Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If Everyone Cared

RIP Momma

This morning, September 27, 2008, shortly before noon, my mother passed away at age 80. She'd been battling non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma for the last few years of her life, and the chemo treatment became less and less effective over time. Finally, this last bit of "last-resort" chemo seemed to be her undoing.

We were all pretty well prepared for the end, but it's still hard. While I could not be with her the last few days of her life, my sister reported to me just yesterday that, three times, Momma was able to say, "Help me die."


Help me die.

Rest in peace, Momma.


I'll probably be away again for several more days with the family.

Friday, September 19, 2008

When it rains....

This has been a trying month....

First we get hurricane Ike, destroying much of the area, including some friends homes, and leaving millions without power for days and days.

Then we get a financial hurricane, wiping out billions in 401k monies and other funds. The wife works in the biz, and has been going absolutely insane this week, trying to comfort retirees, among others, who have just lost major chunks of their retirements and portfolios.

Now I get word that my sweet little momma is in the hospital, and this one may be the last t
ime. She's been fighting non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma for awhile now, but has recently taken a turn for the worse, and is in the ICU.

Thought I post a few pictures of my sweet little momma. I do mean sweet. And little. She never got taller than 4'11", and in the last few years, she has shrunk down several more inches.


Here's the country girl from small-town Oklahoma, circa 1941, freckles and all.


1946, graduating from high school...



1949, pregnant with child #1 of 4.



1962, a family shot of all 6 of us, when my father was running for political office (I think I'm glad he never made it). Which one do you think is me?



And finally, a picture of her taken this past December, after she'd already lost all her hair from cancer treatment.



I'll be flying up to be with her for the next unknown period of time. We're taking some black clothing...just in case.


So I will be out of pocket again for several days. Don't know when I'll be back. This one is going to really be tough
.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Crawling from the muck

It was touch-and-go there for awhile, but we have survived a direct hit from Hurricane Ike. This is the worst storm I have ever experienced. What made it so bad for us is that the eye crept up on us from the south, giving us a direct blast from the east as it got close, then the eye passed to our east, giving us a direct blast from the north as the winds whipped around the eye. Band after band of really angry winds and rain slammed us, and downtown Houston.

Our home miraculously sustained only minor damage, compared to many others. We lost some shingles from the 4th floor roof, which allowed some water to seep into the 3rd floor, so our carpet in that room is getting rather stinky.


One of our two air-conditioning units was flipped off of its pad onto its side by the wild winds swirling around the house.

Both of our fences on the west and south were ripped up. One huge chunk is simply missing, and the others pieces are leaning and halfway out of the ground.

We lost our 15' tall oak tree in the front and many limbs off of the old 40' elm tree, but, somehow, the tiny 4' tupelo weathered the storm.


But that's really about it. All of our windows survived, without putting any plywood, shutters, or tape over them.

We feel extremely lucky, because there was a ton of devastation. There were a few dicey moments there, however, when it felt like our whole house might just get blown away.

Following is a rather lengthy timeline of events, interspersed with feeble attempts at humor.

Saffer-Simpson Scale
category 1 75-95 sustained wind

category 2 96-110 sustained wind

category 3 111-130 sustained wind
category 4 131-155 sustained wind

category 5 156+ sustained wind

Picture of fish driven into a chain-link fence in Orange, Texas. Those poor things were shocked by the power of the storm too.


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10


It looks pretty certain that Hurricane Ike is coming this way, but they're saying Corpus Christi. But that still means that we would be on the "dirty side" of the storm, the east side, where the winds and rain are most intense. But Corpus is far enough away that the effects here would likely not be that bad.

Ike wobbles west and north, but it's still headed for this general area, and the eye is huge. While that's good - a tighter, smaller eye is a stronger storm, so a larger eye would be a weaker storm, in general - it's also bad, because it spreads out the devastation to a wider area.

