Trip to the Outhouse–Blogging, Four Years and Counting . . . and It All Started with Hurricane Ike and Matthew Mitcham

Matthew Mitcham, having fun, before the start of the 2012 London Olympics (photo @matthew_mitcham)

It’s hard to believe that four years have gone by since I first started this blog.  It’s doubtful that I would have put in this much continued effort were it not for two big topics that I blogged about back in 2008, the devastating Hurricane Ike, which passed through southeast Texas, and gay Australian diver, Matthew Mitcham, who was a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.

There’s not that much evidence of the extensive damage that Hurricane Ike caused, even when you head down to hard-hit Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula.  Galveston, though still trying to recover population numbers, is once again bustling with out-of-state tourists and day-trippers from nearby Houston, who are attracted by the warm water, great restaurants, and new entertainment venues.  If you take the ferry and cross to Bolivar Peninsula, you pass by new sub-divisions of beachhouses, most of which rise high off the ground to protect them from rising water.

When it comes to the second topic, Matthew Mitcham is back, once again competing in olympic diving, this time in London.   After winning his gold medal in the 10 meter platform dive, Mitcham, at age 20, became one of the most–if not the most–well-known out gay athletes in the world.  For some so young, being such a worldwide celebrity might have been a heavy load to carry.  However, Mitcham, as athlete, activist, and product spokesperson, has worn all of his hats well, and once again is back competing in the London 2012 Olympics.

While this blog attracted many readers because of my telling of the events happening to me personally and that of Houston during Hurrican Ike and the days after, thank goodness there has not been another hurricane that has headed our way in these past four years. 

On the other hand, my blogs about Mitcham’s victory in the Beijing 2012 Olympics still bring readers to this site, showing that he’s still–if not even more–popular.   I still admire Matthew Mitcham, not only because he’s such an amazing athlete and role model, but also that in spite of his célébrité, he has been able to keep a good sense of himself and just be a normal early-20s guy.

Check the early posts (2008) for more about Hurricane Ike and Matthew Mitcham on this blog.  Also a good way to keep up with Matthew Mitcham is through Twitter (https://twitter.com/matthew_mitcham), where he posts lots of photos.

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Summertime and the Feelin’ Is . . .

Tomatoes from my garden–I had quite a variety of shapes and sizes. The dark red one on the right is a Cherokee Purple, and they are some of the most delicious tomatoes I’ve tasted in a long time. There are not that many tomatoes left on the vines, though this recent bout of rain and cooler weather may help for more to set on. If the hot temperatures come back, the tomatoe season may be over.

It’s summer, and I definitely haven’t been blogging much.  I can find many excuses:

  • Working outside more
  • Canning veggies and barbequeing
  • Using the netbook while watching TV (and difficult to blog on netbook)
  • Just being lazy with all this rain
  • Reading on the Nook I recently got (no one can say I get in on new technology too early)

I’m definitely missing writing, but I guess other things have just gotten more emphasis as of late.  These photos show a bit of what’s been going on.

 

Tomatoes and pickled beans–These are just some of the jars of vegetables that I’ve canned this some from what’s come from my garden. Pickled beans are a family tradition. From the fresh tomatoes, I’ve canned also canned hot salsa and tomato sauce.

My backyard one Saturday morning–The hose is evidence that this is before all the rain started. It’s a peaceful place to enjoy coffee and try to read something on the new Nook. I say “try” because there are too many plants to tend or better yet just sit and enjoy the morning.

Yesterday’s rain–The rain guage showed 2.40 inches yesterday. With what has come down today, I estimate between 8 and 10 inches has fallen at my place in northwest Harris County since noontime this past Sunday.

 

Happy LGBT Pride 2012, Houston!

Although various gay pride events have been going on most of the month, today, Saturday, June 23rd is the big day.

The Pride Festival takes place from 1-7 PM on Lovett and Waugh.  If those streets are unfamiliar, if you go to Westheimer and Montrose, you can’t miss finding all the booths and other entertainment.

The one-of-a-kind night parade begins at 8:15 PM starting near Woodhead and heads down Westheimer into the heart of Montrose.  The parade is always amazing, but parking can be a nightmare, so go early and beware of no-parking zones, where cars are certain to be towed.

Catch more about Houston Pride 2012 here.

New Little Camera Given Its First Test on the Dog Walk

Right out of the box--a none-too-big one at that--my M532 is a cool blue. The pic was taken with my old camera, a Nikon P100.

