Saturday, June 30, 2012

High Wire Act

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

 

 

Painted Bunting

 

Cassin’s Sparrow.

 

Great Kiskadee

 

Purple Martin

 

 

Friday, June 29, 2012

It is so hot.

 

I went outside barefoot today, and the *grass* burned my feet!

 

 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I got profiled

 

And today it came out in the magazine.  Here it is as an attachment.

 

 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cataracts

 

A few years ago, our optometrist in Colorado told us I had a cataract developing in my left eye and that when it got to be a problem I’d need to get it fixed.  Vision in my left eye has been deteriorating noticeably lately, so we made an appointment with an ophthalmologist in McAllen.  (We relocated back to the Valley yesterday for this appointment today, so now we’re back at Sandpipers again.)

 

As I understand it, my kind of cataract could also be described as a cloudy lens.  To fix it, they take out the old cloudy lens and put in a new plastic one.  Not only that, they can build correction into the new lens to improve my vision, even my age-related loss of the ability to focus up-close (presbyopia).  Except for the cataract part, my distance vision is still pretty good.  It barely needs any correction at all, but they can make it better, and with their new lenses, they may be able to correct my close-focus enough that I won’t need my reading glasses anymore either.  I’m a little skeptical about that; I don’t know how they can fix the close-focus without restoring the lost elasticity to my eyes, but they know a lot more about this than I do.  In fact, they swear that fixing the close-focus won’t mess up my outdoor depth perception like bifocals do.

 

This whole cataract lens replacement procedure sounds so good, I wonder why anyone would do anything else.  Why mess around trying to correct a deficient natural lens when you can just take the crummy natural one out and put in a perfect synthetic one?  And the new synthetic lens……it will never get a cataract!

 

Anyway, on a scale of 1 to 4, the cataract in my left eye is a 3, so it’s time to get it done.  The cataract-rating for my right eye is “Trace”, but they tell us when it’s time to do one eye, we should do the other one right after.  (I didn’t really get the reason why; it’s just better.)  The second eye is usually scheduled a week after the first.

 

The cataract surgery is quick, a 20 minute surgery, with a fast recovery, but there are follow-up visits required at a day, a week, and a month.  We might not be able to get both eyes scheduled in time to still be able to make all the follow-up visits before we leave on our summer trip to Colorado, so we might just let the whole thing wait until we come back south in November.  We’ll have plenty of time to schedule both eyes and all the follow-up visits then.

 

They didn’t tell us what the cataract surgery will cost; they just told us it will be completely covered by insurance.  Apparently they can put in a clear lens with no correction and the insurance would cover that too, but go through the cataract surgery and not do that last little bit?  I don’t think so.  That last little bit though, the corrective lenses, will be expensive.  Two lenses: $5,800.

 

My eyes were dilated.  Judy drove me home.

 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Meanwhile

 

For me, lesson learned.  Again.

 

Don’t walk through tall grass in the deep south.  There are chiggers in tall grass.  Walk through chigger infested tall grass and the lesson lasts for days and days.  I had a super walk last Saturday but I’ve since been progressively paying the price.  I discovered a seldom-used nature trail at Hazel Bazemore Park.  I hiked the whole thing even though I had to push through a lot of overgrown undergrowth.  You never see the chiggers, and you don’t even know you’ve been bit the first day.  The second day the bites start showing up as bumps.  The day after that the bumps turn into blisters that itch like crazy.  The chigger-bite-count this time is about seventy-five.  It’s a little distracting, but in a few days the itching will let up.  In the meantime, lucky me, there is Cortizone 10.

 

Okay.  I’ve learned that lesson.  Again.

 

…………….until the next time an untraveled trail is too irresistible to pass up.

 

 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Judy

 

Judy has recovered from her health issues of a few weeks ago.  Whatever was going on has gradually but completely gone away.  We never got a diagnosis, but she is no longer dizzy, lightheaded, fatigued, or has any chest tightness.  She’s back to her normal, charming, happy self.

