Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Remembering the Alamo

One hundred seventy five years ago today the last defenders were martyred and the Alamo fell. The loss was a terrible blow for the Texians but the 13-day siege gave other men time to gather and prepare for the battle at Goliad. Victory there meant independence from Mexico for Texas.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Texas Needs to Revamp

The governorship must be controlled! I cannot understand how or why Perry is still ahead in the polls. The last election would have put Chris Bell in the office had it not been for that loopy Kinky Friedman serving as a spoiler. The state constitution must be amended to limit the number of terms - preferably two four-year segments - or we will wind up with Mr. Monarch for Life. I won't elaborate on my objections to the present officeholder except to say he has been there far too long!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day

Our heartfelt gratitude is extended to our valiant troops everywhere, and to the USO locations that serve them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Seeds for Aftghanistan??????

Recently I read an article in a back issue of Time magazine that discussed the suspicious distrust felt by many people of the Third World regarding the U.S. Could more direct citizen-to-citizen assistance achieve better results toward international goodwill than does the use of military power? One briefly mentioned idea is intriguing to those of us who garden. If the impovrished rural folk could have a plentiful, diverse supply of seeds to grow more food - seeds that we can readily supply - would they have a chance to improve their lives?

Of course, organizing such a program would require considerable effort - possibly less so here than abroad. Trained personnel would need not only to distribute the seeds but also instruct on planting, harvesting and using the crops, some of which might be new foods. (I recall a photo a couple of years back showing a young Afghan boy squeezing a tube of peanut butter from an aid box onto the ground, not recognizng it as food.)

There are groups that could possibly help, or at least serve as models. The Central Asia Institute, organized by Greg Mortensen and others, has concentrated thus far on establishing schools, especially ones for girls. (It is Greg's contention - and I agree! - that educating women is the key to stabilizing the political and economic landscape there.) I've ordered his book, Three Cups of Tea, and will expect to comment more later.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alligators.......and other critters

A few days ago an alligator was caught not far from here. Not a big one - only four feet long. Lots of wild creatures have been restless because of the harsh drought and scarce food supply. Mostly the Parks/Rec folks just let them roam, but this one was near a school and a bus stop, so policemen nearby duct-taped its snout and it was hauled away and released into the San Antonio River below the junction with I-37. I hadn't known until this report that gators were/are native to that river - the same one that flows along the Riverwalk.

Then today comes a report of an 800 pound gator shot and killed near Lake Livingston - by a 5-year old boy using a junior-sized .410 shotgun. The taxidermist says the head alone weighs 104 pounds.

A friend living a few miles away north of Helotes sent a picture of a large copperhead she spotted nestled in her favorite flower bed. Several other locals have reported rattlers and coral snakes. While it may be reassuring to know that Mother Nature is maintaining her stable of beasties, I
fervently hope that none of the unlovely creatures will decide to visit me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

San Antonio News

For the first time ever, San Antonio was represented at the Little League World Series this year. They're known as the McAllister Park team, and they made an outstanding showing. All the way to the final game for the U.S. title yesterday where they were defeated by Chula Vista - a team they had defeated in a prior round. They are to play a consolation game with Mexico today. They'll receive a jubilant reception on their return home.

Toyota is closing its Tacoma pickup plant in Fremont, CA and moving production to its state-of-the-art Tundra plant here. More good jobs for our local economy, but I continue to worry about the burgeoning strain on our water supplies.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

People to People

In 1956 President Eisenhower established the Citizen Ambassador Program, also known as People to People, under the auspices of the State Department. He envisioned groups of Americans traveling to other countries of the world, meeting citizens there with similar livelihoods and interests, and improving America's image abroad in ways that formal diplomacy could not achieve. My parents joined one of the very first tours, traveling to Russia in 1957. A rather scary adventure then with what little we knew about the place; I had serious concerns that they might have trouble getting home! To say that Mother and Dad enjoyed the tour is an understatement - they talked about that trip for years. And the friendships formed among their traveling companions lasted the rest of their lives.

In 1996 I received two invitations - one for Chile and the other for New Zealand/Australia. With somewhat overlapping travel dates I couldn't do both so I opted to go Down Under. Wonderful experience. Beautiful countries and wonderfully hospitable citizens.

Last week I received another invitation, this time for Israel. I'd really like to go! I recall that Mother and her sister Mary enjoyed their trip to Israel and Egypt very much (well, maybe everything but the camel rides.) But I think I'd better decline. Each tour has a theme. That early one was based on agriculture (visiting communes, etc.) and with Dad's background in animal husbandry and agronomy the invitation was a natural fit. The theme for this upcoming tour in December is medical education and healthcare.

Having had no training in those fields I doubt that I could contribute much to meeting discussions - in fact, I wouldn't try for fear of sounding like a nincompoop! I'm puzzled as to why my name came up in connection with such a theme. I'm allowed to recommend alternate persons for my slot, but have no one in mind to suggest. Ah, well. No doubt the directors of the private foundation now running the program will find a more suitable candidate.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


A friend is homesteading in Appalachia. I enjoy her blog -

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Stand By Me

Below is a link to one of the best pieces of sound engineering work I think I have ever seen. It is a composite audio/video of song whereby additional tracks were laid in by different singers and musicians from different places around the world. The finished product is tremendous!

The song itself is that classic standard "Stand By Me" originally released in 1955 by The Staple Singers and released again in 1961 by the Drifters. This composite version is a real toe tapper.

So turn up the speaker volume and [Click Here].

