sign of weakness.
- If the Cold War turns hot and we have to start building bomb shelters again, I'm making mine out of the cardboard that Chobani uses in their four-packs. I'm pretty sure that stuff could withstand anything the Russkies could throw at it.
- I'm so Midland, I think the name of my city is an adjective. (Seriously, folks...stop it. Just stop it.)
- If you seek longevity as a musician, acquire some skill on an instrument other than your voice. Inevitably, the old guys lose the upper registers (or in the case of Gary Lewis, all the registers), but the horn players can rock it until the day they pass to that Great Spit Valve in the Sky. Chicago has done a good job of finding younger replacement vocalists (who are also great instrumentalists) while keeping a core group of four original members.
- On the other hand, it doesn't matter how menacingly you thrust your trombone at the audience, that instrument will never be sexy. (I'm looking at you, James Pankow.)
- The WinPAC continues to impress as a classy venue, but bands need to realize that they're not playing to a 50,000 seat amphitheater, and the audience really can hear quite well even if the volume is only cranked to, say, eight. An eleven on the volume dial is just painful. (And then again, I'm willing to entertain the plausible suggestion that I'm simply getting old and crankly.)
- According to the female half of the couple with whom we attended the concert, Colour My World is a frightfully boring song. I confess that I had forgotten how much I agree with that assessment.
- On the other hand, I could have listened to Chicago's arrangement of Steve Winwood's classic I'm A Man all night long - even cranked to 11 - as well as the encore performance of 25 or 6 to 4.
- To the person sitting either directly behind me or next to me who made an unfortunate dining choice before the concert I offer one word of advice: Beano. Seriously, folks...it's an intimate venue; skip the pre-concert beans and broccoli next time. K'thx.
- Wally Reyes is a fairly recent addition to the group, giving a stellar performance as a percussionist, and apparently having the best time of anyone on the stage, judging by the big grin on his face throughout the performance. Based on his enthusiasm and energy level, I would have never judged him to be almost 60 years old.
- As long as I'm complaining about the loud music, I might as well throw the lighting guys under the bus, too. We're sitting there in the cozy semi-darkness and suddenly we're hit with a few hundred-thousand-candlepower spotlights, and it's not an enjoyable experience, unless you were planning on burning out your retinas later anyway. Don't do that. We don't care if the band sees us or not.
- I attribute this next observation to the relatively advanced average age of those in attendance, but we as a group were an awfully polite bunch of drivers when exiting the parking lot after the concert. Despite the large crowd, traffic moved quickly, and I saw a lot of considerate people taking turns letting people into the flow. Well, there was one driver in a Mercedes coupe who apparently had more important things to do than the rest of us, but the exception made the rule even more obvious.
- I wonder if I was the only person in the audience who, after hearing Walter Parazaider's flute solos, thought it would be really great if we could get Jethro Tull to come to Midland.
...I might as well crank it to 11 myself, with a bonus observation...
- What's up with encores, anyway? Who are we fooling? Who are they fooling? Just play the song(s) you knew all along you were going to play, and spare us the requirement of offering the adulation that earns us the privilege of hearing them. K'thx.
- It appears that both parents contribute to the feeding. I can't tell them apart, but at the 2:50 mark, one shows up to "tag team" the other (although at first glance, it seems not be be a welcome appearance).
- I have always assumed that barn swallows fed their young by regurgitating partially digested insects into the babies' mouths, but right off the bat - at the 30 second mark where I've slowed down the action - you can see a whole insect, legs sticking out of the adult's mouth, and it gets stuffed right down the gullet of the infant. I guess they know what they're doing.
- Another slo-mo feeding takes place near the end, at the 4:10 mark, and this one seems to clearly demonstrates the regurgitating process.
- It's also fascinating to watch how the adults seemingly know who gets fed next. If there was any doubling up, with one youngster getting fed twice in a row, I didn't catch it.
Looking for a potting table? Well, step right up...
March 29, 2013 9:52 AM | Posted in: Midland/Odessa
- Width (leaves folded): 48"
- Width (leaves out): 87 1/2"
- Depth: 23"
- Height (to top of shelves): 59"
"We have to consider everything and look at all our options," Perry said regarding the limited discussion of the "A" Street expansion during the retreat. "If we can do it, great. If not, that's OK. We have to think outside the box, as though we are not limited."
- Community - What role does community play in this square mile. How do residents interact and socialize? Is community involvement centered at the school, the barber shop, the cafe or the home?
- Family - What is the role of family in this square mile? What is it like to live, grow up or raise a family in this square mile?
- Work - How do people earn a living in this square mile?
- Food - How is food a part of the culture in this square mile?
- Future - What is the future of this square mile?
(Update - the next morning: Good thing I emptied it yesterday; there was another 3" in the gauge.)
Tommy Castro and his bass player
Tommy Castro and some adoring fans
A Mexican Lime on our back porch
A Vitex bloom, slightly past its prime
The armadillo that stands vigil over our side yard
The delicate beauty of a desert willow flower
A burro, yearning to fly
A Mexican Elder towers over a stoic chaparral
The "Ride of Silence" will start at 7PM tonight, from the UTPB CEED Building at SH 191 & FM 1788. What do you think needs to be done to improve bicycle safety?
|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|
|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|
|Moon River||Henry Mancini||Waltz|
|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|
|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|
|If You Don't Know Me By Now||Teddy Pendergrass||Waltz|
|Jalousie||Alfred Hause Orch||Tango|
|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|
|Save The Last Dance For Me||Michael Buble||Cha Cha|
and you ain't got a buck,
in London you're a goner.
Even London Bridge has fallen down,
and moved to Arizona,
now I know why.
Would you and your family like to travel to the UK and act as ambassadors for Midland?
Would you and your family like to swap lives with a British family from the Wirral (your sister city) for one week?
Would you like to live in a British family's home while a British family lives in your Midland home?
If you are at all interested or would simply like more information then please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are looking for families from Midland, Texas who will get the chance to have an all-expenses paid trip to the UK where they will spend a week living in the Wirral which I believe you are twinned with or have a friendship with?
The family we choose will get to act as US ambassadors for Midland and will get to see how the other half live by living the life of the British family they swap with for a week. This will include swapping houses, jobs, children will go the local schools/colleges, they will get to meet the community and experience the local culture as a whole.
We are looking for fun families who would be available for a week between the dates of 16th April and 31st June and would be interested in being on television.
[Lyrics from "London Homesick Blues"...but you knew that]
This is the obligatory view of the snow-enhanced pond. The ducks were not amused.
Also not amused was our palm tree.
An interesting predicament: snow-filled traffic lights.
This is a clumsy 360° panorama taken from the hill just north of our neighborhood. Click for a bigger view. There's software that will stitch these pictures together much better than I did by hand, but I was too lazy to look for it. Oh, by the way, the big photo is 3,300 pixels wide.
The wax myrtle in the back yard wasn't exactly thrilled with its new coat...
...but the desert willow was stylin'.
The neighborhood pond is simply magnificent when it snows.
The snow turned a sad, drought-stricken pasture into a semi-surreal postcard.
Our ceramic iguana was not amused...
...and neither was I when I arrived at my office to find that melting snow had found its way out of the cold.
Gazette: How did you come up with the idea of the shock-cord "causelets"?Brandon: The paracord bracelet is not a new idea. In fact, I first heard about them over a year ago when I received an issue of BackPacker Magazine that ran a story about making your own "survival bracelet." Long story short, I bought the paracord to make a couple, did just that, then tucked everything away in a closet for a little more than a year. Then, about mid-September of this year for reasons unknown, I dragged it all back out and made a couple more. This time, my wife suggested that I attempt to add a breast cancer ribbon to one. Since Jess [ed.-Jess is Brandon's lovely wife] and I participate in raising funds for a few favorite causes each year (Breast Cancer Awareness, First Candle, March of Dimes, and the American Heart Association), she was thinking that I could sell a few as a type of "bake-sale,"and donate the funds. I reluctantly said yes (while thinking in the back of my mind...these won't sell), and proceeded to tinker. I finally found a way to make it happen in a practical manner, and off I went. Eventually, people started requesting them for other causes than breast cancer research. The rest has been a blur of a constant orders!G - The bracelets look somewhat time-consuming to create. How many can you create in a day/week/month? Is this a full-time job for you.B - Right now, I can make about 50 bracelets a day if I need to. It has taken more than full-time attention to make all this happen, but it's not all that I do. I'm currently tutoring nurses that are returning to school to obtain Bachelors and Masters degrees. It has definitely been a challenge to balance the two. As business grows, I can see this becoming my full time job.
G - Your website mentions that Chi-Rho Knots is a family business. What family members are involved?
