Monday, March 28, 2011

Life as we now know it

For the past three months, I've been concentrating mainly on the other blog I write, that being a public rather than a private effort.  I won't link to it but you can see it in the blog list to the right.  As of today, I've written 27 posts for that.  It's fascinating to watch it grow, and to wonder if it will hit a mini-tipping point, and if so, when and for what reason.  But of course all that blogging gets both tiring and time-consuming!

BUT back to my original effort here, I thought I'd do an update as to what's going on in our little pee-pot corner of the world, especially with respect to the continued evolution of our home.  Rome wasn't built in a day, and we're now at 13 months and counting on the dream home project, and we ain't fully built yet, either, but it continues to progress well. 
Spring has sprung, and the back yard landscaping is being nurtured along.  Remember, we wanted the instant gratification of mature landscaping so this is what we have now, after only five months in the ground. 
Aaaand of course, this is why the instant gratification was required.  We are rapidly advancing toward a condition in which the rear houses are screened out by the myrtles - a few months from now, they should be tall enough to do the trick.  That dark-brick house in particular has always given me the creeps, and guess what??  The cops were called to that house this past January because the guy who lives there allegedly beat the crap out of his wife. I have ALWAYS gotten a bad vibe off that house, so this did not surprise me.  I told Lawrence as soon as we moved in here that that house needed to BE GONE, and so it will be (at least visually).
And here's the best news
My wine-sipping view persists intact,
and in fact no buildings or houses can be built in the future to impinge upon this view.
But here's the not-so-good news:
The lot adjacent east of us has sold,
and the house that's going up there is MONSTROUS in terms of size! 
We lose our view to the east, and now we have obvious privacy issues on THIS side.
Fortunately the privacy impact from that house's window distribution is minimal (notice that our patio cannot be seen from this, its closest window).  I will be adding some punting pole bamboo between the houses as a screen (in fact, I've waited all this time to see what would be built on this lot, so that I could plant the screen in the proper place). 

The GOOD news is that I've met the family who is building the house, and they seem like very nice folks. I'm betting that we can collaborate on landscaping to maximize our respective privacy.  Where there's a will, there's a way.
Nyx did not appreciate me being on the second floor of that build-house without her.  This is her focused intently on me from our work patio by the garage. 

Those are buckets of lettuce beside which Nyx is standing.  I over-planted lettuce, and now it's growing everywhere.  I can't eat it fast enough.  Who knew that lettuce would survive just about any growing conditions??  It looks so dainty.
Cherry tomatoes are doing well.  The profile of the new build house will not block the best spring and summer sunlight, I'm finding.  This is a relief because I'd hate to have to move this planter!!
First cherry tomatoes are on the vine.
Onions are also plumping up.  They tend to want to sit on top of the soil, which is curious.  But I've never grown onions before - perhaps they are SUPPOSED to do this (??) 
I've got various generations and races of basil growing out of everywhere but my ears.  We could never have too much basil - we gobble it like pigs.
Oregano is proving to be another of those plants that just grows of its own accord, I find.  Here one of the species is threatening to spill over the side of the stock tank, which would be very pretty.
Jalapenos are another mysterious thing that just seems to grow of its own accord with very little care.  They've obviously bred this cultivar to produce mostly jalapeno and very little plant.  I guess the fruit itself photosynthesizes, which is why this plant can afford to devote so many resources to it, instead of to leaves and stem.
Even a tiny yard can be developed into a private and productive sanctuary, and the pooch agrees.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


That's a funny acronym in the title, isn't it??  Almost looks like a belch - "Brrrrrp!!" 

But really it stands for Big Bend Ranch State Park, which is where the Lawral subcomponent of Caylawral journeyed last week. 
View looking across the Chihuahuan desert
from the Cinco Tinajas trail.
I must do a travelogue of this one, but I thought I'd burp up a few pics here to start with. 

My favorite pic of the trip:
Nyx in Closed Canyon,
waiting patiently for me to catch up,
like the good (Australian) shepherd that she is.
On the subject of those travelogues, people usually respond with something like, "They are absolutely stunning - but how do you find the TIME to make them?!"

I reply, "Well, if you notice, I only do one or two each year!!!"

Anyway, here's two thirds of this year's backcountry team:
It was abnormally hot, 100 degrees F in the shade, and Lawrence served as Nyx's water valet, hand-carrying her blue bowl down the canyon, for the frequency of water stops.  Despite the substantial environmental stresses, she looks like a happy dog, doesn't she??  She was an EXCELLENT trail animal, taking to both her backpack and the demands of the trip with aplomb.
Now journeying through the fourth year of our relationship, Lawrence and I are evolving out of the self-absorption that characterizes every new relationship, and instead we are experiencing the natural inclination to be more inclusive in our activities.  While it is certainly still necessary and enjoyable to spend some "alone time", we really missed Cayley on this trip (she was in Hawaii with her bio-Dad). 