Our media of choice is KHOU-TV (CBS) ("the Beaut
iful People" except for Dr. Neil Frank). They're more "calm," and don't seem to have the breathless hype that KPRC or KTRK have.

Ike's landfall is predicted for late Friday or early Saturday. I'm not sure which is worse: getting a storm at night when you can't see anything, or getting a storm in the daytime, when you can see it, but you're likely hiding anyway. Either way, it sucks.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11


9/11. While the nation pauses to reflect on that day 7 years ago, we in SE Texas are getting prepared for a big hurricane, because Ike's path is now closer to Freeport than Corpus, and that's bad for us.

We cooked up a ton of meat, knowing that, when and if (and I was leaning towards WHEN) we lost power, we could always gnaw on meat, like animals. Only this would be cooked meat.


I also retrieved our ice chests and fetched several bags of ice from our corner convenience store. No electricity?? No ice. Ugh, and it's been 95 degrees most days, with high humidity. No A/C makes Houston unbearable in the summer.

My job let me go home at noon to "make preparations" for the storm, and don't come back until Monday. Or, at least, call up the emergency line to see what was up after the storm. The wife's employers would have none of that. Nothing stands in the way of business!

Some communities much closer to the coast than we are have decided to issue mandatory evacuations. I can't imagine. Having to suddenly scramble to gather together important papers....having to decide what's really important, fill up your car with "stuff" and just leave most everything else for an unknown period of time...

In the pic below, a force of 10,000 utility workers stands ready to put Houston's electrical grid back together after Ike.



Now, if you live in an area that could issue mandatory evacuations on a somewhat regular basis because they get a lot of storms, I suppose that you should be prepared for such. At least better prepared than we are. We're not in any of the Evacuation Zones (but we're close to one), so we have not really, really thought about that too much. But we still gathered some insurance papers, passports, birth certificates, etc. and kept them with us, just in case.

But having to leave your home and not know what's happened to it during the storm....wow....

I prepared two areas for us to hide from the wind: one on the 3rd floor, in an interior closet with no windows; and the "Harry Potter Closet" under the stairs on the 1st floor. I set down blankets in both and made sure that the TV would operate well enough in both locations. Ice chest in each place, and an electric fan. We figure that we'll go to the 3rd floor first, but if it gets really bad, we'll huddle under the stairs.

We started moving all of our plants from the roof into the 4th floor rooms. This time, we're also moving all the furniture inside too. We have a cast-iron table with a 150lb weight on it, so we figured that it would be fine. Wouldn't it?

I also filled up lots of bottles of water and put them in the freezer for freezing. When they freeze, you can put them up in the regular refigerator and they'll help keep everything in there cool. Or you can put them on your body for an icy blast. There's a takeaway for you.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

It's a beautiful day in Houston, but hot, and The Beautiful People keep changing landfall predictions further and further up the coast (east), towards Galveston. Towards us. Great.

As feared, the wife's employers thought that since the storm wasn't going to hit until late Friday night, why shouldn't everyone come to work? So she did, while I did more preparations for the storm.

With Ike expected to hit around midnight tonight, that would mean we should expect, here in Houston, Hurricane force winds (>74mph) for at least two hours BEFORE that, and Tropical Storm force winds (>39mph) for another hour or two before THAT. All-in-all, we might be looking at six to eight hours of continuously strong, sometimes VERY strong, winds.

There is a general panic among the citizens. Or maybe it's just me. I have a real sense of foreboding about this storm. We already have plenty of batteries. No generator, though. (Gotta fix that.) There are long lines for gasoline all over town. Several stations are already out.


6pm - It's become cloudy and we're starting to notice strong gusts of wind. The wife is cooking up a storm, in the kitchen, while I finish getting everything off of the roof.

Ike's eye is huge, around 80 miles across. They're saying that, although the storm is still a Cat 2, and they don't expect it to grow any, they are expecting a storm surge akin to a Cat 4 or Cat 5. It's just about too late to evacuate. If Ike's strength had increased to a Cat 4 or 5, we would have been long gone.

