Friday, May 29, 2009

I've been thinking .


I’ve been thinking about healthcare.  Not about the quality of care, but about the parts of the process.  There are health providers, patients, and that part in the middle, the insurance companies.  One of these parts is not like the others…


Two of these parts are critical to the process.  It wouldn’t happen without them.  The other part is how we finance the process over the course of our lives.  I wonder how many people are employed in the health insurance industry.  Is it possible that the financing portion of the process uses up a disproportionate share of the resources involved?


Here is how it works.  I go to the clinic for some work.  We get a bill for $300.  The bill goes to the insurance company.  The insurance company marks the bill down to a prearranged fee of $250 for that particular service and pays the clinic.  We get a notice that the bill has been paid.  It’s all good.  I got what I needed.  The clinic got paid.  The Insurance Company kept the clinic from overcharging us by $50.  And we got to finance any healthcare we need for our entire lives by paying insurance premiums, on average, of an amount equal to the amount of any medical costs, plus all the operating costs of the insurance company, plus a profit margin to the insurance company owners.


What do you suppose the insurance company portion adds up to?  Judy asked the doctor at the clinic what he would have charged to do what he did if we hadn’t had insurance.  (Remember he charged $300 and it got marked down by the insurance company to $250.)  His answer?  $100.  $100.  If we had walked in the door and said we didn’t have insurance we wanted to pay cash, the fee would have been $100.  That means for $100 of service, the doctor charged the insurance company $250, and the insurance company charged us way more than $250 in premiums.


Isn’t there a cost-of-health-care crisis going on right now?  Of course, unencumbered by knowledge as I am, I’m not part of any discussion about it, but we wouldn’t want that to hold me back from asking the question.  Is it possible that, without compromising any quality of service, there is some other way to finance our health care; some way that would not double or triple the actual cost?



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Basketball sucks


The Denver Nuggets are in the playoffs.  That means every other night we can’t get to bed before midnight.



Green Kingfisher


A fearsome carnivore.  He lurks on a low branch and dive-bombs minnows.


Okay, maybe he’s a piscivore.



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Our pond


Then they took them for a walk.



Our pond


Mom and Dad took the kids for a swim today.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night


In Denver, thunderstorms develop in response to afternoon heating.  It takes afternoon heating and there has to be some moisture from somewhere.  If there is a flow up from the south, Denver can get afternoon thunderstorms.  Here, thunderstorms seem to happen whenever they want.  Guess South Texas always has enough heat and humidity for thunderstorms.


It was quiet when we went to bed, but the storm blew up during the night.  Our patio awning was retracted out of harms way, but the big picnic table umbrella was still out.  By morning, the umbrella had been turned inside out.  The wind on it had enough leverage to tip the cement table over too.  I don’t know how much that table weighs, but we had to recruit help to stand it back up.


A little rain, but mostly wind.  It was enough to keep Annie awake and shivering for about four hours though.  The wind, and Annie, were both quiet by the time we got up in the morning.  Annie had to sleep all day today to get ready for more storms tonight.



It’s funny, I describe our RV Park as being empty because all the residents are gone, but there is more to it than that.  There are lots of owners that are not winter residents.  There are a bunch of summer owners.  They’re more of a weekend crew.  Some drive their campers back and forth.  Some bring their campers down and leave them here all summer, using them on weekends or week-long vacations whenever they can.  Their beach cottages.  It’s just different; winter owners to summer owners.  A different part of the cycle.



Sunday, May 24, 2009



Check out this rig.  Looks funny on the top, so I got the model description and googled it.  An Airstream skydeck 390.


A full deck on top.  Nice stairway down into the coach.


Judy talked to the couple in it.  They take it around the country to places like the infield at NASCAR events, and rent it out.  It costs a lot for someone to rent, but it impresses the hell out of your business clients; a corporate skybox at NASCAR.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend


Very few residents in Gulf Waters now.  Most of the property owners have moved on for the summer.  There are weekend and holiday visitors though.  We’re full this long holiday weekend.  Young families.  Swarms of kids.  All enjoying the park.


The Indy 500 is tomorrow.  Early rounds of the French Open too.


Got my dozen birds at Paradise Pond, but I had to include the northern cardinal to do it.  (I usually get my dozen or more without counting the more common birds that we see every day year-round.)  Got the Philadelphia Vireo and the Blue Bunting.  We haven’t seen many of those in the last couple weeks.


