Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet

These gingers are a great landscape plant, but will die back when it gets to -10 C. Grown mainly for their foliage, they also bloom.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Flowers despite the rain

It is still raining but warmer. The rain is washing out the pollen and nectar from the blooms, the food the bees need.



Beehive under Vitex

Oxalis and Vinca


Friday, May 20, 2016

Second Homes

This week there was an interesting article in Economist magazine on second homes and how owners are perceived and treated in different countries. I have a second, and third home next to it, and know of people with many more homes, some in other countries.

The location of my second home is in the country, in an unincorporated area so there is no city law, county law applies. There are two distinct types of people, the locals who have lived there always, and the people from the cities who have moved there to live, or as a weekend home. They rarely intermingle.

The locals "never went to the big city" most live cheap and have little money. They do not like to see change, or improvement. They are happy being left alone.

The people from the city have money and are doers, they fix things up, volunteer, employ people, work together. They are gregarious, and stir things up. They grow flowers.

Both groups live the way they want to live. Together but separate.

Stay away
There’s a new villain in town—at weekends and during the summer
May 14th 2016 | From the print edition

WHEN owning one home seems like a struggle, resenting those with two comes easily. Second-home ownership is uncommon: in 2010 around 4% of houses in America were second homes; 1% of English homes are second properties of people living in England. But they still arouse passions.
Norway and Denmark limit second-home ownership, and in 2012 the Swiss voted to restrict second homes in places where they were most common. Australia has also clamped down on foreign purchases of residential property. Latest to the barricades is St Ives, a seaside town in south-west England, where a quarter of houses are second homes or holiday lets. On May 5th 83% of St Ives’s voting residents decided that newly built homes should be off-limits to non-residents. It is unclear if the vote is enforceable. It is certainly wrong-headed.
In some cases antipathy to second-home ownership simply reflects an ugly dislike of outsiders; in others, the NIMBYism of second-home owners themselves, keen to preserve the exclusiveness of their holiday patch. (In Switzerland the vote to ban new construction of second homes in sensitive areas was carried by urban residents of Basel, Zurich and Geneva, not the people affected.) Sometimes, too, it stems from a misguided effort to fight the facts of economic life, and stop dwindling rural populations from shrinking further. But the St Ives vote, and schemes like it, can also reflect more legitimate concerns: that ghost streets and empty houses drain local communities of life and that, as non-residents hoover up homes, housing will become unaffordable for poorer permanent residents.
Those tempted to mend the market should beware unintended consequences. Restricting the option to sell newly built properties as second homes will depress their price, discouraging development, including the new affordable housing that builders are often required to put up. And the spillover effects on the rest of the housing market could be nasty.
One risk is that the life is sucked out of the local economy as rich holidaymakers go elsewhere. Christian Hilber and Olivier Schöni of the London School of Economics have studied the effects of the Swiss reform, and their preliminary findings suggest that it depressed prices of primary residences in the affected areas by 12%. Much as locals want to climb the housing ladder, they are unlikely to welcome a less vibrant economy; and existing homeowners will resent the hit to their wealth. Another risk is that it could worsen the very “ghostification” problem it is trying to solve. If, as in St Ives, existing primary residences can easily be sold to out-of-towners, that may well boost their prices, encouraging locals to cash in and move out.
There are better answers to the problems posed by second homes. The tax system is one: the British, Dutch, French and Israeli governments all impose higher taxes on them. This makes most sense in places of extraordinary natural beauty, like the Swiss Alps or national parks, where sprawling new developments would blight the landscape.
Another brick in Cornwall
Everywhere else, the best policy is to increase supply. As long as homes are scarce, only those with deep pockets will be able to afford them. Loosening planning rules and incentivizing development would keep the outsiders coming without forcing out locals. Australia has at least recognized the root of the problem by requiring foreign buyers to show that their investment will add to the existing stock. Build, don’t ban.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


We are all creatures of our upbringing, the influences we have had over time. I have often thought if I had been brought up in Russia, Bhutan, or the Middle East I would be a totally different person, believe in different things, act in different ways.

But I was lucky, at least from my self-fulfilling perspective, and grew up and have lived in liberal democracies.

My parents were not talkative about beliefs or religions, neither went to church. My father had sympathies with the communist party but was not active, my mother said she believed in god but there was nothing else behind the statement. However, my parents strongly believed in education, having had little themselves, and were avid readers.