 

 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ferry ride

 

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205131835882428706345.0004c32f3b1acd3e0061c&msa=0&ll=27.807498,-97.089272&spn=0.20741,0.444603

 

The whole experience, beginning to end.  It takes 8 minutes.  I just set the camera down as a dash-cam to catch the loading, crossing, and unloading.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHhaqYwJt2s

 

 

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm so embarrassed

 

We watched a Romantic Comedy….. and enjoyed it!

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love.  Steve Carell.

 

No car chases.  No crashes.  No explosions.  Just a movie about people.  Simple.  Silly.  Charming.

 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Exchanging emails

 

With brother Bill this morning got me to thinking.

 

When I was in Southeast Asia in the 60s, we referred to anything outside of where we were as the “World”.  We were totally isolated.  The only radio was the Armed Forces Network.  There was no television.  The cost of a long-distance phone call from that far away was prohibitive.  After months there, and then years, we could talk about when we got back to the World, but in the meantime, we didn’t really know anything about it.  The World became a magical mythical place.

 

How times have changed.  As Bill is settling down in the evening in Thailand or Cambodia, or Indonesia; wherever he happens to be at the moment, he pops off a couple emails.  A brother just starting the day back in the World answers and a chat ensues.  It could be any of us in any state.  On opposite sides of the globe, we’re still in immediate contact.  At worst, an email won’t be read for a few hours until someone wakes up.

 

I’m sure it still feels far away to Bill, who actually had to cover the miles to get there, but I don’t think it’s nearly as far away as it used to be.

 

 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

 

High Noon.  That would come at about 1pm this time of year, right (thanks to daylight savings time)?  If we were about 300 miles south, we’d be right on the Tropic of Cancer, the northernmost latitude at which the sun appears directly overhead at its zenith.

 

At high noon, look at a vertical post in the sun on the longest day of the year.  I haven’t tested the theory, but the amount of shadow on the north side of the post should be a measure of how far you are from the northern edge of the tropics.   This is a picture of a north-facing 8 foot fence with a 2 inch shadow here.

 

We’re on the ragged edge.

 

 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our little palm

 

Our little palm tree is growing up.

 

It bloomed for the first time.  It’s the first one to mature.  Tiny little flowers on long stalks.

 

It’s a little messy underneath the tree, but we’re so proud.

 

Monday, June 18, 2012

First

 

There was Enrique, a Foxtail Palm.  Our centerpiece.

He was good looking, but couldn’t take the winter.

 

Then came Ricardo, a Cuban Royal.  Another big spreading tree.

He succumbed to our Island winter as well.

 

Our next effort was Jethro.  Jethro just seemed tougher.

 

And one year later…  He’s still here!  Jethro is alive and well and happy at our house.

 

 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

 

We drove to the National Seashore on Padre Island for a walk on the beach.  The sand is pretty rough, so we didn’t drive far.

 

 

We went past the 4 wheel drive sign, but only a few miles.  Then we just stopped and sat with the birds and water.

 

Got a few seaside birds:

Magnificent Frigatebird

Brown Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Crested Caracara

Black-bellied Plover

Willet

Marbled Godwit

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderling

Laughing Gull

Least Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Caspian Tern

Black Tern

Common Tern

Forster’s Tern

Royal Tern

Sandwich Tern

Black Skimmer

 

8 terns and a skimmer!

 

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205131835882428706345.0004c2ae16c099b874936&msa=0&ll=27.332735,-97.337494&spn=0.416618,0.889206

 

Dinner at Snoopy’s and Scoopy’s.

 

Nice calls and notes from the kids.  We didn’t spend the day with them, but we thought about them and they thought about us.

 

A good day.

 

Happy Father’s Day to all.