Initially we didn't know whether or not the dog would adapt well to the demanding travel circumstances that characterize our west-Texas wanderings, but she did, and we were glad to have her along - she helped fill a void.  As we were en route back to Houston, my summary lament was, "Well, we just had this wonderful bonding experience with the dog, but I really would have preferred a wonderful bonding experience with the child."  So we know what our goal is for our next camping trip.  And in the meantime, stay tuned for the travelogue on this one.
L showing off canyon-walking skills gained from a winter's worth of working out.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break-my-back

A very short post here for our daughter, who is traveling this week while I remain in a very messy office toiling away at a stack of work.

What's that critter sitting on the floor
with the ears puffed up like that?? 
Could it be the official guard dog??
As photograbbed by
one of the trial security cams??
Have a fun trip, sweetheart.  We love you!!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In the same vein (or stoma)

QUESTION:  What do all of the following cities have in common?
  1. Corona, CA
  2. Escondido, CA
  3. Tucson, AZ
  4. Grand Prairie, TX
  5. Manorville, NY
  6. Oklahoma City, OK
  7. South Jordan, UT
  8. Boulder, CO
  9. Fort Pierce, FL
  10. Temple, TX
  11. Beaverton, OR
  12. Portland, OR
  13. Seattle, WA (multiple)
  14. Atlanta, GA
ANSWER:  They are all home to users who accessed my main stock tank garden post within the past FIVE DAYS.
Although not quite as popular as Cayley's mammoth page, I DID manage to secure myself a spot on the first page of Google results for that particular garden-related search string. 
I have a collection of objectives in creating both of the blogs that I now write, and one of those objectives is to help others in whatever small ways I can.  It's good to be of use to people, so I'm glad to see that my hard-won gardening information is being accessed.  

I leave you with a couple of hot-off-the-presses pics of those widely-clicked gardens:

December 22, 2010:
Broccoli with 12-year-old for scale.
March 8, 2011:
Which matured faster,
the broccoli (now in flower),
or the child (also now in flower)?
She's still 12 years old,
but is now going on 20.
Black bee in broccoli blooms.
We DID eat some of the crowns,
but I'm enjoying all these bonus flowers
as much as the feed.
Honey bee on broccoli blooms.
Glad I could be of use to these winged guys
as well as the fellow gardeners out there.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A job especially well done!

QUESTION:  What do all of these educational institutions have in common?
  1. Dallas Independent School District (ISD; multiple subsites)
  2. Kentucky Department of Education
  3. Boston University
  4. Amarillo Region 16 Education Service Center
  5. Arlington ISD
  6. Plano ISD
  7. St. Johns School
  8. Collin County Community College District
  9. Trinity University
  10. Texas Tech University (multiple subsites)
  11. Spring ISD
  12. Hanover College (Indiana)
  13. New York City Public Schools
  14. Center ISD
  15. Lampasas ISD
  16. Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board (Ontario)
  17. Jefferson County Board of Education (Alabama)
  18. University of Kansas
  19. Austin ISD
  20. Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia)
  21. School District of South Milwaukee
  22. Incarnate Word College
  23. Grand Valley State University (Michigan)
  24. Missouri University of Science and Technology
  25. University of Colorado Denver
  26. Region 18 Education Service Center (Monahans, Texas)
  27. Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (DC)

 ANSWER:  They all have users who have accessed Cayley's mammoth tooth informational page within the past three months.

The truth about the tooth:
  • That's a list of just the standalone self-identifying educational systems (not educational users piggybacking on commercial carriers)
  • Just within the past three months
  • Accessing an informational page that is two years old.
*** WOW! ***

I stuck a Statcounter on that page a long time ago, not really expecting anything noteworthy to be revealed by it.   I accessed the results of that counting for the first time just a few days ago, after noticing that the page hits have curiously continued to climb even after all this time (shouldn't this story have become stale news a long time ago??). 

Because I use the free version of Statcounter, it saves only limited info, and there's only so far I can look back - nowhere near the last couple of years.  But even the results for the last couple of MONTHS are amazing to me.

The only explanation I can find is that the URL must have been more widely rebroadcast than I was aware of.  Either that or the widespread traffic was stimulated by the ABC news coverage, which on a hit-basis has put Cay in Google's pole position for this topic (even more popular than a similarly-themed NatGeo post!):

We all like to hope that we will be able to do something in our lives that leaves some kind of lasting positive contribution to humanity, however small that positive impression may be. 

I wonder if perhaps we actually accomplished that with the mammoth tooth story.  If so, then I'm very happy, because we could not have picked a better set of values to promote:  the importance of children, the power of science, the wonders of the world right under our noses, and the value that can come from an active lifestyle that includes a healthy dose of unconventional exploration (thinking outside the American consumer box).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slow boat from China?