Sunday, March 15, 2009


As a child I often accompanied my maternal grandmother on her foraging trips -an activity also known as "scrounging". In the spring we gathered "poke" and"dock"; in August sand plums and currants and after a hard freeze the persimmons would be bletted enough that they were no longer astringent. And of course pecans and black walnuts in the fall. On rare occasions we might find the "haws"- red ones and less often the black ones - very scarce even then. What stirred my memory about this is the recent discovery that the beans produced by the mesquite trees in my backyard can be ground into flour for breadmaking - both the seeds and hulls are used.Here is an extensive reference on the many treasures we may still be able to gather.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Alternative Power

With Old Man Winter causing havoc in much of the country, looking at ways to replace/supplement electrical sources is more important than ever. Here's one adaptation of windpower -

I'm still hoping to be allowed to install photovoltaic panels on the roof. Pending changes in regulations may require the HOA to permit it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Learning to Drive

I've been purging old files and messages - in doing so a few worthy of rescue came to light. For example:

Mother was calm and patient as a driving instructor but Dad was quick tempered and I got flustered. But moving around the pasture and on a short stretch of country road was not the whole driving world so I was quick to sign up for driving class at Ardmore High my junior year in '47. My driving group had 3 boys, me and the instructor. Those guys made my life miserable...criticizing and/or jeering at everything I did. Then came test day...two of the guys flunked the written and the other flunked driving. I scored 100% on written and 94% on driving. Last laugh. After that I did a lot of driving. Mother and Dad were happy to delegate to me most of the family errands and the chauffeuring of my younger brothers. On our cross country trips I had the bulk of the time at the wheel. Shortly after signing on to my first teaching job after college, I bought my first car - a '49 Plymouth convertible. It was black with those tires that had so much white on them. It needed a new top so I had it outfitted in black-and-white hound's-tooth check. Oh, wow! I was convinced that was the snazziest car in all of Oklahoma. Since then I've had quite a few other "favorites" and many miles on the road and tons of memories. Some pictures, too. I do think we paid more attention to our driving in those old cars - we had to - what with the footwork on the clutch and shifting gears and hand signals.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Some of us can recall that day. My family and I were living in Alva, Oklahoma. Dad and we kids were headed to the car for an errand when a neighbor gave us the news. I instinctively glanced at the sky as though enemy planes might be overhead. A day or so later Dad tried to enlist but was just over the age limit. The hardships of the war on us civilians was nothing compared to the horrors of the war in the Pacific.

On a trip to Hawaii I visited the memorial on the Arizona. When you're in Honolulu be sure to go to that hallowed place. It's an appreciation of sacrifice like none other.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Can it be TRUE?

That the aspirin people - Bayer - are making poisons that are killing our honeybees?

I would expect better world citizenship from this firm! Where is the USDA in messes such as this? I know that the USDA began decades ago as a strong proponent of chemicals - but so much has been learned over the years that a shift in attitude/direction should have occurred by now.

When I garden, I am careful to leave wasps and other stingers alone to gather nectar and transport pollen, especially since bees are entirely absent and have been for a long time. The compounds that Bayer is concocting are systemic, traveling through the plant tissues to the blossoms - bees don't have a chance.

Does Bayer not care that a food shortage is a dreadful likelihood?

Even if it were not a danger to insects, the stuff is without doubt in the final food product of the plant, and I for one don't want to swallow it!

I am very angry about this, and must think of as many ways as possible to protest the practice. I'm sure Bayer is not the only sinner, but I have to start somewhere.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Has the Skulking Culprit Been Found?

For years now, I've wondered how so many people - all of them looking for money - know that I am a retired person. Not that I mind admitting my age - I've earned every one of these gray hairs - but when the information is used to inundate my mailbox with packets about hearing aids and tests, burial plans, motorized scooters, investment seminars, suggestions for bequests in my will, assisted living faciliities, etc. ad nauseum, I want to yell STOP!

Well, today a friend in Florida wrote that she's just learned the information is freely available in that state via the agency in charge of drivers' licenses. Not fair! Now to prowl for the answer in Texas. When I want information on any of that stuff, I'll seek it out on my own. Too late to stop the deluge in my case, but the state legislators should know about what a nuisance it is.

Wonder if they sell the lists, as the charities do? Yuska

Monday, July 28, 2008


English is a language so rich in nuance and versatility that I've never understood why anyone would need to resort to vulgarity or profanity. Making a conversational point succinctly or obliquely is more effective. Recently I discovered an interesting service called Word.A.Day. The daily choice can appear in Inboxes by contacting .

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Saga Continues...........

My irritations with AT&T were eased after the takeover by SBC, and although I thought adopting the AT&T moniker was a poor choice, the service for both phone and DSL has been rather good even though pricey. Then the out-of-the-blue announcement on June 27 that the corporate headquarters will move to Dallas stunned the entire populace - most especially hizzoner the Mayor and the City Council, who had no inkling that such a plan was in the works.
Several units of the company will stay here, but the distinction of being home to the industry's behemoth vanishes. The reasons given? More direct flights from DFW and Dallas has more tech companies.

There is moaning and groaning going on by the promoters of "growth" who wonder what we could have done to prevent it, aand secondly how we can replace the loss. Please! There are bound to be more reasons for the move than those offered, and we'll never be privy to the whole story. The CEO, Stephenson, who replaced Whitacre has had his own agenda since taking over the reins. The firm was just another Baby Bell when it arrived here from St. Louis more than fifteen years ago, and the acquisitions that put it on top came along with local encouragement. Loyalty is not a trait held in high regard by the big boys.

