Thursday, May 31, 2007
Hearts and Flowers
Flowers volunteer in my yard all the time. Most of them get pulled out by the roots, simply because they are in the wrong spot. But this one charmed me completely.

Airborne seed? Undigested bird food? I don't know, but I'm going to let it stay and get as big as it wants to.

And this pair of deliberately planted vines makes me smile every year. Notice that the one on the right has lots of soil to spread its roots in, and a perfect amount of sun and shade. The one on the left has a tiny opening in the bricks, but it blooms its heart out every year. So, of course, the one on the left is a Bleeding Heart, and the one on the right is a Compassionate Conservative. (No offense, Republicans, it's just too good a line!)

posted at 5:04 PM
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Wordless Wednesday

Who knew that Louisville Slugger bats were made in ... um ... Louisville? The Professor just had to try out the Bambino's bat. And, sad to say, we are both old enough to remember Jackie Robinson on the ball field.

posted at 8:31 AM
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007
And a Lovely Time Was Had By All
What a nice Memorial Day weekend! The Professor left Friday morning to drive to Louisville KY. The thought of two days in a Corvette just didn't appeal to me -- I'm no fun anymore, I know -- so I flew up there on Saturday. The flight was an hour late in leaving, so the Professor was waiting for me, instead of me waiting for him.

We went to dinner with PresentStorm's cousin, his wife, and his younger son T -Man, who is 8. T-Man has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. He has a smile that lights up the room, a sunny disposition, and an adorable personality. I met him only once, at Guppy and Stormii's wedding, but I simply fell in love with him and have kept in touch with birthday and post cards. The Professor could not make the wedding, so this was his first time to meet T-Man, and he was as charmed as I am. After dinner, he asked if he could give T-Man a ride in the Vette. Now T-Man cannot even hold himself upright, but his dad, God love him, said he would sit in the seat and hold T-Man on his lap. The instant T-Man heard he was going for a ride, he started pouring out "Thank you! Oh, thank you!" The Professor said he grinned through the whole ride, and when they returned T-Man was saying "I want to go again!"

On Sunday we drove up to Indianapolis for the race. Everything was going great until the rain started. We hung around for a while, but our calculations said that even if the rain stopped immediately, it would take them at least an hour to dry the track -- first they use big squeegies, then giant hair dryers on wheels -- and they would probably be on the outer edge of time to re-start. They had run 111 laps at that point, so it counted as the official race. So off we went to a lovely little restaurant we know there. We were just finishing up our meal when the people at the next table announced that the race was re-starting. We hauled back to the track, but by the time we got there we realized we couldn't park and get into the stadium in time to see the final lap.

Monday morning we went to Churchill Downs and took the walking tour. They were going to have horse races, starting at 1:15 -- and my flight home was at 2:25, so I couldn't stay for the races. I have never seen a horse race, and Churchill Downs seemed like such a perfect place to see the first one.

As it turned out, I would have had plenty of time to watch the races. They called my flight; we got right to the door of the plane and were told that there was bad weather in Houston and we would delay about 15 minutes before boarding. After a few minutes, we boarded the plane, were all buckled in and ready to go when they announced that it would be a 2 to 3 hour delay. So we got off the plane and hung around for hours, finally taking off at 5:30. It turned out to be a longer travel day than I anticipated (and the cats had quite a bit to say about that when I finally made it home), but all in all, it was a lovely weekend.

posted at 7:16 AM
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Saturday, May 26, 2007
Saturday Photo Hunt: Colorful
My trip to Africa was the most colorful thing I've ever done. These are Masai warriors, who dress in red because they believe it scares the lions. They also believe that if you wear pants, the lion will attack you because if knows that you have two legs and can't run very fast. So this colorful red outfit both scares the lions and disguises the fact that there is a man inside.

posted at 6:23 AM
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Thursday, May 24, 2007
Thursday Thirteen
Thirteen things you may not know about refineries:

1. There has not been a new "grass-roots" refinery built in the U.S. since 1976. A few refineries have been shut down since then. Actual refining capacity is slightly less than it was in 1976, by about 500,000 barrels a day. (Our demand is also up by the same amount.)