 

A little more about Wilson's Cut

 

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205131835882428706345.0004c2adad05b3428e6b8&msa=0&ll=27.745531,-97.133732&spn=0.051882,0.111151

 

 

From: Steve Taylor [mailto:spt@thetaylorcompany.net]
Sent: Saturday, June 16, 2012 10:21 PM
To: Bill Taylor (Bill Taylor); David Taylor (David Taylor); Tom Taylor (Tom Taylor)
Subject: We're back at Gulf Waters

 

 

Walked at Wilson’s cut this evening.  Drove out through the mudflats to the exact mudhole that captured the Jeep about a year ago.

 

I took the line to the left back then.

 

I should have gone right.  I can tell you that the line to the left includes a submerged post that brings even a losing effort to a sudden halt.

 

I decided this was the perfect spot to turn the Jeep around, park, and begin my walk.  (It’s a good place to walk wearing water shoes.)  I walked out until the sun set,

 

which gave me thirty minutes of fading light to find my way back to the car.

 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We're back at Gulf Waters

 

Where we could get in trouble for skinny-dipping in the pool.

 

Walked at Wilson’s cut this evening.  Drove out through the mudflats to the exact mudhole that captured the Jeep about a year ago.

 

I took the line to the left back then.

 

I should have gone right.  I can tell you that the line to the left includes a submerged post that brings even a losing effort to a sudden halt.

 

I decided this was the perfect spot to turn the Jeep around, park, and begin my walk.  (It’s a good place to walk wearing water shoes.)  I walked out until the sun set,

 

which gave me thirty minutes of fading light to find my way back to the car.

 

Brown Pelican

Great Blue Heron

Great Egret

Little Blue Heron

White Ibis

Roseate Spoonbill

Wilson’s Plover

American Avocet

Willet

Long-billed Curlew

Laughing Gull

Gull-billed Tern

Black Tern

Forster’s Tern

Royal Tern

Sandwich Tern

Black Skimmer

Mourning Dove

Common Nighthawk

Barn Swallow

Red-winged Blackbird

Eastern Meadowlark

Great-tailed Grackle

 

A good walk.

 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tech Gurus

 

That Tech Guru job I had them working on; the one to insert letterhead into a document.  I fired them, but they keep calling me back.  Now I’ve fired them three times.

 

Back when we were working together, they had access to my computer by my permission.  I had to log them on and type in a code each time.  As soon as I fired them, I made sure to disconnect them so they wouldn’t have access to my computer anymore.  Later, I was working at my computer and the screen flickered a couple times.  That didn’t seem right, so I went looking for them.  I found them groping around in my computer trying to get at something.  They had made this great pretense about having me grant them access each time, while behind the scenes they had created a back-door so they could get on my computer any time they wanted!

 

I checked the programs loaded on my computer and found “Log-me-in” was still installed.  I selected it and clicked “uninstall”.  When I stopped moving the mouse, the cursor on my screen moved over and clicked “cancel”.  They were trying to prevent me from disconnecting them!

 

I shut the computer down and started it back up without an internet connection.  I deleted *both* installations of Log-me-in before I turned access to the internet back on.  Since then it has all looked normal, no more signs of illicit access, but I don’t feel good about leaving my computer unattended yet.  If they’re in my computer I can tell, but only if I happen to be looking at my screen.  Now I disable internet access whenever I leave the room, just in case. 

 

 

Update!

 

It occurred to me late last night, while I was supposed to be sleeping, that I don't need a Word expert at all.  All I need to do is go back to the printer that did the letterhead in Word format for us in the first place, and have him do it in two pieces, a header and a footer!  No problem.

 

After that, it turns out we have people on staff that already know how to assemble the Word and Excel pages in Adobe so we can print the entire report in one finished piece!

 

In the meantime the suggestions and kind offers are flooding in, but now we’ve got this one figured out.  I’ll try to think up something more challenging to be confused about next.

 

Thanks all.

