Monday, October 31, 2011

It happened again


Driving the bus last week.  A warning sign on the back of a construction looking semi-truck on the highway in the next lane.  Cloth cover pulled over the load.  Not a very big sign, but black and orange so we know it’s a warning of some sort.  Pull the motorhome a little closer.  Can’t read it.  Closer.  Almost.  At maybe two car lengths away I can just make it out to read it.  It says “Stay back 300 feet!  Not responsible for broken windshields.”  I’ve seen that sign before!


We have a big windshield in the motorhome.  We got it way away from that truck in a hurry,



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tis the season


For our favorite monster movie:  No such thing.


A tired, depressed, alcoholic, articulate, monster.  Everything you could ask for in a B movie.


Happy Halloween.



Friday, October 28, 2011

Rain Gutters


We have plans for this sidewalk along the edge of the deck.  We don’t want downspouts to trip over, or to put rain stains on the concrete.


So we routed them the other direction.


Three of them meet up in a 4” tube underneath.


And go all the way across and out the other side.


When we get the landscaping done on this side, the rainwater will be routed to help out.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saving the snakes


We spotted a little snake in the yard.  He wasn’t very big, but he was a rattler so we had to get rid of him.  We have a big metal fence behind our house, so all we had to do was get the snake on the other side of the fence.  This was the same day all the guys were here to dig out the grass for the cement pour.  Judy asked one of the guys with a shovel to help.  She said: “We don’t need to kill him, just pick him up with the shovel and throw him over the fence.”  There was something of a language barrier, but Judy gestured a big throwing motion with an imaginary shovel.  The guy with the shovel nodded and said he understood.  He walked around back to the snake and very carefully.,….cut off the snake’s head with the shovel, then scooped up the body and flung it over the fence, just like Judy had demonstrated.


We appreciated his help, even though we didn’t connect on that one subtle point.



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Skin Grafts


Usually when we go to the Dermatologist, it’s no big deal.  We get a few hits of liquid nitrogen.  Sometimes he digs something out and that’s the end of it.  This time, with the Mohs Surgery and skin grafts, it has turned out to be a really big deal.  We made the first visit in August.  We had the Mohs surgery and the skin grafts in September.  Two weeks later, in October, we got the first set of stitches out from where they took the skin for the skin grafts.  Three weeks after the surgery, today, in the last part of October, we got the last set of stitches out; the ones for the skin grafts themselves.


We’re both healing up nicely.  We’re all through with the painful parts.  The bandages have gotten progressively smaller and we won’t need them at all after another week.



Deck progress.

Today’s they worked on all three stairways for the deck.  Here, we have hand railing on the front steps.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011





We have railings.


And a ceiling fan.


And see that little white square next to the door?


Dog Door!


So far my efforts to capture Henry going through it look like this:



Monday, October 24, 2011

Choke Canyon State Park


What a place to be.




Deer in the meadow.  Henry got within 5 feet of an armadillo.


Trails to hike.  Alligators.  Birds to watch.  Wild Turkeys.  Green Jays.  Great Kiskadees and Scissortail Flycatchers.  No Javelinas this time though.


It’s a nice place to be.  It was a good extended visit with Janis.  We left this morning.  Tonight we’re back at Sandpipers.


Progress on the deck:


We sat on it tonight!



Sunday, October 23, 2011

I've been thinking


About tennis.


And women.


When we were kids, women got special treatment (and lots of limits).  There was a lot they couldn’t do.  Women got to participate in sports, but their own sports; all the ones they were suited for.  Women weren’t allowed to run marathons because it was too physically demanding.  I remember Billie Jean King making the point that professional women athletes should get the same respect, and money, that professional men athletes got.  Radical.


That was the old days.  The opportunities and rewards seem pretty even now.  I like that.  Equal opportunity.  There is one thing left I can’t figure out though.  Grand Slam tennis events.  Men play best of 5.  Women play best of 3.  Why is that?  Men have marathon matches.  Women are done in an hour or two.  Two sets can go pretty fast.  Whichever woman wins the first set is one more service break, or one tiebreaker away from the match.  Women play hard, but men play harder.  If I was a woman, I’d be offended.  Women get equal prize money at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.  Why don’t they have an equal challenge?  Are they not strong enough?  Is tennis too difficult for them?



Saturday, October 22, 2011

While at the doctor's office this year


We got to fill out a new form.  It asks what race we are.  It’s a multiple choice question.  Some of the possible answers are obvious.  White, black.  Okay.  White.  Some are a little trickier.  Caucasian.  What?  I already said okay to White.  Now I have to choose between White and Caucasian?  I expressed my concern to the nurse taking the survey.  She said “what about me?  I looked at her and declared she was really really white, so I must be caucasian.  She said “No.  What do I put for my child?  I’m white and her father is black.”


I was thrilled.  Finally, here is a person who can answer my question.  I asked it.  “Why is President Obama Black?”  He has a black father, a white mother.  Why is 50% black black?  Why isn’t 50% white white?


