Friday, December 28, 2012

Road Trip to Lhasa

A recent article in the Economist featured a new craze in China, people driving from Beijing to Lhasa.  Just because they can.  This is akin to climbing a mountain.  See Economist Article .

The USA is the land of the long road trip, and there are many stories.  One couple ride motorbikes every year Houston to New England. They stop for gas and snacks.   Another couple have two houses, in Sugar Land and Salem, Massachussetts.  They can fly, but prefer to drive the 3000 km, between the two.  Non-stop, no time to smell the roses.

And I once spoke to a family in a Walmart in Alaska.  They drove the 6000 km to Alaska from, I think, Ohio, and lived in a tent for two winters until they could afford a home.  When they started out they did not know their teenage daughter was pregnant.

My longest road trip was to Windsurfing Championships in 1981, for Windsurfing Fleet 88.  We borrowed a van and hitched the trailer to carry the boards and gear.  We drove Dallas, Texas to Grand Haven, Michigan non-stop.  But there were five of us and we took turns driving, co-piloting and sleeping.  It may have taken 18 hours.  It took a little longer than it should as we had a flat in the middle of nowhere in Arkansas.  The spare was flat too and we had no pump.  

We were young and foolish.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Opening Day, 2004 July 25
A Hindu temple only two km from home, in Stafford, an open air temple built in 2003/4.  Made of limestone from Turkey and marble from Italy, carved in India, and then assembled outside of Houston.

Men enter on the left, and the women on the right, but they can co-mingle inside.  And like a mosque, no shoes can be worn inside.  The temple is closed at fixed times during the day to feed the deities.  They are vegetarian.

For more pictures see

And if you are in town don't miss the "Diwali Family Night and Fireworks" in November.  Unlike all the cities around that ban non-professional fireworks, the city of Stafford allows anyone to set off fireworks, and people bring their own fireworks to the temple grounds and share.  See  Diwali Fireworks 2012


Thursday, December 20, 2012

US Metrication - A shovel ready project

The USA once tried to go metric, the Metric Conversion Act was passed in 1975, and abandoned in in 1982.  There is a little creep, wine and soda are in ml and litres. The whole world is metric, bar three countries Liberia, Burma, and America.  Not good company.  Time to join the world.

America is a huge economy of 315 million people, importing and exporting.  There are real costs in being different, having to support double labeling, having to make products in different exports dimensions to the home market.  And the embarrassing incident of burning up the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1998, as one contractor used non-metric units.

This is a Shovel Ready project, to simulate the US economy, things to do:
  • Laws to be rewritten 
  • Government webs sites to update
  • Road signs to km/hr
  • Factory changes to make different sized products
  • Training people
The world would love us, and it would be good for us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bayou Bend - A gem

Bayou Bend is part of the Houston Museum of Arts, a large 24 room historic house, surrounded by a beautiful landscaped grounds.  Best seen in the spring when the Azaleas and tulips bloom.  Finished in 1928 it became the home of Ima Hogg, daughter of the Texas Governor, and her two brothers.  She donated the house and contents in 1957 to the Houston Museum of Arts.

Ima was an avid collector, and lived to 92.  She died in London on a collecting expedition.

The rooms are staged to a specific time in American history, and one of my favorite rooms is the Turquoise room.

The house, despite its size, is very comfortable and livable.  Either side of the front door hallway are two dining rooms.  The one on the left has beautiful gold and white walls, and was used for dinner for the attendees of the G7 summit held in 1990.  

Here sat George H Bush, Helmut Kohl, Maggie Thatcher, Francois Mitterrand, Brian Mulroney, Giulio Andreotti, Toshiki Kaifu, and Jacques Delors.  Around this table they wined and dined and discussed the state of the world, and how to fix it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

TUTS - Theater Under The Stars

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell and a host of others

Wow, this was excellent, more than two hours of good verses evil, flying, singing and dancing.  The bad guys were Captain Hook and the pirates, and the Mermaids.  The good guys were the Indians and the Lost Boys, and the crocodile with a clock in its stomach.  And Peter Pan.

