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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Skunk and Some Monsters

For the most part, it's been a quiet week for Donna and me.

On Thursday, daughter Courtney brought our 3 grandsons for a visit. They stayed the day, arriving about 10 AM and leaving about 5 PM. I'm glad they left when they did because the two little ones were going into monster mode.

On my walk Friday morning, a skunk crossed the road in front of me about a quarter mile from my house. I would guess this is the same skunk that I've been seeing for the past month or so. I posted a picture of the little guy in a recent entry (see "A Morning Surprise and Other Things"). Before that, it crossed the road in front of me about the same place it did on my Friday walk. I've also smelled it on numerous occasions. I suppose it has a den in the pasture behind our development. I know that some people set out food for animals, especially the wild cats that roam the area, and it may be that the skunk has discovered these buffets and is helping itself.

We tried a new restaurant on Wednesday, Jalapenos Locos on East Avenue K. We both tried the shrimp tacos. Neither of us really cared for this dish, but we liked the place in general enough to agree to try something else at another time. I usually order cheese enchiladas on my first visit to a Mexican restaurant, but upon inquiry I learned that they use red sauce on their enchiladas, and I just really don't care for that. I prefer chile con carne on my enchiladas. We did enjoy their salsa; it had a nice bite to it.

The weather has been fairly mild for San Angelo. I think we have hit triple digits only once this week. We have been able to sit out some almost every evening and be comfortable. The humidity has been a bit higher than we like. We've not had any rain in San Angelo, but surrounding areas have received a sprinkle here and there.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Color at RCW

The recent rains have been a true blessing in our area. As I said in a previous post, the rains haven't been plentiful enough to really improve our lake levels, but they have kept the grass in lawns and pastures growing and they have helped the area farmers.

On my walks about the neighborhood, there has been some pretty good color lately, especially with the purple sage. I think I enjoy the purple sage more than any other plant in the desert. As a boy, I read Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage (and I've read it several times since), and fell in love with the descriptions of the desert and the horses running through the purple sage. When sage is in its height of color, the purple is so vivid. My experience has been that if you regularly trim the plant, the blooms are even thicker and richer. But my pictures of purple sage in bloom never seem to capture the deep richness of the purple. And people seem to disagree about when sage blooms. Some folks argue that the sage predicts rain, and blooms just before the rain falls. I find that the blooms follow the rain. Whatever, it is a beautiful plant when in bloom.

Below are some pictures I snapped during my walks in RCW in the last few days. Some of the pictures were taken just as the sun was coming up, so the light was not at its best for picture taking. Still, I believe it will show some of the color of the desert plants around RCW.

I spotted these deer between 2 houses across the street from ours. Notice the purple sage on right. Behind our development is ranch land.
This is taken just to the right of the previous picture. You can see the same purple sage at far left. I love the color along this house. I can not name all the plants in this picture, but the purple, orange, and yellow hues blend nicely, I think.
These two houses also have some nice blends. 
Several desert plants in this photo, including the Mexican bird of paradise (orange flowers). This is the same plant as in other pictures. It is quite popular, colorful, and easy to care for. It is not to be confused with the bird of paradise.
There are a number of desert plants with yellow flowers, and I get them confused, so I won't venture a guess as to what these are. Notice the sage to the left. RCW has a mix of yards. Some are low maintenance (rock yards) while others do have grass. We are considering removing the grass in our front lawn and replacing with rock, but keeping the grass in our back.
Here are some sage plants lining the back of a house. Again, pictures do not do justice to the rich purple.
Here is another house with some beautiful sage.
These sage plants are just across the street from us, so we are able to enjoy their beauty throughout the day. These are regularly trimmed as opposed to those in the preceding pictures.

There is quite a variety of desert plants in this picture.

What a beautiful sunrise. This picture was taken near the entrance to our development.

