Wednesday, January 30, 2019



A northern cat-eyed snake.


Another South Texas specialty.  They’re not very big.  Rarely do they get more than two feet in length.  They are mildly venomous, just enough to stun small prey.  For a human, its bite would feel like a bee sting.



Monday, January 28, 2019

I suffer from CRS


Whatever that is…


I can’t remember.



Saturday, January 26, 2019

Insurance industry workers


I’m not worried about what all the people in the health insurance industry will do anymore if they get put out of work by a single payer health care plan like medicare for all.  They’ll all either go to work for the government running the new plan or wander off to do something else.


It’s not like entire industries haven’t been replaced in the past.  All the mechanization and automation of manual labor that has been developed since the 1900s has displaced countless workers.  Consider the spinning wheel, production lines, paint spray guns, bottling machines, and all the construction equipment replacing men with shovels.  What about the entire industry built up around horses and buggies or wagons as transportation?  The internal combustion engine put the horse and buggy industry out of business in a flash  (maybe a 50 year flash, but yeah).  Horses required so much infrastructure.  Hay and grain fields.  Stables.  Farriers.  Buggy and buggy whip makers.  Teamsters.  Even people who would dispose of manure and dead animals.  All those industries and workers had to adapt.


It’s not to say we don’t have sympathy for displaced workers, we could protect men with shovels and outlaw bulldozers and save jobs, but refusing to use a productive piece of equipment like a bulldozer wouldn’t make any sense.  As each industry goes away, the next generation of workers has to aspire to the next generation of jobs, not the jobs that used to be.  Life is a little harder for the people caught in the middle, the ones working in the industry that dwindles.  Some will adapt.  Some won’t.


Uh-oh.  I just got back to my original question, what to do with the people displaced by improvements in processes.  I think it comes down to the fact that capitalism can be cruel.  I like to think that we could have compassionate capitalism that would care about people left behind, but I don’t think compassion is written anywhere in the rules for capitalism.  There can be government retraining programs for people displaced, but that’s not unfettered capitalism, that’s the government trying to protect us from capitalism.  When you look at the income and wealth disparity in this country that capitalism has produced, it makes me think that government isn’t doing enough.


Okay.  So I started out concerned about displaced workers in disrupted industries and ended up dissatisfied with capitalism and railing about a lapse of government.  So what.  Remember, I’m just saying what the voices in Judy’s head tell me to say.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Spanish update


I’m a great fan of spaced repetition learning.  I was exposed to the concept early in my college career and I’m sure it helped my grade point average.  The results of my Spanish language effort suggest that there might be limits to the effectiveness of spaced repetition though.  It may not work as well for older people as it does for younger people.


I studied at least some Spanish every day for a year.  (I’m sure I missed a few days in June, but otherwise I was diligent.)  I used Rosetta Stone and Babbel.  They both employ spaced repetition and review.  I thought by the end of a year I might be something close to conversational; very basic simple conversation.


The result is that I know a few words.  I can figure out most  billboards that are only in Spanish (Spanish only billboards are not uncommon here in the Valley).  A lot of words look familiar even if I can’t recognize what they mean.  I recognize some simple phrases.  When it comes to constructing sentences from scratch though, I’m not really there.  To test my understanding of spoken language, when I find myself in a situation where people are speaking Spanish around me, I just sit and listen, let it all in, and see if I understand what they are talking about.  Generally, I don’t.  (I wonder if any of that is due to Tex-Mex.  That’s what’s spoken here.  It sounds like Spanish to me, but I don’t know how significant any differences between Tex-Mex and Latin American Spanish are.)


