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

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Another medieval solution to a modern problem!  Just legalize it!

Drug catapult, 47 pounds of marijuana found at US-Mexico border

from the Statesman (Austin, TX)

Authorities dismantled a catapult used to launch drugs from Mexico to the United States last week after they found the contraption and marijuana during a patrol in Arizona.

The homemade catapult was mounted on the border fence
Border Patrol agents found the catapult on Feb. 10, east of the Douglas Port of Entry, authorities said. Agents were drawn to the area when they noticed several people retreat from the south side of the fence as they approached.
They found a catapult attached to the south side of the border fence and two bundles of marijuana with a combined weight above 47 pounds, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said in a news release.
Mexican authorities were called to investigate and seized the catapult. Border Patrol agents dismantled the catapult system.
Federal authorities have seen multiple drug operations including catapult systems to throw illicit substances over the border in recent years. Agents found 45 pounds of marijuana in 2011 after a remote video surveillance system caught smugglers preparing a catapult to launch the drugs into Arizona.
The catapult appeared to have been welded to the fence
Officials have also seen drugs shot over the border with "devices such as air-powered cannons," or dropped into the desert with "ultralight aircraft," according to The Associated Press.
Original, and here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

the wedding

My nephew Austin got married in early January 2017. They had a photographer, naturally, but they also took some video. They recently released the video and you can see it here, if you'd like. I am in there somewhere.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Oroville Dam

Rachel Maddow had an interesting piece on the gigantic Oroville Dam, which has developed a large gash in its spillway.

Now, the National Weather Service is issuing an evacuation alert for those living below the dam. Almost 200,000 people.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

SPI Birding & Nature Ctr

I finally visited the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center for the first time. Hopefully only the first time of many.

Nice building. Five-story observation deck, a huge outdoor balcony with tables and chairs, surrounded by trails, a butterfly garden, and nature, nature, nature.

It was a beautiful morning so I went to take one of the Guided Walks, offered daily and sometimes more than once a day.

I feel so fortunate to have this type of facility just up the island, within biking distance. 

Rose Ann was our guide on this one. She's an ex-teacher, but she added that teachers never really quit teaching, do they? She's also a Winter Texan, like most of the guides are, and they donate their time and experience.

Remember to bring your camera and binoculars, but if you forget the binocs, you can rent a pair for the day. And a cap or wide-brimmed hat will help keep the sun out of your eyes.

This place is truly awesome. Peaceful and educational. These kinds of signs are scattered throughout the Center.

There is over half a mile of these walkways over the water or land. Recycled plastic structure, no doubt, and weathered, but solid as a rock. With five blinds complete with benches to sit. Thank you!

Next time I will bring my Canon camera. This place is a photographers dream. Today I just had my phone, a Google Pixel. 

That blue heron didn't move a muscle for several minutes. Maybe he was keeping a close eye on the alligator just over thataways. I look forward to many more visits.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Smuggling is a way of life here in the Valley, and every week there is a story or two about another batch of marijuana or other drugs being confiscated at the border. By now, just about every method of smuggling has been tried, and no one knows how much gets across the border without detection. Where there is a will.....

Border officers find nearly 2 tons of weed camouflaged as limes

(CNN)At first glance, these limes look like a normal shipment of the green fruit. But they don't contain the citrus juice you would squeeze into your margarita on a hot summer day.
Instead the phony limes were packed full of marijuana. US Customs and Border Protection officers in Pharr, Texas, seized a total of 3,947 pounds of weed in the commercial shipment of key limes on January 30, officials said.
The truck hauling the "produce" crossed the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge along the Texas-Mexico border near the Gulf of Mexico. Over 34,000 of the fake fruit packages were discovered by an imaging inspection system and narcotics K-9 team.
"This is an outstanding interception of narcotics. Our CBP officers continue to excel in their knowledge of smuggling techniques, which allows them to intercept these kinds of attempts to introduce narcotics into our country," said Port Director Efrain Solis Jr. in a statement.
The drugs are valued at approximately $789,467, according to the US Customs and Border Protection statement. The case is under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.
This isn't the first time smugglers tried to use fake produce to bring drugs into the United States. Last year, agents found 2,493 pounds of marijuana stuffed into fake carrots at the same border crossing.

Monday, February 6, 2017

I Love SPI

Well, there IS recycling here on South Padre Island. We do indeed have a LITTLE bit of cardboard and paper (from the move). But no glass, which is curious.

