Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Winter Walk (San Antonio Style)

It has been two weeks since Mark and I walked on a Sunday morning.  Today made three but I decided late in the morning to go to Hardberger Park for a walk.  We’ve had a few cool days but today started a little warmer than normal at around 60 degrees.  The grayness of the sky gave the walk a winter feel despite the mild temperature.
Most of the trees have lost their leaves and many of the bushes joined the trees in their nakedness.  The ground cover has started to change brown, but significant green remains.  Green never disappears during a normal South Texas winter.  The loss of foliage reveals many fallen trees, some due to nature and some due to park maintenance.  These remnants are left where they fall to rot in place.  Some of the man-made tree trimmings are lined parallel to the paths or nearby in straight lines, also left to decay in the park.  The neatness of the straight line piles belies the primitive feel to most of the park but also hints at some reason or plan.
Although I walked at my normal fast pace it was a reflective walk.  Only a few other people were out and I wasn’t hampered by bikers, dogs or other walkers.  The thinning wooded landscape reveals how close the trail is to the parkway.  Previously I had noted only two or three glances of the parkway.  Now long stretches are visible and a group of homes can be seen through the trees.  Roadway sounds are more noticeable, more annoying.  I looked and found signs of small animal trails through the brush. 
Signs of the various paths through which rain water flows are apparent.  Rocks line these tell-tale water paths as they meander towards the two or three larger park creeks that feed Salado Creek.  Salado Creek can be a killer during the torrential South Texas thunderstorms.  Today the feeders of Salado Creek seem incapable of being part of a larger deadly entity.  Grassy and muddy, harmless.  But sudden storms will morph these shallow dips in the land into the source of flooded streets and worse. 
Winter has bared the park to outside view.  It is no longer an isolated realm, no longer an escape for the city-dweller to pretend he or she is in the country.  The barren park reveals more of itself to the walker.  Life and death exist side by side.  A bird flies by seeking some seed or insect.  Deer nestle hidden in the deeper reaches of the park, seen earlier this year but not today.  Perhaps the scent of dogs has driven smaller animals further away.
The quiet grayness of the park creates an artificial scene, painted by an unseen artist.  A pause to inhale the earthy scent of rotting leaves and trees hint at a once living place.  I patiently wait to see the park go dormant as winter deepens; winter will surely pass and spring will bring life.  
Hardberger Park once again will hide the outside and I can pretend I am in the country once again.

Print Blog Post SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayan Calendar

If you are reading this then world didn't end on December 21, 2012.  The Doomsday Predictors are wrong.  The reason the Mayan calendar ends is:

They Ran Out of Stone

My regular blog will resume on Sunday.

Print Blog Post
 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Sunday, December 16, 2012

G is Green Garden

G is a very good letter. Lots of words start with G: gross, garbage, geek, ghoul, galoshes and the title of a new TV show – “Go On.” The show like these words is not giving me inspiration.

Garage and gardens works better for me today. Not much in common you might think. Well think again. Several years ago I started getting my cars serviced at a local garage ( that was highly recommended, after receiving a gigantic repair estimate from a local unnamed-dealership. The cost was considerably lower and with a slightly different emphasis on the essential repairs needed. Three years later the car is still running, and running quite well.

Needless to say the repairs were excellent and I have continued to use this local business. Ownership of two cars, one of which is over ten years old and the second six years old, requires regular visits for basic maintenance and occasional repairs. Our normal family routine is for me to bring in one of the cars at 8 am and my wife will then drive me to work. Later in the day one of my co-workers will drop me off at the repair shop.

You would think that after many visits to the automotive center and the fact that we pass the shop during our normal course of travel several times a month that you would notice various details about the shop. It is near our veterinarian’s office, there is a transmission repair business behind it, a dry cleaning shop next door, across the street is “head shop” and it is down the street from a “hyrdo-colonscopy” center. Don’t ask about the sign on the outside of that business, too weird for words but I have included a picture for your edification.

On my last visit I did notice something that I missed on previous visits or drive-bys (not shootings). A small patch of the grassy parking lot was fenced off and I wondered about it.

“Louie, what’s that?” I asked Louie Jr. when I picked up my car.

“Oh, that’s my dad’s garden.”

Garden and Garage

Louie Jr. went on to tell me that his father maintains the garden during the spring and early summer and grows tomatoes, eggplants, and a small variety of other vegetables. During the peak of the San Antonio summer (plus 95 degree days) he lets the garden go because it is too hot for him to properly work it.  Then as the weather cools down he prepares a winter garden (something that is rather easy in deep South Texas).
Winter garden preparation - December 2012
On my web site ( ) I have a Public Art section that includes a section on a community garden ( in San Antonio. It is unusual for my Alpha-blog series to link to my other interest of documenting the Public Art in San Antonio, but given the chance there is nothing like self-promotion.