 

 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I took one for the team

 

We issue audit reports that are a combination of pages printed from Microsoft Word for the narrative part, Excel for the actual financial statements, and with one page printed on letterhead.  So after printing, there is assembly and proofing to make sure everything gets put together in the right order.  After all of that, we turn around and scan the report back into digital form.  For years, I’ve been wanting to streamline the process by combining these individual parts digitally before printing instead of manually afterward, but the skills required are beyond our basic word processing ability at Taylor, Roth and Company.  I thought maybe over time we’d accidentally hire the skills to figure this out ourselves, but we keep hiring accountants and not word processing experts, so that hasn’t happened yet.

 

I decided to handle this myself.  There are two parts to the challenge:  first, somehow combine Word and Excel pages into a single seamless document and second, insert the letterhead page digitally right into the document instead of having to separately print one page on letterhead.  I decided to attack the second challenge first; one page of letterhead inserted digitally into a document.  How hard could it be?  We even have a digital copy of our letterhead already.

 

I pressed F1 in Word for help.  I searched for “letterhead”.  I read the results.  I couldn’t understand the options.  I Googled “how to insert letterhead into Microsoft Word documents.”  Still too hard.  I don’t want to spend the time learning to be an expert in word processing so I’ll know how to do it, I just want it done.

 

I Googled “Help with Microsoft Word”.  I’ll just pay someone who already knows how to do it to do it for me.  The point-and-pay method.  $79.  A bargain.

 

It didn’t turn out to be quite that easy.  It took three separate tech support sessions spread out over three days, with my computer held hostage for hours altogether while the tech worked on my screen instead of his own.  But finally, we have it; the result.

 

And the result is:  I fired them.  Most of the work was by live chat, but when we talked on the phone I couldn’t understand them.  When I explained what I wanted, they couldn’t understand me.  What they produced was wrong and I couldn’t get them to understand why.  I gave up.  I meant to fall on the tech support grenade for the good of the team, but my effort fell short.

 

I still think this is a 5 minute job for someone who knows what they’re doing; I just haven’t found that person yet.  Once we figure that out, we’ll move on to the harder question about combining dissimilar files into a single document.

 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Friday the thirteenth

 

I always want to know when it is.  This month it came on a Wednesday.  Happy Birthday Becky; our Friday the thirteenth baby.  It’s a good day.

 

 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Water towers

 

 

We see them in every small town; sometimes more than one per town.  Port Aransas has two.

 

They’re probably in every big town too, but they’re really conspicuous in small towns on flat land, like the Midwest, and South Texas.  Ever wonder what they’re for?  Are they like those standpipes for irrigation systems that took me so long to figure out; giant burp holes to let out sudden excess pressure?  Are they storage devices randomly built in the sky?  There are so many shapes and sizes; are they doing different things?

 

I had to look it up.

 

Water towers provide constant pressure for the water supply.  Put some water up high and gravity wants to bring it back down.  Tie that into your water system, and suddenly it’s pressurized.  The higher you put the water, the more pressure it provides.  You can make the tower look like anything you want.  They all do the same thing; provide pressure.

 

So you put enough water up in a tower to provide about one day’s supply for the community.  The minimum height to supply enough pressure from gravity is about 80 feet.  That will give you maybe 35psi.  The more pressure you want in your water system, the higher you build the tower.  Many municipal water systems want to maintain 50 to 100 psi, so their water towers are much higher.

 

With a water tower, not only have you established the right amount of pressure, but you only need to buy a pump big enough to handle the average daily usage for the town.  Maybe a city averages using 500 gallons of water per minute over the course of 24 hours, but peak demand might be 2,000 gallons per minute.  Using a tower with one day’s water in reserve means they only have to buy a 500 gallon per minute pump, not a 2,000 gallon per minute pump!  It’s not a static system; it’s dynamic.  Water from the tank gets used every day, then the tank gets filled back up at night.

 

If your pump breaks, you’ve got a backlog of one day’s worth of water.  You’ve got a day to fix the pump before anyone even knows it’s broken.  And of course, this tower in the sky is the perfect place to promote your local high school team.