So here I am after a year of less-than-intense effort, but a consistent effort nonetheless.  I didn’t get to where I had hoped I would be.  I would like to know more Spanish than I know now, but after an entire year, I think I’ve had enough of devoting time to do Spanish every single night.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Henry and Annie


Not *that* Henry and Annie.  Not our Henry and Annie.  Judy has been exploring her family tree, which is getting easier to do with the internet.  She just found out that the great grandparents on her father’s side, her dad’s grandparents, the ones she knew as a child as Grandma and Grandpa, were named Henry and Annie.  Henry and Annie Williams in Galloway Missouri.  Not far removed from the McCoy branch of the family.  The grandmother in Missouri who flung chickens around in a circle over her head when it was time to cook one for supper, and her granddad who had a plow-horse named Jude, were named Annie and Henry.



Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Some might think


That I’m doing what the voices in my head tell me to do, but they’d be wrong.


I only do what the voices in Judy’s head tell me to do.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Why is the shutdown still a shutdown?


All the major players have already said what they need to say to end it.  Trump wants a wall, but not enough in congress want him to have a wall.  So now trump is saying the wall doesn’t have to be a concrete wall; it could be a steel wall; a steel wall made out of slats.  He used to say he wanted a wall from sea to shining sea.  Now he says that doesn’t have to happen, he just wants more sections of border security to be built.  Now he’s calling it “border security”, at least sometimes, instead of a wall.


A border wall made out of steel slats is a fence.  We already have a steel fence!  Sometimes trump calls it a “barrier”.  We already have a barrier!  He’s no longer saying build one solid fence from the Pacific to the Gulf, just build some new sections where they’re needed.  We’re already doing that!  Now, sometimes, instead of repeating his call for a wall, trump is referencing “border security”.  Everybody in congress wants border security!  So what’s the sticking point?  Everything everybody wants, we’re already doing!  Somebody declare victory and free the hostages.


Just for the record, we have a lot of border fence here in the Rio Grande Valley and they’re building more.  The government has suspended any EPA studies and approvals and are busy carving a path of disruption right through every State Park and Wildlife Refuge on the border, in spite of lawsuits and protests.  Even if congress and the president agree and reopen the government, Judy and I won’t get what we want, undisturbed natural habitat, but all the government workers, contractors, and allied industries could go back to work, and that certainly would be a good thing.


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Hostage swap?


Did the president just offer to swap 800,000 federal worker hostages for 800,000 DACA dreamer hostages?



Thursday, January 17, 2019



We have a nepotism policy at work.  We’re for it.


Becky used to work for us before Taylor was born, and for a while after.  Having a newborn at the office was a great attraction.  More often than not, when we offered to deliver something, clients would ask if Becky and the baby were in the office, maybe they would just stop by and pick it up.


A few years ago, we were looking for help getting all our client 990s (nonprofit tax returns) out the door.  With kids off to school and some out of the house, Becky offered to come back and help.  That has worked out great for us and she’s still there.  She’s incognito too.  Just by name, Becky Alexander, there is no obvious indication that she’s related to me.  Clients don’t automatically know they’re working with a next generation…. She gets by on her own merit.


Now, though, things have changed.  Granddaughter Taylor represents another generation working at our office.  She’s working with the Office Manager.  Taylor’s last name is also Alexander, Taylor Alexander, so no clues there, but when she answers the phone she says “Taylor, Roth and Company, this is Taylor.”


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

There are 349 days left in the year


Coincidentally, we have 349 birds to go to get to 500!  We’ve recorded 151 species for the year.  Now all we need to do is see an average of 1 new bird per day for the remainder.  This birding is really easy!!!


Sunday, January 13, 2019

We got creeped


Last December, driving from our kids’ house in Chandler back to the RV park, stopped at a stoplight in the right lane, the driver of the big pickup truck in the left lane backed up even to us, and rolled down his wife’s passenger side window.  I rolled down my window, and he yelled out at us, “Hey.  Texas.  That’s my favorite state!”  He’s seen our Texas plates.  “Cool.” I answered and gave him a smile.


He went on, “And Senator Cruz, he’s my favorite senator.”  Okay, he’s seen the Beto sticker on the back of our Jeep.  I smiled and waved.  Didn’t need any late-night drama.