One garden is for personal pleasure and the other is for community good. But I am sure that the participants of each enjoy and value their gardens equally.

At least two Oriental restaurants in the area have gardens where they grow various fresh herbs for their use. Once Iris wondered about lemon grass while dining at a Vietnamese restaurant and was given a tour of their garden, tucked between the building and parking lot.

I am a city boy and my gardening skills are limited. My motto is if it is green, it is grass. When I moved into our first home I created and worked a fairly ambitious backyard garden for two or three years. One year a mischievous worker at the garden center switched green peppers to jalapenos to my surprise. At that time I didn’t care for jalapenos but now I rather like them on occasion. My assistant (Iris) fled the garden after too many insect and worm encounters. The heat finally finished me and the garden.

Two years ago I attempted container or patio gardening. A few big containers of tomatoes were planted and maintained for brief time. The heat again killed the plants and my efforts. The concrete patio and containers held too much of the South Texas heat. These days I prefer the farmer’s markets for in-season vegetables and the supermarket the rest of the year.

The message I want to convey is: Gardening is better when left for farmers and auto mechanics.

 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Bee's Last Thoughts

Roses and colorful flowers entice me constantly. With eagerness and pleasure I seek their sweet, moist and energizing essence; I love them, I need them. I flitter from one to another attracted by their scent and imbibe the flower’s nutrients. One plant to another I float, what a joyful life.

Sometimes clumps of flowers attach to my feet and wings. I deposit them on other plants as I move around, gifts of life as I move from plant to plant. It is my job, my purpose. A cycle of life I am told. What a joy. I drink in life and move bits and pieces of seeds to other places.

I am a traveler, a life giver.

Gusts of wind move me further and further from my nest. I should return, I try but can’t. Now I am lost.

The wind holds me in its grip. I travel without control. High and low I sail, away from the scents and colors near the sandy shore. Trapped by the wind, I go where it takes me.

My wings vibrate to no avail. I can’t return to the land of flowers and sweetness.

Below me is salty water. To drink it is to die. Ahead is a dark mass, solid. Not water.

I urge my weakened body towards the dark mass. The solid mass offers a spot to land and rest. My strength wanes and I drop towards the solid place. No aroma. Nourishment is missing. But I can rest. My wings slow and then stop as I land on the solid thing.

A pink mass is nearby; it projects an aroma of life and moves this way and that way. Closer to my resting spot it comes. I am too weak to flee as it stops next to me.

I garner my diminishing strength and move to it. It is alive. It has an aroma that stimulates me. My proboscis springs to seek sustenance. A dark salty liquid streams out, it is bitter but I drink without hesitation. Not a rose or any other flower I know; despite the bitter taste it is wet and I am thankful for the moment. Perhaps it can give me sufficient energy to return to my beloved roses.

A shadow covers me, air moves and the pink mass crushes me. I die, but not before my apitoxin flows into the pink mass.


Later a man has an anaphylactic reaction and only vaguely remembers the reason.

Inspired by the chance meeting of a bee and me on November 29 while on a cruise ship in port.

Print Blog Post SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Thursday, December 6, 2012

H is Happy to be Home

“Hello Ruby, we’re home.” I call to my dog.

“Happy, man is here. Hungry.” Ruby thinks. She can’t speak but her tail action speaks for her.

We’ve been gone for nine days, our longest vacation in a long time. We had a house sitter (really a dog sitter, but house is an H letter) to watch the house, feed the dog, take care of the mail, feed the dog, take out the garbage, feed the dog, and water the plants; you get the idea that feeding the dog was her primary function. And taking care of any by-products that she may accidently produce indoors.

“Boy, it’s good to be home.” My wife interjects between hugging the dog and hauling in our luggage.

“Hope the dog didn’t leave us any hidden treats.” I begin a search of her habitual spots for depositing hunks of dog by-products (I call them landmines in the backyard). None found, good dog gets a treat.

We left right after the Thanksgiving Holiday with a stop in Houston at our favorite Houston restaurant, Kenny and Ziggy’s Deli . It is our habitual first stop. Kenny and Ziggy’s is across the street from one of Houston’s busiest mall, and it is Black Friday. Horrors. Hordes of shoppers and traffic. I could use a vacation just after this experience alone. Fortunately, my fears were not fulfilled. It was crowded and there was a bit of traffic but bearable.