I was disappointed.  She didn’t know the answer.  She says she thinks her daughter is a nice mixture.  Her daughter’s father thinks she’s black.


What box is she going to check for her daughter?  All of them.  Why is President Obama black?  I don’t know.



Friday, October 21, 2011



We’re at Choke Canyon State Park:,-99.140625&spn=46.745172,113.818359


Having a visit with Janis and Brian.  It’s a good place to be.


It feels different being in the coach.  Familiar and good, but different.  We’ve been in it for 7 years.  We didn’t need to get out of it, but being in the house, out of the coach, has added a new edge to the experience.  It’s all good.



Meanwhile, back at Sandpipers, the rest of the awning is in place:


Remember, we’ve left the back part open for a bit of yard still exposed to the sky.



Saw a bobcat on the trail today.  A nice long look.  And Sandhill Cranes.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Poor Becky


Tony is 13.


Becky offered him something because she thought it would be nice for him to have.  He politely declined but asked for something else instead.  She said no to that and told him why.  He asked for something else then, instead of the first two things.  She told him no and explained why.  He took the reason for the first “no”, combined it with the reason for the second “no”, justified his request for the third thing, and declared victory by the rules of logic, adding that her most recent reason “because I’m the Mom” was not a valid argument.


Becky is left wishing they had not encouraged Tony to join the Debate Team.





Great progress on the deck.


And the day’s result:



Pretty soon they can work on the deck in the shade!



Off to Choke Canyon in the motorhome tomorrow for a visit with Janis and Brian.  We’ve planned to get together with them, but stiffed them on the last three scheduled visits.  Life keeps getting in the way of our plans.  We’re determined this time.  It’s only 2 or 3 hours away.  Judy will stay here and supervise the deck, then join us on the weekend.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011



We support and participate.  We applaud the effort.  I want it to work.  But before we throw a bottle or can in the bin, what do we do with it?  We don’t want the recycle bin to smell like old food or get full of bees, so we rinse out the container.  Over and over, every container, a rinse.  Clean water is a resource too.  It’s not free or unlimited.  I have to wonder how this all balances out; the use of precious resources to preserve precious resources.


I stand in front of the sink with a finished jar of peanut butter in my hand.  What is the cost/benefit of recycling that plastic container if it takes me 5 minutes of hot water to rinse it out?



Today’s progress:



Monday, October 17, 2011



The sutures are out from the sides of our faces.  It feels better already.  I’ll be able to sleep on my left side again.  There aren’t that many possible positions to sleep in.  Take away one of those, and it makes a noticeable difference.


If you remember, they took slices out of the left side of each of our faces right in front of the ear.  That provided the skin for the round skin graft we each needed on our noses.  They pulled the edges of that slice back together with stitches.  Kind of like a face lift (or pull), but only on one side.  In terms of nip-tuck, we just got the nip.


It will be another week before we address the stitches in our noses, but they each seem to be healing just fine.  In the meantime, I got hit with the liquid nitrogen can again.  Compared to the lidocaine shots to the nose in preparation for surgery though, the liquid nitrogen hits are a pleasure.


Today’s progress on the deck:



Sunday, October 16, 2011



Exciting morning.  Having late coffee on the patio, at 9:30, we got a hawk liftoff.  The Turkey Vultures were first.  A few Turkey Vultures rising from the thorn forest outside the resort; not that remarkable.  But they kept rising; more and more vultures.  10, 15, 25 rising on a morning thermal.  That’s unusual.  That’s a migration.


Then the Swainson’s Hawks came up from the agricultural fields to the north of us.  More hawks than vultures.  After ten minutes we had 50 Turnkey Vultures and 75 Swainson’s Hawks in the sky.  They rose on the thermal and drifted south right over us as they got higher and higher.  We got a half hour hawk show!


We didn’t get our own picture of it, but here is one I clipped from the web.  This is what it looked like.


Earlier this morning, Judy and I had been talking about how often we stay in state parks and wake up every morning right in a wildlife refuge.  We were comparing that to waking up here, which is not a wildlife refuge but is special in its own right.  We sit outside in the mornings and listen to Curve-billed Thrashers and Great Kiskakees announce the day, and now we get this: a close-up view of a hawk migration!



Tomorrow morning’s excitement, back to the doctor to get some of our stitches out.



Saturday, October 15, 2011



Back at Laguna Atascosa.  A touch of fall


A pretty cool bug on a Turk’s Cap.


A Loggerhead Shrike


And a Great Blue Heron, find perching on Yuccas to their liking.



Friday, October 14, 2011



It’s not in the 100s here anymore, but it is still hot and sunny.  We have a couple windows that get blasted by the sun every afternoon.


We got some sunscreens installed to cut down on the solar gain.


These are like the sunscreen we attach to the big windshield on our motorhome when we’re parked.  We can still see out, plenty of light comes in, but that direct sunshine inside is diffused.  I took these two pictures at different times of the day.  Really, it’s the same house both times; the camera just sees different colors depending on the light.