B - My grandparents have agreed to sign on to my "little" project. My grandfather is a retired veterinarian, and my grandmother is a retired office manager. With their help, I've been able to keep up with the influx of orders.
G - What are your goals for Chi-Rho Knots? How do you feel about the response to it?
B - I've always had a giving heart, and I think that must fit into God's plan for me. I am humbled by the response! My goals for the company as of now are to continue to grow and expand responsibly, while raising as much money for research and assistance as possible, for the variety of medical conditions we are all dealing with in some form or another. This isn't my doing. It must be God's idea. That's really the only explanation for the insane success Chi-Rho Knots has experienced thus far. So, even though I like more than my fair share of the spotlight, the Glory goes to Him on this one, and I'm forever grateful. This endeavor has been a blessing in so many ways, to so many people. I'm honored to be a part of it.
View more details regarding the Proposed Airpark Bike Path.
- 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
- YOUTH CRISIS CENTER INC
- ZETA PHI BETA SORORITY INC
Those two head-on shots are my favorites; they remind me of airplanes flying in formation. In the last picture, notice how their wings seem to be synchronized.
I guess I missed part of the description of the $1.8 million of our money you paid for the new traffic light synchronization system, the part where that is a recurring annual fee rather than a one-time payment. I infer that's the case because you've apparently failed to renew the system for the new year, based on my experience earlier today of driving north on Garfield Street and hitting five out of six possible red lights. Big Spring Street seems similarly afflicted.
I'm pretty sure I speak for many Midland drivers when I suggest that you need to read the fine print on the next light synchronization system you acquire, and make sure you've actually bought it, instead of just renting it. You might have those guys in the Planning Division look it over for you; I suspect they're paying a lot more attention to details nowadays.
This plat shows the future development of Woodland Park, but not all the lots will be included in the next phase. The specific areas of development are the lots west of Gunnison Drive and north of Keystone Court and Castle Rock Court, and those to the south of the current development that start just west of "A" Street and continuing over to the south extension of Breckenridge. An additional 50 lots will be developed in a future phase.
We've known all along that this expansion would eventually occur, but I still have some mixed feelings about it. On the plus side, it will mean that the north pond will be finished, and the big gap in the sidewalk around its perimeter finally filled in. It should also provide an improved barrier to blowing tumbleweeds during winter and spring windstorms, and the additional homeowners association dues will help ensure that the development is properly maintained (not that that has been a problem up to this point).
The downsides are those things that accompany all such developments: increased dust and noise from the construction, increased traffic through the neighborhood, and loss of pasture habitat for wildlife (a mixed curse/blessing, to be sure - bunnies are cute, rattlers not so much.).
We'll also continue to lose the neighborly familiarity that we shared when there were only a relative handful of us in the development. We do our best to maintain contact with each other via a neighborhood email list, directory, and website, but it's almost impossible to keep up with fifty neighbors, much less 200.
The most interesting aspect to this development is that a new street (Silverton) will be developed, running along the northern boundary of the neighborhood. This street will eventually extend west and either directly or indirectly connect to the northern extension of Garfield. This will greatly enhance the convenience of traveling from our neighborhood to other parts of Midland north of Loop 250. The safety aspect of having a second exit from the development is also important (and possibly even required by city code).
In that post I mentioned that I had passed my concerns along to the OGAC's chairman, and he responded with a thorough and informative explanation of the committee's reasoning for its actions. He also passed along to the City's Oil & Gas Compliance Officer my observation about the neighborhood oil well that has not yet been landscaped according to the agreement under which the well had received approval.
Yesterday, I received an email from Ron Jenkins, the aforementioned Compliance Officer, addressing that situation. Here's an excerpt from that email.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something different about the bird, specifically his flight. It's very skittish and difficult to get close to, but it appeared that it had something dangling from one leg as it took to the air. I finally decided that its leg was dangling, and I confirmed this a few days ago when I was able to get close enough to take some photos with a zoom lens. Those are shown below; click on each to see a larger version. Please note that these are difficult to look at; the injury is gruesome.
I don't have a clue as to what caused the injury. It doesn't seem to affect the bird's flight, and it doesn't look uncomfortable standing on one leg, but I can't imagine that it can hunt for food with ease, because it can't walk through the shallow waters looking for fish, frogs, and insects that make up its primary diet. One would also think that the injury makes the heron more susceptible to predators like coyotes.
I've contacted Burr Williams, executive director of the Sibley Nature Center and local wildlife expert, and he in turn has contacted a local veterinarian to see what, if anything, might be done for the bird. Capturing the poor thing will be a challenge, and rehabilitation of such a drastic injury might not be feasible. I'll let you know how this plays out.
It's a tough world out there, sometimes.
The first meeting of Midland's Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (OGAC) - the group created earlier this year to ensure that oil and real estate development in our city proceeds without undue burden on each other - yielded disappointing but not unexpected results. If yesterday's meeting is a predictor of things to come, we'll see a steady stream of oil companies appearing to get exemptions from various provisions of the city's drilling ordinance, and we'll see those exceptions routinely granted.
The quote above is from the Midland Reporter Telegram's meeting coverage, and the first sentence of that article spoke to the Committee's desire to "stay in front of development." But its approval of the landscape exception flies in the face of that expressed intent.
The landscaping requirement in the City's drilling ordinance is intended to provide a cosmetic shield around a well site. Some might argue that planting trees around a site where there's not yet any real estate development is unnecessary, but that tends to overlook the fact that it takes several years for trees to grow enough to provide the effective shielding anticipated by the ordinance. Waiting until real estate development reaches the well site before requiring the landscape just delays the effectiveness of that provision...and certainly isn't a good example for staying "in front of development."
The MRT also reported that the Committee's chair, Richard Dunham*, said that developers of future real estate in the area could approach the oil operator and "work out an agreement for what landscaping is needed." In my opinion, that's a naive approach, and fails to recognize two things. First, at that point the real estate developer has no leverage to negotiate with the oil operator. Second, there's some anecdotal evidence that oil operators are ignoring such agreements already, and that the city is not taking steps to enforce them.
Exhibit "A" is a well that was drilled by Patriot Resources on Midland Country Club's property just to the east of Woodland Park. In a City Council meeting in February, 2009, that well was approved with the express requirement of a dirt berm AND the planting of trees around the berm. Almost two years later, not a single tree has been planted, as far as I can tell without trespassing on the property. The photo at right was taken this morning from "A" Street; click it to see a larger version.
I hate to extrapolate too much from a single action item from the first meeting, but it's difficult to ignore the precedent that's been set. I've been concerned from the start that the OGAC would a rubber-stamp for oil development within the city limits, and yesterday's action did little to dispel that concern.
[Update (11/9/10)] I've been notified by the city's Oil & Gas Compliance Officer that the city is aware of the non-compliance of the above-mentioned well and is working with the operator to bring it into compliance. See this update for details.
*Disclosure: Richard is both a friend and a client. I've already expressed these concerns to him via email. I appreciate the difficulty of the task set before the members of the OGAC, but I think it's important to let the committee know how "regular folks" feel about these issues.
Click on the small images for bigger versions, and to go through them slideshow-style.
Entering the building where the voting was taking place, you couldn't see the entire line of voters, as it went around a blind corner and down a long hallway. People coming in could see that the line stretched out of the actual polling room, but until they rounded that corner, they didn't really know what they were facing.
I enjoyed watching their facial expressions as they came around that corner. Here's the thing: most of them broke into bemused smiles. I saw very few frowns; heard no angry muttering. I saw no one turn around and walk out. People were there to take care of business, and they weren't going to be dissuaded by a mere inconvenience. It made me proud of my fellow citizens.
I found it easy to be patient. Debbie and I once stood in line for three hours to vote, so twenty minutes was a relative walk in the park. I've probably written about this before, but one of the advantages of periodically deleting your archives is that you can recycle material and no one can prove it without going to some trouble. Anyway, the year was 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running against an incumbent Jimmy Carter. Reagan won in a landslide (one of the better things that's happened in our country during my lifetime, but we won't get into that right now), and more than 100 million Americans cast votes in that election.
We were living in Garland, Texas, in a new home - our first - and in a new precinct. Our precinct had experienced phenomenal growth since the preceding election - we later discovered that it was, in fact, the fastest growing precinct in the nation - and the voting office wasn't prepared for the turnout. We got to our polling place, a neighborhood elementary school, after work, around 6:00 p.m. as I recall, and the line went out the door, down the block, around the corner, and down that block. We inched our way toward the school, and the sun had set by the time we reached the entrance, where we figured it was just a short wait to vote. Were we ever wrong!
The line then snaked through almost every classroom and up and down every hallway. We saw every inch of that school; I'm surprised they didn't run the lines through the restrooms. The wait was so long that several babies were born, a couple of marriages occurred, and at least one divorce. OK, I exaggerate, but you get the picture. By the time we were finally able to cast our votes and leave, Reagan had already been projected as the winner. In fact, this was the first election where a network used exit polls to project a winner.