 

 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Black-tailed Godwit

 

There has never been one reported in Texas.  Until now.  He was reported last Monday.  The next morning, Jon left here before dawn and got it.  It’s up by Houston and I have a day-job, so we didn’t go to get it until Saturday.

 

By Friday, the Godwit was only being seen sporadically.  Hit-and-miss.  Friday afternoon he flew in at 4pm and stayed until 6:30.  We had daily reports.  So up and gone (after coffee) on Saturday, we were there at his pond by 11:30.  People had been there since dawn, so we know we didn’t miss him with such a leisurely start.

It was warm.  We settled in for the siege.  It got warmer.  We wandered around the vicinity looking at other birds a little bit, but mostly we sat there, waited, and watched.  There was a little breeze, but not much.  It was a full-on stake-out.  Twenty cars lined up along the road next to the pond.  Forty people watching; most with scopes.  Most of us from Texas.  Two people from California.  Two from North Carolina.  One guy had been in the hospital for two months and got out with a foot still in a cast and using a walker, but he was there.  His friend drove.  There were false alarms.  Hudsonian Godwit.  A White-tailed Hawk.  That was good.  A Franklin’s Gull.  That was unusual.  A Phalarope flyover.  Wilson’s.  A federal game warden helped us pass the time.

 

We saw Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Mallard (Domestic type), Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis, White-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Hudsonian Godwit, White-rumped Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Laughing Gull, Franklin's Gull, Least Tern, Forster's Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, American Crow, Purple Martin, Barn Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, and House Sparrow.

 

No Black-tailed Godwit.  It was 8pm.  It was getting too dark to see.  We still had a 4 hour drive home.  We left.  Birding is like that.  No guarantees.  You don’t get to see every bird, but you don’t get to see *any* birds if you don’t put yourself out there.  We keep on going out, and we’ll take what we get.

 

435 miles. 9 hours of watching.  8 hours of driving.  We were home by midnight (almost).  A missed opportunity for the Godwit.  We gave him every chance to see us and he took a pass.  I guess he’d seen enough Texans all week, and decided to go somewhere else and see some different people.

 

 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Willet

 

Feeding in the shallows, he couldn’t be more plain.

 

But in flight, he couldn’t be more conspicuous!

 

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Charlie's Pasture

 

Black-necked Stilts

 

 

Tricolored heron

 

Willet

 

And Wilson’s Plover

 

 

 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weather

 

That wasn’t our boardwalk I sent a picture of, but this *was* Pam and Dan’s tree at Gulf Waters; emphasis on the word “was”.

 

One lightning strike to the midsection and now all the branches point the wrong direction.

 

 

FW: What's stronger?

I should add that this is not *our* boardwalk.  It is an abandoned boardwalk down the beach a few miles south of us.

 

From: Steve Taylor [mailto:spt@thetaylorcompany.net]
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2012 10:04 PM
To: Bill Taylor (Bill Taylor); David Taylor (David Taylor); Tom Taylor (Tom Taylor)
Subject: What's stronger?

 

 

Our weather, or a boardwalk?

 

 

 

Monday, June 4, 2012

What's stronger?

 

Our weather, or a boardwalk?

 

 

 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

It happened again

 

I slept so well I woke up in the morning and didn’t know where I was.  This doesn’t happen very often, but I enjoy it when it does.  With all the traveling we’ve done over the years, it can be a bit of a challenge to always be aware of where we are.  It’s too easy to figure out if I open my eyes and get visual clues right off, so I like to lie there and sort through it as I wake up.

 

That was today’s excitement.

 

 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Computers, dogs, drugs

 

We put them in the car.  We drive north.

 

Now we’re back to Port Aransas, Gulf Waters, the motorhome, and the beach.  Dinner on the deck at Snoopy’s with Jeff and Carol, Jim and Laura.  Fish, shrimp, and chips.

 

A blazing red ball-of-fire sunset.

 

It’s all good.