Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Things that are not longer needed

When is something no longer needed? Most of the time there is no hard date. They may be virtual things, or concrete things.

One thing that has become strange to me over time, is my signature.  It does not really matter what I scribble, it has regressed to a squiggly line, which is a shade better than an X.  It is always accepted, as no one checks; they have not checked for a decade.  If you buy something online you just give them numbers, so what is the difference if you are in person, face to face, toe to toe?

I long for the day when I can get an implant with my ID linked to the global network,  No need to carry money, or driving license or passport.  My car has one, my cat has one, I am still pending.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marijuana growing in South Texas

Guys with their spoils 
South Texas in the summertime is a great place to grow marijuana.  It is still illegal in Texas, and therefore a very profitable crop. The most recent find was about 13,000 plants in an wooden area far from roads and people, on a property for sale.

The police found it by actively looking for it, flying over the Austin county. The site was designed with care and well hidden. The plants needed filtered light to grow, so could be planted under trees as long as the branches were thinned to let is more light. The plane had to fly directly overhead to see the crop.
Living quarters

The plants were well tended and one or more persons lived there full time in a temporary shelter. When the police came they were either away shopping for food, or heard the police approaching. The food in the camp was fresh. One person left a photo id behind, so the police know who they are looking for.

A small gasoline pump was placed in a partially cover hole under water near Mill Creek on the property. This pumped water uphill to a large holding pond, and the water was siphoned out to the drip feed pipes. They mixed fertilizer in the pond. The pump was only run when needed at night when needed, it was the only noise that might give their location away. Well designed.

The police had to pull up all the plants by the roots, so they did not regrow, and cart them away to be destroyed. A huge endeavor. The haul was valued at $1.5m. In the states of Washington and Colorado marijuana is legal.  Given time, Texas will be too, and this will no longer be news.

Monday, October 21, 2013

St Vincent and the Grenadines, pretty, but a precarious place to live

The surface:

St Vincent is one of the small Windward islands rising from the depths of the Caribbean Sea. It is an active volcano, erupting in 1979 and 1902, and is swept by hurricanes periodically.  Just 30 kms north to south and 20 km wide. It is pretty with luxurious tropical vegetation and black volcanic sandy beaches.

And the subsurface:

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Christian religion, the 10+ commandments

In the US, many people are hung up with not having the Christian 10 commandments at public buildings, despite the separation of church and state.  They are really old, probably from the 7th century BCE, and culture and knowledge has moved on.  At least for some of us.

So what are the 10 commandments?  There is no consensus, but using the 13 listed in Exodus:

(1) "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" - No longer applicable
(2) “You shall have no other gods before me" - No longer applicable
(3) "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" - No longer applicable
(4) "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain" - No longer applicable
(5) "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" - No longer applicable
(6) "Honor your father and your mother" - Good Idea, but there may be extenuating circumstances
(7) "You shall not murder" - Illegal, a very good idea
(8) "You shall not commit adultery" - Not illegal but generally a good idea, but there may be extenuating circumstances
(9) "You shall not steal" - Illegal, a very good idea
(10) "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" - Illegal, a very good idea 
(11) "You shall not covet your neighbor's house" - Basically harmless
(12) "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife" - Basically harmless, can one covet your neighbour's husband?
(13) "or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's" - Basically harmless, and in Texas, if you covet your neighbor's donkey he or she will gleefully give you two, they have negative value

So in today's world it boils down to don't (1) murder or (2) steal or (3) lie under oath.  Nothing really profound.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Prisicilla, Queen of the Desert

TUTS 2013-2014 opening act

It was fun, funky, spoofy, and not for the straight and narrow-minded.  Maybe 20% of the seats were unfilled.

The plot revolves around a road trip, of three friends, drag queens, from the Big City, Sydney, across the outback to Alice Springs.  The outback sure seems like West Texas.

The most wonderful part was the guy with the best legs, dressed in a tight glittering outfit, perched on top of the bus in a giant shoe, his shroud blowing huge behind him, lip-synced an aria from La Traviata.

And they left a cake out in the rain, so had to sing Mac Arthur Park.  Ouch.

Near the end it finds the three of them on Ayers Rock, looking out over the desert.  One says, "A cock in a frock on a rock."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Websites that evaporate before your eyes

The web is excellent for current knowledge, but hopeless about preserving history.  I have lost at least two interesting sites:

The breakup of the Shuttle STS-107 over Texas on the local weather radar, seen before the news broke. Later, at breakfast, someone told us the bad news, and it dawned on me what I had seen.

The Facebook page of the Boston bomber, Tamerlan Anzorovich Tsarnaev, I found briefly and then it was gone. Scary reading. Most dead people live on in Facebook, Tamerlan did not.

Against the trend, Wikis preserve history, errors can be corrected, but we know who you are, what you did, and when you did it.

All politicians should be required to have an embedded webcam while in office, with a real-time link to their Web page. We would know what they promised to whom, and for how much.  In theory they work for us, so we need compliance and proof.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Roundabouts and Traffic Lights

I have always liked roundabouts. I grew up in the UK and they were a natural part of the landscape. In the US they are few, and for a long time they were removed and replaced with traffic lights.  Now the fashion is changing and there are now more roundabouts being installed.  There is a new one in Sugar Land. (Not quite there for Google)

If you are new to an area and not sure what direction to take, a roundabout is better, you circle one or more times to read all the directions and then take the correct one. With a stop light you need to know ahead of time and be in the correct lane. Much less forgiving.

The law in Texas states one has to stop at all stop signs before proceeding, but many roll through the sign.  Also one can turn right, at a red light, after stopping and checking. Most drivers roll through. It is so HARD to stop when you know it is safe to keep going.

So, roundabouts reset the issue, and allow drivers to not stop, but slow and yield to others. They are an essence of cooperation.