They're talking about a 15' to 25' storm surge, not only on Galveston Island, but also all along Galveston Bay, which would be pretty devastating. I don't think that's ever happened.

8pm - We're getting rain, but not much, and the radar now looks like Ike is going to hit the West End of Galveston Island, where there is no seawall protection, but a very recent multi-million-dollar home development about halfway complete. There could easily be nothing left there. Why do people build there? Because it's beautiful? There's practically no land at all....almost IN the water already. Beachfront ain't cheap.


10pm - The winds are really buffeting the house so we decide to go up to our first refuge. The wife thought she could handle it while in our regular bed, so she tried that for a few minutes until a really hard blast sent her scurrying into the closet.

It wasn't long, however, before the house began rocking, lurching, and creaking with a greater frequency, and we decided to head for Harry Potter's Closet on the 1st floor.

Midnight - It's much more sturdy and stable on the 1st floor, but we can hear horrible sounds outside. Crashing, loud thumps, groaning, screaming wind....and we have no idea what's going on...but no glass breaking...

I've got my laptop, and, surprisingly, we still have electricity and an internet connection. Thank goodness for this fan in here, because it's hot inside this closet, even though it's cool just outside the closet, because the A/C is still going. But I don't want to open the door too much or often, because we're right by the front door, which is mostly glass, and it's crazy out there.

Houston is really smack dab in the path of Ike. Now they're predicting that it might just travel up I-45, which happens to pass only about 1/2 mile from our house. It's a direct hit.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13


2:10am - Ike makes "landfall." Ground zero appeared to be Bolivar Island, across the channel east of Galveston. There are large clusters of beach houses all up and down the coastline here. The storm had been drifting eastward but ran out of ocean before it could get too far east. Unlucky for us.

Amazingly, we still have electricity. It goes go out now and then, and the fan will die, but it keeps coming back on within five or ten seconds. I peek out of the door at the front door and see multiple flashes of blue and green light, which must be transformers blowing. I don't think we were getting any lightning, but I'm not sure I would have been able to even hear the thunder over the howling wind.

5am - After what seemed like a tense eternity, our electricity finally went out for good. I had not slept a wink. I found it impossible. The wind and noise outside was bad enough, but the actual space in Harry's closet is really only enough for one person to lay down and stretch out. There was too much going on to sleep anyway.

All I can do now is listen to the radio (KTRH), since my battery-powered TV suddenly quit working for no apparent reason.

7am - The sun starts to come up, and Ike is finally passing us to the east. Now we're catching the strongest winds wrapping around the eye from the north. I've never seen so many intense bands of rain and wind hitting one spot as we got this time.

8am - We crawl out of the closet and made some coffee with our old-fashioned "Tico" coffeemaker we picked up in Costa Rica years ago. There's no electricity, but we do have gas. No electric starter for the gas. but fortunately, you can strike a match, turn on the gas, and it lights. At least we can have some hot coffee....just what this sweaty body needs.

About the only things working are our cell phones. Our regular phone line was working fine, if I only had one of the old-fashioned, non-electric phones hooked up to it. I didn't. All of our phones are cordless electric, which is why no one could call us on our land line. This is another item that must be purchased before the next storm, one of them old-timey phones.

I took a look around the house and noticed that one of our A/C units was on its side in the back yard. Fucking wind flipped that sucker over, and it must weigh 80 lbs.

We kept instinctively dodging as another gust of wind would rattle and shake the house.


I hear one guy on the radio say that this area of the nation (SE Texas) produces about 25% of the entire nations energy supply, so all of you in the rest of the country better help us!

Noon - Nice lunch of previously cooked brisket, with mustard, pickles and cheese. The winds are finally starting to die down.


KTRH reports that just about ALL of Centerpoint's (Reliant) electricity customers are without power. That's about 2 million households, representing about 4 million people.