Love SPI: Island launches cleanup campaign

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Spread the love.
Island leaders are asking the community to love the Island this Valentine’s Day by participating in its clean up campaign.
The city’s “I Love SPI” campaign, in partnership with Republic Services, also known as Allied Waste, is meant to help residents get involved in maintaining the Island’s natural beauty.

An extra brush and bulky item pick-up service will be added to accommodate additional brush collection.
The campaign will run through Feb. 13. Residents may place brush and bulky items at the front of their property for collection.
“I would like to thank those that have participated thus far and encourage everyone to take part in this wonderful program,” said Barry Patel, SPI mayor. “This helps to prepare our city for our peak season, where people flock to the Island to enjoy our beautiful beach.”
Island residents can take advantage and clear their yard and house of unnecessary debris.
Officials believe trimming trees and plants will spruce up the Island. Properties will look better and homes will be safer from brush fires and other hazards in preparation for the busy Spring Break season.
Residents are also asked to take care of mowing and trimming around fences, concentrating on the back of the properties during the campaign.
Island officials said participants in the campaign may be awarded an “I Love SPI” T-shirt and Milkweed seeds, to help promote Monarch Butterflies on the Island.
The “I Love SPI” campaign was introduced in 2012.
This year, the city is also encouraging residents to bring recyclable items to the regular recycling drop-off service held every Saturday from 8-11 a.m. at the Community Center at 4501 Padre Boulevard.
Recyclable items accepted include plastics, office paper, newspaper, cardboard, tin and aluminum.
During the “I Love SPI” campaign, the city will also be accepting tires to further help clean up the Island.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Fight My Liar

Let's turn to one of my favorite punster comics, Steve Bhaerman. He also goes by the pseudonym "Swami Beyondananda." He often chimes in on the political world.

Come On Baby, 
Fight My Liar -- Redux

"We have our first new age President.  For years, spiritual wannabes have talked about creating their own reality.  This guy actually does it.
-- Swami Beyondananda

In 2010, back when "alternative truth" and "fake news" were known by their proper name -- lies -- I wrote a blog post for OpEd News that got me in trouble with ... the left.  I called it "Come On Baby, Fight My Liar" and I compared the lies conservatives tell each other, with those liberals tell themselves.  It was back in the days when there actually was such a thing as a fact-checker that both sides at least tacitly paid attention to.
What I pointed out was how many of the viral emails sent out by my friends on the right in those days were simply "made up", and how many lies per square minute were told by Fox News.  At the same time (you can read the whole article here), having just returned from a Spiritual Progressives conference and recognizing the unwillingness of so many there to face America's war machine that had the nicey-nicey face of Barack Obama pasted over it, I called out the progressives for their lack of courage in facing heartless darkness.  I used the old story of the man on his hands and knees in a parking lot looking for something.  A stranger asks him what he is looking for.
"I lost my car keys."
"You lost your car keys in the parking lot?"

"No, I lost them in the bushes over there."
"Why are you looking for them here?"
"Oh, because there's more light here."
And then I wrote:
Hence, we have mainstream progressives searching for the keys to change in a well-lit parking lot, instead of the dark and thorny shrubbery. They may find ways to temporarily feel better, but ultimately they will continue to hold the current dysfunction in place, while continuing to hold on to the "moral superiority" of believing in change, while not being willing to do what it really takes to have that change.
I concluded that right wing folks like being lied to, but the left prefers lying to itself.
That didn't sit well, and I got "fired" from my nonpaying position as a writer for a progressive magazine.
So ... déja voodoo, here we are again.

