Monday, November 30, 2015

Time for an Alex update.


Alex has graduated to Level 8 gymnastics this year.  It’s a big difference from Level 7.  In Level 7, there are required moves and routines that everyone has to do.  In Level 8, you get to assemble your own moves and routines.  You incorporate the highest scoring moves, you think you can execute well, in your routine.


Level 7 is also broken down by age group to keep it fair for the younger kids; they are changing so fast when they’re younger.  10 year old Level 7s compete separately from 11 year old Level 7s.  At Level 8; no more age groups.


The pool of participants gets smaller at each level, so at the higher levels they run multiple levels at the same time; levels 8, 9, and 10 all together.  So little twelve year old Alex is out there competing at the same time, and on the same equipment, as high school kids.  That’s particularly evident at the start of the vault video.  The coach hoisting Alex up to the rings is a new coach for him this year, Alex Svitlychnyy, an Olympian and USSR National Champion, who works exclusively with the Level 8s.  The coach facing the camera and spotting Alex on the high bar routine is Roman Gryshayev, the Men’s Team South – Head Coach.  (There are two gyms associated with 5280 Gymnastics, the north and south gyms.)  Roman holds seven national pommel horse titles from Ukraine.


Here are some videos from Alex’s first Level 8 meet.  We weren’t there; Matt took them:


High Bar


Parallel Bars








He didn’t podium, but he scored pretty well overall.  He had some 10s and 12s.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I have a really cool radio in the Mazda


I can pause it and let it get a little behind.  The commercials and programs are indexed, so I can resume play, then skip through the commercials one at a time until the program I want comes back on.


Judy has an even better radio in the Chrysler.  When she pauses it, the current content shows on the screen as a list.  We can watch the list grow as they run commercial after commercial, until the program comes back on.  Then, without having to hit play and skip through all the commercials, we can just touch the screen to pick where the program resumes and go straight to it.


Nicely done.


Of course, that begs one to wonder what that does to the cost and value of television and radio advertising.  What is it worth to the advertisers, if listeners don’t have to sit through it?  Have they noticed we’re not listening?



Friday, November 27, 2015

It's Friday again


That’s the second time this week.  Happy Friday everyone.


Update.  I’m doing great; back to normal.  Normal for anyone who turns their torso like Frankenstein’s Monster and has a zipper made of staples up the back of their neck.  But the neck zipper is pretty cool.  Who wouldn’t want one?  Maybe I can sell it as a fashion statement.


I’m ready to modify the 7 pound in 7 days infomercial diet too.  Upon further study, I find that when you quit taking the narcotics, the weight quits falling off.  This necessitates two changes in the plan.  First, we can skip the surgery and just go straight to the narcotics to accomplish our weight-loss goals.  That will reduce the overall cost and discomfort considerably.  Second, when we stop taking the narcotics the benefits go away, so we’ll have to continue the narcotics for the rest of our lives.  That’s not totally a bad thing for me though.  That means every customer I get will be a lifetime customer.



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Not knowing ahead of time if we were going to still be in the hospital or not, we didn’t make any complicated plans for today.  We just left it open.


Barb and Henry were kind enough to show up at our door with a steaming hot full turkey Thanksgiving dinner to share with us.  Here’s to good friends and family.  They kind of merge together don’t they.


Thanksgiving Day is our time for Christmas lights to go up.  Judy dug out the electric tree and it is shining in our window tonight.  I can almost feel the crisp night air and hear the crunch of snow underfoot, even though it’s still seventy-five degrees outside.


Again, Happy Thanksgiving everyone.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015



Yesterday was Hump-Day, so this must be Friday.  Happy Friday everybody.



On a different note, I was just thinking about terror.  Maybe 300 people get killed in a terrorist attack.  It could be a bomb on a plane or bullets in the street.  Hundreds of people who were going to a football match, theatre, or restaurant; just going about their daily business, all dead.  What do we do in response?  We shut down airports and subways; we close entire cities and countries for days at a time.  We bomb the shit out of someone.  We curtail our liberties, freedom of movement, and privacy.  We secure our borders; reject ten thousand or a hundred thousand refugees from violence because there might be a terrorist among them.  No matter the price, we’ll pay it.  We’ll make everyone else help us pay it.  We have to succeed 100% of the time.  The terrorists only have to succeed once.  They assemble a homemade bomb.  We spend trillions.


