Saturday, August 19, 2017

Rain and Other Things

We've been blessed with some good rain this past week.

Last weekend, we received slightly more than half an inch. Since then, it has rained lightly several times, but none amounting to more than a tenth or so. But on Thursday night, we had another half inch. So, in the past week, we've had probably an inch and a quarter or so. That's really good for us. We're about where we should be for the year, perhaps an inch or two behind.

An old friend from our Ozona days passed away recently, so we made the trek there last Monday evening to pay our respects. It was good to see old friends and colleagues, some that we have not seen since we left there in 1999. San Angelo is the nearest big shopping town for Ozona, so we do run into folks from there around town, especially places like Walmart and H.E.B. And lots of folks from Ozona retire to Angelo, much like we have, and we see them around town from time to time.

We were glad to see how green things were in Ozona. They have really had good rains there this summer, much more than what we have received in Angelo. That is ranch country down there, and the pastures did look good.

It was also interesting to see the many changes in Ozona. The town seems healthy. It had been a while since our last visit, so we were surprised to see 2 new hotels, a Holiday Inn Express and a Hampton Inn. Ozona is a good place for east/west travelers to stop on Interstate 10. Hotel rates are reasonable, and there a several good places to get a good meal. I'm glad to see the town is doing so well.

We boarded the fun bus to ride to the Manor for lunch on Wednesday. We always enjoy socializing with our fellow inmates, but I have to say, I enjoy the food over there less and less each time I go. It's hard to beat the price of $6.50 for a full meal (drink, entrees, veggies, bread, and dessert), but the quality really lacks.

It's been quite a while since we attended a birthday dinner at the club. It seems we are always traveling when those dates roll around each month.

Aside from that, we just continue our regular routines and look forward to our next trip.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Some Walking Stats

If you've read my blog for very long, you know that I'm an avid walker. I've always enjoyed walking. When I go for a week or so without walking, I just start feeling bad. It is always so good and invigorating to take a good walk after a period of inactivity.

We moved to our new home a little over a year ago. I took my first walk at Rio Concho West on June 25, 2016. I'd like to share some of my walking stats for the past year (June 25, 2016 to June 25, 2017).

I use a GPS tracker every time I walk or hike. Most of the data I'm about to share is from walks, and most of those are from Rio Concho West, where I live. Some of the data comes from hikes we've taken in the past year, and some of the data comes from other walks we've taken, such as out at the state park or other local walking venues. Overall, my GPS tracker works well, but on occasion, it does err. So my data, for the most part, is about 99% reliable. As a result, the data I'm sharing is actually less that what I really walked.

As a rule, I try to walk every other day. However, due to trips we may take, illness, laziness, and other circumstances, I sometimes may miss several days. From June 25, 2016, to June 25, 2017, I walked 397.9 miles on 105 days. So, that means I am actually walking only about every 3.48 days. Well, we do travel quite a bit. And that also means that I average 3.79 miles per walk.

For health purposes, I feel you must walk at a fairly brisk pace for at least 30 minutes to get any true benefit. For me, that means I have set 2 miles as my bare minimum for any walk I take. In reality, I almost always walk at least 3 miles per outing. Health benefits from regular walking include the following:
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. (The main reason for my doctor encouraging me to walk)
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Improve your balance and coordination.
For a while, I was focused on speed and distance. My goal was to walk at least 4 miles at an average clip of less than 17 minutes per mile. I sustained this for a while, but found that this caused my feet to hurt. I tried different things, such as putting cushions in my shoes and using double socks. These measures helped, but the foot pain continued, causing me to miss walking at times.

Today, I am satisfied to walk shorter distances at slower speeds. As a result, I may not walk as far, but I am walking more often with fewer interrupted periods. I am averaging between 3.5 and 4 miles per walk now, and I usually average 17½ to 18 minutes per mile. This seems to be working well for me at this time.

I find that when I stop walking for a period of at least 1 week or more, it is hard for me to get myself restarted. For example, I was ill in May for a while and did not walk for 2 weeks. When I did resume my walks, they were very short, just over 2 miles. Prior to that, I had been averaging more than 4 miles per walk. I am just now getting back to the 4 mile range. Yes, as you get older, it becomes more difficult to recover from down times. But since that time, my walking has been more consistent. For example, from June 28 to July 28, I walked 13 days (that is a walk every 2.3 days as compared to the 3.48 days cited above) for a total of 44.85 miles. If I continued this for a year, my annual total would be 538.2 miles walked on 156 days. I doubt I'll accomplish that due to travel, illness, and other interruptions, but the consistency this past month has certainly been good.

For now, I just plan to keep on walking as often, as far, and as fast as I comfortably can.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Night at the Theater: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Donna and I recently enjoyed a night at our local community theater, Angelo Civic Theater, watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Some of you old timers probably watched the original 1954 film starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell in the lead roles of Adam and Millie. The movie won the Academy award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and was nominated for four other awards, including Best Picture (which was won by On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando).

This particular work is unusual in that it was a movie before appearing as a play on Broadway. Normally, works begin as plays, then become movies if they are popular enough.