I used to have a good little digital camera which I used for photos on my blog.  It was a nice touch-screen gadget, but after a bounce or two on the ceramic tile floor, “it no worky good.”  When I looked for a replacement, I thought I’d better myself and went for a bigger Nikon–not one of those PROfessional type ones, but definitely too big for a jeans pocket.  I like the Nikon (P100); I even took a class to learn a bit more.  Even so, I missed having a camera I could carry with me anywhere, and, I just use my cell phone as a phone.  I know it can take photos, but I’ve never been into using it that way.  So, I’ve  been hankering for awhile for another small camera.

The other day Best Buy had an online sale, and I saw this Kodak M532 would be coming down to $59.99 that night.  There’s a Best Buy store just down the road, so I decided to go there to check out the instore pricing, but they don’t stock that camera; however, cameras with similar specs of other brands were significantly higher, so when 12:00 AM came around, I hit the “buy” button.

This afternoon, after doing some other running-around (yeah, I still have a few vacaction days left), I spied the small box on my front porch, where the UPS driver had left it.  Multi-tasker, I am not, but I opened the box as I munched on a late KFC combo (late–I mean the time, not as in “dead”), all the while trying to keep track a break-up lawsuit on The People’s Court (I’ve got to get my fill of daytime TV before I go back to work).

When dog-walk time came, I got Annie leashed up for our usual walk around then neighborhood and stuck the little Kodak in my pocket.  On the way, I took a few shots, and here are the results.  Though, the small lens does have some limitations, I like the clarity of the pictures.  For 60 bucks, this camer was a good buy, maybe not best buy, though I did buy it at Best Buy.  (Yeah, lotsa people get a little punchy at midnight, which is what it is right now.)

Annie at the top of the stairs debates about going for a walk. (This photo makes me wonder about the flash on this little Kodak.)

This is only a small part of the agapanthus in my favorite yard of the neighborhood. I like my own yard, but there is still a lot of work to do before it can compete with this one.

When you look at the people, my neighborhood appears very diverse, but no matter the ethnicity, many seem very conservative.

On short walks, these crape myrtles at the entrance of the subdivision are our destination. They are at their best with the heat of summer.

Early Days of Spring–When You Can Say, “This is what it’s all about.”

Homemade meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, and a salad with lettuce, arugula, and green onion straight from the garden. Can you beat this for Sunday lunch?

Today is one of those nearly perfect days that we get here in southeast Texas, usually in early spring.  The blue sky is filled with puffy clouds that keep the temperature mild as they intersperse shade onto the St. Augustine grass of the back yard.  With all the good rains we’ve had, the vegetable garden, the flowers in the pots and beds, and lawn are all trying their hardest to grow, even though the chickweed is fighting to outdo them.

After attempting to thwart some of the chickweed’s successes, I came back into the house and put together one of those old Sunday favorite meals:  meatloaf and scalloped potatoes.  I should have invited someone to share it all with, but I hadn’t thought far enough in advance to do that.  When it was time to eat,  I went back to the garden and cut some lettuce, arugula, and a green onion to go into a salad.  I’ll make lunches to take to work with all the leftover meatloaf and potatoes;  Marie Callender would be jealous.

Now that I’ve found all the various documents, this might be the day to set myself to doing my taxes.  Notice that I did say “might.”  (I hope you enjoy the tour that follows.)

Peas, lettuce, arugula, green onion, pole beans fill this end of my little garden behind the garage. At the other end are about 10 tomato plants and a holdover from last year, a hot Italian pepper. On the sunny side of the garage I have four more tomatoes in containers. The dog is not planted, but does like to be in photos.

The peas that I planted in mid-January are just starting to produce.

This ruellia and wandering jew require little care but add a lot of color to a corner of the patio.

My lack of patience is to blame for there not being a buzzing honey bee looking for nectar in this blossom of a large salvia that I planted last year and which withstood the drought.

This burst of color comes from a cleome that seeded itself right at the edge of the patio.

Another Weekend of Rainy Weather, But Really, Who Can Complain?

Because this pot retains so much rain water, the flowers on this kalanchoe have turned a more piercing red than usual and the leaves and stems are also turning red.

Am I the only one who thinks that time change days frequently have some kind of inclement weather that helps add to the confusion?  I woke up to light pings of rain drops hitting the window.  When I could no longer ignore Annie’s staring at me from only a few inches away from my face, I got up to take her out. 