2. There have, however, been several expansions and "de-bottlenecking" projects in the existing refineries, which have increased refining capacity. New equipment and technologies are much more efficient, as well as having much less impact on the air and water.

3. It is highly doubtful that any new refineries will be built in the U.S. Why? Because everyone wants cheap gas and a plentiful supply, but no one wants a refinery nearby. I believe the term is NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. Public protest stops construction.

4. They have been trying to build a new refinery in Arizona, which would supply California via pipeline, for years and years. They cannot get the permits.

5. Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the refining capacity of this country is located on the Gulf Coast. This percentage will increase because it is much easier to get permits to expand than to build new. One refinery in Port Arthur TX is ordering the equipment now for an expansion that will more than double the size of the refinery. It will be the biggest in the country when they are done, at 600,000 barrels a day.

6. The downside to having all those refineries in the same area? -- Hurricanes. The back-to-back hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 shut down almost every refinery along the Gulf Coast. In Louisiana and Mississippi, refineries were damaged and flooded. Several of them had to bring in FEMA trailers to house the workers before they could work on re-starting the refinery.

7. When Rita appeared to be headed straight for Houston, all the refineries shut down in advance. One huge refinery, in fact, currently the biggest in the country, had workers shutting down the refinery in the middle of hurricane Alicia in 1983; they were not going to repeat that scenario.

8. Refineries are full of sophisticated equipment. As long as it's running, things tend to be okay, but when you shut down or start up machinery, you are very likely to have problems.

9. Just like a car needs regular maintenance, the machinery in the refineries also needs to be maintained. For some processes, there is duplicate equipment, so if a problem develops in a pump, they can switch to the other pump while they work on the first one.

10. There are also some extremely sophisticated, extremely expensive machines which are not duplicated, or "spared", as they call it. Refineries try to run 8, 10, even 12 years without ever shutting those machines down. They plan the "turnaround" years in advance. Parts are ordered, crews are scheduled, cranes and other equipment rented.

11. But sometimes when they get the machine apart, they discover problems they didn't anticipate. Urgent orders are placed, but these are things that can't be done overnight, and even when the suppliers are working around the clock, it takes time to make the parts. When they get everything repaired and back together, they may have problems when they start up the equipment. And sometimes there are terrible accidents outside of the turnarounds, like the explosion and fire at BP in Texas City. That refinery, which is the 2nd biggest in the country, is still only operating at half capacity.

12. The U.S. government told the refineries not to have any turnarounds after the 2005 hurricanes. As quickly as they could get their machines up and running, they were making gasoline. Believe me when I tell you that there was some very direct involvement of the government in making sure that refineries started up as quickly as possible. But the maintenance can't be put off forever. A few had turnarounds last fall; a lot of others are having them now.

13. So all this talk you're hearing about the Evil Refineries colluding to drive up the price of gasoline is a bunch of nonsense. Do I think the oil companies manipulate the market? Almost certainly. But they are not doing it by deliberately making less gasoline. I am in those refineries on a regular basis, and they are running flat out. They are expanding, they are de-bottlenecking, they are improving the reliability of their machinery. I certainly don't want to be an apologist for Big Oil, but I do want to set the record straight on this.

posted at 2:35 AM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Wordless Wednesday

posted at 9:21 AM
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Monday, May 21, 2007
Can I Just Shoot the Professor?
What do you do with people who will not make a decision and stick to it? We have been working with the architects for months, and everyone is ready to get the permits and begin the remodeling ... except, guess who. Off on another of his trips (he has spent about 50% of his time traveling since he retired), he bombarded me with emails over the weekend about how we could do the remodeling piecemeal instead of all at once.

A little background: we bought this house almost 20 years ago at an amazing price because it was not in a habitable condition. We got walls and floors put in and there were several things we were going to do. I did all the things I could do on my own; the ones I needed help with and the ones the Professor needed to do ... yeah, you guessed it, they're still undone. And he thinks I am going to go down that path again?????

I checked out new houses, since I could buy a pretty nice house for what the remodeling will cost. But I quickly learned that a house in a neighborhood with no trees would be torture to me. I looked at older homes in leafy neighborhoods. Everything I liked had a swimming pool in the back yard, and the Professor is adamant that he will not have a pool. And nothing had as much land, the beautiful view of the bay, the bearing pecan trees, or the quiet neighborhood. So we committed to remodeling.