The audience hissed and cheered, the kids and adults laughed at different times, and every one had a good time.  Reality was on hold.

And who are the Lost Boys?

"They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to the Neverland to defray expenses. .......  girls, you know, are much too clever to fall out of their prams.” 

See the video clip:

The author of Peter Pan was J M Barrie, a Scotsman.  What was he smoking?  Something really good.

The star of the show was Cathy Rigby, just turned 60, who convincingly played Peter Pan, a young boy.   She somersaulted, sung, acted, played drums, talked to Tinkerbell, flew, and was in almost every scene. Impressive.

All things are not what they seem

Seen in New Ulm's local, and only store.

A big work truck pulls up with a generator in the back.  A big guy goes in.  To get a six-pack of beer, or a Lottery ticket, or beef jerky?  No, a quart of Bluebell ice cream.

A minute later, a second big work truck pulls up, and another big guy gets out, pets his little dog, leaves the window half down, and enters the store.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Afforestation in Israel

Someone who plants a tree has confidence in the future

Israel has devoted huge resources over many decades to planting trees and shrubs to landscape the semi-arid land.  Everywhere I traveled around Jerusalem, areas are landscaped,with brown drip-irrigation tubes.

This cutting beside the road shows new trees planted on ledges cut into the rock.  The ledges capture and concentrate any rainfall that falls, and is supplemented with drip irrigation.

In the picture below, in the foreground the area is planted, on the hill in the medium distance the planting is more recent, and the hill in the distance is barren.  Israel is one of the few countries that actually has more trees than 50 years ago.

Surprising, for a country so new; in such a precarious position.

Too much money

Human nature is a scary thing

If someone wins the lottery, they can become very rich, and it may seem to be a good thing.  But there is a dark side.  Other people, relatives, friends and strangers, feel they have "right" to some of this money.  You are a target.

So what can you do?  Not play the lottery.   Or if you do, be anonymous, not exactly easy, and leave the country.  

The problem is the money is easy, you did not have to work hard for it, so it does not seem real.  Heiress Gloria Vanderbilt is quoted to have said that the money she made herself, from Vanderbilt Jeans, meant so much more to her than the millions she inherited.  It was real money.

Countries are the same, they are after all run by humans.  Oil rich countries, petrostates, tend to be dictatorships and dysfunctional, the smaller or richer ones tend to buy off their population.  Oman in the Middle East is rather an exception, a dictatorship, but little oil and an educated population.  It was hardly impacted by the Arab Spring.  Even Norway lost its way early on when the oil money flowed it, but was already a prosperous and educated country, and has turned around and now has a huge sovereign wealth fund.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alexandria buggy rides

Alexandria, Egypt is a coastal city on the Mediterranean. Home of the new library and the Corniche.  I have been there three times, and each time it seems worse off than before.  It is possibly a good place for a day tour, but you do not need to go back.

Since the Arab Spring the tourists have become scarce and the street sellers more desperate.  The guys that run the buggy tours have become unbelievably rude.  They will not take no for an answer and will follow you along the street pestering you, and finally you have to scream in their face NO! or LA!

Two women told me their story,

"We were not going to take a buggy ride, but they pestered us so much, we relented.   We settled on a price of $15 for an hour.  So we drove around the town, and everything was fine until we got back to the port entrance.  The price had then risen to $50 and an extra $30 for his helper.

We settled on $50.  And we walked away.  Then I realized I had left my handbag in the back of the buggy.  I found a port official, and he walk with us to the buggy driver who was still there.  My handbag was still in the back, and the driver held onto it, asking for a further $10 for a 'finder's fee.'"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A small world in 1600

In the Tower of London is a series of state-of-the-art suits of armor, and one in particular stands out.  A Japanese suit of armor that was presented to King James 1st by Tokugawa Hidetada in 1613; not the boring European steel plate kind of armor, but a fancy lacquered leather and steel suit

A few years later in 1620 in North America, the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and established a settlement.  And they met a local Indian, Tisquantum, who is said to have greeted them in English.  Not only could he speak his own language, but English and Spanish too. Here they were, in the middle of nowhere, in this "unsettled" land with a multilingual local.