Even at that, standing in line for three hours is a minuscule price to pay to participate in the democratic process (even considering the fact that we didn't have cell phones or iPods to provide distractions). Countless people around the world will never experience the privilege of voting for a leader, much less knowing that their vote actually counted.
It's a thing not to be taken lightly, or for granted.
Our tree is loaded this year, as the photo below proves. And this is after we thinned out the crop a bit. From the street, the pomegranates look like those big red Christmas tree ornaments. I don't remember the fruit being quite this red and shiny last year.
I think we've got another few weeks before they're ready to harvest.
The afore-linked 501exempt.com website provides a means of geographically searching the database, and a look at Midland/Odessa organizations on the list yields some interesting results. According to the database, the following are in jeopardy (among about 150 total organizations listed for Midland and about 100 for Odessa):
- Permian Basin Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute
- ARCO Permian Retiree Club (Debbie's and my former employer)
- Christian Oilmans Association
- Daughters of the Republic of Texas
- Greater Midland Football League
- Historical Society of Midland County
- Natural Gas Producers Association
- West Texas Epilepsy Association
- Just Dance Country Club (we're members of this group)
- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
- Legal Assistants Association of the Permian Basin (a former client)
- Midland County Young Lawyers Association (another former client; not sure this group is still active)
- Midland Exxon Club
- Noah's Ark Animal Rescue & Refuge of Midland
- Permian Basin Auto Club (yet another former client)
- Permian Basin Bridal Association
- Toastmasters International
- Permian Basin AIDS Coalition
- Artwalk Midland, Inc.
- American Postal Workers Union
- National Association of Letter Carriers
- Fraternal Order of the Eagles
- Girl Scout Permian Basin Council Trust Fund
- League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
- Odessa Petroleum Club
- Permian Basin Dance Club (I'm not familiar with this one)
- Permian Basin PC User Group (Windows, of course ;-)
- Permian Basin Pool Players League
- West Texas Gem and Mineral Society
- Permian Basin Citizens for Decency
- Permian Basin Motorcycle Association, Inc.
- Toastmasters International
This situation reinforces the importance of having a competent treasurer, or at least a trusted financial/accounting adviser or provider.
Case in point is the September, 2010 issue with a story about the West Texas oil drilling b**m that we're now experiencing. (I'm superstitious about using the b-word.) Writer Skip Hollandsworth does an excellent job of describing how an oil play (in this case, the so-called Wolfberry) goes from theory to actuality, providing not only the technical details but also the human side of the story.
And it's that human side that really makes the article interesting, especially to those of us who have lived in Midland for years. We have personal connections with almost everyone described in the article. They're our co-workers, neighbors, fellow church members, and occupy the adjoining booths at IHOP, and Hollandsworth nails their personalities without exception. (The only quibble I have is where he describes Dennis Phelps, a former co-worker at ARCO, as having "the charisma of an accountant." I, of course, am an accountant (by education, at least), and like to think that I'm more charismatic than a petroleum engineer. I'll let you decide how charismatic that really is.)
You can read the article online at the link I've provided above, but I also recommend reading the web-only interview with the author (Made in Midland). Hollandsworth contrasts the stereotype of the Texas oilman (e.g. J.R. Ewing) with those he met in Midland, and the local guys come out winners by a long shot.
That's not to say that the players in the Midland oil scene don't have their eccentricities and foibles. I could tell you about one prominently featured character who set his clothes on fire with my welder, or another whose pet goat could frequently be found standing atop our car, but I'll save those stories for another day.
The real point is that you'd be hard-pressed to meet better people than those working the West Texas oil patch today. And, for Midland, that's pretty much everyone.
During the aftermath, it became obvious that barn swallows are masters of turning lemons into lemonade. They also subscribe to the strategy of victory through overwhelming numbers. And so it is I find that even though I've successfully stopped them from building nests, they've created more holes in the dike than I have fingers.
Our next-door neighbor recently counted more than forty of the little birds perched along the eave of her back porch. That should give you an idea of the magnitude of the issue. A number of that gang has decided that our back and front porches provide excellent overnight accommodations, even if they can't erect apartment complexes for permanent residence. As it turns out, they've decided that the steps that I took to dissuade the nest-building (stuffing rolled-up shop towels behind ceiling-mounted speakers, for example) provide perfectly cozy places to spend the night.
Now, let me be clear: barn swallows are very cute birds, and entertaining to watch. They do a great job of mosquito control, and they don't bother other birds (unlike the house finches who bully the hummingbirds trying to service our feeders). But the concept of - how can I put this delicately? - "not fouling one's own nest" is completely foreign to them. In other words, we can always tell how many overnighted by the mess they left on the concrete below.
I'm now taking suggestions for further countermeasures. Regarding the speakers, it's obvious that I'll need to build a solid enclosure of some type around them. The porch eaves pose a bigger challenge. But if my idea for a tiny little electric fence works out, you'll be the first to know.
I took a photo of them a year or two back, when we were in the middle of an extreme drought. I just stumbled across the image and liked the way the light of the setting sun added some contrast to the picture. I applied a little Photoshopping (OK, more than a little), and voila!
Unfortunately, that rain came with a price - very high, gusty winds. Our fully loaded pomegranate tree is loose in the ground, and would have been completely uprooted had I not staked it down a couple of months ago. But our neighbors to the immediate east suffered a significant loss, namely:
Take Sid, for example. He's a seven year old Belgian Malinois, and a four year veteran of the Midland Police Department's K-9 Unit. We got to meet Sid (albeit not up close and personal, as he was on duty and not in a socializing mode) and his partner, Officer Simpson, along with another K-9 cop, Officer Garcia. Sid was born in Belgium and received his early training there. The local officers have to learn many commands in Dutch because that's how the dogs are acclimated.
The department has shifted to this breed, away from German Shepherds, because of the latter breed's tendency to injury, especially hip problems. The Malinois are slightly smaller and lighter, and thus less injury prone (only about 1% suffer from hip ). They still have a powerful bite (900-1000 psi), and are highly intelligent.
Debbie and I were interested to hear that all veterinary services for the police dogs are provided by Dr. Bobby Boyd (a fellow Fort Stocktonite) at the Tall City Veterinary Hospital. I asked how the dogs responded to office visits. The answer is, "not too well." For everything but routine shots, the dogs are muzzled and often sedated in order to protect the clinic personnel. (The handlers hold the dogs for their shots.)
By the way, a fund has been established to help pay vet bills for retired police dogs. If you're interested in making a donation, you may do so at Dr. Boyd's clinic, which is located at 4606 W. Wall St.
We also visited with Bryce Pruitt, a firefighter who drives Midland's only ladder truck. The truck made an appearance at our gathering, much to the delight of all the kids (of all ages - there's nothing like a big honkin' fire truck to make a boy out of a man!). That ladder truck makes all of the fire calls in Midland (and, in fact, was on the job at that terrible blaze that destroyed the home under construction at GreenTree last night), so its crews stay plenty busy. The ladder truck carries no water or hoses, but has a fitting and pump that allows water to flow from external sources up the ladder to where it can be directed to where it's needed. Oh, and the truck gets about 3 miles per gallon around town, so that should make you feel a little better about your SUV.
Later in the evening, our city councilman, Jeff Sparks and his wife Val made an appearance. We were his fifth or sixth stop for the evening.
This was an enjoyable time for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the chance to thank some of the police officers and firefighters who are on the front lines. It was a privilege to meet them.
And it's a source of pride that Midland, Texas, ranks among the most active cities in the US in participating in National Night Out. If your neighborhood isn't participating, perhaps it's simply waiting for someone to step forward. In our case, that someone was Berry Simpson. Perhaps next year, in your neighborhood, it could be you.
Update: Berry has posted photos from this event to his Flickr account. Yours truly appears multiple times, but you shouldn't let that stop you from checking out the pictures.
The geese are still hanging around. They were inexplicably strolling through the vacant lot across from our house (I saw one of them nip at some of the weed seed heads), and when they saw us walking down the street, headed our way and paralleled our course. Here's a short snippet of video I took with my phone.
They continued to walk in roughly the same direction we were headed, but they crossed the street, back and forth, inspecting who-knows-what. Some of our neighbors had congregated on a front porch and they watching the geese with great interest. One of them had a chihuahua on a long leash, and he was quite attentive, straining at the leash to get a closer look...until, that is, the geese turned toward him, at which point he quickly retreated to his master, content to switch to remote monitoring mode. We had a laugh at his expense, but I observed that it would be like us confronting a T-Rex, given the size difference between the small dog and the large goose. I didn't blame him a bit.