Corned Beef and Pastrami Sanwich on Rye
We had a great trip except for a wasp bite in Jamaica, a bounced credit card charge due to an entry error and upon return to port found that one piece of our luggage went missing. About 70 miles from home we receive a call, our luggage has been found. Another cruiser picked up our luggage and just arrived home to discover their error. Luck was in our corner because they lived in San Antonio and we would pass by their home to pick up that piece. They now had realized they left a piece in Galveston. It is strange how one person’s luck can be another’s misfortune.

We just drove 260 miles from Galveston Texas to San Antonio and are just happy to be home. The dog is obviously very happy to see us, so she promptly pees. After her initial excitement she drops down and watches us unpack, start laundry, put unworn clothes away and a bevy of other activities. While we are busy and not paying attention to the dog (normally the center of our attention) she pees again.

“Welcome home people. Don’t leave me again.”

 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Sunday, December 2, 2012


The previous two posts, Old People Graph from NPR, and Imagine (I in the alphabet soup series) were written and scheduled ahead of their post dates to automatically post during my vacation.  I will post my vacation thoughts soon.  But first I must greet my dog, help my wife with a pile of laundry, dig through a pile of mail at home, emails from both home and work and stare at the empty refrigerator.
My next full blog post will hopefully have been drafted during my vacation, the old fashioned way.  On paper, in my journal.  I don't plan to take my laptop computer with me.  The only electronic gadgets I'll have with me is my Nook Tablet and digital cameras.
A vacation is nothing to do and all day to do it.  The hardest part of a vacation is returning to reality.  I hope the country and world have not gone off the fiscal cliff or to war this past week.
This post was also written before my vacation. 


Print Blog Post SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Thursday, November 29, 2012


John Lennon, Solo 1971

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

No need to expand my meager thoughts about possibly one of the most moving songs written in the Twentieth Century.

Print Blog Post
 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Monday, November 26, 2012

Old People vs Babies, In one Graph (NPR)

A very interesting story and time graph, so I will pass it on without any comment from me.

National Public Radio / Planet Money November 8, 2012

In the U.S. today, there are 23 elderly people for every 100 working-age people. That ratio has been rising for decades — and it's projected to nearly double by 2060.

This is a problem. Working-age Americans pay for programs like Medicare that support the elderly. So the more that ratio rises, the heavier the burden is for working Americans.

The problem is not unique to the U.S. In fact, it's a much bigger problem for many other developed countries.

I knew the broad outlines of this story. But when I talked about it recently with Gerhard Heilig of the UN's population division, one thing surprised me: Populations are aging mainly because people are having fewer and fewer babies, not because life expectancy is increasing.

The graph below shows the very clear, two-stage process that lots of countries are going through: First, people start having fewer babies. Then, over the following decades, the ratio of elderly people to working age people goes up and up and up. The U.S. is the orange circle; other countries are color-coded by region.

Click below to go to story and graph:

Print Blog Post

 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Friday, November 23, 2012


Jargon bothers me. 

What is your DNS server setting?  I didn’t even know I had a DNS server, much less settings for it.

Your lipid panel test is on the high side.  What is the lipid panel?  I am getting livid now.

You business insurance policy doesn’t cover POV.  Did they mean point of view, I doubt it.  POV?

Nor does your policy cover dual occurrence losses.  I thought dual occurrence loss would be paid twice, but the truth is if one cause is not covered then you receive zero, zilch, zip, nothing, nada compensation.

I sometimes overhear conversations from my co-workers to clients and think I am in an alternate universe.  Carbides, agglomerate, gamma-prime, or fin-fan tubes are words that waif from their mouths over the phone to some unknown person.  I must admit they are engineers and I am not.
Of course, the speakers know what they are saying and presumably the listener does also.  But often understanding is not a two-sided event. 

I’ve been known to stop a conversation with a computer help desk person or medical professional and ask for clarification of what was said.  On occasion I have informed the speaker at the outset that I prefer plain English to jargon, abbreviations, buzzwords, and lingo that is unique to their specialty.

Insidiously, jargon is drifting into all areas of daily life.  “Outside readings” is replacing old-fashioned book reports in school.  “Upside” has replaced benefit. The phrase “Buy in” means to agree with not purchase.  Specialized language is often necessary to communicate specialized knowledge accurately, to relay complex concepts in a single or small number of words to facilitate understanding.  We live in a highly technical world and jargon is important to relay information between two or more knowledgeable people.