But KTRH radio is already pissing me off. All morning, they're running anti-Nick Lampson (U.S. Democratic House member, took DeLay's seat) ads, multiple times, sponsored by the United States Chamber of Commerce, fer chrissakes, during their storm coverage. WTF is the US Chamber of Commerce doing inserting itself in political races anyway? And this ad goes on and on about how "liberal tax policies are hurting America!!" and "Nick Lampson wants MORE TAXES!" Typical lying bullshit. And then the DJ's come on and talk about how politics should never enter into storm coverage. Hey, JP, got a mirror?

KTRH actually had Nick Lampson on to talk for a moment about the storm. I wonder if they told him, or if anyone told him, that they were running attack ads aimed at him? Too bad Obama didn't predict the future and buy some ad time on KTRH too. When a storm like this hits, people flock to the radio, because most of them still have a battery-powered radio or two around.

Have some sensitivity and suspend attack ads during a catastrophe, willya? Oh, the ad time had already been sold and scheduled? It's out of your control? Yeah, sure, ya lyin' sack o' shit.

2pm - Ugh, now they're having all the Republicans on, one after another. John Culberson, Kevin Brady, John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson. And no more Lampson.

Culberson is getting all excited about a contingent of "first responders" that are "staged" at Tully Stadium, in NW Houston. These poor first responders have no food or water (after they finish the lunch they're having). Culberson is appealing to the citizens to bring these heroes food and water. What?

My question is: what kind of an entity brings in a bunch of people to help other people, but they don't give the helpers any supplies like food and water? Sorta sounds like sending troops into battle without the armor and weapons they should have, doesn't it?

In short order, thousands of Houstonians have flooded the area with food and water, and Culberson gets to play th
e hero among the heroes. Retch. The guy is a pig, and no amount of lipstick would help that.

They also had Joel Osteen on, Houston's favorite prosperity gospel-mongerer. His big message was that "God is still in control." Oh, really, Joel?

"God is still in control!"

If God is "still" in control, why did he allow this devastation in the first place? Just for shits and giggles? So we would all flock to him in fear of our lives? What kind of "control" is this?

Osteen also said, rightly, that in times like these, we have to rely on friends, neighbors, and family to help each other. I could do better on that score....

Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans, opens his city and hotels to any evacuees from Houston. Just ask for the "Nagin Rate." Houston helped New Orleans Katrina refugees immensely, and it was really nice to hear him express such affection for our city and its people.

But KTRH is pissing me off. Now they're cutting off a guy who started complaining about how the conservatives have been slashing FEMA and other agencies. KTRH is the one that started injecting politics into the atmosphere by running those ads, even though they are not connected in any way to the storm and its aftermath.

Grrr...but what should I expect? Just look at KTRH's daily schedule. Ostensibly, they CLAIM to be a news channel,
when in fact they are just another right-wing hate machine.

9 a.m. - 11 a.m. - Joe Pags (only moderately offensive)
11 a.m. - 2 p.m. -
Rush Limbaugh (the worst demagogue of our time)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m. - Sean Hannity - (a disgraceful "human being")
5 p.m. - 8 p.m. - Michael Berry (Limbaugh wannabe)
8 p.m. - 10 p.m. - The Mark Levin Show (fascist wannabe)

That's KTRH, so-called "Newsradio." More like Spewsradio. And this level of hatred is repeated in all major cities across the country.

Oh yeah, the hurricane...


Fortunately, we had plenty of ice and food. The authorities recommend that everyone have at least 72 hours worth of supplies after something like this, if the power goes out. We paid attention.

Unfortunately, it's also hot, sticky, humid, muggy, and nasty inside the house. The heat just drains me of energy. That,
plus I haven't slept in 30 hours. Not looking forward to sleeping in this heat tonight.