And the story gets better.  Tisquantum had been kidnapped in 1614 by Thomas Hunt working for his majesty's navy looking for slaves.  Hunt tried to sell Tisquantum and other slaves in Spain for 20 GBP each.  Some local friars bought some of slaves including Tisquantum and taught them Christianity.   He then manged to get to England, and worked for a ship builder.  He sailed to Newfoundland in 1617 in an expedition, probably as an interpreter, and returned to England in 1618.  And in 1619 sailed again, finally to his home, only to find everybody in his tribe had died perhaps with smallpox.  

The following year, 1620 he met the Pilgrims, already educated in Europe.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Yasser Arafat formally of Ramallah

Tomorrow the body of Yasser Arafat will be exhumed, to see if he was murdered by Polonium 210.  Swiss researches had found traces of Polonium in his clothes; Al Jazeeera reports Arafat's gym bag, untouched for eight years, is secured in an evidence locker in France. Po-210 is the same substance that killed Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006.  Arafat died quickly and mysteriously two years earlier in November 2004.

The story seems damming, the Po-210 isotope is rare, very poisonous, and a  half-life of only 138 days; from "By mass, polonium-210 is around 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide"

The Russians are suspected in killing Litvinenko, and have the means to make the Po-210, and even used it in the 70s as a heat source in their Lunar rovers.  But who killed Arafat?   The Israeli's?  They have the ability to make it, and perhaps the motive.  Did the Russian's do a copycat murder?

It could have been a perfect crime, such poisoning is hard to trace.  In the case of Litvinenko's death the investigation is said to have had a lucky break.  But now medical authorities know to look for Po-201 poisoning in such circumstances.

Life is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A better museum

In the Paris Louvre museum is the new Islamic wing, opened this year in September.  The space has a wonderful curvy ceiling, with natural light from the courtyard, on two stories, and is laid out in a traditional way.

It contains the artifacts that have survived through history displayed in cabinets, group together, in isolation of their original use or location.

To my sensibilities, what would be so much better, is to construct a room, or area, to represent a moment in space and time.  Most of the contents would be of today, perhaps in muted color or grey, but would show the historical vases, carpets, etc. in context of how they were used. We have a wealth of research into past cultures, and the display would represent this knowledge, and can be refined as more knowledge and artifacts are discovered.

This would take more space and money to display a few objects, but it would allow a museum to have a interesting, and evolving display, with few objects.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Live Oaks and Dead Folks

Held every year, the Columbus, Texas Library hosts a nighttime cemetery tour where actors stand by their tombstone and tell you their story and how they came to an sticky end, usually involving the local bar, corruption, and gunfire.
Shaner Neiser as ghost of  Matti
Pinchback Burford 1856-1929

Bill Mosely as ghost of
Charles Seymour 1863-1909

The tombstone of Ike Towell (1849-1934) is of interest, and his story, some of which may be true is as follows.  He was sheriff of Columbus and late in life, after having a stroke, he had a tombstone erected, went to see his friends one last time, and committed suicide with "ether."  His death certificate is said to say "He died of chloroform applied by Towell."

From his memorial, from

"My religion consists of doing right and loving justice. I affirm that all men should tell the truth and pay their debts. I do not believe in any God, devil, ghost or savior and I have opposed tobacco, whiskey, gambling, lying and stealing practically all my life. If any one of the clergy ever calls my name after death I insist that he speak the truth about me, a thing I have never known a preacher to do about a dead disbeliever. The clergy have never been able to bribe me with the promise of a beautiful home in a fictitious heaven nor bluff me by their everlasting punishment in a hell of fire and brimstone."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Incident at Rodin Musee in Paris

It was a cold, raw day, and waiting outside the ladies room was a professional photographer, in black with all the gear.  Waiting, and waiting.