As for replacing the departing headquarters with another biggie or a cluster of mid-sizers, let's go slow. San Antonio is already number eight in size of U.S. cities, and we need to be aware that growth has already stretched our water sources critically. Rampant building has threatened Camp Bullis and by extension the historic Fort Sam Houston. The closure of those installations would be a monumental loss. We don't have to copy-cat other places to be tops - the city is unique and special as it is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In a word....NO!

All this noise about Microsft buying Yahoo, or Yahoo and Google joining, or today's hint that Icahn is buying gobs of Yahoo shares with an eye to replacing the Board of Directors...what a mess! I have all three and I can tell each and all that rather than fighting over advertising they should support what they already have running. Customer Care? Not funny how off the mark that name is. Ask a question and get a canned response that bears no resemblance to the subject. I am so frustrated with MSN - even with fiberoptic DSL, opening pages are slower than pouring molasses in January. And Yahoo will suddenly wipe out a message being composed - not once but again and again. Google has been reasonably steady but some of the features really need improvement - suggestions, though, are apparently not appreciated. I would dump the lot of them if not for the extensive work invested in groups.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Several days ago the postal carrier brought an invitation from my alma mater USAO (University of Scence and Arts of Oklahoma) to attend a reunion of alumnae who are now Texa residents. To be held in Austin, it is scheduled for May 23rd. In some ways, I would like to attend but probably won't.When I attended (1948-1952) the school was OCW - Oklahoma College for Women. Small but academically demanding. None of us would ever be tempted to cut a class or to go without being as prepared as possible on the current assignment. Each student knew she would be called upon to participate orally, not once but several times. We had a duty to one another to be present and attentive. Excellent training for the employment we would be seeking.The school began the transition to co-ed when several years later a river bridge on the highway to Norman washed out and some non-resident students could not get to classes at OU. Alternate classes were set up for them at OCW.The campus has grown considerably and many new degree programs added - some have been dropped - and the institution's stature is enhanced by excellence and affordablity. May the value of this place continue indefinitely.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Enough Already!

I hope you can bear with me while I rant a bit about junk mail. We all get gobs of it that we have to send to the landfill, but the most irritating of all - at least to me - are the mailers from charities. I do donate to certain ones and respond sometimes to requests from friends asking for help to honor a loved one, but how to know which ones use the money for the stated purpose instead of swallowing it as "administrative expenses"? Worse than that, shortly after sending in a donation, the mailbox becomes stuffed with mailers from all sorts of obscure groups that I've never heard of. Even if I were rich as Rockefeller I couldn't support them all, and maybe they're worthy, maybe not. What the sudden flood tells me is - the charity that got my donation put the information about me on a mailing list which was sold to as many other groups as possible. If the charity sells lists, it also buys them, which means my money isn't really helping anybody. I'm fed up. From now on, I'm following the adage "charity begins at home" and will concentrate on groups I can thoroughly investigate. No solicitations will be answered without written promises not to sell my information. Yuska

Saturday, November 10, 2007


The property tax bill finally arrived today (billed as of Nov. 1). The ballyhooed decrease amounted to a whopping $43.59 from the estimate sent earlier this year. The biggest portion is the hospital fund; all of us are affected by so many uninsured folks flocking to emergency rooms. The enormous jump in the tax appraisal was unfair - the amount is over market value in the sluggish R.E. world. Without the over-65 exclusions I'd really have to shell out the moolah.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Time for Taxpayers to Protest

This is no hoax. Quite a few of us Texas residents have been protesting Gov. Perry's proposed Trans-Texas Corridor. But now everyone needs to support the legislation against "buy-back" of federal highways for tolling purposes.

In January 2007 the Texas dept. of transportation (TxDOT) submitted a proposal and request to Congress for legislation that would allow states to "buy back" ownership of sections of federal highways. The proposal also suggested tax breaks for private company investment in such projects.
This request received almost no publicity, altho TxDOT claims four public meetings were held, but were "poorly attended". (I wonder why.) Last week several Texas newspapers picked up on the issue in editorials and lead stories. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) announced she would sponsor legislation opposing this idea, and yesterday she did just that.

Why should this matter to you, if you're not a Texas resident? Glad you asked. If the political poobahs of the Lone Star State should manage to get away with such shenanigans, is it not likely that bureaucrats everywhere would be emboldened?

It is true that a 2005 Texas law requires that any tolls to be applied to existing highways must first gain the approval of voters. But a safeguard of this type should not be necessary! Roads that the public has paid for are the property of the public. As TxDOT sees it, highways we paid for with our federal tax dollars would be repurchased with our state tax dollars, and then we would be charged every time we needed to use those roads. How's that for a greedy scam?

Sen. Hutchison's bill introduction is just the first step in a serious struggle. Somewhat similar legislation failed in the last session. We will need strong positive majorities to withstand a possible presidential veto. With all the other urgent issues facing Congress, this important bill will need our close attention. Please contact your state's U.S. senators to request their support for Senate bill 2019. Then contact the U.S. representative for your district with a request to support a compatible bill there. Then ask everyone you know to do the same. A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the House, and that's where inattention is most likely to trip up passage.

This is an urgent matter. The legislation just introduced, even after passage, will not stop the tolling of federal highway sections already approved, such as U. S. 281 north of San Antonio. Before any more approvals are issued, let's stop this nonsense now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Military Benefits

These days almost everyone knows someone in the military, whether active duty, on standby or veterans. Many of them could use financial help. The federal VA program is useful as far as it goes, but many states have programs that are considerably more generous. The loan programs and other assists in Texas, for example, are available also for active duty and those likely to be called up. With the current credit crunch in the real estate market, mortgage assistance in these state programs may be more readily available. The information site for Texas takes some time to wade through, but there is a good deal of help there:

The California (Cal-Vet) program is good and most likely other states have helpful programs too. If each of us will explore these possibilities for our states we can do a good turn for the brave folks who protect us. Yuska

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ARRRGH! The latest insanity.....

