Friday, July 25, 2014

Twister

va tornado

A tornado hit an RV park yesterday, killing two campers and leaving one in critical condition.  It left a path of downed trees and overturned RVs in the Cherrystone Family RV Resort in Cape Charles, Virginia.

We know, or should know, that tornadoes can strike anywhere, but I never thought of Virginia – particularly the Atlantic Coastal Area of Virginia – as a tornado prone area.  Tornadoes usually bring to mind the “Tornado Alley” that stretches from the Panhandle of Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and maybe Arkansas and Illinois.

But Virginia does get tornadoes.  NOAA records show the state averages about seven tornadoes a year, most of them in July.  The death toll from Virginia tornadoes since records began is about seventy.

What county in Texas do you think has the most tornadoes? 

Logic might tell you it would be somewhere on a line from Wichita Falls to Dallas, but according to the Insurance Council of Texas, it’s Harris County!

Harris County has recorded 210 tornadoes in the past 58 years. In a distant second was Hale County located just north of Lubbock with 118. The next three counties reporting the most tornadoes were Texas coastal counties. Galveston County has had 108 confirmed tornadoes, Jefferson County has had 99 and Nueces County has had 93.

Of course, tornadoes are only recorded if they are reported, and a lot of tornadoes probably touched down in unpopulated areas.  And a lot of the coastal tornadoes were spun off during Hurricanes.

Still, it’s something to think about.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

For the Birds

Vikes-New-Stadium

The Audubon Society and the Minnesota Vikings are fighting about the new stadium going up in Minneapolis.  The bird lovers are afraid that the two hundred thousand  square feet of glass walls will be a “death trap” for migratory birds.

"We're talking about a billion dollar stadium here, and the cost to save perhaps thousands of migratory birds -- and make the Vikings a global leader in green stadium design -- is about one-tenth of one percent of that," Audubon Minnesota executive director Matthew Anderson said in a statement issued Wednesday. "Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is going to build this stadium, and we know the people of Minnesota do not want their money killing birds."

There are new Minnesota state laws designed to minimize the problem, but the stadium design was approved before the regulations were passed, and the Vikings say they will not change the design in the middle of construction.  Looks like the Audubons are one team the Vikings can beat.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Smithsonian Institution studies show that up to 988 million birds are killed annually in the United States by collisions with buildings, especially ones featuring glass windows.

But the danger doesn’t have to come from glass.

Back in the 50s, when we first moved to Liverpool, Texas, we lived in what had originally been half of a World War II mess hall.  We coated the leaky roof of the old building with an asphalt based aluminum paint.  It stopped the leaks, but several times – usually on foggy nights – we were awakened by the crash as geese tried to land on what they thought was water.  It was a scary way to wake up, but that shiny roof not only kept us dry, it provided several tasty meals.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cloud Behind That Silver Lining

Maltese-7-years-family

In one of those great “Feel Good” stories this past weekend, local TV reported that a pretty little Maltese dog that had been missing for seven years had been found in Washington and was being flown home to Texas.  They promoted, and then  showed, the reunion at Bush Intercontinental airport when Dinah Miller of Tyler got the dog she calls Reese back.

The dog had been picked up on a road near Tacoma and identified by a microchip implanted before he disappeared near Dallas.

Now we learn that Reese has been living with the Davis family in Spanaway, Washington for almost the entire time he had been gone.  Shortly before moving to Washington, Kelli Davis adopted the dog they call Harley at a shelter in Mesquite where he was listed as an owner surrender.  They had been searching and putting up flyers when they learned Reese/Harley’s fate on the news. 

“Harley is my daughter’s best friend. That’s her little buddy. They do everything together,” said Davis,   “I don’t know what to do. We just lost a part of our family.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Grass Pains

Back in early June, I wrote about the sod we ordered to cover the big bare spot where our pool used to be.  Two posts in two days, both very excited and optimistic, and another on the 15th that was still positive but somewhat concerned.

Here’s where we stand today:

The first pallet laid down looks wonderful, but the last one is almost completely dead.  About a third of the grass is dead or dying, and I don’t know why.  Here and there within the brown area there are single rectangles that are lush and green surrounded by others that only have a few green shoots at best.