It took us about ten minutes to round the south pond - pausing to speak to a cottontail rabbit who thought he was hiding in plain sight just off the sidewalk - and by the time we got to the opposite side, the geese had made their way along the pond and we watched them waddle down the bank and back into the water. I suppose they were getting in their morning constitutional, as were we.
Heading toward the north pond, we spotted something in the middle of the sidewalk about 20 feet ahead. It was a horny toad. I wondered why we always seemed to see them on the walkway, and we soon got our answer. He was resting in the path where an abundance of ants were busily crossing the concrete, and it was a veritable movable feast from his perspective. We watched as he pounced on several ants who had the bad judgment to wander into his sphere of ingestion. He didn't seem to be willing to chase any of them down, content to let them come to him, but we did see him miss one ant, eat another that was close behind, then whirl around and consume the one that almost got away. Unfortunately, the scene took place too far away to capture on my phone's camera.
Rounding the north pond and heading home, we roused the usual jackrabbit contingent. They like the tall grass brought out by the summer's rainfall, but you can usually spot the black tips of their ears sticking up over the ground cover. Those guys are built for speed, and they're as shy as the geese are bold.
According to my extensive (one or two clicks) research, these are Western Greylag (or Graylag, if you prefer the Americanized spelling convention) geese, with the pleasingly repetitive scientific name anser anser anser (just trying typing that without inputting "answer" instead). They apparently have a wide range worldwide, but I have no idea whether these are domesticated escapees, or slightly confused travelers, seeking temporary haven while trying to recalibrate their GPS.
I expected that they would be gone very quickly, but they were still hanging around yesterday evening. In fact, they had picked up an accomplice in the form of an apparently species-confused young duck. While the geese swam slowly across the pond in single file, the duck paralleled their course a few feet away, serving as a wing man. The other ducks were huddled together across the pond. We surmised that they'd either ostracized the youngster for bad behavior (you know how they can be), or had sent him to spy on the intruders. Or, perhaps, he simply had grand aspirations that he felt couldn't be fulfilled by normal duckhood.
On a related note, that run was chock-full of good bird sighting, as a sandhill crane also graced the northern pond. Unfortunately, he didn't stay around for long, and I wasn't able to get a photo.
In my admittedly uninformed opinion, this is the kind of content that a local newspaper needs to focus on in order to draw readers. We have lots of other options to get state, national, and international news, but almost no options for local coverage. Whether this exact format or specific content is sustainable remains to be seen, but I find it more interesting and informative than a section of columns and reports pulled from other newspapers* concerning topics that often have no direct local appeal.
I'm sure that filling a section of local coverage each week represents a significant commitment of resources, and I appreciate the MRT's willingness to commit those resources. I hope the experiment is successful.
*Exception: This may seem illogical, but I do see value in the MRT's reprinting of selected reports from other West Texas newspapers.
According to this website, this is a Scarlet Darter Dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea). Whatever the name, it's a gorgeous specimen.
Ours was pretty good.
Yesterday, much of Midland experienced record-setting rainfall. The airport recorded just over 2" and street flooding was a serious problem. I even succumbed to it, managing to drown the Durango in an ill-advised attempt to cross the River Wadley in front of HEB. Fortunately, I was able to coast onto a side street and let the engine dry out enough to limp home, the automotive equivalent of a wet possum. (I did appreciate the two young Mormon missionaries who stopped and offered to help, despite their obvious lack of mechanical savvy.) But, those conditions did not extend to Casa de Fire Ant, where our backyard rain gauge - a mere two miles from the aforementioned flooded streets - recorded a paltry .1" for the entire day.
OK, fine. I need to mow the yard today anyway, and it would be too wet if we had gotten that much rain yesterday. I always look for the silver lining in the non-existent thundercloud. So what do we wake up to this morning? Rain, falling steadily, and in sufficient quantity to thwart my lawn care plans. And, of course, the forecast is for more precip over the next few days (depending on what course Hurricane Alex takes), meaning that by the time I can next fire up the lawnmower, what I'll really need is a hay baler.
But, so you won't think I'm a complete wet blanket, a total stick-in-the-mud, an overbearing glass-is-half-empty guy, an insufferable generator of tired water-related cliches, I do appreciate the opportunity to turn off the sprinkler system for a few days, along with the lifting of the county's burn ban. Not that I have anything I wish to incinerate, but it's nice to know that I once again have that option.
Yesterday, I glanced out my office window and spotted this one on our flowerbed's brick border. By the time I grabbed the camera and got outside, he was lounging against a stand of Mexican feathergrass, apparently striking an intentional pose.
I understand that the lizard's dwindling numbers is attributed to increased use of pesticides, encroachment on habitat by human development, and the severe drought conditions that have thankfully eased this year. It's good to see them back.
Anyway, here are some things I wish were, um, different:
- The local newspaper has instituted a new weekly section in which it republishes opinion pieces (formerly known as "editorials") from other Texas papers. Now, I realize that in a city our size, it's difficult to fill a daily publication with local news but I couldn't care less about what Austin thinks about Formula One racing (or much else, to be honest). If I want to read editorials in the Houston Chronicle or the Dallas Morning News, I'll go to their websites (and I never do, which should tell you something). Sure, I could just skip that section each week but I'd prefer that it be filled with something - anything - local. [I do like the MRT's new website, though. Nice use of jQuery for the headline slider.]
- You may recall that one of my pet peeves is the lousy traffic signal synchronization throughout our fair city. I figured that when the city spent almost $2 million a while back to purchase and install a new system, I'd have one less thing to gripe about, and I did...for a while. There were times when one could drive the speed limit and make three or four consecutive green lights. It was commuter heaven. But, in what is apparently an inevitable process where government is concerned, the system seems to be steadily deteriorating, to the point where in some cases, the synchronization is actually worse than before the system was installed.
For example, driving north on Garfield from Golf Course, it is no longer possible to hit a green light at Neely (if one sticks to the speed limit). And no one can drive south or north on Big Spring without having to stop at Louisiana. Is there something sacred about that intersection that dictates a moment of automotive silence?
I guess we should be thankful that the city bought a system and made it work for a while. But it would be really cool if they figured out how to keep it working.
- We still don't have a Pappadeaux Seafood Restaurant. Somebody do something about that, would you?
*Well, there is that roofing company TV ad featuring the fake talking dog that has been running nonstop for two years. It's a savvy marketing move, using a phrase like "In the wake of the recent storms...", understanding that sooner or later, it will again be somewhat relevant. But it still makes me want to shoot the TV.
Anyway, if you don't have any pomegranate trees in your area, you might be interested in seeing the stages of development, all in one photo.
Starting in the lower right corner and going counterclockwise, you'll see the flowers that are the first signs that the fruit bearing season is beginning. Those flowers give way to an intermediate stage (top right), which in turn become something more recognizable as an actual pomegranate (middle left).
This one tree has literally dozens of each of these "life stages."
We can but hope that the local dove gene pool is thereby strengthened, but I somehow doubt it.
Can you make out that mass of junk in the middle of the palm tree (and we're using the word "tree" quite loosely here; it's more of a palm bush or palm shrub). It's a dove's nest, perched precariously a full three feet above the ground.
We discovered it last weekend, and noticed it only when the nesting dove exploded from the tree as we walked by. Closer inspection revealed this (it's been a while...forever, in fact, since I've been able to photograph down into a nest without a ladder):
The mother is quite skittish, and with good reason. She didn't exactly pick an obscure spot for the young 'uns. But I was able to point a telephoto lens around the corner and catch her hard at work:
As soon as she spotted me, she burst from the nest and took up residence on the neighbor's roof, keeping an eye on me:
Dove as a species don't strike me as very intelligent; they're the avian counterpart to sheep. However, this choice of location for a nest isn't as dumb as it might seem. Sure, it's close to the ground, but it's also protected by a seven foot wall and locked gates. There's danger from weather, but that's a given regardless of location, but, otherwise, unless another marauding bird makes an appearance, this may be a good place to raise a family. We'd like to think of our neighborhood in those terms, anyway.
Last Sunday I noticed the bird flying into the tree on a couple of occasions, seeming to pay no mind to us as we sat on the front porch (well, I sat while Debbie pruned shrubs, a pleasing tableau to my mind), but the implications didn't sink in. Yesterday, though, I noticed it was continuing to pay close attention to the tree, often with twigs or grass in its mouth, so I conducted a closer inspection. The nest is almost complete, and it's less than ten feet from ground level.
This does not bode well for lawn mowing this summer. Nesting mockingbirds are fiercely protective of their eggs and young, and their bravado borders on foolishness. They also have sharp beaks and claws and they know how to use them.