An article in today's paper describes TxDOT's newest incredible brashness. A budget of NINE MILLION DOLLARS has been approved for an ad campaign designed to convince us tax-paying citizens that toll roads and the Trans-Texas Corridor are just what we need, and most of all, something that we should heartily desire. TxDOT frequently complains about underfunding - yet they can squander like this? Personally I find it insulting that those greedy idiots in Austin are so scornful of our intelligence.

An added irony is the probability we've already lost the battle and the war. Work is continuing apace on turning US 281 north into a toll road. That area is a vast collection of upscale sudivisions whose commuters will now have to shell out more to get to/from work. This may well have a depressing effect on home resale pricing, but won't likely reduce property tax appraisals, since sales prices there aren't reported to the county assessor's office. What a mess.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Sad news this week for everyone associated with Military City. An Army major stationed at Fort Sam Houston was arrested, along with his wife, for accepting bribes in connection with procurement orders. Just under $10 million had already been received and just over $5 million was promised or in the pipeline. How could anyone do this to our country and its citizens? Taxpayer funds designated for reconstruction projects in Iraq. There is probably much more that needs to come to light. Someone up the line was either rubber-stamping the major's suggestions or just plain careless............

Monday, June 18, 2007

Number Four

The San Antonio Spurs won the national NBA championship last week (fourth time) and the celebratory River Parade was held yesterday. The lead barge paused at the Arneson Theater and operatic tenor Placido Domingo (in town for a Tuesday concert) sang the natonal anthem. Wow what a voice - barely needed a microphone.

I'm not a devotee of pro sports - the inflated incomes of the athletes seem obscenely high - but we are glad that our local team carries the image of the "good guys." Competing teams have fans that refer to the Spurs as dull and uninteresting; a cynic has said that at their salary levels they can afford to be nice. We find it refreshing that these guys obey the law. avoid scandal and contribute off-court time and resources to local goodwill projects. If that's dullness, we're happy with the status quo.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Olio - n. Hodgepodge, miscellany. Just some catchup items.

The tax adjustment bill did pass. Now it will be interesting to see just much (if any) improvement there will be in my tax bill when it appears for the November payment date.

Computer problems - big time. The fiber optic modem was malfunctioning. After spending some time on the phone with a courteous and knowledgeable technician, a couple of fellows actually came to check it out. They replaced the adapter and left a new modem as well. If only Dell could perform as well. A couple of days later, Regina's monitor would not open - I suspected a problem in the processor because the drive slides won't open either. After nearly an hour on the phone with a rather rude technician in Bangalore (his accent was so extreme I had to ask him to spell some of the words he was trying to pronounce - he made snide references to my limited abilities) I said goodbye. Called Dell again and asked that a technician be sent out; was told I had first to tell them what parts were needed, and that I should open the processor cabinet. When I protested that I might break something, I was assured that Dell would pay for any damage. Oh, yeah? You expect me to believe that with your lousy service record? Over $300 for the extended warranty that is apparently just about worthless. So, I'm planning to have a local tech come out....won't be cheap, but I can have a checkup done here for Diana as well. Then I have to deal with Microsoft about the MSN connection service trying to revert to dialup. Really did want to work on other projects this week!

Came across an interesting blog today about using natural methods to simplify living. Liked it so much tha I've linked it here. Yuska

Monday, April 30, 2007


The property tax appraisal arrived in the mail Saturday. In the ten years since I purchased this place, the assessed value has shot up half again. Part of the "privilege" I suppose of living in the seventh largest city and one with a vigorous and expanding economy. The May elections coming up will feature a city-wide bond proposal of $550 million and the school district in which I'm located has a bond proposal of $692 million. Boggles the mind. Some folks who have no children complain that they are unfairly assessed for school funding since they have no kids partaking of the services. In all these many years that I've paid these assessments, I've remembered that first day in first grade in 1936. Tough as those Depression years were, others had provided the school building and the teacher. Never mind that the setting was very spartan in supplies and equipment - to me it was a place of wonder and excitement, and I considered schooling all-important from then on throughout life - I hope to continue learning up to the last and hope to help others do so as well. Still, this year's tax bill will swallow nearly sixty per cent of a month's income. When I look at the top-heavy administrative posts at most schools and the enormous outlays for the football programs, I can't help but yearn for more emphasis on academic achievement.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day

Greetings to all on Earth Day! To celebrate the natural world around us, I've been thinking of ways we can appreciate and use what is already there. For example, when we prune trees, we can use the trimmings in variety of ways rather than just leaving them at the curb for the trash truck. Brushy parts can be chopped for mulch. Slender twigs can be used in basketry. Larger pieces can be used for bentwood projects. I have a book by Jim Long that offers designs and techniques for trellises, arbors, gates and fences. I am currently whacking away at hackberry and chinaberry** saplings that my resident birds have planted in inconvenient places, and am saving the supple whips to use in wattle-and-daub projects. Wattles are an ancient construction method in which saplings were interwoven between stakes to form fences. Other uses combined wattles with a mud or clay covering (daub) to build windbreak shelters for farm animals and even temporary housing. The wattle system can be used to edge flower beds. My plan is to build raised beds. To hold the soil, I plan to daub with papercrete.

