Tuesday – Back to work…

Yesterday was a great day to sit inside and watch the rains come down. After days of watching the rains miss us here in northeastern Brazoria County, they came down with a vengeance yesterday afternoon. We still have water standing in all of the low spots around the yard though the ditches have drained…The weather prognosticators are predicting more for today. At least all the rain keeps the temperatures down. Or it does till the sun comes back out to stay, then its just like living in a sauna.

I was really lucky to have made the decision to start my brisket on the smoker on Sunday. By the time the kids arrived yesterday afternoon, the barbecue was done to a turn. Nothing like a long slow cooking to make a briskets dissolve in your mouth with just the right amount of smoke flavoring. So even though the weather didn’t cooperate, the traditional start of summer barbecue came off fine…

Well I am running late and I spent some time this morning catching up with some of the folks on my blogroll so I have to hit the road…Later.

Thursday Morning Coffee Muse

As I wander into the kitchen each morning to pour that first cup I glance above the coffee maker to the weather station and check the outside conditions. At 6am this morning the outside temperature was already at 73 and the humidity was at 92%. By my definition summer has arrived. Given those conditions outside, even with the ac running in this old house the humidity almost never falls into the 50% range. Which I find surprising because in my reading somewhere in the last week I remember reading that a pleasant humidity was in the 40%-50% range. I remember thinking at the time that the person writing that must be from the west somewhere, because I don’t ever recall a reading like that here.

Oh well, emails are calling…

You have to love the Texas Legislature, the Houston Chronicle is reporting today that the “Senate OKs bill for school Bible classes”. You have to wonder what they are thinking, this is the state that keeps fighting the courts on school prayer, so now we want to teach the Bible. Or, are they planning a comparative religion course. For some reason I can’t see the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita on the shelves and being taught in a Texas schoolroom, though I wish a class of that nature was taught when I was in high school. Picture if you can, the track coach who gets assigned the new class of Bible Study 101…

AUSTIN — The Senate easily passed and sent to the governor a bill Wednesday to teach Bible classes to high school students, but lawmakers immediately disagreed on whether the measure would make the courses mandatory.

Legislative leaders differed on whether school districts may offer the religion studies course, or whether they are obligated to do so if 15 or more students sign up for it. Both “may” and “shall” show up in different sections of the House bill that the Senate passed 28-2 without changing.

I see now why we will be missing the wit of Molly Ivins, only she could see the humor of this kind of “Lawmaking”. I guess the real problem I have with this issue is that every quote and even the headline of the article call it “Bible class” not religion class. It seems to me it is starting off biased toward Christianity, not a great way to teach religious equality or separation. Even with a requirement for a curriculum and a “textbook” and not the Bible to teach the course, I see too much of a chance for local schools to do another end run around the constitutional separation of church and state.

Source: Senate OKs bill for school Bible classes | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Living creatures are nourished by food, and food is nourished by rain; rain itself is the water of life, which comes from selfless worship and service. – Bhagavad Gita

You really have to give the Texas Legislature credit for creative taxation. Just when you thought there couldn’t be another sin to tax…They found one.

AUSTIN — Strip clubs would have to peel off $5 per customer for a new state sex assault prevention fund under legislation approved by the state Senate Wednesday.

The measure, pushed through the House earlier by Rep. Ellen Cohen, would require the clubs to take a daily count of patrons and pay the state $5 for each one. Those records would be subject to audits from the state comptroller.

I guess what floored me about this was the estimated revenue they expect to collect…

The fee is expected to raise $87 million over the next biennium — $25 million of which would go toward a sex assault prevention fund. The rest would go to the Texas health opportunity pool, which is used to provide assistance to low-income people.

A sinner here a sinner there, pretty soon it adds up to real money. Which sinner out there is going to stand up and say “don’t tax my perversion”?