It's highly entertaining to watch mockingbirds torment cats that wander into their territory; it's less so when you're on the receiving end of their attention. I once donned a motorcycle helmet to finish mowing our lawn (which might explain why our neighbors generally crossed the street when walking past our house) when we lived in Garland*, but only after a kamikaze attack left the top of my bare head oozing blood. I had a similar experience at our previous house, although no injuries were sustained other than to my pride as I ran for cover in my own yard.
So, I'm pessimistic about the prospects for peaceful co-existence this summer. I no longer own a motorcycle, but I may put my bike helmet by the front door...just in case.
Our neighborhood didn't sustain any damage from the rain or the hail, other than leaves knocked off various shrubs and trees. The drainage system out here performed admirably, unlike in other parts of Midland. And Debbie and I actually missed most of the excitement as we were enjoying Iron Man 2 while the heaviest part of the storm moved across the city (although it was sometimes hard to distinguish movie sound effects from Mother Nature's).
Here's a photo of our neighborhood's south pond. The water level is about 4' higher than normal. If you can't quite make out the sign, it says "No Swimming or Wading," and it's normally on dry ground. That junk floating in the water is mulch that washed down from the bank.
Here's another view showing the sidewalk that normally leads to the dock.
Despite the heavy rains, we still managed to have a spectacular sunset.
The thunderhead in the distance was moving away from us. We were more than happy to share it with someone else.
Last night around 11:00 a line of thunderstorms rolled across our area, dumping some brief heavy rain, along with small but fierce hail. When Debbie retrieved the newspaper at 5:30 this morning (we also have an over-achieving paper carrier), she found this scene in our flowerbed:
Despite morning temperatures in the mid-50s, these little flowers were still packed in ice from the hailstorm. Besides being beaten, there's a good chance they won't survive the chill, although our hope is that the ground temperature didn't drop to a killing degree.
[Fortunately, this appears to be the worst damage we sustained from the hail, and this occurred only because the icy balls rolled off the roof and accumulated in one unfortunate spot.]
"It will be a cold day in July before..." is a common aphorism around here, but perhaps we should start referring to ice storms in May.
Yeah, I know; it looks like the Loch Ness monster but it's actually a wild turkey. I've never seen one around Midland. I apologize for the lack of detail in the photos but this bird was quite skittish and my camera was maxed out. Anyone else ever seen a wild turkey this close to the Midland city limits?
Another cool thing. When I got out of the car to take the second photo, I glanced down and spotted this wildflower:
It has a vague resemblance to a bluebonnet, but the color is amazing. I was as impressed with the flower as I was with the bird.
I took a 30-minute stroll yesterday morning, and within a three-block area found sixteen different varieties of wildflowers. OK, most of them are technically flowering weeds, but, you know, potato/potahto.
Some of these may at first glance appear to be duplicates, but if you look closely, you'll see that they're different varieties. And please don't ask me to identify them; the only ones I can name are the bluebonnet, the chocolate daisy, and the purple nightshade.
Click on the photo for a bigger version.
Update: I spent some time browsing various wildflower-related websites and I *think* I've identified most of the flowers. Feel free to correct me or to provide identities for the three species I couldn't match to anything in my "research."
Top row (l-r): Blue curls, Huisache daisy, Purple nightshade, Coreopsis
2nd row (l-r): Limestone gaura, Chocolate daisy, Unknown, Rabbit tobacco
3rd row (l-r): Blackfoot daisy, Gray vervain, Paper daisy, Unknown
4th row (l-r): Bluebonnet, Firewheel, Unknown, Dahlberg daisy
If the preceding image is too, um, intense for you, perhaps one that has flowers in it will be more to your liking. (The mouse was non-committal.)
Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.
Here's a bigger version of the preceding image.
To get a sense of the scale, those are my fingers holding the branch.
Technical details: I recorded this on my iPhone, imported the recording into iTunes, then opened it in Adobe Soundbooth CS4 where I trimmed the beginning and ending, increased the loudness, and used the noise filter to remove the, um, noise caused by the breezy ambient conditions. The resulting recording is a pretty good showcase for the bird's vocal versatility.
Needs: The cost of food has dramatically risen since the earthquake. In the past, $1.50 would cover the cost of supplying a hot meal for the children in the village. Due to limited supplies, that cost has risen to $4.50 per meal. The goal of the HAPI (Haitian Artisans for Peace International) is to meet the basic needs of the children, knowing that having those needs met will contribute to a more peaceful lifestyle and sense of community. Checks can be made to HospiceMidland to help supplement the expense of providing hot meals.
Rays of Hope has found t-shirts that have feelings faces with French expressive words that would complement the work we hope to do in Haiti. Fifteen dollars would cover the cost of getting a t-shirt to the kids and families in Haiti.
Rays of Hope knows that children in our community might want to give to the Children in Haiti. We would like to collect the following inexpensive items to be distributed to the children in Mizak. Items can be brought to Rays of Hope by Tuesday, March 2nd.
- Small containers of playdough
- Bright colored pipe cleaners
- Permanent markers
- Bright colored index cards
- Beach balls
- Individual packets of Kleenex
- Inflatable Balloons (not water balloons)
- Small thick combs
Rays of Hope is honored and humbled by the opportunity to participate in this relief effort. We appreciate your support of the expansion of our mission. Thank you.
Checks should be payable to HospiceMidland (designate Haiti Relief) and mailed to:
c/o Vicki Jay
911 West Texas
Midland, Texas 79701
100% of the donations will go to the Haiti Relief.
Of course, by 3:00 pm the sun was shining, the streets were [mostly] clear, and those who'd gotten "snow days," while enjoying their good fortune, were doing so with just a tinge of sheepishness. (I initially used the term "guilt" and then decided that it probably wasn't applicable at all.)
I chauffeured my wife to her office around 8:30 a.m. so she could grab her laptop and work from home. The streets were a bit treacherous, but traffic was light and well-behaved. Even though her office was officially closed, several employees showed up, either because they weren't intimidated by the weather or - more likely - hadn't gotten word of the closing. She was able to be productive the rest of the day from the comfort of our living room.
The best thing about snowfall around here, besides the fact that it's rare and doesn't stay around too long, is that it makes for some pretty scenery.
Any obstacle, that is, except for 3" of snow.
I'm sure every West Texas-originated blog will carry reports of the snowfall that now blankets our area. That snowfall has practically shut down all public activities, including all local schools (college classes are starting late) and many government offices. Loop 250, one of our major thoroughfares, is now closed. Interestingly, all flights from Midland International Airport are still listed as on time.
Also, for the first time ever, my wife's office is closed due to the weather, something that I'm sure will be greeted by amusement at their Denver headquarters.
I'm also sure that our friends from the northeastern part of the US will also be amused at our reaction to what for them is hardly worth mentioning.
I'm not an avid follower of politics, but something about this year's Texas gubernatorial campaign has energized me. While it could be that I get to type "gubernatorial" so many times - it simply rolls off the keyboard - the fact is that the surfacing of a viable candidate who's not a charter member of the Entrenched Incumbents has interjected a new degree of excitement into the campaign. I'm referring, of course, to Debra Medina, who started the state's silly season as a footnoted afterthought but who has now pulled into a statistical dead heat on the Republican ticket with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and continues to build momentum.
I was impressed with Medina's performance during one of the early televised debates, where both Governor Rick Perry and Hutchinson viewed her primarily as a foil with which to attack each other. That tactic backfired on both of them, as she not only helped each of them make their points that the other was a doofus (that's a sophisticated term I picked up in poli sci class at A&M), but came out looking like she had more substance than either of them.
I was impressed enough to make a small financial contribution to her campaign, something that I last did when Reagan was in office. That was early enough in the campaign that my $25 contribution stimulated a phone call from a reporter with the Austin newspaper wanting to interview me, I suspect much as one might want to better understand the motivation of someone who's taken up flagpole sitting while watching an oncoming tornado. I declined to return his phone call (I never have entirely trusted those legacy media types).
Medina was one of the speakers at today's Midland Country Republican Womens' luncheon, along with Senator Hutchinson and a representative from Perry's campaign. (Perry was in Odessa on Monday, so I guess he figured two days in the Permian Basin was one day too many.) Also on the speaker list was Representative Mike Conaway, running for re-election against businessmen Chris Younts and Al Cowan. Both Cowan and Younts did good jobs of explaining why they were running, but this is Conaway's 'hood and they got a polite but cool reception. One will not make up any ground trying to attack Conaway's conservatism, despite his vote for the first TARP bailout. They tried, but Conaway went on last and calmly dismantled their accusations as he explained that vote. I certainly came away mollified.
Mike did make a point of informing the audience that while he had a Facebook page, he didn't Twitter because he thought it sounded dumb to "twit" [sic]. That got a half-hearted laugh, but not from me. Both of his opponents have Twitter feeds for their campaigns, and Medina is also doing a great job of using hers (@debmedina) to push her agenda. (I was going to tweet the proceedings but the cellphone police shut us down. Afterward, I decided that they really were targeting actual cellphones and that I could have "twitted" my way through the luncheon.)