It all came from the same place, was installed at the same time and got the same amount of water, so why part of it looks great while much of it looks terrible is a mystery.  I think that maybe the sod was harvested using too shallow a cut, leaving the grass without enough root to sustain itself, but I really don’t know that for sure.

I’ve thought of treating the area with root stimulator or something like Medina Soil Activator, and I probably will - but I hate to throw good money after bad.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wasn’t Me

i didnt say that 

There are an awful lot of statements posted on the internet – particularly on Facebook – that are attributed to people who  simply never said them.  Often, these are statements that should be able to stand on their own merit, but the authors – in hopes of giving them increased credibility – feel compelled to claim they are quotes from  from some respected figure. 

In an entirely unscientific survey (I pulled the numbers out of thin air) I would estimate that the most misattributions are sayings claimed to be from Buddha, followed closely by Confucius, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and William Shakespeare.  It would be interesting to see actual figures, but I doubt if it would affect the practice.

Many of these false quotes are original, but often they are  words that could be correctly credited to one person but are incorrectly attributed to another. That’s how we get lines from a Shakespeare play attributed to Jesus Christ.

We often see obvious misattributions like Confucius saying A crowded elevator smells different to a midget that are meant to be humorous, but far too often misquotes and false attribution are the result of a lack of research or a serious attempt to mislead.

In the words of Groucho Marx – or was it Karl?- we see it all the time.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

You Might Be…..

About a dozen years ago, I delivered a speech that got a standing ovation.  It may well have been the best thing that I ever wrote, and I would give anything to have a copy of it today, but like the emails at the IRS, I’m afraid that it is gone forever.

Here’s how it came about -

As a technical instructor at IKON Office Solutions, I was instrumental in conducting the Tech Olympics, a program designed to recognize our most outstanding technicians.  Our Southwest District had recently been reorganized, becoming the Central Region, and now included contestants from  states that stretched from Louisiana to Colorado and as far north as Michigan. That year, we held our finals at Mayan Ranch, a Dude Ranch in Bandera, Texas, where in addition to some demanding tests, our best technicians also got to enjoy trail rides, barbeque and western entertainment.

That picture here on my blog of me with a microphone was taken at that event.

As part of the festivities at the awards ceremony, I got up and explained that while I, as a native Texan, got my first horse for my first birthday, I was amazed to learn that one of the contestants – in spite of also being born in Texas – had never been on a horse  before he got to Bandera.  I was appalled, but it made me realize that a lot of what I took for granted was totally new to many of the people at the gathering.

I went on to explain some of the basics of cowboy life – like how a real cowboy would only wear the old shrink-to-fit Levi’s 501 jeans or Wrangler 13MWZs, and I explained that 13MWZ stood for 13 oz. denim made with a zipper.  I told them that a real cowboy would  wear straw hats only in summer, but had a XXX beaver by Resistol or Stetson for the winter months.

I told them that they wore those hats everywhere and all the time, except for church on Sunday. That meant that their faces were tan to just above their eyebrows, then white as a fish belly above that line.  I did point out that there were exceptions, noting that Fred Whitfield from Hockley, Texas, the PRCA Champion All-Around Cowboy for 1999, was African-American, and his forehead was pretty much the same color all the way to the top.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, I then listed a long string of things followed by “You might be  Cowboy.”  The audience quickly caught on and was soon chiming in on the chorus. 

I listed things like -

If your horse trailer cost more than your house, and the horse you put in it cost more than the truck you pull it with….“You might be  Cowboy.” 

I wish I could remember them all, but the one that brought down the house was -

If the old freezer on your back porch contains deer sausage, Blue Bell ice cream and bull semen….

When the awards ceremony was over, the wife of one of the district managers asked me for my copy of the speech.  Sure that the original was still on my laptop back at the office, I gave it to her. 

I don’t know what happened, but when I got back to work, the speech was no longer there, and it wasn’t in the file on the server where we had all the other Tech Olympics stuff.  I never saw the lady or the speech again.