And then there is foraging. Many of the treasures we gathered years ago are gone or very scarce. Poke and dock in spring. haws and persimmons in fall. Pecans of course. But we didn't use cattails, and I wish we had known more about the many uses - they were in ponds all around us (Oklahoma farm ponds were called "tanks" when I was a kid - wonder if that term still used?) Anyway, if you have access to cattails, you may find this article interesting:


**I saw an online nursery ad yesterday in which chinaberry trees were offered at $49.95. Sheesh! I should go into the nursery business. But now that I've learned the tree has similar properties to neem, I should be more respectful. After all, the blossom clusters are pretty and fragrant.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

News Tidbits from Texas

Rain! We've been blessed with it recently - March closed out with a new record - 8.96 inches which eclipsed the 1992 mark of 6.12. The drought is perhaps not yet ended, but it is soggy out there now and the weeds have responded accordingly!

After 90 days and over five million dollars the huge compost fire near Helotes ( a town just northwest of here) was extinguished last week. Located over the aquifer recharge zone, efforts to put it out were contaminating area wells. The smoke caused frequent closures of several elementary & middle schools and one high school. Some families in the immediate area had to evacuate their homes. The pile of dirt, brush and splintered trees had accumulated over a number of years as bulldozers scraped large sections of native terrain for housing subdivisions. The pile was eighty feet high and covered nearly four acres. The blaze began Christmas Day - whether arson or spontaneous combustion has not been determined. Now the law suits begin.

On March 22nd TxDoT signed the first contract of the massive Trans-Texas Corridor - the project (boondoggle, IMO!) that will smother Texas with a network of toll roads. The first section of 40 miles is Texas 130 running from south of Austin to Seguin. The contract was issued to Zachry Corp in conjuntion with the Spanish firm Cintra. Completion is forecast for 2012. These firms will have complete control for fifty years. The next contract to be signed soon is Texas 121 running north from Dallas. In response to vociferous ( but obviously helpless) protests from the public, a moratorium bill was introduced in the legislature that would put off the balance of the project for two years. The bill is not expected to make it out of committee this session.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Decisions, decisions

On the issue of the executive order issued by Gov. Perry re the HP vacine, I can't seem to form an opinion! Unusual for me. Some critics point to a likely financial link to Merck and others say he is trying to position himself as a worthy VP candidate. His Democratic opponent Chris Bell (who got my vote) had this to say:

Dear Fellow Texans,You have undoubtedly heard and read a lot about Rick Perry's executive order requiring that Texas schoolgirls get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. Last September, I promised to do the very same thing if elected governor. While I continue to be very disappointed in the overall direction he is taking our state, in this particular instance Rick Perry has done the right thing. This is about protecting women's health, not about politics. I fully support his action and am asking you to do the same.If young women don't get this vaccine now, hundreds of them will get cervical cancer and die. HPV causes cervical cancer, and the FDA has approved this vaccine and says it can prevent about 70% of cervical cancers that led to 391 deaths in Texas in 2006 alone. This is why the Center for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society recommend that all young women aged 11-12 get vaccinated, and it's why I called for this same action during the campaign.Some of our libertarian-leaning Republican friends argue that vaccinating school children is not a proper function of government, and some of their socially conservative allies argue that protecting girls from a sexually transmitted virus will encourage promiscuity. Hogwash. I would answer both of these political factions by saying that punishing women for having pre-marital sex is not a proper role of government. In fact, protecting women from unknowingly contracting a cancer-causing virus protects their lives, not to mention their liberty. That is a proper role of government.The fact that Rick Perry consciously opposed his own party in doing the right thing is, while quite surprising, to his credit. Now it's our responsibility as Texans to put politics aside and support the choice he made. The voices of support for the vaccination and the executive order are remaining awfully quiet. For years, Rick Perry has earned our opposition. Right now, with women's health at stake, he has earned our support, and without sacrificing the right to oppose him in the future, we must offer that support. If we don't, then we're the ones putting politics ahead of women's health.Sincerely,Chris Bell

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Finally! Against expectations........

Ciro Rodriquez won. Really a landslide instead of the expected squeaker. 54% to 46%. He's a bit of a lightweight, IMO, but we sense he's not as politically greedy as Bonilla. Huge challenges ahead to serve this enormous district - all or parts of 20 Texas counties. At least we have a respite from endless TV ads, mailer, phone calls..........

Monday, December 11, 2006

District 23

We are all so weary of this runoff campaign! With all the TV ads, everyone in the entire area is suffering along with us residents of the district, but we also have to contend with stuffed mailboxes, yard signs and phone calls. I am not keen on either candidate, having rooted for a newcomer in the general election. I became thoroughly disenchanted with Henry Bonilla during the last round after he benefited so handily from Tom DeLay's outrageous engineering of that illegal redistricting setup. I'm not convinced that Ciro Rodriquez will be a substantial improvement, based on his prior service in another district under the old map, but at least he is carrying much less baggage. The mudslinging is so bad it is revolting and asinine, when serious issues need to be discussed. The incredible sums of money being expended could be of benefit in so many other ways. Regardless of the outcome, we will all be relieved tomorrow evening just to have an end to the relentless bombardment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Nuthin' but gray skies".......

do I see........ Finally a good rain almost all day yesterday. Heavily overcast today with a shower early. I wish I had dared be a bit more optimistic and planted a fall garden. Ah, well - probably would have been trampled when the workers come to take out dead trees and rebuild the fence. That's on my "must do" list for no later than year's end. The prediction is for an El Nino year - we'll welcome the moisture if it comes without storms/floods.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

XP is Turning 5.............