Then, the real show began, the reason for the packed ballroom. Debra Medina spoke first, and I have to tell you that if she doesn't win the nomination, it won't be because she's failed to explain what her priorities are, and why she thinks they're important to the state of Texas. She made a great case for why the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution allows for "nullification and interposition" of federal legislation which encroaches upon the sovereign rights of states.
Medina also unleashed a scathing commentary on Rick Perry's job creation claims, pointing out that while it was true that Texas has had a net increase in jobs over the past year or two, they've all been government jobs; the private sector has actually had a small decrease.
The Perry rep and Kay Hutchinson spoke next. I don't recall either of them directly addressing Medina's comments or issues, although they both seemed to go out of their way to assure us that they, too, were big proponents of personal property ownership. Perry's representative trotted out the same statistics that Medina spoke to regarding job creation, but, of course, declining to make the distinction between public and private sector employment.
Hutchinson spent most of her allotted time criticizing Perry. It was almost as if she doesn't really believe she's in a dogfight with Medina, but that works to Medina's benefit. To her credit, KBH did acknowledge Perry's role in getting tort reform passed in Texas, but hammered him on private property rights (the Trans-Texas Corridor will be Perry's Issue That Haunts Forever, and rightly so).
Medina is what I had hoped Sarah Palin would be, but, sadly, isn't. She's done her homework; she's got her agenda; she wants to get it done and then get out of the way. I came away more impressed than ever. Heck, I even grabbed a yard sign, and let the local ABC-TV affiliate interview me on-camera, and this time it didn't seem to be a novelty interview. The Medina signs were going fast.
Yeah, I was feeling pretty cocky about being a political pundit and all, until I got home and saw the big hunk of lettuce plastered over one of my front teeth. Surely, they would have pointed that out before the interview, if it was noticeable. Surely. Well. No, they probably decided I was just having a bad dental day, and were too polite to mention it. So much for my future as a political analyst.
Viewed from a certain angle, you can see that there's not much to this bird, despite his impressive size while he's wading.
Of course, I couldn't resist taking the camera for a stroll around the ponds to see if there were any new perspectives to be gained. Unfortunately, most of my pictures turned out to look like I took them in a fog. Go figure. But the birds were more cooperative than usual, as it was too cold to be bothered, and I was able to get a close-up of what I think is a Pyrrhuloxia, all puffed up trying to stay warm:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, is a photo of a great egret* equivalent to folding a thousand pieces of paper? I obviously can't say for sure, but this fellow was a great photo subject on the first day of the new year, and if he wants to be the bearer of good luck, we'll take all he can carry.
*I think this is a great egret; I'm open to correction from any true birders out there. Whatever he (she?) is, he's a frequent visitor to our ponds during the winter. The ducks seem a bit indignant at his presence. I suspect the fish have somewhat stronger feelings, but I could be anthropomorphizing.
So, the theory was that by installing cameras - and alerting the driving public of their presence - motorists' behaviors would be positively modified and the result would be fewer accidents. Well, not so fast (pun intended). In the Chicago area, a study of intersections fitted with these cameras showed either no change in accident rates, or increases in those rates, presumably from an increase in rear-end collisions as drivers suddenly realize that the intersection they're approaching has a camera and decide not to chance making the yellow light. For some states that actually bothered to check such statistics, the decision was made to ban the cameras.
It's hard not to be cynical and figure that the real reason cities want cameras at their intersections is to increase traffic citation revenue. If they were really serious about reducing accidents at such intersections, they'd either increase the amount of time the yellow light stays on, or increase the time before the green light for cross traffic switches on, or both. Both of these things have proven effective in reducing accidents at intersections.
I hope the city of Midland will be cautious in any consideration it's giving to installing such cameras.
And, in yet another fine example of the the law of unintended consequences, creative punks have learned how to use those cameras to harass their enemies.
We didn't experience any damage at our home, although I'll have a bit of a cleanup chore on our driveway and back porch thanks to the inevitable pile of dirt that accumulates when the wind blows like that. Our trees are still small enough that such winds don't pose any dangers, and I continue to be thankful that we opted for a concrete block fence instead of the less sturdy wooden variety. And because the wind direction was from the west instead of the north, we also avoided an accumulation of tumbleweeds (although there were encounters; more about that in a moment).
I had some errands to run yesterday afternoon, requiring me to be out during the worst of the wind. I observed some of the storm's effects: a downed telephone pole on "A" Street forced a detour; a pole-mounted sensor on a traffic light on Big Spring Street was leaning precariously; it occasionally seemed that I was in a hailstorm as my car was pelted by wind-driven acorns and pecans as I drove down residential streets; our alley was turned into a slalom course by the city-provided trash containers that were scattered along its length.
I also had to shake out our mail before bringing it in the house. Our box faces west and it contained a tiny Sahara-like accumulation of sand.
There were some amusing moments as well. As I turned onto "A" Street out of our neighborhood, I spotted a huge tumbleweed moving perpendicular to my path and I adjusted my speed to avoid it. Coming from the other direction was a Mini Cooper and its driver was a bit more panicked; the tumbleweed was easily as tall as the car and almost as wide. Fortunately, all collisions were avoided and we lived to fight another day.
Now, I'm off to see if I can get my leaf blower started.
Now, where were we?
- This is pretty exciting. Local singer/songwriter/attorney (and fellow Aggie) Ron Eckert has a new Christmas song out just in time for, well, Christmas. (What are the odds?) The song is entitled The Wench Who Stole Christmas and it's available for purchase and download via CDBaby. The really exciting part is that Wench is one of the featured new listings today on CDBaby's home page (as of a few minutes ago, it's actually the first featured song on that website). Ron will eventually have a couple more original Christmas songs available, but Wench is the one that's getting some area radio airplay. Do him a favor and buy a copy. Better yet, call your local radio station and request the song, and if they say they don't know anything about it, give 'em the equivalent of a teen eyeroll. [Disclosure: Ron's is one of my website clients.]
- I see that the White House party crashers are now claiming that a dead cell phone battery prevented them from hearing the message that their names didn't make the White House guest list. I guess that excuse is the modern equivalent of "the dog ate my homework," and is only slightly more plausible than claiming they were the victims of alien abduction or sleepwalking. Actually, they might have had more credibility had they claimed that a sleepwalking alien dog ate their cell phone battery.
- Someone on Twitter yesterday put forth the notion that Tiger Woods should perhaps hereafter be referred to as Cheetah. *rimshot*
- I realize it's not a laughing matter, but I still get the giggles from a mental picture of Elin Nordegren whaling away on her husband with a 3 iron, and him finally making a clumsy Escalade escape, only to careen off various inanimate objects, with her in hot pursuit. I guess he's fortunate that he doesn't make his living as a big game hunter.
- We spent a very pleasurable evening at the Petroleum Club's Christmas Ball last night, courtesy of my wife's employer. The music, company, and food was all first-rate, as you might expect. However, because of where we were seated, we were among the last tables to be served, and the band had already begun playing by the time we started in on the softball-sized chunk of filet. When a particularly danceable song started, we adjourned to the dance floor...only to return to find that an overly efficient staff had removed our meals!
To add insult to injury, one of the fellows at our table had been left with a solitary dinner roll on his bread plate, and as he reached for it (apparently noticing all the covetous glances from his tablemates), a white-coated server grabbed it from the table and made off with it. No bread for you!
Fortunately, we had availed ourselves of plenty of appetizers and had put away enough of the main course that we weren't exactly deprived of calories. But you can bet that when the dessert arrived, we never let it out of our sight.
However, as this post at Sleepless in Midland points out, one doesn't have to travel outside the city limits to encounter truly horrific road conditions.
And, as far as requiring nerves of steel for responsible drivers to navigate, I would also match up any residential street within ten blocks of either Midland high school around lunch time with any of those roads in the Simon Seeks post.
Technical photo details: Canon Digital Rebel XT, Canon 80-200 zoom lens, manual focus, ISO 100
That's not entirely accurate. I had occasionally spotted one here and there, even in the middle of the afternoon, but we hadn't heard their unique vocalizing in a while.
That changed late Sunday afternoon, as my wife and I walked through the neighborhood enjoying the beautiful weather. The full moon had just cleared the Midland Country Club treeline and I observed that its reflection in the pond would make a great photo.
As we made our way toward home, some distant sirens interrupted the evening calm, setting the neighborhood dogs to barking and yelping. They finally ceased their commotion and relative quiet returned...for a moment.