The play is set in Oregon in the 1850s. Adam Pontipee ventures into the local town in search of a wife. By the end of the day, he has convinced Millie to marry him, and he takes her home to his farm/ranch in the mountains, where his 6 brothers await, unbeknownst to the new bride. She then sets about teaching the brothers manners and how to court the fairer sex in hopes that they will each get their own wife so that she will not have to care for 6 bachelors as well as her own husband.

The play is a musical, and is famous for its rousing dance numbers set to such natural events as a barn raising. It also has more parts than most plays, using a cast of over 30 actors. For these reasons, it is a challenge for a small theater to put on.

It was an enjoyable evening at the theater.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I have trouble finding a good movie to watch these days. It seems that so much of what Hollywood is currently producing is pure fantasy. For example, here is the list of what is now playing at the theater (Cinemark) that Donna and I frequent. I've labeled each and sometimes provided a blurb from the movie:
  • The Emoji Movie (Animated)
  • Dunkirk
  • Atomic Blonde (Highly choreographed tale. "The crown jewel of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission.")
  • Girls Trip (Raunchy. "there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.")
  • Spider Man: Homecoming (Fantasy)
  • Despicable Me 3 (Animated)
  • War for the Planet of the Apes. (Fantasy)
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Fantasy. "A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets.")
  • Baby Driver (Action/Thriller. "After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.")
  • The Big Sick. (Romantic Comedy. "Bickering parents and a serious health scare threaten the budding relationship between a Pakistani stand-up comic (Kumail Nanjiani) and his American girlfriend (Zoe Kazan).")
  • Wonder Woman (Fantasy)
  • Wish Upon (Fantasy. "A teen girl discovers a magical box that will grant her seven wishes. As she uses her wishes for personal gain, bad things begin to happen to those around her. She discovers an evil entity lives inside the box and may be behind the gruesome deaths.")
  • 47 Meters Down (Thriller. Two thrill seeking sisters get more than they bargained for when the shark cage they are in breaks away and falls to the bottom of the sea in shark infested waters.)
  • The Angry Birds. (Animated)
That is a list of 14 movies currently playing in our theater. Of those, 3 are animated, 3 are about super heroes in highly choreographed (and unbelievable) action scenes, 3 are other types of fantasies, and 1 is simply raunchy and distasteful. That leaves only 4 movies that are anywhere near realistic and believable. Pretty slim pickings.

Now, I'll readily admit that some fantasies are worth watching. The original Star Trek TV series, I thought, put forth some very interesting plots that made you think "what if?". But today, most such fantasy shows dwell more on action than ideas.

It's rare to find a movie that is historically accurate and that portrays realistic human emotions. Dunkirk does that very well. There really is no central character in the movie; rather, the movie follows the actions of several people as allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. There are cowards as well as heroes, men in shock and men who rise to the challenge. The horrors of war are accurately depicted, and human growth is shown. It is a very sound movie that does a good job of recording this often overlooked episode in the early days of World War II, well before America's entry into that conflict.

Sadly, there simply aren't enough movies today that deal with subjects accurately and realistically. Such a movie is a rare gem, indeed.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Dark Side

I'm not proud of it. I've resisted a long, long time. But in the end, it was futile to resist further.

I've gone over to the dark side.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I've join Facebook.

In all honesty, I find Facebook and most other social media -- for the most part -- to be silly and juvenile. From what I've seen, such resources are filled with mindless drivel about silly things folks have seen -- usually online -- and want to share with others. And once something is posted, then people respond in droves by "liking" it or by making equally silly and mindless comments.

When do people have time to do all of this? Well, they have time by not doing their jobs, for one thing. Look around. In Walmart, that employee who should be stocking a shelf is actually updating his/her Facebook page. That person driving the car in the lane next to you is tweeting something. And the man pushing the cart wildly down a grocery aisle is watching a funny video his girlfriend just sent him. And yes, that man just ran his cart into me. Take a look around a restaurant. What do you see? You will see instances where two people sitting at a table are not talking, but each is using his/her smart phone. We are not living anymore; we are watching other people live.

So, if I have so much trouble with Facebook, why did I join? Because so many businesses these days use Facebook for their web presence. And if you want to see a menu or a list of services for these businesses, you have to log in to your Facebook account -- if you have one.

I created my Facebook account Friday, and I'm trying to learn the ins and outs of the thing. It seems pretty intrusive to me. I'm trying to remain pretty private, but I've already discovered that is going to be difficult. I "friended" my wife and daughter -- only because I knew I'd be in trouble if I didn't (they don't handle rejection well at all; in fact, they can become quite hostile, at least with me) -- and I started getting friend requests almost immediately from people I really don't even know. I think some people just like clicking on buttons.

But I'm out there now, although I'll probably live to regret it. I don't expect to use it very much, and if I don't "friend" you, please don't be offended. It's really not personal; I'm just not a friendly guy. Ask my wife and daughter -- they can verify this.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Just Passing the Time

Donna and I have not done much lately.