Oh, that's the problem ... commitment. On the surface, Prof is a hard man to pin down. He is always thinking of other ways, other options. (That's what rocket scientists do, you know.) But this is the man who worked for NASA for 45 years, and who carried a torch for me for 28 years. He's as faithful as the sunrise in his actions.

Have you ever asked someone for advice, and then, when you finish telling them the problem, you know the answer? I seem to be there. Thank you for listening; you've been a great help!

posted at 6:18 AM
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Wordless Wednesday: Angel Slides

posted at 9:31 AM
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Sunday, May 13, 2007
Mother's Day
Today is Mother's Day. I am so fortunate to have both my 87 year old mother, and the three wonderful people who made me a mother -- Crabgirl, Dolphin and Guppyman -- close by. Work is satisfying, travel is great fun, but it is family that counts most of all.

My mother is something of an icon now. She was once three inches taller than I am, but now is at least three inches shorter. But her mind is as sharp as ever. Every day she does the crossword puzzle in The New York Times, and the highlight of her week is the Sunday crossword puzzle. She is an interesting combination of shy and outgoing. She makes sure to introduce herself to every new person in her retirement complex, and to make them feel comfortable. Several women have latched onto her as their "only friend". Yet she is very hard to get to know. She doesn't think there is anything interesting about her. So she is a very good listener, but when she talks, it is always about someone else, never about her.

My mother has so much integrity, it's almost scary. When I made a donation to a charity in a relative's memory, then refused to take that deduction on my income tax, on the theory that you can't deduct the flowers you send to a funeral --- that was my internalized mother, also known as a conscience. When she lived in Dallas, where all city councilmen were elected at large, she once voted in a runoff for a man she found despicable, but who had overwhelmingly carried the district he would represent. She believes in democracy, and she did not think it was her place to override what the people wanted.

She is fluent in French. Until her arthritis got too bad, she was a world-class knitter. She is an amazing judge of character. I didn't appreciate her insights when I was young, but I have learned over the years that if she takes an instant dislike to someone, she will be proved right in the long run. With all the people in and out of our lives over the years, she was only fooled once. She has 2 children, 6 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren, and she never forgets a birthday. The Professor's son and daughter-in-law named their daughter for her. Each of her grandchildren and great-granchildren believe that they are her favorite ... and they would all be right.

In some ways, I am her mother now. With her arthritis, osteoporosis and sciatica, she doesn't get out much anymore. I think I buy more clothes for her now than I do for myself, but of course that's what she did for me. I have noticed that there's a competitive thing going on in her complex -- Look what my daughter gave me! Well, look what my son did! --- and I try to be sure she can always hold her own in that contest.

We all become our mothers in a lot of ways. You can see from yesterday's post that I look like her. I know where I got my independence, my determination (not, mind you, stubbornness), my high standards, and the joy of doing things for others. My children all inherited those traits from her, as well, and I see them sprouting in my grandchildren.

So happy Mother's Day, Mom. Happy Mother's Day to all of you.

posted at 12:00 PM
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Saturday, May 12, 2007
Saturday Photo Hunt: Five
My mother, age 5 Me, age 5
You don't see a resemblance, do you????
Sorry I couldn't figure out how to change the size when I scanned, but you can click on the picture to make it larger.

posted at 9:40 AM
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Saturday, May 05, 2007
Saturday Photo Hunt: Childhood
One of the best parts of childhood: talking and laughing with your friends while you enjoy the swing.

posted at 9:56 AM
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Wordless Wednesday:The Cookie Monsters

posted at 5:19 AM
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Mitey Mite

Texas, United States

I am older than dirt, but I still feel pretty young & some call me the Energizer Bunny. I share a house with the Professor & 3 cats. Between us we have 5 grown children, all of whom are productive members of society (!), and 10 grandchildren. I have a job I love, a little money for the 1st time in my life, and so many more things I want to do than I will ever have time for.

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If You Think They're After You And They Really Are...
At the Aquarium
We Need Standards
A Small Mistake
Bad Choices
There Is No Coherent Theme To This
Too Much to Bear
The Soap Opera That Is My Life
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