Does our response make any sense?  I’m not saying not to respond.  I don’t want terrorists to kill anyone anywhere, but the proportionality of our response strikes me.  This year, 3,000 people will die in traffic accidents in the state of Texas.  That’s just from one state in one year.  Thousands of people who were going to a football match, theatre, or restaurant; just going about their daily business, all dead.  Yawn.  It doesn’t even make the news, much less dominate it for a week.


It totally sucks for the people who get killed in traffic, and for their friends and family, but otherwise, is there outrage?  Is there fear?  Do we stop driving?  Do we shut down the roads?  Do we avoid gathering in groups?  People will always die; some unnaturally.  As long as it’s just a number and it’s familiar, we accept that.


The terrorists are right.  It’s the nature of the deaths that provokes the response they’re after.  We’re sheltering in place against a threat that pales in contrast to many other daily threats we just accept.



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Tuesday


Hump-Day already.  A short week.


So, I’ve been thinking.  Is there anyone out there who understands statistics?


If I buy a ticket and have a one in one million chance of winning something, do I have twice as good a chance of winning if I buy two tickets?  The apparent answer is yes, of course.  Two chances are twice as good as one.


But is that really true?  If my first one in a million ticket doesn’t win, my second ticket also only has a one in a million chance of winning….  Does that mean my odds, my chance of winning, didn’t increase by buying the second ticket?


Or can my chances be interpreted and explained either way by a talented statistician?



Monday, November 23, 2015

Day Five


The bandaging came off.  Not much going on with the front of the neck; just an incision slightly off to one side, held together by steri-strips.  The back of the neck is considerably more impressive, with metal staples all down the back of it like some reptilian Star Wars creature.


The weight is falling off, same as last time.  Before surgery I was at 165 pounds.  I’m down to 158 so far, all the while eating anything I want.  I’m writing the weight-loss infomercial in my head.  “7 pounds in 7 days.  Guaranteed.”  (I’m actually losing a little faster than that, so I’ve got room to promise, then over-deliver.)  This program is inconvenient and a little expensive, but if you’ve got good health insurance, they’ll cover it all.  The weight loss will taper off soon and after another week or so, I’ll be able to guarantee that the weight will also come right back.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

Football was a game


It was for the players and the fans in the stands.  Then it became an industry.  It got television.  The officials became a league of their own with their own bios and stats; a game within a game.   Commercials.  Announcers.  The announcers called what happened during the game.  Then they became analysts.  Now they’re part of the game; we need them for context.  Then another industry sprung up to talk about football even when it wasn’t being played; football shows talking about football every day of the week; entire careers devoted to explaining what we’ll see when we see it; specialists within the specialists to be the first to tell us who is injured, who is going to play, who will be signed for another season and who will be out of a job.  Fantasy football that isn’t even football but it has allotted slots on the weekly football news shows.


I have some time on my hands right now; watching all the people on television talking about watching football, and I think wouldn’t it be ironic if football was actually just random; if all the results; all the winning streaks, losing streaks, records set, magnificent coaching, incompetence, hirings, firings, superstars, and duds were just statistical aberrations manifesting as apparent patterns; all these talking heads, owners, scouts, coaches, and players fully engaged in explaining what can never be explained; chasing random fluctuations?



Saturday, November 21, 2015



What should we talk about now?  Anything but spinal surgery?


Got to sleep at home last night.  That was a welcome change.  No machines beeping and nobody had to wake me up to ask if I was sleeping okay.  Henry on my lap in the recliner today as I pretended to watch college football.  He seems protective; watching over the big dog.


We’re not likely to have very many new adventures to report the next few weeks, but no worries.  I’ve got plenty of bird pictures I haven’t sent out yet.


Here is a great egret.



Friday, November 20, 2015

We were up

Bright and early waiting for the Doctor to arrive.  Steve had another great night, only taking one 5mg Oxycodone to keep comfortable through the night. Other than that, he was only getting Tylenol via IV a couple of times a day.  He really does look good.


He convinced me, and after I had seen him awake and well, I convinced myself he was ready to go. The doctor agreed and gave us his blessing said he would see us in two weeks, and was gone to see his next victim.  By the way, the Dr. did say Steve was remarkable, and he had not had a patient who had undergone an 8 hour very complicated  procedure recover so quickly.