Source: Law adds $5 strip-club fee to prevent sex attacks | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

I see Charles Manson it still kicking at 72. The newspaper is reporting a 11th denial of parole. I once sat and talked with a man who had the same intensity about him that came through the news photos of Manson. Needless to say, the man I spoke with scared the s–t out of me. I found myself staying aware of where he was in the room at all times. I thought at the time he could be another of the family of Manson and I really did not want to find out if I was right. I haven’t recalled that night in 30 plus years.

Time to take the youngest to her last day of school for this session…see y’all down the road.

Wednesday Muse – Climate Change

My email yesterday brought me the weekly newsletter from Earth Observatory a part of NASA. The first article they referenced was their updated Global Warming Reference. It is a good overview of what we are probably in for in the coming years.

Earth Observatory Reference: Global Warming

by Holli Riebeek • design by Robert Simmon • May 11, 2007

Over the last five years, 600 scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sifted through thousands of studies about global warming published in forums ranging from scientific journals to industry publications and distilled the world’s accumulated knowledge into this conclusion: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

Far from being some future fear, global warming is happening now, and scientists have evidence that humans are to blame. For decades, cars and factories have spewed billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and these gases caused temperatures to rise between 0.6°C and 0.9°C (1.08°F to 1.62°F) over the past century. The rate of warming in the last 50 years was double the rate observed over the last 100 years. Temperatures are certain to go up further.

One of the facts they mention that I wasn’t aware of is that during the last ice age the average temperature was only 9 to 15 degrees cooler than right now. That’s kind of scary to my way of thinking.

Source: Earth Observatory Reference: Global Warming

Follow that up with this years hurricane prediction and life looks very interesting…

Experts: Expect a busy hurricane season

Oceans warmer than last year, and there’s no El Niño to ward off activity

Federal scientists weighed in on the upcoming hurricane season Tuesday, and their report echoes that of other forecasters: The 2007 hurricane season will produce a greater number of storms than usual.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report calls for 13 to 17 named storms, up to 10 of which might become hurricanes. About 10 tropical storms and hurricanes form during an average year.

And if that doesn’t make you feel warm and cuddly here on the coast, and remembering the damage from just a few years ago on the Blue Ridge from the rains spawned by these monster storms, they offer these words of encouragement…

Sea-surface temperatures are even warmer this year than in 2006, and climate scientists say they could approach levels of the record-breaking 2005 season — the year of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Hurricane activity has been on the upswing since 1995 as Atlantic sea-surface temperatures have been rising. Scientists say this period of increased activity could last another 10 to 30 years as part of a natural, decades-long cycle.

I just love the editing that went into that last statement…”natural, decades-long cycle” indeed. True as far as it goes, since man is part of nature, anything we do to effect our environment is natural…Right? It seems to me this is about the same prediction I recall from the season before last. Didn’t it last into January? Didn’t we run out of assigned names and have to go to the Greek alphabet or some such convention?

Source: Experts: Expect a busy hurricane season | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season Track Map

It seems that even Verlyn Klinkenborg is thinking thoughts of global warming. The sight of wildfires burning in California started a chain of thoughts that almost have a spiritual feel to the imagery.

It began to seem to me that we are a species of fire-starters, and that all of our imprisoned fires are just so many versions of yet another cook-fire on the edge of night in a land where fuel has grown scarce from all the cook-fires of all the people.

I thought about this sudden vision for a couple of days. At first, it seemed almost overwhelming. I tried to picture all the combustions that are essential to the human ways of life in all their global diversity. I wondered what Earth would look like from our neighborhood in space if we could see all our incandescences, in all their forms, glowing at once. There would be only a faint corona of anthropogenic combustion, but it would be more than enough to have begun overwhelming the atmosphere, which is, after all, such a thin, faint halo around this planet.

The image of the cook-fire kept coming back to mind — the cook-fires I saw burning last June in a village in Tanzania, where every day the problem of fuel presented itself all over again. Sooner or later a wildfire burns itself out for lack of fuel. The question, I suppose, is whether our species will do the same.