I don't have the camera for taking night pictures, but I did want to share this shot of the moon Donna and I saw last night. It was a beautiful orange color, much like a harvest moon. The light spot near bottom center is the top of a street light.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Pretty Good Week at RCW

It's been a pretty good week at our home in Rio Concho West. Donna and I have been pretty lazy and haven't done much other than eat and relax.

On the evening of July 4th, a storm blew in from the north. It wasn't as violent as our previous storm (see "Stormy Weather") a week or two earlier, but it had some force. We had 60+ mph winds. There was no real damage in our area, at least not like the previous storm. The good news is that we had some good rain from this storm. I recorded an inch of rain. For the year, we are only an inch under the average for this time of year, so we aren't doing badly. The grass is green and lush for early in July. The rain we've gotten hasn't been enough to restore our lakes, but it has kept everything alive.

One of our favorite grocery stores, Lowe's, has changed its name to Food King. We have 2 of these stores in town, and over the years they run some of the best sales in town, especially on canned goods and vegetables. We are eagerly awaiting the opening of a new H.E.B. store. We like H.E.B. and we buy most of our meat there. But I like many of the H.E.B. store products as well. The current store is at a busy intersection a few miles from our house, but the new store is only a half mile from the entrance to our housing area. That will be nice. We also have a Super Mercado as well as 5 Walmarts (3 super centers and 2 neighborhood markets). Last but certainly not least, we have Market Street, formerly Albertson's. Market Street is part of the United chain, based in Lubbock. And if I'm not mistaken, United is a subsidiary of Albertson's. Market Street is probably the nicest grocery, though it's prices are usually not as competitive as H.E.B. and Walmart.

There is a lot of road construction around the new H.E.B. store as well as along the north loop between Sherwood Way and North Bryant. As a result, we tend to avoid those areas when we get out.

We tried a couple of different restaurants this week. Neither establishment has a web site.

First up, we went to What Da Pho, a Vietnamese restaurant. We ate there once right after it opened about a year or so ago. Donna really liked her meal at that time, though I didn't particularly care for the pho I ordered. This time we both ordered pho ga, which is similar to chicken noodle soup. Pho ga uses rice noddles. The soup is served with a large platter of basil leaves, bean sprouts, peppers, and lime. You add these to the soup as you eat. We both enjoyed the meal. The restaurant is rather small, but that makes it quaint. We intend to go back. Service was excellent.

On our second restaurant outing, we ventured to a recently opened place called Cajun Creations. Donna ordered a grilled shrimp plate, which consisted of 5 shrimp, cole slaw, hush puppies, and dirty rice. I opted for the shrimp po boy, and requested grilled shrimp rather than fried shrimp. They were happy to accommodate me. I also enjoyed the same sides as Donna. The food and service was good, and we will certainly go back. They have daily lunch specials at a fair price. Like What Da Pho, Cajun Creations is a small establishment.

Other than a few shopping trips to our local farmers' market and grocery stores, that is about all we've done this week.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

New Header

You may have noticed the new header above. The old picture was no longer relevant, so it was time to say goodbye to it. The former picture, shown below, was taken in June 2015 at South Llano River State Park, and showed our travel trailer resting in site 58. If you look carefully, you can see one of us sitting under the picnic table cover to the left; you can click the picture to enlarge it.

Site 58 at South Llano River State Park, June 2015
But since we no longer have the trailer, I thought it was time to replace that picture. The new header was taken by my brother Larry when he and his wife Nancy came out for a visit in June 2014. Larry, Nancy, Donna, and I had driven up to Big Spring to meet our daughter Courtney and her band of wild Neanderthals for lunch. Before meeting them, we visited Big Spring State Park, which occupies a high spot on the southern edge of the city.

That picture of our camp at South Llano brings back good memories. I do miss camping when the weather is good and there are things to do. But I'm glad we no longer have the trailer. I was reading a story in our local paper yesterday regarding the violent storm we had a week ago. The story contained several pictures of overturned RVs at San Angelo State Park. The damage was pretty bad. I am so thankful we never ran into anything that bad. You can see some of the pictures on the website of our local paper, the San Angelo Standard Times.