Inside the ladies room was his gay assistant fixing the model's skimpy dress, under her dress fluffing it up.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hand Prints in Port Fuad, Egypt

Yes, this is real blood.

But probably from a sheep or cow.  And a sign of good luck, but not for the animal.  At a time of a festival, such as Eid, or when opening a new business, an animal is slaughtered for food and the blood used to make the hand prints.

Has their been any double-blind experiments to see if this is effective?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shrine of the Báb in Haifa

Gardens from below
The city of Haifa, Israel rises straight up from the Mediterranean and bisecting the town are the gardens of the shrine of Báb, laid out in the 1990s to surround the mausoleum.  A world heritage site.  These are perhaps the most pristine well manicured gardens I have ever seen.  No wilting plants, no gravel out of place, no weeds.  The shrine itself inside is simple and houses the remains of Bab brought from Iran in 1909.


Gardeners taking a break

Gardens from above

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Musee de Montmartre

The Musee of Montmartre is on 12/14 Rue Cortot, Paris, one of the backstreets of  Montmartre. A gem of a museum.  The current exhibit covers the period of 1880-1910, a wild, bawdy, and innovative period of the Black Cat cabaret. The displays are over multiple floors of the 17th century building.

To me the most amazing painting is a huge oil painting, 2m by 3.8m, by Adolpe Willette. You really need to see the real thing.  It has a great feeling of movement, and includes a girl riding a black cat, a stagecoach, a string of girls in the sky, a skull as the moon, a Windmill, the Moulin Rouge, and a guy with a gun.

And behind the museum is a vineyard, on a north facing slope in the middle of the city of Paris.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde

Robert Louis Stephenson, novelist, was born in Edinburgh Scotland in 1850.  162 years later his work lives on.  His book, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, is now recast as a dark modern musical at the Hobby Center, Houston.

The adaption is inspired, with plenty of time kill off the bishop, and the rest of aristocracy.  A truly evil Mr Hyde, was also Dr Jekyll, a scientist who was willing to experiment on himself for the betterment of humanity.

Who knows?  RLS might have been proud.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Relative Dangers

How dangerous is travel?  How dangerous are foreign places?  I suspect much less risky than normally assumed:

I was in Beijing in 1989 taking pictures of the troops in the trucks parked near the hotel.  The locals were shouting and pestering them.   I do not think these were the same troops, that moved into Tienanmen Square later than night.  I watched the US CNN coverage in the hotel room; it took three days for the government to cut it off.  On day four I left for the airport and flew to Singapore.  Two weeks later I was back in Beijing.  I took a pedicab to Tienanmen Square and evidence of the carnage was nowhere to be seen, just some damaged metal barriers, mangled by the tanks.

In London in 1993 the IRA blew up a bus in Threadneedle Street.  We had walked down that street a few hours earlier.

In London in 2006 my wife walked past by the Sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, just before the news broke about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with Polonium. A few days later is was cordoned off as a crime scene.

I will be in Israel later this month, and I hope Israeli/Iran relations stay calm and civil.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


We are swamped with data and statistics,  Especially for historical data, I love Gapminder, a program to display data in an absorbable way from

Example, Wealth and Health of nations:

"Gapminder is a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm. Our goal is to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. Our method is to make data easy to understand. "

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Pilgrim Problem

  • Or how we keep making the same mistakes; the knowledge is available, but not used
Once upon a time I lived in Dallas, Texas, which has a continental climate, hot and dry in the summer and cool sometimes very cold in the winter.  The local saying is, "The only thing between Dallas and the North Pole is a barbed wire fence in Kansas."

In the store you can buy seed packets, with attractive pictures of healthy plants grown in Oregon.

The clues were all there.  I bought lupine and delphinium seeds.  I love lupines and delphiniums.   In dug a large bed, removed the Bermuda grass and added bags of peat moss to ameliorate the clay.  Read the instructions on the packet, planted the seeds and waited.

And waited.