It’s that final image that will live with me, the need for fire to cook with and the lack of fuel to start the fire. The unending hunt for new fuels and new methods of burning to sustain life here on Earth.

It seems to me that the Earth had been banking it’s carbon for eons then along came man. Man started to release the carbon, first before it was banked but before long it was easier to pull it out of the bank in it’s more concentrated form. All of this was no real problem when we were few and scattered about in small communities. Peer pressure kept everyone from getting too outrageous, when the neighbors are close and mostly kin no one person will be overly abusive of any resource. It’s only when the neighbors are unknown that resource abuse goes unpunished by the peer group.

Source: Letter From California: Some Thoughts on Living the Combustible Life – New York Times

It’s been a long morning but it’s time to start winding this down…Y’all have a great day.

If it’s Tuesday, this must be…

I may wish it was Belgium, but it’s still SE Texas. I just heard a long rumble that I thought must be a plane flying over until I notice the color of the light and the darkness to the west. That caused me to pull up the radar loop (how did we live before instant access to weather radar?) and what it is showing is I am going to get very wet on the drive to work.
That’s me just to the left of Galveston Bay and to the right of the dark red rain clouds.

While I have been aware of, and disapproving of, the marketing of the drug companies, this story from the Washington Post today is extremely troubling. Tied to the stories floating around about the payments doctors are given for prescribing certain drugs, it paints a picture that I find inconsistent with our ideals here in America. It also explains the reason more of our per capita income goes to pay for, what turns out to be, second rate health care.

Many doctors object to drugmakers’ common practice of contracting with data-mining companies to track exactly which medicines physicians prescribe and in what quantities — information marketers and salespeople use to fine-tune their efforts. The industry defends the practice as a way of better educating physicians about new drugs.

This sounds like the same justification they use for the marketing prescription drugs, educating the public so they know what to question their physicians. If this is the case…Why do they never educate the public about the drugs that aren’t protected by patents? It would seem to me that the education excuse would only work if we weren’t being educated just about the most profitable drugs in their portfolios.

Since at least the early 1990s, drug companies have used the data to identify doctors who write the most prescriptions and go after them the way publishers court people who subscribe to lots of magazines. They zero in on physicians who prescribe a competitors’ drug and target them with campaigns touting their own products. Salespeople chart the changes in a doctor’s prescribing patterns to see whether their visits and offers of free meals and gifts are having the desired effect.

You would think, that with all of the data they are tracking, the law of averages would tend to trend in my favor so that every drug my multiple doctors prescribe would not be at the top of my insurance company’s drug co-pay list. Not…

Source: Doctors, Legislators Resist Drugmakers’ Prying Eyes – washingtonpost.com

Gotta run get wet…Have a great day.

Spring again this Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning and the house is quiet. Not a soul is stirring right now, not even the kitten sleeping in on my left forearm. You try typing with just one hand sometime, boy does it slow down even an untutored typist like me. I am enjoying the fact that spring has decided to pay another short visit, the kitchen doors are wide open and the temperature outside is still in the mid 60’s at 8am…Heaven for this time of year.

About the kitten, we are living with 5 right now. They are already 5 weeks old and becoming quite a group of characters. Our half feral half domestic momma cat provided this collection to us and has been a very attentive mother so far. It appears we have an abundance of good homes already lined up for these little souls. Then momma dearest is scheduled for a visit to the vet. I would have posted pictures but these guys are too active to catch a good shot of unless they are sleeping and they tend to do that under something (except for the one that thinks he has to sleep on me). He particularly likes to climb up on my chest when I’m comfy on the couch with a movie in the dvd player.

The morning symphony has played itself out already. And it looks like the world is stirring…So it’s off and about for me.

You all have a great weekend…

Spring again this Saturday morning

It’s Saturday morning and the house is quiet. Not a soul is stirring right now, not even the kitten sleeping in on my left forearm. You try typing with just one hand sometime, boy does it slow down even an untutored typist like me. I am enjoying the fact that spring has decided to pay another short visit, the kitchen doors are wide open and the temperature outside is still in the mid 60’s at 8am…Heaven for this time of year.