Thank goodness for my battery-powered fan. It fits in the palm of your hand, but, with fresh batteries, it delivers quite a nice breeze. Need to get another one or two of these, and perhaps a stronger one too that uses D cells.

9pm - We tried to sleep in th
e heat. Unsuccessfully. Worst night of sleep in a long, long while, even as tired as I was. Wake up drenched in sweat, wipe it off, try to go to sleep, wipe off the sweat....

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14

We're getting lucky. We're going to get a cool front this evening, and they're promising low humidity, with lows in the 60's and highs in the 80's, which would be wonderful. A taste of fall.

There's God again, in control, looking after us and giving us a break. What a joker he is. Hey, thanks for Ike, pal. What a rush that was.

6am - this impending cold front due this evening is starting to fire up storms in advance of it. The Beautiful People say that the cool front is "tapping" into the plume of Gulf moisture that Ike left in its wake, and it is POURING at the rate of 3-6" per hour over much of the city. We're getting massive flooding now along I-10 and I-45, AFTER the hurricane is long gone. Great, more roof leaking...

The hurricane wasn't enough, eh, God? Now I-10 and I-45 are turning into giant lakes, which they didn't do during Ike, hampering relief efforts. I dig this control shit. Fortunately, our street is not flooding. Thanks for looking out for me, Lord. Sorry about all those other guys.

Noon - The torrential rains have finally moved south into the Gulf. Another brisket sandwich for lunch. I've already run through four "AA" batteries for my portable fan. Got plenty more. Got plenty more sweat too. Now I'm losing the weight I gained pre-Ike.

2pm - I called MetLife, our home insurance provider, to initiate a claim. Took no time to contact a real human. Impressive. Needless to say, they're swamped, but since our home is habitable (only a little roof damage and some leaking) they will have an adjustor contact me as soon as possible, but it could be a few days. They said if I had to make any repairs to make the place habitable, do it, keep the receipts, and they'd work it into the claim. Sounds reasonable.

6pm - After a sweltering, miserable day with no electricity, the cool front starts to filter in, so we go up on the roof and catch a nice breeze.

We have a portable propane grill, so we set that up, grilled up s
ome steaks and had a nice dinner on the roof. We can see downed trees and blown over chimneys from the roof, and some windows blown out of buildings downtown. We're hearing some horrid reports on the radio about Galveston, Freeport, Surfside, Bolivar, Crystal Beach, and just about everywhere along the coast. The storm surge was a monster.

I called the emergency number for my company to discover that our offices will be closed until Wednesday. So far. Downtown took a direct hit too and there is a lot of glass all over the roads.

8pm - The temps are so cool now, we pull the futon out on the deck and plan to sleep under the stars tonight. Most of the city is dark, and I could see stars I hadn't seen in years. And the moon...wow...it's full tomorrow night. Off in the distance....what's that? Lightning? Again?! Is it going to rain again? It's getting a little too cold already, so we went back to our regular bed.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15


7am - The wife gets a phone call from a co-worker, and her building is actually open! And she has to go to work! And, oh, how lovely, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch seem to be the next icons to fall on Wall Street, and since the wife's job is rather intimately tied up in the financial world, she's going to go to work.

How lovely, she has to be there for this financial meltdown. Not a good day to be away from work, with Wall Street crashing again, and clients in a panic. Lord, when will we get rid of Bush and the Greedy Old Prepublicans (read: McCain) so we can put some sanity back in these markets?

A stroke of luck: we had hot water! After a couple of hot, sweaty days, we discovered that our gas water heater was working fine, and so the wife was able to take her first hot shower since Thursday.

Still no electricity at the house, but the cool front is bringing in wonderful dry breezes. I sat in my chair by the window and read much of the day, unable to connect to the outside world with anything more than a mobile phone. It was rather wonderful, really.

Sitting amidst all the carnage, I had a really nice day.