Remember how we had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the XP era? An article in today's paper reviews some of the agonies along the way. Though in many ways it was an improvement over the "9" series and ME, the serious flaws were patched so many times that a 2001 series issue had its directory balloon from 987 megabytes to 2.43 gigabytes. XP has been described as a house with a second floor built of spackle, wood filler and duct tape. The term "widely used" applies, but "popular" is less than accurate.

Vista - XP's replacement - is scheduled for a January release, but don't be surprised if that's delayed. What new frustrations will we next encounter? Ah, well. If we lived in a perfect world, do you suppose we'd be bored?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Gone but Never Forgotten

Cousin Bob's funeral was Monday, July 3rd. Pancreatic cancer is absolutely ruthless in its cruel intensity. We are all at least glad that he and Zoya got into the new home however briefly before he was thrust into the final stage. While looking at the website for the American Cancer Society preparing to make a donation, I saw the section called Mosaic of Memories. It is a way to set up a memorial site with pictures and testimonials to honor the departed person. Of course, it also contains an avenue and pitch for making donations, but several of the clan members were planning to do that anyway. I have the framework set up for Bob's site and have sent out a call for pictures. I want to move carefully on this so as to avoid the snags I so often get into!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Problem solved

The question of over-mowing has been resolved by my new neighbors, quite unexpectedly. They decided to use the services of the same man that I have employed for some seven or eight years now (he really is good at it) but asked him to come only every other week. Evidently L. Z. decided that with the additional work he could afford to skip my yard on alternate weeks as well. So the grass is looking much better with the minimal watering I can give it. I chat over the fence with the new people when they're out and about, but that's not very often. The husband is wheelchair bound and they were attracted to the house precisely because it was built to accommodate a disabled person. They haven't objected to my gardening activities and I knew we'd be compatible when I saw the wife installing bird feeders. Peace in the neighborhood. I am fortunate.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


A bit more rain overnight. How wonderful the air smells. I dread these periodic years of drought, but without them we wouldn't appreciate the bountiful years. The Edwards aquifer has been hovering just over the 650-ft.-above-sea-level mark, and this recent moisture will only delay the inevitable mandatory water rationing by a day or two. Hard as the drought is on plants, it may be even harder on the landscaping people. My yardman comes and mows even when the grass hasn't grown any at all with my watering the two hours one day a week. I wish he wouldn't, but I know he needs the money. He would be offended if I offered to pay him NOT to mow. Maybe I can create some odd jobs for him to do instead.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ah, Kiwiland!

The mail carrier yesterday brought the most tempting brochure I've seen yet. An invitation from the American Horticultural Society to visit the summer coastal gardens of New Zealand via cruise ship. Oh, mercy, how wonderful that would be! Fourteen days in January. (Well, 12 days when the travel time to and from is subtracted.) The stop at Christchurch is especially enticing - that was the high point of our People-to-People tour in '96. The most beautiful place in a stunningly beautiful land. I will be re-reading this booklet with close attention. The cost? Also breath-taking. But hey, it's only money.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Last of the Citrus

Really didn't get to harvesting on schedule...too many distractions... so lost a good bit of the crop. Still, there's lots of juice in the freezer and some marmalade from this batch. I marvel at how generous and carefree these tangerine and Meyer lemon trees continue to be.

Friday, April 07, 2006


While sipping that first cup of coffee this morning and reading the paper, I happened to glance at the patio door. The cutest little critter was staring in at me. Small furry black body, with a big white "V" on its back. Fluffy tail. At that moment my cat, Molly, approached the door, and hissed. After a long stand-off stare, the visitor turned and trotted off.

I was glad I could say "Whew!" and not "P-U!" I knew that a possum has been enjoying some of the tangerines before I can get to them (not that I mind - there are many more than I can use) but I hadn't seen a skunk since I first moved here nine years ago. Seems if you make your place pleasant for birds and butterflies, other critters - squirrels, geckos, toads, spiders and yes, even snakes - will like it, too. Hey, gang - this is a city! (8th largest in the U.S., as a matter of fact.) To which the critters would probably reply: "And it is also Texas!" E/B/Y

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

After spending humongous bucks on plumbing repairs in December, I had to call the company back today. The outdoor hose bib at the back of the house was pouring out a steady stream, as it had before, and tripling my water bill. The work done in December was not warranted because the pressure coming in to the house was at 105 pounds per square inch, well over the maximum recommended of 80 psi. On the first call, the serviceman recommended that I install a special valve at the meter to reduce the pressure. At the time it seemed to be another add-on to fatten an already very fat bill, and I demurred. I learned later that the water utility actually uses stronger pressure in this second ring of subdivisions in order to have enough pressure for the ever-expanding third and fourth rings. Our summer water rates are predicated on how much we use from 11/15 through 3/15; thus I can expect very big bills no matter how hard I try to conserve. So I agreed to the special installation today, to the tune of $650. For that I get a one-year warranty and pressure reduction to 65 psi. Not fair that we in the second ring must go to this expense when the residents of the outer rings aren't even paying city taxes! But heaven forbid that the pipes in the slab floor should burst................

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Oh, No!

  1. In the ten years or so that this subdivision has been in existence, peace and tranquility have been dominant characteristics. There have been a few incidents, nearly all involving teenagers, that appeared in police reports, but very little evidence of gang activity. Considering how close we are to a major high school, we have felt fortunate indeed. How distressing, then, on the morning of New Year's Day, to see ugly gang signs splashed in red paint on the community postal box station across the street. Defacing USPS property is a federal offense, but the hooligans are not likely to be caught. I hope that the challenge posed will not prompt other gangs to answer in kind. The mess is still there. We residents would try to clean it up, do we get permission? Time to get on the phone..............I really had other plans for my day..........