Suddenly, an amazing cacophony erupted, seeming to originate in the pasture less than half a mile south of us. The "missing" coyotes were back, and they were in fine voice. Their concert went on long enough - and was loud enough - to prompt us to try to capture some of it on our iPhones. Here's the result of mine (cleaned up a bit to remove some background hiss and boost the gain a bit).
What had stimulated this unexpected serenade? My only explanation is that the tricksters had succumbed to the stereotype and they were reacting to the appearance of the full moon.
I can't say that coyotes are welcome guests in our neighborhood, but if they're going to hang around, it's nice that they announce their presence in such interesting ways.
- The original proposed ordinance submitted by the task force
- The revised ordinance as edited by the city council
- A marked-up version (using Word's Compare Documents feature) highlighting the changes. The red underscores indicate new or replacement wording; the strike-throughs indicate where language from the original proposal was deleted. I apologize in advance for the funky line spacing in this document; it results from the conversion of the PDF text to Word and back again.
Also, in the original proposal, underground electrical lines were required; now, they are not required unless the surrounding neighborhood already has them. Tanks are no longer required to be set on concrete foundations. Heaven forbid that an oil and gas development might actually be required to improve the look of a neighborhood, or that city standards might go beyond minimum state requirements.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the provisions in the original proposal were overreaching and did expose the city to unnecessary legal risk. To the extent those things have been removed or mitigated, the revised ordinance is an improvement. It's unfortunate, however, that oil and gas developers are apparently unwilling to do more than the absolute minimum to fit in with the orderly development of our city.
I believe that oil and gas operations within the city limits should be held to a higher standard than those outside the city's jurisdiction. The revised ordinance doesn't seem to move very far in that direction.
That the toughest restrictions of the proposed ordinance will be softened or even deleted seems to be a foregone conclusion. The only question that remains is why any private citizen will be willing to volunteer his or her time for future task forces or study groups. I can only imagine the frustration that the drilling ordinance committee members are feeling now.
I didn't bother to attend any of the public hearings for the proposed ordinance, having experienced the debate last year as our neighborhood sought to insulate itself from the more unpalatable side-effects of drilling on immediately adjacent acreage. The outcome of that debate was never in doubt, as the oil and gas interests waved thinly-veiled threats of expensive lawsuits and gave only lip-service to the idea of compromise.
I will admit that my thinking about this issue was clarified through the process, and for what it's worth, here's where I now stand.
- The city cannot legally prevent drilling within its jurisdiction, nor should it try to override well spacing regulations that have long been established by agencies which have significantly more expertise in such matters. The "taking" or condemnation of mineral interests through excessive limits on drilling is a legitimate legal and even ethical issue; regardless of how surface owners may protest, in Texas, the mineral owners' rights have primacy.
- That said, the city is also under no obligation to ensure the profitability of drilling within its jurisdiction. To clarify, it's irrelevant for an oil company to protest on purely economic grounds any ordinance or regulation that is designed to protect residents and help ensure orderly residential and commercial development of the city. Every piece of legislation or regulation, whether at the federal, state, or local level, adds cost to the oil and gas development process. The industry deals with a huge regulatory burden on a daily basis. And yet, miraculously, drilling continues, and profits are made. What should not be overlooked is that there is a level of oil and gas pricing that makes the burden of these regulations insignificant from a financial perspective, and when oil prices hit more than $140/barrel last year, it forever removed the force of the argument that the economics of drilling for oil in the formations around Midland just can't support the least bit of additional regulation. If the city deems that a concrete block wall costing $100,000 (a figure I have a hard time believing, by the way) is a reasonable way to shield a producing oil well, the driller will just have to factor that into his economics and if they're too thin, then he'll have to wait for prices to make them better. History has shown that they will.
I should try manual focus more often. ;-)
(Who am I kidding? This was pure luck.)
That's a snapping turtle (my guess is a Common snapping turtle - Chelydra serpentina), and a rather large one at that. They're not exactly native to West Texas, and certainly not something you'd normally find in a suburban pond.
Of course, I had left the house without a camera - these photos came from my iPhone and fortunately they turned out OK. Debbie and I later returned with a decent camera but found no trace of the turtle.
We later learned that the guys who take care of the landscape maintenance duties found the turtle on "A" Street and put him in one of the ponds. I assume he was making a day trip up the stream in search of frogs and fish, and probably had returned to the pond by the time we went back to look for him.
After this, I'm not sure I'll be surprised at anything I see around here. Be sure to check back for photos of an alligator, or perhaps a brontosaurus.
Is it just me, or does this bird with its raised crest have a faint resemblance to a roadrunner? If you didn't know better and just glanced at these two photos, you'd probably think they are pictures of two different species.
My reverie was interrupted by the sound of frantic flapping as the birds exploded away from their metal perch and I looked up, wondering what had caused their alarm. Just then, a young hawk arrived from the east, swooping down and alighting where the doves had previously stood. I mentally kicked myself for once again forgetting to bring the camera, but he was perfectly content to sit and watch the other birds flying quickly past, studiously avoiding him. I crept back inside, grabbed the Canon, returned to my chair and snapped a dozen or so photos before he flew across the vacant lot and perched in a tree by the north pond.
This line of mist or fog stretched horizontally for about a mile, running east and west. It floated about ten or twelve feet about the ground and appeared to be about ten feet thick. I don't recall ever before seeing anything quite like this.
Debbie halved one of them and the fleshy seeds certainly looked ripe.
Pomegranates are a lot of work to eat. I suppose some people eat the seeds, but I prefer to just mush a mouthful around to get the juice and then spit out the remnants. Debbie mashed the rest of the fruit through a strainer (we don't have a juicer) and pronounced the juice quite good.
Our tree has at least a dozen more of the fruit in various stages of ripeness. It will be interesting to see how many of them ripen fully before the weather gets too cold.
I spotted this unknown variety of shield or stink bug on one of the red-tipped photinia in our front flowerbed. I browsed in vain through more than 500 photos via Google's image search without finding a match for this particular coloration and pattern, but I suspect there are thousands of variations. Anyway, I don't recall ever seeing one quite like this.
He's wet because she sprayed him with a hose before she realized he wasn't a grasshopper. I think he's a little miffed, if the expression on his face is any indication.
It's also more than a little creepy the way he follows your movements with his head and eyes.
Click on the first photo to see a larger and uncropped version.
Yesterday morning was a great example. As I was drinking coffee and doing my "Through the Bible in a Year" reading, a movement on the neighbors' roof line caught my eye. I did a double-take; it was a roadrunner, one of the goofier denizens of our ecosystem. Very odd to see it atop a roof, but things got stranger, as a second one appeared. I was also surprised to hear their odd "clattering" sound, a series of rapid clicks they make with their beaks. I've never been close enough to a roadrunner to hear that (you can listen to a recording on this entry in Wikipedia).
The roadrunners had attracted attention from more than this curious human. A veritable swarm of barn swallows was dive-bombing the bigger birds, making them feint and duck. Roadrunners are omnivorous, and not above raiding nests of others birds for both eggs and nestlings. I doubt they would pose a real danger to barn swallows given the usual inaccessibility of their nests, but the swallows weren't taking any chances. (They're a lot more assertive than one might imagine, anyway.)
I watched for a minute or so, and decided to run in and grab the camera and long lens. Of course, by the time I returned, the drama was over. The roadrunners had flown the coop, so to speak (I spotted one of them running around a block north of our house) and the swallows had dispersed, presumably to find other prey for their bullying gang.
I'm sorry I couldn't capture any photos to share with you, but not to worry, because I've come up with an artist's rendering that I think does full justice to the scene that played out this morning. I'm sure you'll agree that it accurately captures the pathos and drama of the complex interchange between the species.
Here's the snake in its pre-smushed condition.
But, that's actually not the most interesting part of our walk. While we weren't doing battle with venomous serpents, we were watching a beautiful thunderstorm developing over Stanton and Big Spring, 20-40 miles east of us. I took a series of photos of the storm cloud.
The last three photos were obviously taken after sunset as I attempted to capture some images of lightning. I set my camera to ISO 1600 (the maximum for my Canon Digital Rebel XT), turned on the motor drive, and took almost 100 photos over the course of a minute or two. These three were the best of the batch. The first two photos of lightning were actually successive frames, taken less than a second apart. The third one was taken 10 seconds later.
This situation begs the question, how does Google add new places to its maps and how frequently does it make updates? Google provides an input form for businesses to add their locations and information, but that's a completely different scenario than adding new city streets.
This is not simply an issue of wanting to be noticed. Well, not entirely, anyway. It has practical implications. There have been a couple of times that service providers have been unable to locate our address and have called for directions. One of them stated that while he had never heard of our street, he was confident it would be on Google Maps (wrong), or on his TomTom GPS (also wrong). Our reliance on these online services has grown more than we realize.