That was 7:30 AM.  Just had to get the discharge papers from our favorite nurse Pearl.  Shouldn’t take long, give us a paper to sign, make sure we understand our discharge instructions, and off we go.  Back to the Valley with a Blizzard stop along the way.  Just one paper, two or three instructions, and off we go ……


Pearl was nowhere to be found.  WE were ready to go.  WE were packed.  WE  (steve) couldn’t wait to get to DQ in Riveria.  What could be the hold up?  Wait, you say Pearl has 5 other patients?  Hey they weren’t going anywhere.  Just because they may need some medications this morning,  they weren’t waiting for a Blizzard.  We spotted her in the hall,  she said be right there………..I’m sure Steve standing at the nurses station,  clothes on, staring at her didn’t make a lot of difference, but at 11:30 we were on our way.


Had a great drive home.  Puppies glad to see us, chicken soup delivered to the door by our friends Barb and Henry,


We are happy to continue the healing process.


We want to thank everyone for all of the kind words, and good wishes sent our way.













Thursday, November 19, 2015

Would you Believe

Steve wanted to go home today. 18 hours post- surgery, he was done being here, and ready to ride 150 miles home.  8 hours of surgery,  23 staples in the back of his neck. Not to mention the 5 hours spent in this throat.   What’s the problem.


The doctors came in and he pleaded his case.  They looked at each other, a bit in disbelieve I think, and laid out the criteria.


He must produce bowel sounds, done.  Pass gas, done. Eat solid food, no problem, pee, he could do that, walk the corridor without assistance , I almost had to run to keep up with him.  Score a top 10 Sudoku game, (my idea) done within ½ hour.   The docs put their heads together.  Verdict: No problem.


Well, just one problem.  Me. 


We are still in the hospital.  Not all of us are happy with that outcome, although, I think the doctors were relieved.


We comprised, one more night. 


So, tomorrow morning, off we go home.  I think he deserves a Dairy Queen  Blizzard reward on the way.












Hi everybody,


This is Judy.  One of us had a long day today.  The other one slept through most of it.


It’s 4 A. M. and I’m a happy camper.  Steve is currently,  mostly asleep.  The nurse just came in for our 2nd check-up for the night.  The last was at midnight. She is very nice and very prompt.  12 and 4 on the dot. Not sure how she pulls that off with several patients that need their vitals taken  at 12 and 4 A.M.


  After 50 years, he still never ceases to amaze and delight me.   


Yesterday he went through 8 hours of surgery.  He woke up late afternoon with his humor intact.  He feels great, well as great as one can feel plugged into all of the things one is plugged into in the hospital.  He had his clear liquid dinner, asking of course if they served liquid brisket, or at least clear nachos with jalapenos.


Right now I’m sitting in the family lounge.  The coffee is warm and it’s quite, and I can relax and be grateful we live in a time where doctors can really put Humpty Dumpty back together again.


I’ll keep you posted.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015



A drive to Corpus.  We went out to see the seashore.


The weather is a little moody; it rained earlier.



I’m off to surgery bright and early tomorrow morning; 6am.  The next voice you hear from us will be Judy reporting in Wednesday on how things are going.





Monday, November 16, 2015

Can you spot the


Jackrabbit in this shot?


He is so cleverly disguised as a bush….with ears


See how hard he is to see when he squints?

Or maybe that just makes it hard for him to see….


Maybe a devastating glare….


A handsome fellow.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

I don't have answers


…I just have a lot of questions.


Every once in a while though, a response just appears out of the blue from AnswerMan.


AnswerMan often provides perspective that hadn’t occurred to the rest of us.  Remember that post about the tanker ship cruising past Charlies Pasture with water blowing out its face?  Well, it turns out the real explanation for what is going on there never occurred to any of us.  Here it is, in AnswerMan’s own words:


Sorry to interrupt here, gentlemen, but AnswerMan received a copy of this email and felt obliged to intervene. The Euronav Cap Jean is, in fact, one of the largest of a new breed of tanker called the turfship. Turfships look exactly like regular ships when they’re at sea, so most good sightings occur on land near coastal waters. As you can plainly see, there is no water under this ship, so there can be no question that it is, in fact, a turfship.