Afternoon thundershower.  That would be a nice weather pattern to settle in for a few days.


Evening light.



Friday, May 22, 2009

Roseate spoonbill


The spoonbill in the pictures I sent might have been hard to find.  Here are some pictures where he’s not hiding.



Thursday, May 21, 2009

Here's a harder one


Can you spot the roseate spoonbills at our pond in these pictures?



Wednesday, May 20, 2009



Migration winds down.  The days are quieter now, but still productive at Paradise Pond.  I check it each afternoon and still get about a dozen migrants.  Tonight I got cedar waxwings, chimney swifts, eastern kingbirds, eastern wood pewees, gray cheeked thrushes, indigo buntings, painted buntings, red eyed vireos, rose breasted grosbeaks, summer tanagers, and yellow billed cuckoos.


Can you spot the yellow billed cuckoo in this picture?



common pauraque

I moved him.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Can you spot the .


Can you spot the common pauraque in this picture?


Hint:  You can’t see him.  His eyes are closed.



Monday, May 18, 2009

Bird pictures


Right now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why hasn’t Steve sent out very many bird pictures lately?”  Well, the wait is over.



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hudsonian Godwit


Two birds to go.  Golden winged warbler and hudsonian godwit.


Today we continued the godwit quest.  Up at 4am for a drive to the Valley.  Estero Llano Grande State Park, the most recent place to report the hudsonian godwit.  They reported them early in the day, so we were there before 8am.  We spent four hours there.  We saw eighty birds.  We saw some really cool ones; fulvous whistling ducks, least grebes, least bitterns in a nest, green herons, stilt sandpipers, ground doves, white tipped doves, parrots, cuckoos, groove billed anis, common pauraques, green kingfishers, chestnut sided and blackburnian warblers.  We saw and heard a hundred of those darned chachalacas Jon and I couldn’t get on the big day.  They were everywhere just like they’re supposed to be. 


We didn’t see any hudsonian godwits.  We drove home.


Two birds to go.



Saturday, May 16, 2009

Life Birds


We lost a life bird today.  That happens though.  Things change.  Sometimes what was once one bird is split into two or three separate species.  Sometimes separate species are combined back into one bird.  I don’t know who the great minds of birding are; but they promulgate these rules and we birders, we’re an orderly lot, we follow them.


Today we lost a bird off our life list.  It wasn’t for a classification reason like I just described though.  It was due to an arithmetic error.  An arithmetic error in our birding software.  I just upgraded to the next version.  To make sure all the sightings we’ve recorded over all these years migrated properly to the new program, I called up the life list.  To my surprise, it wasn’t 505, it was 504.  One bird gone.  No problem.  I compared the new life-list to the old life-list, bird by bird.  At ten birds they were even.  At twenty birds they were one off.  I checked off the individual birds one by one between ten and twenty.  They all matched.  The difference turned out to be that the old bird list skipped the number 16.  It jumped from 15 to 17; right there between cattle egrets and reddish egrets.  A computer program that can’t count?  Didn’t expect that!



Tonight we’re getting the rainstorm we’ve been waiting for since last November.  Nice powerful thunderstorm.  Now the electricity is out and the rain has settled down to slow and steady.  Here’s hoping the electricity starts up and the rain keeps up.



Friday, May 15, 2009

Gulf Waters


An odd bird sighting here.  A northern bobwhite; right in our RV Park.  I don’t think concrete, mowed grass, and oleanders are his natural habitat.  Brother Tom kept him spotted with the binoculars while I got some pictures.



Thursday, May 14, 2009

Two birds to go


In the evenings I’ve been watching the shorebirds from the tower at the birding center to get the white-rumped sandpiper.  I had it all figured out by size which bird he should be (bigger than a western sandpiper but smaller than a dunlin), but from that distance I couldn’t make out the plumage pattern to make the call; not even with the scope.  Then, finally, it flew.  White rump!  White rumped sandpiper.  The only small shorebird with a white rump when he flies.


Now two birds to go: the golden winged warbler and the hudsonian godwit.  I think the time has passed for the golden winged warbler but we’ll keep checking Paradise Pond just in case.  We might have one more weekend for the hudsonian godwit.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009



Eventually, the turtle returned, crawling, resting, working its way back to the water.