The seeds were totally not suited to the climate and soil.  They are cool weather plants that grow in England or Oregon.  Seems the Pilgrims, in 1621, needed local help to plants things that grew in their local micro climate too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Scary Take Three - Paul Ryan and the Gun Lobby

First the data, then the politics

The Data

From the Economist using global data from 2009, for 10-24 year olds, per 100,000 population


 "America stands out for having the highest mortality rate. It has a particularly high rate of traffic deaths, despite laws that ban drinking until 21. Where America is truly exceptional, however, is in its violence. At 8.9 per 100,000 population, the rate of violent death (such as from homicide or accidental shooting) is 18 times higher than in Britain."

Now the politics

Paul Ryan was seen this week buying camouflage gear for his oldest daughter.  For Christmas she got her first rifle.  He is quoted as saying, "She is old enough this year to hunt on her own."

She is 10 years old.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Scary Take Two - The Scary Baby Hotel

In honor of Halloween, one can never start too soon ............

Scary Take One - Ban the Bomb, Still a Good Idea

A pretty, innocent symbol in retro hippy colors with a sinister association.

The Ban the Bomb logo has morphed into a Peace symbol.  The unbelievably scary threat of nuclear annihilation has faded after 1989, when Eastern Europe reverted to democracy, and in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart.


In 1991 we were down to a healthier Midnight minus 17 minutes, but have since crept back to Midnight minus 5 minutes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Life of a Travelling Antique Dealer

The antique show at Warrenton is held twice a year in March and September, and tents and awnings are clustered near the road for miles.  Some of the vendors are local, but most are travelling from one event to another across the country.  Most seem to own a travel trailer in which the live, onsite, and while travelling.

During the day they are tied to the tent to sell the goods they have bought and are reselling.  There is usually a place somewhere in the tent where they have a fridge and a book to read, a little haven when times are slow.  Sometimes well hidden.

They must live cheap, they have to rent the space, travel between sites, and eat!  The money comes from the price difference between the buying and selling price.  All sales are negotiable, and one can usually get 20% off.

Some vendors have new stuff, most have "vintage" stuff, not strictly antique. They have to be always replenishing their stock, and making it more valuable by painting, mending, polishing, whatever it takes to make it look valuable and catch the eye.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mini Free Library Update

Pieces ready to piece together

The Mini Libraries, there will be three, ours and two gifts, are in progress, but work has been delayed by the irrigation project.

The one for the Blue House is tall, because of the stained glass window, and larger than I expected.  It should take two rows of books. 

Ready to fit the door

 I plan to make them all different. 

Handwriting Expert

On Friday night the guest speaker at the local club, was a handwriting expert, and she proposed two things:

(1) That handwriting can show your personality.  I think this is true, and the same for drawings and paintings, they reveal how you view the world.

(2) That practicing "good" corrective handwriting can possibly fix all personality problems except for rapists, molesters and pedophiles. She said if you have "aberrant" cursive writing, if you practice making it better, it will improve your "aberrant personality."  An amazing claim, and after a little research it seems to known as Graphotherapy, a pseudo science.

And she is a legal expert witness, which is scary, as her hold on reality does not seem to be one her strong points.

I do not even write in cursive, I type everything, and I type all day long. What little I write with a pen are notes, and I have been this way for decades.  I write a check maybe once a year and have to relearn how to do it each time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Salman Rushdie

I had never heard of Salman Rushdie, like millions of others, until the infamous fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini, god rest his soul.   I bought and read the book, Satanic Verses, to see for myself what the fuss was about.  It was a tough read to plow through his lyrical prose.  It was 1989 and I was an innocent, and I did not understand.

So much has happened in the last 23 years, and they are still trying to kill the guy.

What part of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, copyrighted in 1776, do they not understand?

All of it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mini Libraries - a cool idea but a little too late?

This weekend I hope to work on two mini Libraries, inspired by an article in the Houston Chronicle, and then an e-mail from a neighbor who had seen the same article and already had the library made and installed! And it is registered and on the web:

I am making two, one for the Blue House, and one for a neighbor who expressed a wish to have one, and will be surprised.