This past Saturday, Donna went to daughter Courtney's house to celebrate the grandsons' birthday. All 3 boys were born within a couple of weeks or so of one another, so each year, they share a common birthday party.

Aside from that, we've done very little.

For the past 6 weeks or so, I've been battling a temporomandibular joint disorder, commonly referred to simply as TMJ. This is a problem with the jaw joint and the muscles around it. TMJ disorders can be caused by many problems, including arthritis, which I've suffered from for many years. Sometimes TMJ is due to a combination of stress, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and other things that strain the jaw joint and the muscles around it. I more or less attribute my problem to a combination of my love for chewing ice, my arthritis, and my habit of grinding my teeth over the years. I've also eaten lots of almonds for the past 30 years or so; these are somewhat hard and may contribute to the problem as well.

The main symptom of TMJ is a dull pain on just one side of the face, near the ear. For me, the problem is on my left side. In fact, at first I thought I was getting an ear infection, but my first visit to a clinic resulted in a diagnosis of TMJ. Sometimes the pain also affects the ear, jaw, or back of the neck. I've also experienced a few headaches. Actually, I don't consider the symptoms so much painful as I do a type of pressure. It's really more a type of discomfort for me rather than pain. I can feel my jaw joint actually popping when I move my mouth, as if the joint has been dislocated. This might be a result of all the times Donna has slapped me around.

There isn't much you can do about TMJ, it seems. You can take anti-inflammatory medicine to alleviate the pain, perhaps even muscle relaxers. But these simply treat the symptoms, not the cause. Some folks may find help by using bite plates, which are special devices that fit in your mouth to prevent you from grinding your teeth during sleep. For my part, I'm simply watching what I eat. I'm avoiding hard foods (almonds, for example) and I have given up ice chewing. I also do some mouth exercises. It's taken a while, but I'm finally feeling somewhat better. I'm still experiencing some discomfort, but not nearly as much as I did a couple of weeks ago.

Now, to top things off, mean old Donna has come down with a summer cold and/or sore throat of some type. She's really dragging about today, which is unusual for her, so we are staying home and resting.

Perhaps soon we'll do something interesting enough to write about.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Hummer House

We lived and worked for several years in the 1990s in Ozona, a small town about 80 miles southwest of San Angelo. That is how we came to know Angelo. While there, we met the Floyds, Charles and Nancy. Charles was a campus principal, and Nancy was a classroom teacher. When we retired to San Angelo, we discovered that they were retired and living here. Since retiring, first Charles and then Nancy became involved with banding hummingbirds. Today, they travel around the state banding the little hummers. Last year or so, they moved to the Davis Mountains, so we don't see much of them anymore. But they still come to the area from time to time to do banding. We were able to sit in on one of their sessions this past Saturday. It was extremely interesting.

When in this area, the Floyds work with hummingbirds at The Hummer House in Christoval, a small community on US 277 about 20 miles south of Angelo. The Hummer House is located on a private ranch a couple of miles southeast of Christoval on the South Concho River (See "Backroads Tour: Mertzon, Eldorado, Christoval, and Knickerbocker" from March 2017 for some pictures of the South Concho River).

I'll not try to act like an authority on hummingbirds or other birds. Follow the link above to the Hummer House website for accurate information. But I will share some of the pictures I took during our visit. By the way, work is not limited to only hummingbirds.

The first picture below shows Charles holding a small bird -- a young and/or female painted bunting, I believe -- and sharing some of his vast knowledge of birds. His wife Nancy is behind him banding a bird. The lady to Nancy's right is cataloging the data Nancy is collecting. The banding process includes gathering data about weight, size, sex, and approximate age, among other things.

Charles Floyd in action

Unknown bander measuring a hummingbird.

After birds have been banded, they are then released. Nancy and Charles brought the birds to various visitors, especially children, and allowed them to release the birds. Most of the hummingbirds would sit calmly in the palms of their holders. Some had to be encouraged to fly away. Other species seemed very eager to leave.
This is Nancy holding, I believe, a lesser goldfinch.

The next few pictures show a beautiful mature painted bunting.

Charles displaying a beautiful mature male painted bunting.

This angle better shows the yellow on the bird's back.

Both of these birds are painted buntings, and both are male. The difference is age. The bird on left is a very young male, while the one on the right is about 6 years old.

And here's one final angle to compare the young and old. This is a truly beautiful bird.

This is one device used to collect birds. This is a wire cage surrounding a hummingbird feeder. There is a small opening on the left. The birds get in easily enough, but have more trouble getting out.

This man is waiting to collect some birds from the hummingbird feeder next to the house. He is holding several small yellow mesh bags in his left hand. Each bird goes in to a bag to hold it until data is collected and a band placed on its leg.

It was a fun day. Charles made 2 trips to the river to collect birds trapped there in nets. Several visitors went along each time. I would like to have gone, but there simply was not enough room in his truck. There were quite a few visitors for this session. Nancy would press a small hummingbird against our ears so that we could listen to its rapid heartbeat.

If you enjoy birds, this is something worth investigating. Perhaps you can find some sessions somewhere near where you live.