My beef is when jargon is used to confuse the listener, delay action, or hide facts for the benefit of the speaker.  Have you read your insurance policy, contract with the telephone company or TV cable provider?  Most of us would get a headache trying to decipher the meaning or give up half-way through the first few pages.

Many speakers of jargon spent years in school and use jargon to impress others with their knowledge of the subject.  I don’t want to hear “negative outcome” from a doctor (the patient died) or my financial advisor tell me, “We’ve had a market correction” (you’ve lost 10% of your portfolio).

Sometimes jargon is reduced to abbreviations. 

Have you experienced a RIF? Fired! 
Do you have a good CD?  Music or bank account?
BM.  Body mass or bowel movement?
CAD.  Coronary artery disease or computer assisted drawing?
HUD.  Is this a government agency or the title of an old movie?
I’d rather get a letter from SSA than SSS. (I am old enough for SSA, and too old for SSS).

There was a cell phone commercial that made famous the phrase, “Can you hear me now?”  I would prefer the phrase, “Can you understand me now?”

Print Blog Post SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Klystron sounds like a term that might have come from an old Superman comic. Superman came from the planet Krypton, and has been recently located by scientists. This fact (really?) has no connection to today’s blog, but it sounds interesting, so it is included.

Back to Klystron, my L blog referred to my joining the army voluntarily with assurances of technical training (to avoid infantry service). It was during my Signal Corps training that I learned about the Klystron tube. What is a Klystron tube and why am I writing about it?

It was a marvel of technology when I learned about the Klystron in 1965; it had been first developed in 1937 and then utilized in radar equipment during World War II. Later it was the heart of the Distance Early Warning Line communications network. It enabled the military to reliably transmit messages from the Arctic and Greenland regions to the United States by bouncing radio signals off the stratosphere over the horizon. It was designed to alert the country of an imminent attack by the Russians. In case of attack school children were trained to “duck and cover,” which meant go under your desk. Millions of dollars spent on communications and $12 spent on desks.

Jumping forward the 1960’s the US military installed these radio systems in Southeast Asia during the war in Vietnam. I was fortunate to enough to work at one of those stations in Thailand; or as I like to say, “In the rear, with the gear.” Click here to see one of the largest communication sites of its day, my home for one year in Thailand.

All this may be interesting to me and a few of my fellow Signalmen who know about the Klystron tube and its mysterious operation. The tube is a resonant cavity that an electron beam enters, after that memory of the actual theory and operation is kind of fuzzy. All I can say is that it worked, and don’t mess with it. This type of communication systems became obsolete, just as all technology advances do) with the advent of satellite communications.

Still, why is this important? Today the same gear is used in many microwave radio towers that the dot the landscape today, mostly by telephone companies, pipeline companies and government agencies on the local level for short range communication needs. This may be important but not what the average consumer cares about.

The Klystron tube is the heart of the microwave oven; the Klystron tube and variations of it produce the energy to operate these fantastic gadgets. Finally billions in military spending has found a purpose that benefits society. No more wasted leftovers, the perfect device to heat up a cup of Ramen soup, defrost a bagel, and prepare tonight’s frozen fish dinner.

Excuse me, I hear the ding. My popcorn is ready.

 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

L is Life and Life is a Lesson

It has been a long day; you get home from work and wonder how you made it through without a major breakdown. Life was hard today. Or maybe you experienced a series of bad days; then again it could be one major letdown or problem that got to you.

Recently I saw a mother pushing a young child in stroller eating an ice cream cone and noticed the smile on his face. Did you ever wish that you could really remember life as a young child? No cares or worries except when the next meal is coming. Is someone going change my diaper? Everything is done for you, all you have to do pretend to cry or just have a sad face and bingo good things happen.

At some point while growing up we learn that those idyllic, lackadaisical days are gone. Realization comes gradually; slowly over time our expectations change. We learn that the lovely things of life are not going to be handed to us. Our discovery of the real facts of life, not the birds and bees lessons, dictates our path forward. An “ah ha” moment sets our future path. That event defines the years ahead.

Just before Veterans Day I reflected back on my “ah ha” moment. It was the winter of 1964 and I decided that continued attendance in college was Sisyphus-like, some successes and some failures. Without clear direction forward, without a real career path ahead I quit college. I had no clue where I was or where I was going.

My father’s response was simple, “Okay, now what?”

It was my life, my future, it was my choice. I returned to a company that I had worked for during the previous summer. The money was okay, but not a life-long job I wanted to continue. War loomed on the horizon; I still had no long term plans and had been reclassified as draft eligible. But I did know I didn’t want to be drafted into the military, so I enlisted in the army with some assurances that I would be trained in a technical field.