By this time, the shower had just about ended.  Slogging through the wet grass, I found .40 of rain in the gauge to add to the 2.60, which had accumulated from Friday afternoon through Saturday.  After the long drought of last summer and fall, a rainy weekend is still something to enjoy.

All the plants–trees, grass, garden vegetables, and, for sure, the weeds–are making up for lost time.  The pine trees in my neighborhood are thick with baby cones.  The verbena in my south bed are lush with purple and pale blue blossoms. 

When it comes to my little garden, I’m sure I’ve over-planted this year, because with all this good moisture, every little sprout wants to grow.  The peas are climbing the menagerie of trellises and string I’ve put up.  The lettuce, though a bit trampled by the rain will soon be ready for a first cutting.  Pole beans are popping out of the ground and stretching up.  Then there are the tomatoes.  I’ve set in more than any other year.  If all of them produce, I may have to start my own salsa company!

With all this gray weather, yesterday was a good day to cook and warm up the house.  I found a good buy on a pork roast, which I braised in the skillet and then set into a baking dish loaded with cabbage, potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, and a few spicy peppers (these last from my garden–planted last year).  In the skillet with the meat bits left from the braising, I reduced a pint of orange juice, which I then poured over the meat and veggies, before putting them into the oven to roast.  I have to say, the end result was enough to raise my eyebrows–great food for a gray weekend.

Misinterpreted Conservation Levels of Some Texas Reservoirs May Be the Reason the Experts Won’t Get Us Out of This Drought

I keep wondering if the drought is over for the longterm; there’s no question about the short term.  Despite all the wet, the U.S. Drought Monitor* has kept our area (Harris County) in the moderate and severe drought categories for some time.  This monitor, put out by a number of governmental agencies, uses many factors, such as climate changes, ground moisture, and lake levels, to indicate current and predict  future drought conditions.  With all this in mind, I have started to look at sites that indicate the levels and capacities of lakes across Texas since more rain has come.  (Check here if you too are interested.)

By looking at the charts, one can notice that lakes in the middle part of Texas are quite low, especially Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan.  However, many lakes in southeast Texas, which has had considerably more rain, are at 100% conservation level or nearing conservation capacity.  If the lakes are full and the ground is saturated, why are we still considered as being in a drought zone?

Possibly, some of those making these designations may only be looking at figures on lists and not looking at how some reservoirs function and the amount of water they generally contain.  For example, I live very near

The dike-like Addicks Dam extends for nearly 12 miles.

Addicks Reservoir, which is located west of Beltway 8 and north of I-10 in Harris County.  This reservoir, along with the corresponding Barker Reservoir on the south side of I-10, were built as flood protection for the city of Houston.  But to think of them as high dams with a lake behind would be a mistake.  The Addicks dam is more of a raised dike, L-shaped and running for about 12 miles.  Behind it are rough, wooded areas, some of which are swampy.  Highway 6 and Eldridge Parkway transverse this area from north to south, and Clay Road crosses it from east to west.  Bear Creek Park and Bear Creek Golf Club occupy some of the reservoir area.

An aerial view shows that behind the dam (highlighted in red) are wooded areas, not a water-filled reservoir.

Although there are some lower parts near the long dam that do hold water in the normally wet climate, the reservoir never reaches 214,150 acre-feet, which the Texas Water Development Board says is conservation capacity.  The reservoir’s record capacity was 60,190 acre-feet when nearly a foot of rain fell in the west Houston area.  After a 2009 storm, the exceptional amount of water in the reservoir covered park areas and roads as well as into homes in neighboring sub-divisions.  Even now, with the reservoir at only 3.5% of conservation capacity parts of Bear Creek part are inundated.

Despite the heavy rains that the gulf weather often brings, it would probably take some kind of Noah’s Ark storm to bring Addicks Reservoir up to conservation capacity.  If that were ever to happen, many of the developed areas surrounding it would probably flood too, because the terrain in is generally flat.  Therefore, if the climatologists who are determining the severity of this drought (now I would say so-called drought) are using the conservation capacity of Addicks Reservoir (and other similar reservoirs) as part of their calculations, they should look at them realistically, rather than just as a set of arbitrary numbers.

*A more optimistic view is shown by the Keetch-Byram Drought Index at Texas A&M’s Texas Weather Connection.