About the kitten, we are living with 5 right now. They are already 5 weeks old and becoming quite a group of characters. Our half feral half domestic momma cat provided this collection to us and has been a very attentive mother so far. It appears we have an abundance of good homes already lined up for these little souls. Then momma dearest is scheduled for a visit to the vet. I would have posted pictures but these guys are too active to catch a good shot of unless they are sleeping and they tend to do that under something (except for the one that thinks he has to sleep on me). He particularly likes to climb up on my chest when I’m comfy on the couch with a movie in the dvd player.

The morning symphony has played itself out already. And it looks like the world is stirring…So it’s off and about for me.

You all have a great weekend…

TGIF – Computer Blues

When I tried to put together this mornings post before I left home the laptop decided to lock up and laugh at me…So it was shutdown and hit the road with my post peculating in the back of my mind. The very first thing I heard on PBS as I was headed down the street I live on was about a major traffic backup two exits past the closest cross street to work. That told me right there not to hurry…so it was off through the country instead of down the freeway. Sadly, my back road trek still got me to within a couple of blocks of the office by 8am, and that’s where I spent 25 minutes trying to finish the trip. You really have to love Houston traffic…Or move.

The weather this morning was really what I consider springlike. It was 61 degrees when I hit the kitchen, so doors open and first cup of the morning while being serenaded by birdsong. The predominant player this morning, as on most here, was our state bird. When you get a half dozen Mockingbirds singing their hearts out to mark their territories, you really have a full chorus going.

I try not to let my political rants get out here very often, but this story in the Washington Post really got me .

The lawyers said any conversations Cheney and the officials had about Plame with one another or with reporters were part of their normal duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate “policy dispute.” Cheney’s attorney went further, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked: “So you’re arguing there is nothing — absolutely nothing — these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment,” whether the statements were true or false?

“That’s true, Your Honor. Mr. Wilson was criticizing government policy,” said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department‘s civil division. “These officials were responding to that criticism.”

So there America, as far as your government is concerned, if you criticize this administration they have an inherent right to lie about you or break the law and you, dear citizen, have no recourse. Welcome to Mr. Bush’s Compassionate Conservative America, land of the rich and liars…

Source: Judge Told Leak Was Part of ‘Policy Dispute’ – washingtonpost.com

Here is a photo I took earlier in the week of a moth sitting on the outside of the window beside my seat at the computer…The photo was taken from the inside with the outside lighting showing through.

Have a great day…

Hurricane center chief says ad campaign wasteful

This reminds me of the good old days when the “Light Company” was a public utility and I used to wonder why the hell they advertised on every TV and Radio channel. Did you know that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was involved in predicting the weather?  Duh…Did these guys ever hear of the internet?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is spending up to $4 million to publicize a 200th anniversary celebration, said Bill Proenza, who heads the hurricane center, part of the National Weather Service, which is a NOAA agency. At the same time, it has cut $700,000 from hurricane research, he said.

“No question about it, it is not justified. It is using appropriated funds for self promotion,” Proenza said in a phone interview while attending the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

NOAA spokesman Anson Franklin said the agency is only spending about $1.5 million on the campaign over two years. He said it is justified to publicize the agency’s mission to a public that is often unaware of its involvement in weather prediction and forecasting.

“It’s part of our responsibility to tell the American people what we do,” Franklin said. “It’s inaccurate and unfair to just characterize this as some sort of self-celebration.”

Source: Hurricane center chief says ad campaign wasteful | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Wednesday Coffee Muses

There is no better way to start a morning than with a column by Leon Hale. Go sit awhile on the porch of his old country house and hear a tale or two…

WINEDALE — On the front porch again at the old country house in Washington County, and here is my deep thought for the week:

One of humankind’s greatest inventions is the riding mower.