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Silver Linings

Suddenly in mid-November an ominous blue warning screen appeared here on Diana's monitor screen, and I could not get past it no matter what I tried. Suggestions and references from people much more knowledgeable than I came in, and all seemed really sensible, but none of my attempts quite made it. "Unmountable boot volume" was the heading on the blue screen, and it would not budge. I limped along with poor Herkimer for basic e-mail for several days and finally called in a service technician for the bad news....the hard drive had to be replaced. Of course I lost pictures and files, but many of those had already had been posted on our heritage and group sites and thus can be retrieved.
Getting the basic services reinstalled has taken up much of a week's time, with frustrating setbacks along the way. But in the process I reviewed a number of small but important details, and I have learned to watch more alertly for the little signals that are often main clues.
The replacement hard drive has twice the capacity, and best of all I realized I could load all of the ISP's onto DSL to dispense with dialup altogether. Silver linings...........this cloud had more than one.
Meanwhile, Diana's sister Regina arrived, with her lovely 20 inch ultrasharp flat panel monitor.
The networking adventure begins.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


After vowing never again to be a customer of AT&T (see Mills of the gods...Feb. 3), my hand is being forced. SBC, based here in San Antonio, has been in negotiations for months to buyout AT&T, and the deal has now been approved by the FCC. Should be fait accompli by year's end. After much research, SBC management has decided to assume the AT&T name, saying it is much more widely known ( yeah, but negatively, IMO). So I will have to look at the logo every time I go to my DSL server - ugh! Ah, well. Maybe it is revenge, in a way. At least my terms have been met.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


The annual race for the pecan crop has begun, and I may already have lost out. My two trees are carrying hefty loads in spite of a drier than usual season (I've done some slow, deep watering) with no signs of fungus or pests. In prior years I've been out there as soon as the green husks began to split, harvesting nuts as high as I could reach and of course staining my fingers in the process. Nearby the squirrels would be chattering - scolding me for interrupting their harvest. Greedy little rascals - they usually got all of the crop in the upper branches, so why couldn't they share with me without fussing?

But this year they're going too far! Although the green husks won't begin to split for about 30 more days, the thieves are already knocking clusters from the branches. Some but not all of the downed immature nuts have been chewed open through that bitter husk and the contents emptied. I've put out extra sunflower seed and dried corn, but I may be just whetting their appetites. They are so cute and their antics are fun to watch; I find it hard to think of them as rodents. "Tree rats" was the moniker attached to them by cousin Dener's hubby Jerry. Quite an apt description, I must admit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Help for the Visually Impaired

At long last we seem to be making some progress in getting cousin Wilma set up with the JAWS system. She phoned Saturday to say that she received the installation package I had ordered, and was pleased to report that the computer technician she had relied on in the past has returned to Harrison to set up his own business. He told her he thinks he knows of someone else in the area who is already using the system. I am relieved that she will have someone to turn to locally for help; she is a very determined person and I know she will try very hard to make a go of this project, but when a person can only see colors and parts of images from the sides of one's eyes, the efforts to function on new tasks must be exhausting. Our friend Susan in Georgia - who is completely blind - has been very encouraging and is standing by to offer her ongoing help. I continue to be amazed at the skills Susan exhibits in every e-mail.

The technician wants Wilma to upgrade to XP because she has had problems with 98. I hope he will do that for her right away so that she can get on with the learning process. I am anxiously awaiting an e-mail from her - that will be the signal that she has really returned to cyberspace.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Heritage Sites

At long last I'm back to working on the heritage sites. They're still quite primitive, but rather than continue amassing material I've decided to set in some pages to get at least a basic outline going. Some of the pictures need restoration work, and I'm trying to learn new techniques as I go. I've pestered Michael for help far too often; must take over the work myself. There is a good deal of text to enter, but spacing for readability is still an uphill struggle. The whole thing was my idea, so I can only fuss at myself for all the frustrations.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Daisy's Garden

Cousin Peggy F.'s daughter Shirley told me this past week that when she gets her daylilies moved from their temporary pots into their permanent beds at the new house and they have multiplied sufficiently to share, I can have a start of them. Great news. I have quite a few hybrid varieties now and they are lovely, but none have the robust vigor of the old standard Hemerocallis fulva. What makes Shirley's supply so special is that the plants are grow-out descendants of those that grew in Grandmother Daisy's garden. She has been gone now more than 20 years but we all remember how much she loved the simple flowers that were available to her over the years. Four o'clocks, sweetly scented honeysuckle and petunias in the planter boxes flanking the front steps. And a large collection of houseplants - especially prized was an angel wing begonia. How wonderful it will be to grow flowers that trace directly to her skill and dedication.

Friday, April 29, 2005

People to People

The Citizen Ambassador Program sent me another invitation - this time for a trip to China and Tibet, scheduled for November. Very appealing - would enjoy seeing the Great Wall and the panda reserve. I don't think I have the physical stamina for it, though. The Australia/New Zealand trip, enjoyable as it was, was very strenuous, and after all, I am nine years older. Cousin Peggy P. expressed a keen interest, so I sent the application materials to her and asked the Ambassador Program to accept her in my stead.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Whee! I Won a Contest!