I found this page for reporting "bugs and omissions" to Google Maps, and I submitted an entry for each of the streets in our neighborhood. We'll see if that yields any results. Then I found this thread, entitled "How often does Google update its maps?", on Google Maps's forum. One of the commenters pointed out that Google has changed its source of map data from something called NAVTEQ (which apparently provides maps to many navigation system vendors including Garmin) to another service called TeleAtlas*, and that corrections and updates need to be submitted to TeleAtlas rather than Google. He helpfully provided a link to the TeleAtlas feedback page, where I was able to request an update to add our neighborhood's streets to the database. Again, we'll see.
In the meantime, I found that the map feature of Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, does show our neighborhood and streets. I never thought I'd see the day where Microsoft makes Google look lame, but there you go. And, of course, Bing uses NAVTEQ for its mapping data. I guess I'll have to add Bing to my toolbar, and consider dropping Google Maps if it doesn't get its act together.
*TomTom also uses TeleAtlas as the source for its digital maps.
Update (Same day, 9:30 am) - I received a reply from TeleAtlas regarding my request for a map update. Apparently, I have to draw them a map in order for them to update their map. I kinda figured that's why they were in business.
Photo courtesy of Tom Woodruff
I've heard this owl (or one like him), hooting in the early morning hours, and I've seen the dark shadow of one flying across the night sky, but I've yet to see one in broad daylight. What a beautiful bird!
For a full-sized version of this photo, click here.
It's a green anole, a lizard that is found throughout the warmer climes of the US, but only infrequently spotted in our neck of the woods. They eat spiders, cockroaches and crickets, so they're quite welcome in our neighborhood.
Here are a couple more photos:
Please consider making a donation to a very good cause, especially if you're a resident of West Texas (or just wish you were!). The work they're doing is saving and improving lives in more ways than we'll ever know. You can donate online via MFH's website.
I direct your attention to this informative post, on a blog maintained by an Auburn University PhD candidate specializing in the study of reptiles and amphibians. He addresses a long series of widely-circulated photos purporting to document excessively large snakes, and expertly assesses their likely veracity.
In the case of the "Odessa Snake," his opinion is that it's a python and the photo was more likely taken somewhere in Africa. While I have no opinion regarding the location of the photo, I do agree with his assessment of the species of the snake. There's nothing about the appearance of the snake in the photo that would cause one to mistake it for a rattler.
Nature has a way of confounding our preconceived notions about the size and variety of wildlife, and not every unbelievable photo is a fake. On the other hand, the application of a little common sense mixed with education will allow you to separate fiction from fact in the vast majority of cases.
Note: If you don't like photos of snakes, especially those large enough to eat the family Schnauzer, don't click on the preceding link. As if I have to tell you.
Wonder what this is going to be? (Amateur version)
August 3, 2009 10:08 AM | Posted in: Midland/Odessa
Our pal Jimmy over at MyWestTexas.com runs a periodic feature entitled "Wonder what that's going to be?" in which he drives around Midland looking for new construction and then identifies it. It's a valuable public service, satisfying the curiosity of many people and preventing them from being transformed into traffic hazards with their rubbernecking (and freeing them up to attend to more important driving matters like texting). Anyway, I have a new candidate for Jimmy to investigate:
This concrete "bunker" is located near the southeast corner of the intersection of North "A" Street and Mockingbird Lane. It's almost completely hidden from street-level view by the surrounding mesquite pasture. It's hard to get a sense of the size of the structure from this photo, but my guess is that it's about 15' x 30' in area, and about 10'-12 tall. There are no visible entrances and I couldn't see inside the structure to determine what it contains, if anything. I also didn't notice any piping leading in or out of the box. It appears that this "bunker" will be partially buried once completed.
Any ideas about the purpose of this mystery construction? Anyone?
For Christians it's not a trivial cliché to say that his dad is in a better place. It's an assurance that allows us to celebrate even through our grief.
My feelings are less mixed now. Since the signs were posted, someone has broken or shot five or six of the lights that line those paths, the first obvious evidence of vandalism since we've been here. I can't help thinking there's a connection, but rather than feeling more strongly that the signs are a mistake, the criminal behavior of some people seems to validate the wisdom of the decision to post them (even if they so far appear to have absolutely no impact on behavior).
I know; this could have been the work of a resident, but I don't believe it is.
On the surface, it's easy to see why the plan was rejected. The development would have placed almost 100 "modular homes" into a neighborhood of houses sitting on 1- or 2-acre tracts, spoiling the "rural life in the city" ambiance of the area. It's understandable that current residents would want to maintain the character of their neighborhood, and it's difficult to imagine anything more antithetical to that character than a bunch of tract homes on tiny lots.
But a couple of the quotes from the article reveal a more sinister motivation. The story refers to "residents who would not fit in," and the perception that while the development would have included "some good people," it also "would have brought in some undesirables."
So, the implication is that while the homes might be eyesores (in relation to what makes up the original neighborhood), the real concern is that the people who live in them just don't meet some arbitrary measure of acceptability.
It's unfortunate that we tend to judge people in this fashion. Your perceived worth is determined by the size of the structure you inhabit, or the nameplate on the car you drive, or the tags on the clothes you wear. None of us would ever publicly admit to this practice, but we all do it to one extent or another. We justify it because at some point in our lives we were either taught to do it, or we saw an example of behavior that somehow supported the judgment and allowed us to broadly extrapolate it to, well, everyone.
It's ironic that to some extent, in some fashion, to someone else each of us falls into a category of "those people." (If you disagree, I can assure you that you're now going to be judged as "one of those hypocrites.")
I don't know how we overcome this tendency (and you'll noticed that I use "we" a lot, because I'm not immune). A good beginning might be to see others as God sees us: imperfect beings who nevertheless are deeply loved. It might not make us any happier to have a trailer park in our backyard, but we might come to view the residents as friends rather than adversaries.
If you've visited our neighborhood, you would probably agree that the ponds and surrounding landscape are unique in our city - a literal oasis in the desert (or at least in the pasture). As word has spread, we've seen an increasing number of folks coming out to walk the trail and enjoy the scenery. It's also become a favorite setting for professional photographers wanting a outdoor scene as a backdrop for engagement, graduation, and family photos. And a number of people from adjacent neighborhoods have included our area in their regular walking routes.
The majority of visitors seem to be well-behaved and respectful. We've seen a few older teens loitering around, looking like they're up to no good (hey, youse kids get off my lawn, y'hear?!), but no obvious signs of mischief have been left behind. However, I've been told that more threatening and/or suspicious activity has been observed by others.
I think that letting people get out and roam around the common area is a good marketing tool for the developers. That's what sold us on building out here.
But, I can also understand that some people don't like having a steady stream of strangers driving and walking around their property. The area is private property, not city-owned or maintained, and we pay for the upkeep via our homeowner association dues.
In any event, my opinion wasn't solicited, and that's just as well, because I'm not sure what I would have recommended. The one thing I am sure about is the appropriateness of the request that owners pick up after their animals. I doubt that anyone would argue with that.
Since drafting this, I've learned that at least one good reason for the signs is to provide the police with the justification to respond to complaints about loitering or other quasi-illegal activity. Since this is private property, without such signs their hands are apparently tied to some extent.
Have I mentioned lately that I think your $1.8 million traffic light synchronization project has yielded results that, frankly, suck?
If you've succeeded in synchronizing any lights whatsoever, they must be located in parts of town that I never travel. Or, perhaps I simply misunderstood what you meant by "synchronization." If, for example, you were aiming to make it so that people traveling south on Big Spring, starting at Loop 250, will hit five consecutive red lights (or, on a good day, four out of five), then perhaps you've succeeded.
Now, I understand that there's a break-in period, or learning curve, or additional programming, or something that must be done between installation and final configuration. You know what would be swell? If you would just tell us what's going on that's keeping the system from working. A little communication with the taxpayers would go a long way.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on the system itself. Perhaps the issue is that you, dear City, don't know how to manage expectations. I humbly suggest that in the future, when announcing expensive initiatives with impacts that are easily discerned and assessed by the citizenry, that you "under-promise" and "over-deliver." Tell us up-front that it's going to be a hard row to hoe, and to not look for improvements anytime soon. That way, any surprises are more likely to be pleasant ones.
Thanks for listening.
Your taxpaying pal,
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.
Shutter: 1/1000 sec; F-stop 9.0; Aperture: 6.3;
ISO Equiv. 400; Focal length: 55mm; uncropped image: 8mpxl;
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel XT
Here are some lessons I learned from this morning's ride:
- Never assume that a camera on a bicycle is wasted dead weight;
- Don't underestimate the patience of a pair of burrowing owls perched on telephone lines;
- Likewise, the importance of a good lens and a bunch of megapixels cannot be overstated;
And last but not least...
- Skill counts for a lot in photography, but so does blind luck.