Ice seems to be the #1 need in the area, but we can't seem to get any out to the people. FEMA is having trouble coordinating the relief efforts (surprise!) Mayor Bill White has said that FEMA WIL
L be expected to fulfill their obligations. And we appear to have turf wars brewing: FEMA blames the state, the state blames FEMA, the city blames the state and FEMA.



Hundreds of FEMA trucks just sat idling at Reliant Stadium, full of ice and food, and yet....they were just sitting there.



The KTRH nazi's said that all Walgreens and CVS's were open today, so I took a quick drive to discover that neither of them near us were open. Figures. I shouldn't trust KTRH. I detoured downtown to discover that half of the trees that line downtown's streets have been blown over. Even some old oaks that line both sides of the reflecting pool at City Hall were lost. What a shame. Several streets were blocked completely due to all the debris. Traffic signals that survived were hanging at odd angles above the streets.

4:30pm - OUR ELECTRICITY IS RESTORED! At this point, only about 25% of Centerpoints customers have power again, which is about 400,000 people. That's not bad in a city of this size.

Earlier in the day I noticed a couple of utility trucks slowly driving through our streets and not stopping. This is a good thing. If they drive slowly, they are not seeing any serious obstructions or problems that would require them to stop and work on the problem. So if they just cruise through, your lines are in good shape, and the problem will be elsewhere, and that's a good thing.

8pm - Finally, a good nights sleep. It's so cool outside, there's no need for air conditioning. Hey, where's that blanket?!

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16

Life is returning to "normal" for us. We are among the lucky ones. We woke up to a gorgeous sunrise this morning.


I grieve for all those people whose homes were demolished by Ike. There are some reports that some persons on Bolivar that wanted to evacuate simply could not get out because the highway was already impassible, so they had to ride out the storm. Many homes - hundreds of them - in that area are just gone. Simply gone. Not even any debris. Just gone.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed in Baytown.

Here's a before and after shot of Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.


25 oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed. There's no word on any oil spills, but I guarantee you, there are some oil spills out there.

12 refineries in this area are shut down until further notice. And yet the price of a barrel of oil continues to decline?

The seawall of Galveston is just a pile of rubble, that
stretches as far as the eye can see. The old Balinese Ballroom, situated on a pier out in the Gulf, is gone. The Mayor of Galveston has been urging any Galvestonians still on the island to leave, because there is no water, no sewage, no electricity, and no gas. It's a potential health disaster. And the mosquitoes are swarming. An estimated 40,000 Galvestonians had chosen to stay in the city.



Today the Mayor initiated a "Look and Leave" policy for all those Galvestonians who had evacuated, so that they could at least examine their property to try and assess what would need to be done.

The evacuees have been clamoring to know when they could return. Finally, the Mayor relented, and when word got out, there was a massive crush of cars trying to reach Galveston on I-45, the only way in at the current time. All those who returned had to show I.D. to be allowed on the island and had to leave again by 6pm.

By 4:30pm, there were a couple of thousand cars stalled on I-45. There was no way they were going to even make it to Galveston by 6pm. People began running out of gasoline, and that is something that is already in very short supply.

Finally, the Mayor decided the idea was not going to work and canceled it, forcing hundreds of people to turn around before they'd even gotten to Galveston. No telling what they're going to try for Wednesday, but some people simply pulled off the roads, planning to sleep in their cars overnight to be able to get to the island early in the morning. But then the Mayor suspended the plan. So they may wake up and find out that they can't get back on the island. Whatta mess.

This was a monster storm. But the aftermath is becoming worse, much worse, than the actual storm itself.

This is something that is relatively under-reported in an approaching storm. While the media is preoccupied with wind speeds, forward motion, storm tracks and warnings, they really do not emphasize very much what to expect AFTER a monster storm hits you.

You should expect to lose power for a number of days.
You should have plenty of bottled water and ice.
You should fill your bathtubs with water to use for flushing toilets.
You should have a generator and know how to use it.
If your local authorities suggest that you evacuate, EVACUATE!