I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of contests I have won in my life and still have a couple of fingers left to use. None of the prizes put me in a higher tax bracket...the first one was 50 cents for my second place essay entry in college. Recently my photo entry at ThriftyFun of my "Postcards" quilt netted a $30 gift certificate at Joann's Fabrics. I have until the end of this month to make my selections. Such fun!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Staff of Life

Whee! Such fun! My Christmas present to myself was a bread machine. Didn't even get it unpacked until two weeks ago, but having a great time since. Got a very simple one that makes a one-pound loaf - just right for one person - and I can't believe how easy it is. Just put the ingredients in the pan, plug it in, and 45 minutes later - fresh hot bread! Yum, it is so good. At this rate I will likely pile on some of the 20 pounds my doctor has been yammering about. A long way from the extended kitchen sessions on the way to becoming home economics teacher, but times do change. [My alma mater closed out the entire degree program several years ago.] A real bonus is knowing what ingredients are in it. Gee, I'm gtting, here I come....

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The mills of the gods grind slowly...........

From somewhere in the recesses of memory the saying "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine" comes forth. To whom it is attributed I have no idea. I thought of it again in recent days when the purchase of AT&T by SBC was announced. Several years ago I was infuriated when AT&T began charging a monthly long distance fee whether or not any calls were made. When I complained, I was told that a mailing about it had been sent out and that it was a new FCC requirement. Lies! So I switched to SBC - a higher per minute rate but no minimum. For the better part of a year thereafter AT&T harrassed me with phone calls and trick offers. Over and over I explained, sometimes patiently, sometimes angrily, that I didn't mind paying for the calls I made but I refuse to pay for time I didn't use. One evening I had three calls in the space of an hour. At one point I received a check for $150 - "no strings attached." HA! Endorsing it would have put me back under AT&T's thumb. I tore the check into itsy-bitsy pieces. About three months later a check for $75 arrived - same deal.

AT&T's declining fortunes are due in no small part to the shortsightedness of its management. Top of the heap for so long - arrogance and greed took over. While I regret that there will be substantial numbers of jobs lost, I am pleased that the SBC headquarters will remain here in San Antonio. Of course, federal approval of the merger is still required but it will be the best solution for a situation that otherwise would only worsen for Ma Bell.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


We lost cousin Pat last week. She was only 56. Extremely hard for Bob and their children, I know, but it must be very perplexing and sad for young granddaughter Kayla.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Bonnie viewing the corpse flower Posted by Hello

Dave's Garden

For a good two years, I resisted the temptation. I belonged and partcipated in a couple of active heirloom gardening groups, but bypassed DG because I had formed a suspicion that it was too elitist. I couldn't have been more wrong. With well over 100,000 members - scattered around the globe - there are all skill levels represented. Not everyone posts (thank goodness!) but enough are there that staying away from my favorite forums is tough to do. Even on Christmas Day I can't seem to get away from this computer. So fascinating. And of course I can't resist making some entries of my own. Such as the one about my friend Bonnie with the corpse flower. Now I have to figure out how to post that picture here. ttyl

Wow, that was complicated - should be simple, and probably would be if I knew how to do it. (If I really knew how to do this stuff, I'd probably be dangerous!) Still haven't figured out how to place it, but at least it's here. A click will enlarge it. The blossom opened in the botanical garden of Stephen F. Austin University (Nagadoches, TX) in June 2004. Botanically, it's Titan Arum, and in Malaysia is often nine feet tall. Called the corpse flower because for the first 18 hours after opening, that's what its perfume seems like to people's noses. Which is possibly more information than you wanted. OK, that's enough for today.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Part of the Beginning

The year I can't recall; I must have been about five. Dad and I had just exited Stolfa's Hardware when a friend of Dad's greeted us. I don't recall his name; I don't even think we were introduced. As the two men chatted, I noticed the passersby. They were staring. They really couldn't help it. Of average height, Dad's friend had bulky shoulders, a long torso, and comparatively short legs. His shiny black hair was dressed in two braids interlaced with strips of bright green felt. An impressive figure. I'm not sure of his tribe - Chickasaw, probably. His dark eyes remained expressionless as he appeared to ignore the stares, but the slight twitching at the corners of his mouth betrayed his amusement. After a couple of minutes, he glanced down at me.

"Her name" he said to Dad, "her name.....Yuskatawkanuchi." And then he broke into peals of laughter, his shoulders shaking in merriment. He grasped Dad's hand in farewell and moved on down the sidewalk, still chortling.

By suppertime I had gathered enough courage to ask Mother and Dad what the name meant. They exchanged that sly, knowing smile I would later recognize as their secret code. Dad said, "The exact translation is a little complicated, but basically it means ' little stinkweed'." "Or 'little skunk cabbage' " added Mother.

(Dumb kid! You HAD to ask.)

Years later, I recounted the incident to my cousin Marilyn, who found the whole thing hugely amusing. "How do you spell it?" she asked. Who knew? Laboriously, we sounded it out and settled on the spelling shown above, with the primary accent on the third syllable and the secondary accent on the next to last syllable. "Why did you want to know?" I asked. "You'll see" she replied.

Less than a week later, a letter from Marilyn arrived. Instead of just dropping it in the mailbox, the postal carrier rang the bell. As it happened, I answered the door. "Yuh - Yuh- Yuh-" he stuttered. "Yuskatawkanuchi" I responded, rolling it trippingly from my tongue. "I am she." He stared. "My Indian name" I explained. Mouth agape, he handed me the letter. Marilyn's handwriting stretched from edge. The postman walked away, shaking his head and muttering.

The name became a special bond between my Dad and me. He usually shortened it to "Nooch" or "Noochie" - the way he spelled it years later in his treasured letters to me - and when I heard him say it I knew he had something special to share. So I knew that, although I may have been little stinkweed/skunk cbbage, to my Dad I was truly a flower.