Only this time the jackboot is on the other foot.  Instead of Obama's reassuring countenance, we have Donald Trump looking to use military force and the rule of "law" (i.e., legalized lawlessness) to impose his "reality" on the rest of us.
And ... the conversation of seven years ago is all the more pertinent today.
First, let's begin with "fake news" and "alternative facts".  This is the tried-and-(un)true method the right has used since the Newt Gingrich days to "fire up their base" in the basest of ways:  By feeding them information as "true" that will be automatically accepted as such because it conforms with what these people already believe.
Last Sunday, I attended a talk -- overfilled room, sold out -- by George Lakoff, the linguistics professor at Berkeley who has been talking to a wall (the Democratic Party "leadership") for at least twenty-five years about how people understand and make decisions through their feelings, and their subconscious minds -- not the logical rational information that the NPR crowd would like to imagine most people use.  Lakoff reiterated what my colleague Bruce Lipton says, that 98% of our mental processes are subconscious.  Consequently, it's these subconscious triggers that activate our decision-making process.  And every one of those "alternative facts", and toxic memes used by the Trump campaign (and by the Republicans in general since the Gingrich era) has had one intention -- to emotionally charge the people who already tend to agree with them.  Exaggerations?  Lies?  No problem.  If it "feels" true, good enough.
Progressives -- and the mainstream news -- tend to be more sophisticated about lies.
(Homework Alert:  By the way, have you watched that 12-part series from Oliver Stone, The Untold History of the United States?  If not, I strongly suggest that you do.  It's your homework in this course called "Regaining and Sustaining Rule of We the People", and is a prime tool in creating the great awakening required to overgrow our current shituation.)
Anyway, when we look back on all the perpetrations that occurred "behind our backs", it wasn't so much that publications like the New York Times printed "lies".  Rather it's what the Times DIDN'T print that enabled the perpetrations to proceed unchecked, AND ... equally important ... to perpetuate the progressive illusion of America as a progressive, benevolent force in the world.
A really excellent analysis of how the mainstream media (and the neoliberal pseudo-left) managed to "gently" keep us in the dark is this long piece by Jon Rappoport.
While Rappoport seems bought into the Breitbart / Trump / Drudge camp, the article is worth reading.  Here is a pertinent quote:
A decade ago, here is what a working reporter for a major paper told me: "We know what stories we can't cover. Nobody needs to prep us. Our editors know, too. Otherwise, they'd never get to be editors."
Rappoport's article -- and his audience -- point us both to how "the left got left and the right got right" in the 2016 election, and why we need to create an entirely new narrative, not from the left but from "deep center".  The phenomenon of "alt right" news was born of the mistrust a growing percentage of the population had of both the mainstream media and the liberal establishment.
When I wrote my original "Fight My Liar" piece in 2010, I warned that the progressives needed to begin acknowledging the darker truths that had been intentionally covered over the by media and the liberal establishment.  As a response, the publication I was writing for fired me for being a "conspiracy theorist".  Meanwhile, over those same years, conservatives unafraid to look the heart of darkness in the face began doing their own research, thanks to Breitbart et al.  Of course, that research given where it was coming from, was skewed in a particular way, and fit the impropaganda package the Steve Bannons of the world wanted to feed the populace.
What's important to note is this.  Because progressives were too quick to dismiss real evidence of deep, dark misdeeds as "conspiracies", the "con's piracies" (our stolen commonwealth by both the neocons and neolibs) are now fully in the driver's seat.
Now at a time when the media's credibility is at an all-time low (so far -- it could go lower), they have little to lose.  Instead of covering for the New York Times and CNN, we should encourage them not just to investigate Donald Trump, but to go deeper into the systematic corruption that led us to our current sorry state.  Imagine ... the "media" graduating from serving up babblum to the fearful and misguided, and actually becoming the "press" the First Amendment talks about.
While it doesn't seem likely at this polarized and contentious moment, our only way out and our only way forward involves awakening citizens from ALL SIDES to say it's time for "we the people" to part the "irony curtain", the invisible wall of impropaganda that has kept the American people out of the loop for six decades. 
This is the wall that must come down if we don't want that other one to go up.

May the farce be with you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

SPI 2nd bridge

The second bridge to South Padre Island is still in the works, but according to this vid, construction will begin in 2019 and be complete by 2022. Until this video, the latest word was construction would start in 2017 and be finished in 2019. 

Maybe #45 fired everybody from the agency that is supposed to approve this second causeway. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sea Turtle Inc expanding

Another good thing about South Padre...

Surely they wouldn't do this if they felt like the island was slipping beneath the waves, right?

Sea Turtle Inc. expansion starts

Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2017 10:45 pm

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — During the summer months, people pack the beach to watch the sea turtle hatchings shuffle their way to the water as the sun rises over the Gulf.
On Thursday, people gathered, too. But this was at sunset near the bay, and it was to celebrate a new but different future for the sea turtles.