Not to be confused with Slow Boat TO China

Last weekend, I ordered a dash cam from an ordinary looking (nothing ouvert to indicate foreign operation) high-Google-ranked website.  This type of shopping makes some folks nervous, but I've been doing it for years and never have had a single problem or credit card abuse (in contrast to numerous traditional brick-and-mortar stores such as Sears, with which I've had long, drawn-out disputes).

Today, I clicked on the dash cam's tracking information, expecting the usual FEDEX, USPS, or UPS screen to pop up.  Instead, I got a return with a banner that looked like this:
Okee dokee!!!!!!  I have a feeling I might be waiting a while for this puppy to arrive!!   

And can these guys really ship this stuff individually, overseas, for such a small amount of money? 

The usual business model is to ship intermodal containers of junk to U.S. distribution points, and mail individually from there.  That way there's no need to pay for air mail.  But times are tough all over, and maybe China is willing to do what it takes to acquire an even larger slice of the American consumer pie, as if they didn't have a big enough piece already (she says, guilty of contributing to the size of it). 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Obsequious optics and other illusions

Technology never ceases with its constant daily barrage of hilarity and delight. 

In the hilarity category, there was the story today about the Houston realtor who forgot to tell the client to put the toys away before taking sale pics of the condo.  The result was, as they say, stimulating, and it is now immortalized for all e-time on blogs everywhere!

In the delight category, one of my buddies hooked me up with a website called Zenni Optical through which one can buy cheap prescription eyeglasses.   With top-of-the-line specs now approaching a thousand dollars a pair (!!!!!!!!) for us "special eye-needs" folks, we need some lower-end fall-back pairs so that we don't have to endanger the daily-wears during our more dastardly duties (say THAT three times fast).

But can one really make a proper choice of eyeglasses, even cheapies, on the internet? 

You might be surprised at how far this technology has come.  Here's how it works: 

First, you take your current mugshot, front-on direct, straight across and level, like I did here by holding the camera at arms length.
Yeah, I know.  If ever I start taking myself too seriously, all I have to do is look in the mirror at that nappy hair and all hints of superiority complex promptly evaporate. 
When God was passing out hair,
I don't know where the hell I was. 
Probably out collecting rocks.
To make things even more ridiculous,
the brows remained reddish
when the hair turned gray.
 And then you upload it to the site.  It's more precise than I expected - you actually have to input your "PD" (no, not VD) - the distance between your pupils, which is given on your prescription.

And then once the photo and the PD are input, you start "trying on".  Bear in mind as you look at these grabs below that the fits as shown are EXTREMELY accurate.  My eyes are desperately bad and on top of that my face is very narrow and hard to fit.  I've tried on hundreds and hundreds of frames in my lifetime and I can tell instantly how something should fit, just by looking at it on the shelf.  And these are accurate.
I'm partial to the classic, understated look, although I prefer more of an arc in the bridge (it's a more artistic continuation of a wide-open eyes effect).  But traditional stuff like this is by no means the only choice...
Trendier wires?? 
Nah - they look too severe to me,
pinching down toward the nose.
Silicon Valley, anyone?? 
Nah - they make me look droopy.
I'm heading for the half-century mark here!!!
I don't need to look one tiny bit droopier
than I already am!!

The eighties called,
and they want their glasses back.

Harry Potter called,
and he said he can't believe that people
actually buy crap like this!!!

When I saw this, I almost ran SCREAMING INTO THE STREETS!!!  Break out the Photoshop and add a bit of brown back into the hair and a bit of plump back into the cheeks, and this IS me... THIRTY YEARS AGO!!!  I can't believe they actually still sell glasses that look like this!!
I don't care how much I pay (Too much, the Magic Bus)!
I wanna drive my bus to my baby each day (Too much, the Magic Bus)!
Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus!
Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus!
One of my opticians (I have several!) told me NEVER to buy brown tints.  She said they allow too much yellow wavelength to the brain, and it causes headaches.  I was dumbfounded - I own a very expensive pair of Serengeti sunglasses, tinted brown.  I can't wear the things.  My head splits every time I try.  I had no idea that might be the reason.
Star Trek called, and they want their Borg hardware back... but wait:
This might actually work, for sports and whatnot.  This ridiculous thing ACTUALLY FITS - the inner lenses are the right sizes for my eyes (remember, I had to upload my pupil distance to the nearest millimeter).  I would NEVER have considered trying on something like this if I had seen it in a store.  But fooling around with an internet program, I find it worth considering.
"Well, Your Honor, I was walking between two parallel sets of tracks when suddenly the damnedest thing happened - two trains started coming at me from opposite directions!!  I squeezed myself up as skinny as I could as they whizzed by me, and I think I came out of it all right!!"
But none of that free entertainment above can compete with the joy imparted by the look on my daughter's face when I picked her up from school today.  She thinks I look like a complete beauty queen when I wear contacts (a rare event - I can't tolerate 'em).  There's no accounting for taste, but I'm willing to do just about anything to see that sparkle appear in her eyes!
For the first time
in the history of the known universe,
a pic where SHE is the one in specs,
and I am not!