@@@@

There is an animation of Ike's path here. That sucker just cuts right through Galveston and Houston. Thank goodness (for Houston) that Galveston is a "barrier island."

I must sleep now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scary

The winds are howling outside.
The house creaks and groans.
The power of nature is humbling.

We walked out on the roof in the now-dark evening and were staggered by the wind. But still no rain! There could be any sort of debris being whipped around in those winds. Suddenly, a small scrap of metal comes flying at you and severs your aorta. Ah, fate!


We live in a unique area. In Southeast Texas, it can flood and not even rain a drop. The low barometric pressure of the hurricane squishes the ocean waters ahead of it, pushing it up well in advance of the eye crossing land. It pushes water into the bay and the bayous, producing flooding while not a drop has fallen from the sky.

I guess I shouldn't be so amazed at floods with no rain. It happens to cities and towns along major rivers all the time. Although they may not get any rain, they may suffer from massive rains upstream that have to move downstream. But here, it hasn't even rained upstream. Freaky.

Galveston didn't "sink" into the Gulf. The level of the Gulf increased enough to flood the city. And that's beFORE the storm surge hits.

It's a veritable tsunami!

One can only marvel at the ferocity and randomness of nature, and it's utter indifference to humanity.

All this is before the worst winds are supposed to hit. Yike!

Hopefully more later.

Ike path update

It's projected to travel right up I-45?! Hey, that's where WE live!

Fuck.

Run from the water. Hide from the wind.

Looks like the storm has not strengthened very much - still a Cat 2. If it gets no stronger than a Cat 3, we're going to stay home and ride it out, as are both of our neighbors.

Our home is around 53' above sea level, so we're not in any of the three evacuation zones (A, B, or C). We're not worried about the storm surge at the house, but this four-story townhome sticks out above the tree line and above any building in the area, so, we're a little exposed. It never floods here, but we may be exposed to higher winds. Mixed blessing.

Heard one Reliant Energy spokeswoman say that power could be out for up to two weeks after the storm. Yikes! If that looks like it's going to happen, we'll leave town and stay with friend for awhile. I think. Who knows. It's been a long time since we've been in a disaster like this.

Back in 1983, we stayed home when Hurricane Alicia came to visit, dropping 23" of rain and blowing roofs off all over town. During the height of that storm, we had our chimney ripped from the roof and blown wayyyyy down the street. And, hey, there's a hole in the roof and the rain is pouring in!!

Shortly after that, fortunately, the eye of Alicia passed directly overhead, and the winds became calm. I walked outside, looked up, and there was this large ring of blue, blue sky above us, surrounded by angry clouds. So freakin' eerie. I had just enough time to scramble up onto the roof and nail down some plastic over the hole in the roof where the chimney was. I was working furiously. No more than about a minute after I'd finished and gotten off the roof, the winds began screaming from the other direction. If it had taken me any longer to patch the roof, I might have been blown right off of it.

I hope that doesn't happen again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Yike! It's Hurricane Ike!

This monster is drawing a bead on our area. The current forecast is for winds of over 100 mph in the downtown area.

Guaranteed, we will lose electricity for an unknown period of time.
Our company is letting us go home at noon Thursday, and no work on Friday. Galveston is evacuating, as are most that live on the coast. The roads are clogged and some stations are running out of gas. Many stores have run out of supplies already. A storm surge of 10-25' is expected, which would wipe out quite a few homes in the area.

It's times like these, I wish I was religious. Almost.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We are a little smart-er today

After what seemed like an absurd length of time to wait for a car, we finally drove to Sugar Land, TX to pick up our smart ForTwo.


Seems like a bad time to be getting a new car right now, what with the economy crashing around our heads and the Republicans threatening to steal yet another Presidential election, but the car finally arrived, and either we had to come and get it or let it be sold to someone else. Smart?