That decision changed my life. Army service was a million dollar experience that I wouldn’t give you a nickel to do again. As my life developed I’ve realized that those three years really developed my character, my ethics, world view and any number of other positive traits. After my service was completed I returned to work, then to college and earned two degrees.

Those three years helped me become a better college student, husband, father, teacher, and have more flexible nature. Each subsequent step moved me forward in a long trek of life. The hard logistics of life were made easier by lessons learned during life’s journey.

The path we take is a labyrinth, with twists, turns and a few dead ends. Allow yourself the latitude to change, modify and grow. I returned to college, quit one job and returned to the same company and made other changes without looking back. One change culminated in anger that slowly evaporated; lessons were learned again and now I am satisfied with my decision. One point I learned is that anger is not a good teacher nor is it a good companion for life’s journey.

Back up and start over. My life and actions may not be the model for everyone but it worked for me.

 SEO Services & Tools

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nostalgia Gone

I could start this blog by stating my name is Warren and I’m a Notary Public but that style opening was used for the letter R.  Compounding my opening hook dilemma is my O blog expounded on Originality, which puts the onus on using the same opening twice so close together.  If you had the inclination and a few dollars you too could become a Notary Public, no real requirements necessary.  And the work of a Notary is very boring.  A notary is relegated to the role of a mere observer of other people’s paperwork without input or comment.  Notary is not an interesting topic.

One good (or not so good) N thought down the drain.  The dictionary is full of words but my head is not.

Santa Claus wants to know if you have been Naughty or Nice. Change the phrase and you come out with nice and naughty. Now that is an image that excites me.  The kinky side of my brain is working overtime now.  Sounds like a women’s lingerie commercial; I see a tall, olive skinned woman approaching…

“No,” the good angel on my shoulder is saying while wagging his (maybe it is a she angel, can’t tell with all the feathers) finger.  “Those day dreams are reserved for teenaged boys.  You need to write about important issues."

“All I can think of is notorious, nefarious, nuclear bomb, newspeak and narcotic.  Not very nice."

My little shoulder angel is now silent.  Writing is a solitary task.  People who hear and listen to voices usually end up in psychiatric wards for treatment.  And if I heard those voices I wouldn’t tell anyone, I got that good advice from the other angel on my shoulder.  He hates to be locked up and medicated.

Now the blog

News from New Jersey, my home state for the first 33 years of my life, is dire.  The recent storm devastated my father’s hometown, caused significant damage to the neighborhood of a friend since fifth grade and inflicted incalculable damage to many beach towns of legend.  Any thoughts of return trips to indulge in nostalgic adventures are gone.
I remember going to a July 4th celebration in Asbury Park with friends to see fireworks and cruise Ocean Avenue years ago.  We ventured out to near the end of one of the stone jetties to get a better view.  The view was great, ocean on three sides and a clear view of fireworks ignited from an off-shore barge.  As we intently watched the fireworks and maintained a steady footing on the slippery jetty we neglected the most serious danger.  The ocean: beautiful, awesome, powerful and dangerous all at once.

A wave spewed from the sea and crashed over the revelers at the end of the pier.  Luckily nobody was washed off the jetty.  But my friends and I were drenched, soaked from head to foot.  We retreated off the jetty, over the beach and into a local pavilion.  We found a bathroom, stripped down and attempted to dry ourselves with paper towels and toilet paper.  We drove 50 miles home with soaked shoes and clothes.  No harm done, but we came close to personal harm.  At 18 years of age we had no idea how close we had come to serious injury or worse.  If we had known the real danger we faced a wonderful, quirky memory would be tarnished with dread.

After my stint in the army I worked for the railroad that served the East Coast.  Now I see pictures of tracks underwater, a boat tossed onto the train tracks like a toy, and water pouring into underground stations.  My work then was hard and sometimes dangerous; I cannot visualize rebuilding the rail infrastructure, or roads, or bridges, or ports, or an entire city.

Now the coastal towns are damaged, beaches washed away and the pavilions damaged.  Seaside attractions all along the shore (as Jersey residents call the beach area) are destroyed, lives lost, homes damaged, and Ocean Avenue under water.  TV broadcasts and newspaper headlines scream these obscene descriptions to the world.

There is no catchy ending to my blog.  Just a deep sadness.  Nostalgia gone. 

Print Blog Post 
 SEO Services & ToolsSubmit Express