I have no idea if this will work, but it is a cool way to recycle books and magazines.  In the city it is not even possible as the having such a box near the curb as it would not meet the deed restrictions.

I read the Houston Chronicle and Scientific American on paper, but all books on a Kindle, and the Economist on iPod, so I need to look elsewhere for book sources, to prime the library.  A minor problem.

Pictures to come!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Seen on a black Cadillac, the vanity licence plate (vehicle registration plate), VFW JAG

VFW is an acronym used in the US for Veterans of Foreign Wars, and JAG is an acronym for Judge Advocate General (military legal advisers).  So we possibly know something of the driver.

It the plate had been on a Jaguar, instead of a Cadillac the story would be different.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Ulm Volunteer Fire Department Fund Raiser

Every year there is a fund raising event for the New Ulm Volunteer Fire Department,  NUVFD.  They sell hot food, hold a silent auction, hold a raffle, and more, and hundreds of people turn out.  We helped serve hot food.

It was all you could fit on a plate, for about $8, beef, pork, mutton, beans, mashed potatoes, and salad.  I am vegetarian, and served up the beef and got through 4 giant bowls.  I kept my Vegan identity to myself and happily spooned up the food.

Late Summer Garden

Last year we had a severe drought and the garden was in survival mode.  This year has been kinder, and the plants look amazing good, and there are butterflies everywhere.

Pepper and Pride of Barbados:

Hummingbird bush outside the Blue House:

Border plants on the inside fence of the Yellow House:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mudita, better than Schadenfreude

And neither word is in the Scrabble dictionary, the source of most of my recent new words.

Mudita is the joy of the success or well being of others.  Such a nice concept.  For details see

Free Will article in the Houston Chronicle

Wow.  In the Friday "Belief" section of the Houston Chronicle is an article featuring David Eagleman on Free Will:

I read one of his books last year, it is excellent:  Incognito, the Secret Lives of the Brain


Brainwashing in the news

Sun Myung Moon died recently, the cult leader. I knew of a very rational person that went, out of curiosity, to a Moony weekend. They kept him awake and and isolated from the outside, and he barely escaped, after 2 days of thought control. The fact he had this nagging thought that he had to go to work Monday, was what saved him from being sucked in.

And currently there are people rioting in Egypt and Libya, in part, because of an obscure anti-Mohamed movie.  In a real sense the movie is a non-event.  There are thousands of movies every year, millions a video clips, trailers, books, .....    I doubt few have never seen this movie.  The mob kill, injure, destroy.  They are driven by anger over nothing, but to them it is real.  The mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Six days in May

The one upside of the United Airlines purchase of Continental Airlines, misnamed a merger, is our frequent flyer miles were merged, and we have enough to fly to Beijing.

I have been to Beijing many time for work, but not since 1999.  My wife has never been.  So we are off, for 6 days in early May, after the brutal winter and before the brutal summer.  Ah, I remember it well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The first cold front of the season

It is the end of summer, but that really does not come until October, sometimes November.  The first "cold" front blew through on Saturday at 08:10 in the morning.  The front is a distinct volume of air, and one can feel the air as the boundary between the warm muggy gulf air and the dry northern air passes.

The previous day it was a humid 36C, and Saturday it was a sunny, dry and a pleasant 30C.  Not exactly cold, but nice.

The earliest frost I have seen was on Halloween, and some years we go without a frost.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Neighborhood PC Help

I promised a neighbor, when she got a new PC, I would help her set it up and transfer her files across.   And the PC arrived, and I made a house call, or 3.  From experience, I know this process is more investigative unraveling than technical.  It takes time and patience.

The old machine was 10 years old, running XP, the new PC a very nice Windows 7 machine. There were no real problems except the e-mail.  Microsoft does not make it easy to transfer old e-mail and address books.  The only way to go is webmail, easy and permanent.  But is is a generation thing, the need to trust web applications.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bank Robbery in New Ulm, Texas

New Ulm is a small settlement, not an incorporated town, of 600, most of whom live in the country around the town.  It has no police, it relies on the Austin County Police based in Bellville.