Thursday, October 13, 2011



Back at Laguna Atascosa NWR last weekend, we came upon a six foot Indigo Snake in the parking lot.


He crawled off the road and climbed right up into a tangle of brush and trees.


All under the watchful eye of a squawking Long-billed Thrasher.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Projects and progress


Tuesday.  7:30am.  The crew returns.  The cement truck arrives and parks out front.  Have you ever watched how this works?  It’s pretty cool.  The drum has big fins inside, spiraled in (Or out, depending on how you look at it.)  They spin the drum one way to mix the cement up good, then turn it slowly the other way to deliver the cement.  Precision.  They poured the cement into wheelbarrows all morning and never spilled a drop:


Over where the cement is delivered, it’s a busy place.  Wheelbarrow dumping, cement spreading, stomping, mesh lifting, dirt wetting, boarding.  An intricate dance.  A Concrete Ballet:


More spreading, boarding, and tamping:


Smoothing with a giant trowel:


Smoothing with hand trowels:


Once they got through the pouring and the truck left, the crew got progressively smaller.  For hours afterword though, they troweled.  Even when they were all done, a couple guys waited and watched.  If anything happened while the slab was drying, they were right there to take care of it.  And Voila.  The finished product:


And it all happened under the watchful eye of Henry.  He never left his post.



Monday, October 10, 2011



Back at the ranch.  The prep work is done for the extended cement slab; the first phase of our slab/cover/deck project.







It happened pretty fast; just a few hours.


Here is an Excel sketch of the master plan.




Sunday, October 9, 2011

Laguna Atascosa


National Wildlife Refuge.


97,000 acres along the shore of the Laguna Madre.  Dense thorny brush among wind-blown dunes.  Thorn forest intermingled with freshwater wetlands, coastal prairies, mudflats, and beaches along one side.  The last best U.S. habitat of the endangered Ocelot.



Green Jays, Plain Chachalacas,


and the Texas Tortoise.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

The motorhome is back


We took it to Holt Cat in Edinburg to find the reason for the sputter at 65 mph.  They rose to the challenge.  They found a bad fuel regulator, a loose grounding cable, a bad fuel check valve, and a cut wire in the wiring harness.  Maybe only one of those was causing our problem, but of course they fixed everything.


I took it for a test drive.  It felt pretty good.  I think they got it.  It’s a short drive from the repair shop back to our place at Sandpipers, so we haven’t had it on an extended trip yet, but this is promising.


They spent a lot of time chasing our problem, so it wasn’t cheap, but I know they gave us a break on the hours too.  They were determined to make it run right and I think they did.  A real road trip is the only way to be completely sure, but we’ve been a little too involved in other stuff to accomplish that yet.  Maybe in a week or two.



Thursday, October 6, 2011

The outside of this golf cart


Looks plain.


I think it needs a hood ornament.


It’s already kind of University of Texas orange.  Maybe some giant chrome Longhorns on the front…



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Skin grafts


They take a slice of tissue from the side of your face, in front of your ear.  They only need a little chunk, but they make a long slice so they can close the wound without making a big pucker.  From this slice of skin, they trim off all the excess (there was some conversation about having enough left over for sushi) until they have a plug just the right size to repair the damage to the side of the nose.  The plug goes in place, everything gets stitched up, and we’re done.  Two bandages on each face.

Now we’ve each had cosmetic surgery.  Women do this for fun?  I think I’ll stick with birding.  Or maybe I can go play racquetball and get hit in the face with a racquet.



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mohs surgery


They take out as little tissue as possible, while getting all the skin cancer.  They start with a chunk about the size of a pencil eraser and go do lab work on it.  That takes about two hours.  If there is any cancer in the edges of the chunk, they go back and chase it across your face with subsequent excisions until the edges are clean.  They got all of Judy’s on the first try.  It took a couple tries to get all of mine.


We’re through with that part.  All our edges are clean.


Tomorrow, skin grafts to plug the holes they made.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds


We have three feeders out.  Every one of them looks like this all day long.


I’m exhausted.



Big day tomorrow.  Judy and I each have surgery to finish removing some skin cancer.  Same kind for each of us.  Same place.  It will be an all-day affair.



Sunday, October 2, 2011



Saturday’s walk was at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.


From morning light on moss draped oaks


To hanging vines


To storm damage


To a scenic overlook


With a view from the hawk tower (past a lower tower)


Which included a lift-off of 250 Broad-winged Hawks (No photo.  They were too far away.) and an Olive-sided Flycatcher (Photo).  See him at the top of the tree in the previous photo too?


From there, we went by Tom’s place to see how his lot looked with his new casita (during a thundershower).


And photographed an RV site that has the concrete surface we’re considering for our spot.


That cloud of blackbirds in the background got our attention.  A closer look showed that most of the birds were Bronzed Cowbirds, with European Starlings and a few Brown-headed Cowbirds mixed in.