Maybe you’ll agree, if you’ve ever cut your lawn with a push mower.

Those words — push mower — put me in reverse, back to my first regular paying job, taking care of Mrs. Nichols’ yard once a week the summer of 1932. She had this mower with metal wheels and dull blades.

Cutting her grass ruined an entire day, and my pay was 35 cents, a glass of lemonade and a couple of tea cakes.

Even as I relate (somewhat) to his opening, it’s the mental images that come from his closing comments that really left me smiling…

After all the rain we’ve had this spring, grass and weeds are tall and lush, and there’s something about knocking over that thick growth that appeals to me.

Pour on the juice. Wade into a patch of briars and weeds and watch the dust fly. Hit a fire-ant mound and knock those little suckers 40 feet. Run over a dead limb fallen off an oak and whang, bam, blooey — busted sticks fly clean across the creek.

Do yourself a favor and go have a sit a spell on another porch and have a listen to a great local storyteller. If you haven’t followed my links in his direction before, take a little while to read a few from his archives, it’s worth the investment in time…Trust me.

Source: Hale: Mowing the lawn was never this fun | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

It’s good to see the weather on the Blue Ridge appears to be moderating a bit. The weather prognosticators are promising us a respite from the heat…tomorrow. Seems to be the way it goes here on the Gulf Coast, always better weather tomorrow, though I am sure there are enumerable folks out there who would love the weather we are having. I know there must be a lot of folks who like their springs to be full of 9o’s, both temperature and humidity readings, unfortunately, I’ve never been one of them.

I remember the summer in the early years of our marriage when I decided to paint the old house we bought from my parents. That year turned out to be one of the hottest and driest we ever had. Since the house had last been painted in the early 50’s, I couldn’t take a chance that the paint didn’t have some lead in it so breathing the dust as I scraped and sanded down to a clean surface didn’t seem advisable.

Every day that month started above 80 and went over 105 by noon. Even dry our climate pumps out some humidity, so to say it was uncomfortable working conditions would be showing way too much constraint. I spent my days in cut off blue jean shorts, shirtless, barefoot, with only a headband around my head to catch the sweat…and a whopping big respirator to keep from breathing the dust. It took me most of the month to scrape and sand and prime and then finally paint that house. Boy was I proud when I finished (and sweated down to a trimness I have never again reached in this life). And totally flummoxed when a year or so later the paint on the west side of the house started flaking off of the cypress siding. Turns out not much will stick to good cypress lumber which is why they used to use it to build around the water…

It looks like it’s time to hit the road…

The colors of summer…

As I wander the backroads around my neck of the woods, the rainbow of spring wildflowers has already given way to the reflected sunshine of the summer blooms. As you may have noticed in the photos of the last week, the yellow of the sun has been transplanted to every unmowed field in this part of Texas. We ave yet to see the first of the actual sunflowers of the later summer but everywhere you look you see the yellow of Black-eyed Susan, Tickseed, and Plains Coreopsis make up the majority of the blooms. There is nothing quite like rounding a curve and coming upon a large field of yellow blooms covering the ground for acres and acres…

Even the small section of field out behind our house that I let go native each summer is looking mostly yellow now. Earlier this year it was mostly reds and purples and blues. It’s almost funny the way the earliest flowers bloom in colors from the ends of the spectrum while the colors of summer cluster in the middle.

It’s good to see the weather dropping a cooler pattern into the Blue Ridge Mountains (at least for a few days). Watching a weather pattern develop in the upper mountains that was starting to mimic the southern coast was getting a bit scary. And while I know the folks living up there were probably enjoying the milder weather this spring, I don’t think they will enjoy the summers that come with it. I remember our first rip into Valle Crucis. That summer as we arrived so did a heat spell. Watching the way the mid 80’s wilted those folks left a knowing smile on this Texas native’s face, thinking of the weather we had just left behind. The over 100 degree day’s at home lasted for weeks that summer.