Only time will tell.
After waiting for one for 15 months, we decided we'd go ahead and take it. Now, if we had become unemployed since we'd ordered it, someone else might be driving it off the lot instead of us. The car is almost microscopic, and yet it feels very roomy inside. Indeed, one of my wife's co-workers is 6'4" tall, and even HE fit in the car with headroom to spare. OK, so he couldn't stretch his legs ALL the way out. Whattaya want?

It's got plenty of juice for such a small engine (it's a three-cylinder, 1.0 liter, 61 cu. in. engine - haha). But, hey, it's built by Mercedes, and they know a thing or two about cars.


We now have three transportation options: the Lexus, for road trips and those long, long drives out to the suburban malls (geez, when is the last time we did THAT?!); the smart ForTwo, for driving back-and-forth to work, especially on bad weather days; and my Genuine Buddy scooter, which I will use to commute to work on decent weather days.

I love that 'lil Buddy. So far, I'm averaging 78 MPG.


Ultimately, we want to add a fourth option: bicycles. But if we tried to commute to work on a bike, I'm afraid we'd be too sweaty when we finally got to work, unless it was freezing cold outside, and then we wouldn't want to ride the bike anyway. Neither of our employers provides showers or a gym on-site. Boo-hoo.

I understand they're making more and more bikes with a motor assist these days....


Speaking of getting wet, we have a large hurricane, Ike, headed our way. We're at that point, almost....should we stay or should we go? We will probably stay, since we are ~ 53' above sea level here.

But, oh yeah, the smart car. It's awesome. And it has a nice face. And a soul-patch!



Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bob Herbert - Hold Your Heads Up

(no comment is necessary)


Hold Your Heads Up
By BOB HERBERT
Published: September 8, 2008

Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?

Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination.

Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

So there was Hillary Clinton, of all people, sponsoring legislation to ban flag-burning; and Barack Obama, who once opposed the death penalty, morphing into someone who not only supports it, but supports it in cases that don’t even involve a homicide.

Anyway, the Republicans were back at it last week at their convention. Mitt Romney wasn’t content to insist that he personally knows that “liberals don’t have a clue.” He complained loudly that the federal government right now is too liberal.

“We need change, all right,” he said. “Change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington.”

Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know. Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals — from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers — the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today.

There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.

Civil rights? Women’s rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.

The liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance, both of which were contained in the original Social Security Act. Most conservatives despised the very idea of this assistance to struggling Americans. Republicans hated Social Security, but most were afraid to give full throat to their opposition in public at the height of the Depression.

“In the procedural motions that preceded final passage,” wrote historian Jean Edward Smith in his biography, “FDR,” “House Republicans voted almost unanimously against Social Security. But when the final up-or-down vote came on April 19 [1935], fewer than half were prepared to go on record against.”

Liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Medicare and Medicaid. Quick, how many of you (or your loved ones) are benefiting mightily from these programs, even as we speak. The idea that Republicans are proud of Ronald Reagan, who saw Medicare as “the advance wave of socialism,” while Democrats are ashamed of Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative genius made this wonderful, life-saving concept real, is insane.

When Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law in the presence of Harry Truman in 1965, he said: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.”

Reagan, on the other hand, according to Johnson biographer Robert Dallek, “predicted that Medicare would compel Americans to spend their ‘sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in America when men were free.’ ”

Scary.

Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.

Humiliation imposed by custom and enforced by government had been the order of the day for blacks and women before men and women of good will and liberal persuasion stepped up their long (and not yet ended) campaign to change things. Liberals gave this country Head Start and legal services and the food stamp program. They fought for cleaner air (there was a time when you could barely see Los Angeles) and cleaner water (there were rivers in America that actually caught fire).

Liberals. Your food is safer because of them, and so are your children’s clothing and toys. Your workplace is safer. Your ability (or that of your children or grandchildren) to go to college is manifestly easier.

It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned.

Self-hatred is a terrible thing. Just ask that arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.

Liberals need to get over it.

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Amen!