The sun clearly was setting as the board of directors for Sea Turtle Inc. shoveled sand. During the process, they took a step closer to having a world-class facility to help turtles.
And it will happen quickly. Construction of this new multi-million state-of-the-art facility begins today near its current 5-acre site.
Phase 1 is expected to be completed in December.  The construction will consist of an amphitheater, a student center with indoor aquariums and additional parking.
“The expansion of the facility is worth $3.5 million, and very generous people and anonymous donors were helpful in raising the funds for the new facility,” said Jeff George, Sea Turtle Inc. executive director. The new facility is expected to accommodate 250,000 to 300,000 visitors per year.
Phase 2 will be a redesign of the current facility and will begin after the first phase is complete. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Jerry Wilson, Island resident. “They do a lot with injured see turtles, and the facility has been outgrown for some time.”
In 2016, Sea Turtles Inc. raised $2.1 million in donations. Annually, the facility draws in about 140,000 visitors, and there is no entry fee, just a request of a donation.
“We are proud that this is going to be the most attended Sea Turtle facility in the world,” George said. “Our vet clinic will be the most sophisticated sea turtle clinic in the world, and this is a big step from our little grassroots facility.”
Sea Turtle Inc. was founded in 1977 by Ila Fox Loetscher, better known as “The Turtle Lady of South Padre Island.” In 1999, Sea Turtle Inc. moved from Ila’s backyard into its current location at 6617 Padre Blvd. Originally, the organization was formed to aid in the protection and recovery of the endangered Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. Its mission has since expanded into three parts — education, rehabilitation and conservation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February stargazing

I can already see so much more of the night sky here on South Padre Island than I ever could while living in Houston. It's glorious, and rather spooky.

Hot Dust
The closest and brightest supernova in centuries flared to life in the night sky 30 years ago this month. In this composite image from several telescopes, massive clouds of dust fill the space around Supernova 1987a. [ALMA/NASA/et al]

Stargazing Summary
Venus and Mars remain steady companions in the early evening sky this month. Venus, the Evening Star, is the brighter of the two, with orange Mars staying just above it. One of the first signs of spring, the constellation Leo, begins poking its nose into the eastern evening sky, and clears the horizon by around nightfall at month's end.

More stargazing information

Radio Program Highlights
If you want to start hearing the StarDate program in your area, you can request a station to carry our program by emailing the request to

January 30-February 5: Moon meanderings. The Moon passes several bright points of light in the night sky this week, including the planets Venus and Mars, and the star Aldebaran, the "eye" of the bull. Join us for the Moon and its companions, plus much more.

February 6-12: Looking for neighbors. A spacecraft that's on its way to a rendezvous with an asteroid will search for other asteroids that share Earth's orbit around the Sun, and we'll have details. Join us for the search for Trojan asteroids and more, right here. 

February 13-19: Comets and centaurs. A comet is putting in a pretty good appearance in the evening sky this month, and we'll have details. We'll also talk about unstable asteroids in the realm of the outer planets. Join us for Comet Encke, centaurs, and much more.

February 20-26: Bright blast. The closest and brightest supernova in centuries flared to life in the night sky 30 years ago this week, and we'll tell you about its discovery, and what astronomers have learned about it. Join us for Supernova 1987A and more.

February 27-28: Climbing through time. A Mars rover is climbing up the side of a mountain, allowing it to see rock layers deposited early in the planet's history. Join us for Curiosity's climb through time, the discovery of radio waves from the Sun, and much more. 

Program schedule »

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Coming up in StarDate Magazine
In our next issue, we'll explain how studying sand dunes can teach us about winds and geology on Mars and Titan. We'll also bring you up to date on a new X-ray telescope soon to be launched to the International Space Station.

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and from

Many cultures have given distinct names to each recurring full moon. The names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. The Farmer's Almanac lists several names that are commonly used in the United States. The almanac explains that there were some variations in the moon names, but in general, the same ones were used among the Algonquin tribes from New England on west to Lake Superior. European settlers followed their own customs and created some of their own names.
This is when full moons will occur in 2017, according to NASA:
DateNameU.S. EastUTC
Jan. 12Wolf Moon6:34 a.m.11:34
Feb. 10Snow Moon7:33 p.m.00:33 (2/11)
Mar. 12Worm Moon10:54 a.m.15:54
Apr. 11Pink Moon2:08 a.m.07:08
May 10Flower Moon5:43 p.m.22:43
June 9Strawberry Moon9:10 a.m.14:10
July 9Buck Moon12:07 a.m.05:07
Aug. 7Sturgeon Moon2:11 p.m.19:11
Sept. 6Harvest Moon3:03 a.m.08:03
Oct. 5Hunter's Moon2:40 p.m.19:40
Nov. 4Beaver Moon12:23 a.m.05:23
Dec. 3Cold Moon10:47 a.m.15:47

Set your vacations now!!