At school I had some excellent teachers that pushed the envelope and made us think and question everything. One strange thing in the UK, is the lack of separation of church and state. We started each day with assembly and the headmaster said prayers and we "sang" hymns. We had alternative words to the hymns, and suspected the teachers knew.

We were required to have at least one lesson of religion each week. When the class timetable was updated to have a repetition of six days of classes in a five day week, I realized in some weeks we did not have a religion class which was against the law. My argument was valid, but did not stick.

Having access to the local library, a poor man's internet, I read may things. I was the first kid on the street to go to university and the neighbors were supportive and happy I was going. It took a village.

And then I was free, out exploring the wonders of the world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Iris - Take a picture quick

Iris bloom this time of year in south Texas. It has been exceptionally wet and warm this spring, which has stunted this plant. It has three blooms but is very short, not tall and graceful.

By the next day the rain had spoiled it. Until next year.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

MFAH - Franz X. Winterhalter

Franz Winterhalter 1805 - 1873 was a very talented German painter that was successful in his own time, painting mainly members of European royalty.  He was so successful he had a waiting list of royalty. It is said he painted his clients in a manner they wished to appear.

His early work was almost photographic, with faces in the shade, and distances out of focus.  He was excellent at painting fabrics. Later he painted the essence of the fabrics, a more impressionistic style. He was ahead of his time.

Monday, May 16, 2016

MFAH - Art Deco vehicle designs

This was surprisingly good exhibit, 17 vehicles and motorcycles from the 1930s.

1930 Henderson KJ Streamline - The motorcycle "floats," as if it was a hover bike, you cannot see the wheels, the design would sell today and this was designed 86 years ago. 

Stout Scarab "Minivan" with rear engine. Something a steam-punk advocate would drive.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Once one got over the slow beginning, this was very funny. The hero of the story is eighth in line to the family empire and has to kill off seven people to get there.

A soon as the killing started the musical picked up and the fun began. The family is totally inbred and all eight (not seven) members of all ages, and a spectrum of genders, were played by the same guy.

The deaths are adventurous, death by bee, death by falling from a great height, death by falling in a hole in the ice and drowning.......

The family, before their unnatural deaths, succeed in insulting everyone:

We’ll civilize a village in the jungle! 
It can’t take long to learn their mother tongue! 
Of words they have but six, And five of them are clicks, 
And all of them are different words for dung!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

An opossum story

My neighbor needed help, was all of a tizzy, much too old to be in a tizzy, he was stressed out.

He had been finding animal droppings in his garage, and later discovered a dead creature that he thought could be a rat. It was a baby opossum. He is not good with animals, and went on to explain how he got over his fear of dogs. His first wife had a dog, and he was proud to say he had even bathed the dog! But he still has a problem with cats, "They are witches" he said, "When I was growing up [in Nigeria] they were witches!"

"I am OK with your cat, it took me a few years, she comes over to my yard and hunts."

"How did the opossum get in the garage?" I asked. "Is there food in there?" I seems he stores his trash on the floor of the garage, and has a habit of leaving the door open. "Sometimes I fall asleep on the couch and then stagger up to bed. In the morning find the garage door has been open all night."

Despite himself, he supplies food and shelter to animals.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Slack - The physics and the commercial

The commercial is very clever and you have to watch it a few times to absorb everything.


The product they create is a cool self supporting umbrella that hovers over you. However, the design is lacking, as most of the downward thrust needed to counteract the weight of the umbrella and the rain, is directed to the surface of the umbrella, pushing it to the ground instead of away from the ground.

I will buy one once the design is perfected. Using an umbrella and a car is wet and messy, but a self parking, self contracting umbrella that would ideal, like having an invisible doorman

Friday, May 6, 2016

Sugar Land Performing Art Center

May 2016
January 2017 Opening
May 2016

Under construction and expected to open January 2017.  The city has mounted a solar cell powered webcam to follow progress

I do no now if this is deliberate but there is currently an old black and white BMW parked outside the security fence, looks like a police car. In the artist's rendition of the finished building is a BMW in about the same position.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wild Tales (2015) - a wonderful movie from Argentina

Six short stories told in two hours, all totally different but a common theme of people loosing their sensibilities, seeking revenge, fighting the system.

Rated 95% on Rotten Tomatoes

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The art show was a success

Despite the forecast of rain, the venue was dry Friday evening and Saturday morning

Monday, May 2, 2016