Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pubescent precipice

Cayley turned 12 years old today, and we celebrated in our usual family fashion by going to Abe's Cajun Market, which has really good cakes and pies (if you like that kind of thing).

I had gotten that candle in Bavaria earlier this year.  You'd think that every consumer good that exists in the world is for sale in America (did you know that each Walmart store can carry up to 140,000 items?!), but it's not so.  If you want really cool hand-made artsy birthday candles, apparently you have to go to a store like this in Germany for that.

So she's technically not a teenager until next year, but for all intents and purposes, we feel like we've entered the teenage abyss already. 

Mother Teresa would have been 100 years old today and sometimes I feel like I will need her patience to raise a teen.  Not that it's Cayley's fault - it's just the intrinsic nature of the season.   And I have no doubt that, no matter how many screwed-up days we endure, as a team we will emerge stronger than ever on the other end.  Happy birthday, chinnamma sweetheart!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Numero Uno

7th in average income but 27th in cost of living:  do the math.  America's powerhouse may have a few shortcomings, but it has never stopped wow-ing me with what it has to offer in the way of opportunity.  From Forbes, and I wish blogger would let me tag photos with URLs:  

Monday, August 23, 2010

The southern hinges

There's much ado in Houston's blogosphere about the record high temperatures we've been having, both from the climate side and from the general science side
Grab from

I complained twice that none of the stated data and perspectives appear to be taking the urban heat island effect into consideration.  Newsflash for the nerdy dudes - greater Houston is currently adding about one million new people every ten years.  Dontcha think that's gonna have an effect on our regional thermal output??!  Maybe?!?!

As for me, I was delighted to find that our electric bill for the 30 days ending August 20 was $157.82. Granted, we were on vacation for some of that period, but I still kept the air conditioner running at a low level to combat humidity, and that bill has been consistent with other recent numbers we have seen.  Thus far, we have been pleased with Meritage's Energy Star performance. This article alleges that they were the first major builder in the country to build Energy Star homes exclusively.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


'Tis the season to get nursery plants on sale, especially when one has a newly-sodded yard completely devoid of landscaping.  I waited two months for a certain trio of six-foot Pride of Houston yaupon hollies to come on sale, and - yay - got them today for 75% off original price.  This is a cultivar of an indestructible native species that appeals to my desire for things Houston and sustainable. / US Fish & Wildlife Service

The latin name for this species is Ilex vomitoria, so named because a Native American ceremonial tea made from their leaves was erroneously believed by early European settlers to cause vomiting.  There's a clever joke in here somewhere, but I'm so exhausted from struggling to pack all three of the massive things into the minivan in a 102-degree heat index that I can't think of it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Rabidosa rabida, also known as the rabid wolf spider, except they aren't really rabid - just HUGE!!

This is the biggest one I've ever seen.  Nobody in this household would volunteer to hold him in their hand while I took these pics, so I put him in this glass dish and inserted my fingers into the field of view for scale.

We found him in our garage today and it is a mystery to me what he might have eaten in there to have grown so large.  How long does it take a spider to grow to this size?  The house is only six months old!  I suppose he may have grown outside and migrated in.  If so, it musta been a tight squeeze.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The journey continues.

We returned from Cape Breton yesterday, and I plan to continue the multi-dimensional travelogue series I began with Long Journey Chapter 1 and Long Journey Chapter 2 (check 'em out if you haven't already - I've yet to get a bad or even a mediocre review, even from strangers).

However, it will be some time before I pull that creative effort  together - even a modest travelogue takes weeks of stolen moments to develop, and I have something very different in mind for this year, with no idea how long it will take me to accomplish.  There's no sense (or fun! or challenge!) in me writing successive headspace travelogues about the same place unless I'm seriously pushing the creative envelope each time I do it, is there?

Therefore, while that effort is pending, I thought I would sift out a few of the more family-oriented trip photos and post them here. 

Cayley leaps triumphantly on Dominion Beach.  With the ever-controversial Lingan thermal generating station as its backdrop, it may seem an unusual choice as a beach destination, but I spent much of my childhood here, and there's much metaphorical mileage in the intense man vs. nature gaunlet that this place represents (as well as quavering under the hulking shadow of this industrial behemoth, this beach just re-opened for the first time in years after being closed because of pollution from untreated sewage).

After discovering Inukshuks on a beach near Ingonish in 2008, Cayley and I thought we'd try our hand at constructing our own.  It's harder than it looks and we concluded that we weren't very good at it.  For this reason, we referred to our own efforts "Inuk-sucks".

There's nothing like a good pizza after a day at the beach, especially when it's from Napoli Pizzeria in Sydney Nova Scotia, which my Dad has been patronizing exclusively since before I was born.  NOTE that there are THREE THICK LAYERS OF PEPPERONI underlying the cheese and veggie toppings - this provides a clue as to why this family micro-business has over 2,000 Facebook fans around the world who write loving Wall messages bemoaning the fact that they can't order delivery in, for instance, Azerbaijan.  It is a constant source of frustration to us that the only pizza available through most of the United States is the cheap inedible cardboard kind for which the sole marketing goal is a $9.99 pricepoint.  You can't pay more money for better pizza here - I don't know why.

Cayley's favorite thing to do in Cape Breton is to visit its many spectacular beaches.  We had fun taking Kathy's daughter's labrador retriever named Brewer along on one trip to Mira Gut.  They don't call these dogs "retrievers" fer nuthin'... that dog would rather die than stop retrieving!
Cayley enjoyed chasing herring gulls more than Brew did...

My travel theme this year ran toward creative construction, as reflected by man's novel interaction with the rest of Nature, and I have been influenced in part by sculptor Andy Goldsworthy (in contrast, Long Journey Chapter 1 focused on exploration and Long Journey Chapter 2 was more concerned with interpretation).  I'm reserving most of that headspace for Chapter 3, but here's a pic of one of our artworks... this was built by all three of us but conceived and initiated by Lawrence who, being an engineer, tends to be rather literal in his interpretation of art (but it's no less enchanting as a result!).

We traveled to Ingonish again this year for the second week of the vacation, and widened our appreciation for its wild beaches. 
"This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen!" Cayley exclaimed, and we returned to Kings Point beach over and over again. 

Sea life teemed around those sheltered granite outcroppings, putting on a show unrivaled by anything on Discovery Channel (that's Lawrence out there on the far rock, and Ingonish Island visible in the distance).

We also hiked to lofty places, including the famous Skyline trail.   I had waited until this trip to subject Cayley to its 7 kilometer length.

Lawrence and I ascended to the tops of Broad Cove Mountain (a short hike, pictured below) and Franey (a bit more exercise!).

For the record, here's an actual picture of yours truly that was taken on this trip!  I'm the one behind the lens, so I'm almost never seen in the grinning postcard position!

Well, that's it for now!  Be on the lookout for Long Journey Chapter 3!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A thousand (Japanese?) words

We went to Tokyo Bowl yesterday evening for a special meal (I'm a sashimi addict) and, as we were waiting patiently for the bill (the place has a cult following - service gets stretched thin), Cay goofed around with her cell phone camera and snapped this pic.  The technical quality is naturally horrible, but it's our favorite pic of us in quite some time. 
She's always fretting about the photo I used as the frontispiece for this blog, as it was taken after some rough hiking and shows all three of us looking windburned, puffy-eyed, and rugged.  But my fondness for the memories associated with that photo trumped its obvious lack of cosmetic appeal.