“And president Trump.  He’s the best president ever!  I love president Trump!”  No problem.  I gave him a thumbs-up and one more smile.  His wife looked uncomfortable and stared straight ahead.  The light changed, we both drove on, he in the faster lane.  We forgot about it.


Several miles later, out of town, the road now dark, still in the right lane, we realized we were catching him.  He was still in the left lane and slowing down.  Just as we were about to pass him, he put on his right signal and started to come over.  That didn’t seem right.  I called his bluff and continued on in the right lane, watching that I had room on the shoulder if I needed it.  He turned off his turn signal and stayed in the left lane.  We both stopped at the next light up the road, him still in the left lane and us in the right turn lane.  We were the only two vehicles there.  He had the window down and was yelling at us past his still stone-faced wife.  We couldn’t hear him, didn’t want to, left the window up, and made our right turn.


Nothing ever came of this.  He went on his way I guess, but that certainly was a weird encounter, and had the feel of getting a whole lot weirder.  It didn’t really seem to be about us specifically and wasn’t necessarily even about politics.  It may have been more about this guy having some aggressions inside that needed to get out.  It turned out fine for us.  I hope it turned out as well for anyone else he encountered that evening.


Thursday, January 10, 2019

A report from the border


We live in a border town.  We walk along the border, sometimes on this side of the fence, sometimes on the other.  (For practical reasons the fence is not built exactly on the border, and it’s always on our side, so being on the other side of it is not really a problem.) We live in a county that is 92% Hispanic; We non-hispanic are definitely the minority.  Not all the people in our county and in our schools are documented.  Not all the people in our county speak English.  That’s our situation.


There is a border fence.  It is not continuous; it’s built in sections.  I send pictures of it occasionally.  Law enforcement we chat with as we’re out and about say the fence is working just fine.  The fence funnels border crossers to openings our officers patrol.  There are people who cross the border illegally, but the number is down from prior years.  There are drugs that cross the border, but mostly through the ports of entry.  There is crime here in the Rio Grande Valley, but at a rate lower than the national average.


So here we sit, in the midst of the presidents’ wave of terror.  There are caravans headed our way to storm the borders.  We have criminals, gang members, rapists, and terrorists flooding across.  It’s a national emergency.  But it’s an invisible emergency to us.  We have been here for years, and all we experience is a happy, safe, comfortable, caring community. 


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Now I’m worried


What if we get Medicare for all and everyone has health insurance?  What happens to all those high paying health insurance jobs?  How do we find new productive jobs for an entire industry?



Saturday, January 5, 2019



Let’s add another number to the list.  We’ve got 4,219 miles to go to get to Fairbanks.  We haven’t started that trip yet, but it’s in our plans starting the second week in May.  I’ve got 56 hours of continuing professional education to go by the end of the year.  I’ll probably finish that early and make it look easy….  And we’ve recorded a few birds this year.  Our number remaining to get to 500 for the year is now down to 415.


But something else occurs to us.  There are 254 counties in Texas.  I’m thinking we should record at least one bird in each of them.  We’ve done that for a lot of counties in Texas already anyway:

Only 138 counties to go.  We’re almost half way there!


So our current totals are:  4,219, 415, 56, and 138!


Thursday, January 3, 2019

We’re home


It takes days to load up for a trip, but after six weeks in the bus, we pull in front of the house and in two hours, unload everything we need to be back inside the house.  The bus goes to its parking spot and we spend the rest of the day making sure everything we brought in is either in the laundry or put away.  We amaze ourselves.


2018 Arizona Trip Map


It's good to be home.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

We love these multi-outlet plugs


There are so many USB chargers to carry now, and with this they just plug straight in to the wall outlet.

Less clutter.



Almost home.  Tonight we’re in Falfurrias.


2018 Arizona Trip Map