But it has a new bank, built in 2010, which was robbed yesterday.  The details are uncertain right now, but it is believed a guy held up the cashier and took money and escaped in a car heading north up 109.  A customer in the bank witnessed the robbery, and followed the robber.   The robber ditched his car barely half a mile up the road, and ran into the wooded area.  The police came with in a few minutes, and captured the robber.

Report from Sealy News:

Report from KBTX:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not selling anything

It was Sunday morning and these two very nice well dressed women stopped at the front door.  I thought they were selling religion.

"Hi, Good morning, what are you selling?" I said.

"Are you Mr Dyer?"

"No."  Which is true but not helpful.   My wife, who is on the electoral register, is Ms Dyer. So they had the right place but the wrong person.

"Oh, we are not selling anything, we wondered if you would be interested in voting for your local judge?"

"Sorry, but I cannot, I am not a citizen," said I.

"Where are you from?"

"England,"  I answered.

"You could become one," one said, persistently.

"But right now, I can live and work in 28 countries, why would I want to give that up?" Which was almost true.

And they smiled, and moved on to the next house.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A saint before his or her time

Saint Onuphrius

In the carved tuff of the Snake Church in Anatolia is this strange character, Saint Onuphrius, the person on the left.  The naked saint seems to have the body of a woman, and the head of a man.  A plant or something may have been added later to cover part of the body.  There are other, more normal, paintings of Saint Onuphrius, this is the exception.

Saints tend to be male, clothed, and saintly, and this does not fit the mold.  The Greek gods, who predate this Saint, could be considered less saintly, had many non-standard and very human variants.  Was this painted by a Greek with a sense of humor?   Greece is not far away; in the neighborhood.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Basil Fawlty is alive and well and living in Anatolia

Not really Basil, but a dead ringer; the resemblance was uncanny, and the resemblance came to two of us in the group independently.

The restaurant is carved into the rock, tuff,  like most of the hotel.  The head waiter was hyper and rude, rushing around, getting orders wrong, pushing the most expensive wine and dish on each new patron, with prices withheld!  All the wines were between 30 and 60 Euros.

The following day we bought a bottle of wine for 15 Euros, still overpriced but decent, and took it to the restaurant uncorked, and ordered food.  The head waiter ignored us, and the another waiter was polite, and took our order, and we did not get charged a corkage fee.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Male Shopkeepers in Turkey

In the tourist areas of Turkey, especially the Grand Bazaar, are a myriad of stores, manned almost totally by men.  Perhaps 1% are staffed by women.  The shopkeepers tend to have an excellent grasp of English, German, and other languages, and they are verbally aggressive.

There favorite opening phrase is, "Where are you from?"  Texas and Somewhere, do not seem to be places they know!  Anything to get you to stop and look in their store.  As we kept walking one guy said, "You are hurting my freedom!"  I was sure tempted to stop, but prudently kept walking.

Restaurants are the same, guys loiter outside trying to cajole one inside.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Theme for the month on the Wiki, Atomic scale transistors: A single phosphorus atom transistor:

27 February 2012—Researchers have created a working transistor out of a single phosphorus atom and in the process have shown that Moore’s Law, the cornerstone of the semiconductor industry, might hold true much longer than anyone expected.

To make their tiny transistor, the group, which was led by Michelle Simmons, a researcher at the University of New South Wales, in Australia, bathed silicon in phosphine gas. They then used a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and a technique common in lithography to replace one silicon atom in a six-atom lattice with a phosphorus atom. “Controlling a chemical reaction so that just one phosphorus atom was introduced into the device was challenging,” says Simmons.
Preparation for a Mosaic Workshop for 20 in Sugar Land

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Red White and Blues

The White House, 2012 Feb 21.

This is the way to live, have a blues gig at you own house, BB King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck and Mick Jagger.  They should have covered up the old pictures tho'

And Jagger and I come from the same village; our lives diverged early on.....