The blowup of the bow shows one of the few visible distinguishing characteristics of the turfship: the large deck-mounted nozzles that spray water in front of the ship as it moves, preventing the hull from sticking to the turf. Also visible in this image is the plow nose, which turns the turf and shapes it to match the curvature of the hull. If it were not for these unique features, the turfship would be indistinguishable from a beached ocean-only ship.



As you might well imagine, the use of turfships in or near large cities is frowned upon because they have a tendency to destroy any human artifacts they encounter. Where there is nothing whatever of value, as is obviously the case here, using a turfship to navigate directly to a refinery is a practical and cost-effective method for loading and off-loading petroleum products.


Yours for truth and knowledge.. or failing that, mild amusement.




Saturday, November 14, 2015



…when I take a picture of the dolphins around Port Aransas, it ends up looking like this.

A shot showing exactly where the dolphin was just before it sank out of sight.


This last trip to Corpus, I got a few that looked like this.




At least I got a few fins.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The slaughter in Paris


That is so sad.


It’s sad and inexplicable enough in a military situation; soldiers killing each other with great enthusiasm.  That’s puzzling enough that we are compelled to do that, but at least both sides are participating; each side is committed to their own cause.  But one group of soldiers for a cause slaughtering men women and children who are out to dinner, at a club, or a football match, that don’t even know that there is a cause going on?  That’s baffling.  If only we could declare it inhuman, but it is what we humans have done.  The world unites in outrage over these unspeakable acts, but somewhere this success is being celebrated.


That is so sad.



Thursday, November 12, 2015

The great barium swallowing incident


…has come and gone.


I told the tech I was planning on winning this contest as soon as I figured out what the rules were.  He said the standing record was a half-gallon of barium.  I think he was lying about the record, but I decided not to try to break the quantity record anyway.


Swallowing barium *was* a little gross.  It’s heavy and viscous.  I swallowed it standing in front of a screen while the fluoroscope mechanism buzzed all up and down in front of me like a curious heavy-metal obsessed bumblebee, following the barium as it made its way from my head to my gut.  Dose after dose, then they announced they wanted the rest of the images with *air*.  They handed me a fizzing glass of Alka-Seltzer to drink, except this Alka-Seltzer was on steroids (or maybe powered by barium).  It didn’t stop fizzing as it made its way all the way down.  Then they told me to try not to burp for the rest of the testing and gave me more barium to swallow.  We finished up with me lying flat on a table, bumblebee buzzing overhead, while I drank more through a straw.


Can I call that a win; that I didn’t burp until after?  I doubt that’s a record.  I did manage a win of sorts though.  When the tech was finished and we were chatting our way to the door, he told me I was the first person ever to ask if he could finish off the leftovers.  I declared victory and left.  I’ll take what I can get.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I rant about daily fantasy sports


I see how much the sponsors spend on advertising and know it has to be a bad deal for the people who play.  Basically they’re games of chance with incredibly low payouts.


But the local football pool….


This is an entirely different thing.


“You can’t win if you don’t play.”


“All you have to do is enter.  Make your picks.  Collect your money.”


Yeah.  This is entirely different!


Annoy your neighbors and win twice in a row.  We’re playing with house money now.



Meanwhile, we’re home from Corpus Christi; got back yesterday.


We still have fireflies in November.  Not a lot, but they’re still out there blinking their way around the yard.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A tanker


Making its way up the Ship Channel behind Charlie’s Pasture



…….blowing water out its nose.



Not that I know anything about this, but I suspect ocean-going ships carry water as ballast so the ship can ride at the appropriate height for optimum efficiency and stability.  It appears that this ship is blowing its load in preparation for taking on all it can in Corpus.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Yesterday's walk on the beach


Plenty of birds.




Piping plover


Snowy plover



Black-bellied plover

There is a similarity to all the plovers, isn’t there.




American oystercatcher



Ruddy turnstones


Western sandpiper


Forster’s tern


Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's a noisy affair


….watching parrots.


red crowned parrots


And I suspect you’ll feel a little seasick if you watch the video scanning the trees.