The turtles have taken to wandering.  All winter long the turtles stay in their ponds.  They might pull out on the bank to bask during the day, or come up to our house to get fed, but they always end up back in the water.  We were surprised, then, to see them leaving.  One crawled out of the water, headed up the bank into an empty RV site, and kept on going.  It went across the gravel, the cement pad, down the road, and out into the dunes.


We googled red eared sliders.  We haven’t stayed here this late into the year before, so we hadn’t seen this annual cycle.  It’s time to lay eggs.  The eggs will take about two or three months to hatch, depending on conditions.  After that, the babies have to stay out of the water for three weeks until they’ve absorbed their egg sacks, then they too can occupy the ponds.



Tuesday, May 12, 2009

End of Story


The leg hole episode is over.  The infection is gone.  The wound has healed.  The whole process took a little over two months.


Now I can send out a picture that is not disgusting.  The healed leg with a patch of fresh skin where the problem once was.



Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day


A quiet day for us.  Judy got calls from the kids.  Matt scored big-time with a jewelry surprise.  I was nice to Judy the entire day.


We saw a black whiskered vireo at Paradise Pond.  Didn’t expect that.


Summer weather mode.  It only gets down into the seventies at night.  The breeze from off the water helps keep the highs down during the day.  We were going to leave about June 1st.  It doesn’t feel like time to leave yet.


Happy Mother’s Day.



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Three birds left


We made it to 500 birds on our life-list the first of May.  We’ve added a couple cool little owls, ferruginous pygmy owl and elf owl, and a mourning warbler.  Now we’re left with only three birds we expect (hope) to see this season in Texas:  the golden winged warbler, white rumped sandpiper, and hudsonian godwit.  Today, we went after the hudsonian godwit.  They only pass through the Texas Gulf Coast during spring migration.  There has been a flock of them in some flooded rice fields about a hundred miles north of us, so off we went this morning to Indianola, outside Port Lavaca.  We saw lots of birds, including five purple gallinules, but no hudsonian godwits.  So we headed a hundred miles south to the sod farm west of Corpus Christi where a couple have been seen recently.  Lots of meadowlarks and sandpipers, but no godwits, so we checked out Hazel Bazemore Park close by.  We got wilson’s phalaropes and stilt sandpipers, but no godwits.  On to Packery Channel Park.  Long billed curlews, American oystercatchers, but godwits; none.  That was enough for today.  We gave it a good effort.  We still have three birds we need for the season.



Friday, May 8, 2009



A few more pictures from Sandfest.  One from Sunday afternoon, the final day of the event.  One from Monday, the day after; still holding up well.  And one from Tuesday; totally gone.  They bulldozed it.


Gone until next year.  The dates have been set:  April 9th, 10th, and 11th.




Dad would have been 99 years old today.



Thursday, May 7, 2009



Happy Anniversary to us.  Forty-three years.


A quiet morning on the patio.  Left work early this afternoon.  Watched dolphins at the marina park.  A drive along the beach.  It’s late enough in the year that the birds have left their winter grays behind and are in their summer plumage now.  Black Bellied Plovers have black bellies.  Red Knots actually have red on them.


Fish and chips at Snoopy’s.


Life on the beach.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

FW: Birdest City Checklist


The Gulf Coast Bird Observatory did a three day bird count within the city limits of Port Aransas last week.  Team count.  175 species.  (Judy and I got the Purple Gallinule.)



Monday, May 4, 2009

Hummingbirds and Turtles


Okay, we got the hummingbird straightened out.


That was a terrible “one of these turtles is not like the others” email I sent last week.  I had one difference in mind; the fact that one of the turtles is made out of cement, but looking at the picture again, every turtle is different in some way.  The two in the back are Red Eared Sliders but their shells look different.  The smaller turtle is a different brand entirely, but we don’t know what it is.  The closest one; the dry one; he’s still made out of cement.  He doesn’t move around as much as the rest of them do.  I thought it was cool that one of the turtles pulled up next to the cement turtle and posed just like him.



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Buff bellied hummingbird


We found all these little buff bellied hummingbird parts on the ground so we reassembled them into a bird and stuck him back in the tree.  How’d we do?



Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jetty Beach


The black terns are back in town.



Friday, May 1, 2009

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!


Buff breasted sandpiper.  Number 500.  In a field west of Corpus.


We thought number 500 would be a migrating warbler passing through town.  There are still two warblers to go: golden winged, and mourning.  But no.  We did it with a sandpiper.  It never quite works out like you expect.