Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Texas - The previous life of our guesthouse

An undated picture taken inside our guesthouse when it belonged to the local telephone company. This was on the back page of a newspaper, I hope to get a better picture from the local internet/phone supplier. On the bottom left you can see the plugs sticking out, that were pulled up and plugged into the correct number on the vertical panel.

Nearby is the replacement building, totally automatic except for cutting the grass.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Texas - Volcano bush in the early morning

Lespedeza liukiuensis 'Little Volcano' in bloom. We have not had this very long so will be interested to see how deciduous it is. Native to Japan.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Culture - The wonders of a free media

Saturday Night Live has been reborn in the Trump era, so much material for a satirical program. This video is a well crafted piece of art, so much packed into four minutes.

  • Anderson Cooper, an American journalist, television personality, and author, primary anchor of the CNN news show Anderson Cooper 360°
  • Kellyanne Conway, a political pundit and pollster, who is currently serving as Counselor to President Donald Trump

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Texas - Less mysterious construction

Update to Mysterious Construction

18 months later, and the building looks much better and is almost complete. It has been resurfaced in material acceptable to the city, and matches the other church building. The city communications with the church were never revealed, but seem successful.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Texas - Enchanted Forest after the flood

They were closed after being flooded, but now they back in business.  It is October and still hot and sunny.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Texas - Conversation at the car shop

I was waiting at the car dealership for my free service. A guy approaches dressed casually, with a measuring wheel, he sat down, he was waiting too. It seemed to me he was using it as a prop to start conversations, maybe he was, and it worked.

He had a home gutter installation company, but went to college to studied both catholic theology to be a priest, and accounting. He graduated and became an accountant, but did not like to work inside and with computers. He showed me his calendar, a sheet of paper.  He had fallen out with the catholic church too, and was more attracted to the episcopal church, the american version of the church of England.

He takes vacation in November, when business is light, and had been to Canterbury cathedral in the UK. He said there are only 450 active members!  I told him the UK is not very religious, more catholics go to church than protestants.

His gutter install and repair business suited him, an outdoor job and that used his accounting skills. I asked him if he every fallen from a two-story building.

"YES," he said.

It had happened earlier this year he had slipped on gravel on the roof, fell two stories, tried to grab the gutter, hit the house, landed on a hedge that poked him in the ribs, and then hit the ground and his head on a log edging the flowerbed. He was unconscious. The homeowner was not at home. While he was in hospital his phone rang and he got his wife to answer it.  It was the homeowner wanting to know why he had not finished the job, the homeowner had no idea what had happened. The guy said he will finish the job in 3 weeks, and he did.

Now he no longer gets on the roof, does everything from a ladder. The downside is he is up and down the ladder many more times, 20 times per house, and in the Texas summer it is exhausting. Having four workers allows him to spread the tiring work between them, so they can work through the whole day, removing, making, and installing gutter, adding downpipes, etc. He burns 5000 calories a day.

He intimately knows the weather, it is critical to what he does everyday. He can only work when the wind is less that 22 mile per hour. The most difficult issue is the humidity, the sweat and inherent poor visibility.

He said he pays his workers $200/day but he recently lost most of them as they can make more money installing sheetrock in houses that have been flooded. He charges 30% more than his competitors but said he uses good material, and all his people are insured. Most of the work comes when it is raining, he visits each home, and gives the homeowner a quote for what needs to be done. A percentage of them call back accepting the work.

The dealership took far to long to do a simple service, but then I would never had this conversation with a stranger.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Balkans - Travelling across borders and currencies

Travelling from Albania to Italy there are a variety of border checks exiting and entering countries. Some border crossings were "lubricated" with a case of bottled water, some with a few beers, until we got to the border with Croatia where it was done properly, no bribes, everyone's passport checked, we were entering the EU. However, Croatia is not yet in the Schengen Zone, so we had another passport check entering Slovenia.

Albania uses its own currency as expected, Montenegro uses the Euro, although it is not a member of the EU and not approved to use the Euro. Croatia uses its own currency but is a member of the EU, and Slovenia is a member of the EU, and uses the Euro. And is in the Schengen zone!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Slovenia - Bled Lake and Island

There are no motorized boats on the lake, you can rent a row boat, or for 14 Euros be rowed, Venetian-style but with two oars.

Our rower used a traditional boat built by his father.  It held 15 people. It took about 20 minutes to reach the island and we had about an hour on the island.  A physically demanding way to earn money. They had had scull races the week before and the lake was still laid out with floating lane markers.