It’s also brief; watching the parrots.  The birds spread out all day long, who knows where, to forage.  They come in to the park to socialize and roost just at dusk.  There is about a fifteen minute window to spot and photograph them before it’s too dark to see.  We get the best concentration of birds, but it comes with crummy lighting for photographs.


Having seen the parrots yesterday, we moved north to Mustang Island State Park this morning.


November 2015 trip


Here in time for a walk on the beach, and all settled in for the sunset.



Saturday, November 7, 2015

We're on our way to Corpus Christi in the bus


…by way of Brownsville.  Can’t get much farther south than this.


In Corpus on Monday, we’ll do the last round of pre-surgery appointments; three in all.  In the meantime, we hung out at Oliviera Park in Brownsville to watch the parrots come in to roost at dusk.  Red-crowned parrots.

There are a lot of parrots here, maybe fifty or a hundred.  That’s what most of them are, red-crowned.


But then, we spot a red-lored parrot.

You can tell by the yellow on his cheeks.  Year-bird!  Number 400.  We were on a mission to get to 400 before surgery, so I wouldn’t be so tempted to go back out to finish after.  Made it.


And after that, yellow-headed parrot.

You can tell by the yellow head.  Number 401.  A cushion.


And then, and then

We think this might be two lilac-crowned parrots with a red-crowned parrot in the middle.  See the difference in the red pattern on their heads?  The red-crowned has more red across the top.  If these do turn out to be lilac-crowned, that will be 402.  Not only that, but lilac-crowned would be a lifer as well.  Way cool.


Birding rewards aren’t always immediate.  Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you’ve seen and haven’t seen.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Bre'r Bear Smith


..sent us this link:


This is a Car Guy kind of You Tube segment called Jason Drives.  It’s like Top Gear, only different.  The worst car in the world to drive, a 1951 Hoffmann.



It was a difficult day today.  I had ribs in the smoker when it started to rain in the afternoon.  The smoker is located in a bunker that protects it from wind, but there is no protection from overhead, which makes sense because the smoke from the smoker has to escape.  Whatever was over it would get turned black from the smoke.  No protection from rain.  We rigged a temporary plywood shelter over it at a safe distance above, so the electronics wouldn’t get wet, and the day was saved.


We used one of the several 2 by 4 sheets of plywood we have on hand, in preparation for parking the motorhome in the very same spot we parked it last winter.  As you will recall, the motorhome sunk and ran aground last year.  In preparation for the possibility that there might again be extended rain this winter, we’ve had a nice ¾ inch sheet of plywood cut down into four sections so we can position each section under a motorhome wheel, or set of wheels.  There will mud boards, eight square feet of plywood under every wheel.  We don’t want to see the motorhome listing like that again.

Well, the rain let up.  The temperature is still in the low eighties.  The humidity is still up.  Just like we like it.  I got eight hours smarter yesterday digitally attending an all-day continuing education seminar in California about how to commit fraud in a government organization.  It was nice to be in San Francisco without having to deal with any of the traffic.  And the food was excellent, by the way.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Gray Hawk


Here is a range map for the Gray Hawk.







Another Southern Specialty.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Judy the penguin


She got her penguin badge.


She’s wearing a fitbit.  Each day she gets words of encouragement from this thing on her wrist when she meets her goal; walking 10,000 steps a day.  There are “attagirls” for milestones achieved.  The penguin badge corresponds to the distance Emperor Penguins walk to their inland nests in Antarctica; 70 miles!  I don’t know how long it takes a penguin, but it only took Judy 14 days.


It all adds up.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What is the future of television?


In the early days, we received our television signal with rabbit ears on top of the TV.  Later we got more sophisticated and put an antenna on the roof of the house.


Many years later, along came cable, then satellite.  Now we have a smart television that is able to get programming off the internet; a hybrid; a combination of satellite and internet.


What’s next?  How will we be getting our television signal in five years or ten?  Will it still be cable or satellite?  Will it all be streaming internet?  Will that overload the available bandwidth?  There is so much content to deliver now; it doesn’t all come from the networks.  Who will be able to pull it all together so it’s available without us having to subscribe to all the individual providers?


Will there be something entirely new and different that delivers our content?  Somebody probably knows right now, but I certainly don’t.



Monday, November 2, 2015




On the horizon.


A bump on the rocks.


The Burrowing Owls are back!


For the winter.