Jesse died this morning

March 6, 2009 at 9:34 am | Posted in Dogs, Family, Jesse | 8 Comments

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Hurricane Ike Update

October 3, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Family, Hurricane | 3 Comments

This is actually something I intended to publish a while back, but didn’t get around to before going out of town. This post is partially about Hurricane Ike, but has more to do with one of my major irritations with modern American society.

The devastation of Hurricane Ike, although undeniable, has pretty much fallen off the radar of the national news media. Even before my most recent “break” from blogging, it had fallen so far down most internet news web pages that you had to scroll to reach the news stories. This happened when millions of people were still without power, the city of Houston was under a mandatory curfew and residents of Galveston were banned from re-entering the city due to lack of power, water, and sewage services. As a reminder, here are two images of the destruction that resulted from Ike which were published in the Houston Chronicle.

This image by Eric Kayne is of I-45 South, close to the causeway leading into Galveston. Over half of the interstate lanes were rendered impassable by debris following the hurricane.

This photo by Johnny Hanson shows what was left of Murdock’s Pier and the Galveston Seawall Hooters location. A big stinking pile of debris.

There are still individuals without power in the Houston area, although the numbers are very small. Residents of the affected areas are scattered throughout the state and many remain missing. Efforts are being made to locate the deceased, but it is quite likely that some families will never have definite confirmation of the fate of their loved ones.

I know that it’s been a while and there are “fresher” news stories. I also understand that the loss of local landmarks like Brennan’s and the Balinese Ballroom probably don’t matter to non-locals (although I’m sure more than one of my non-local readers shed a few tears when they heard about the destruction of Hooters). Continue Reading Hurricane Ike Update…

I’m back…

October 2, 2008 at 8:49 am | Posted in Blogging, Family | 2 Comments

I was “gone” from the blog a lot longer than I expected to be, but I’m back again.  Not enough time for a long post this morning, but I’ll put something up tonight after work.  There are actually some funny stories about grandma’s funeral and I may write about a few of them.  To those of you who kept checking in while I was away, sorry for the length of my absence.  It was a bit hectic around here before and after the trip out for the funeral.

Ike

September 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Posted in Family, Hurricane | 4 Comments

Most of you have probably heard about Hurricane Ike by now.  The coverage on television and internet news sources is hard to miss.  Normally I would be pretty worried with a hurricane like Ike about to hit the Houston and Galveston areas in Texas- my Mom still lives in Houston.  Luckily she is out of the country right now and I know she is safely out of Ike’s path (unless the storm makes an unexpected detour to Germany).

It looks like all of the cable news channels have had at least one reporter and camera crew reporting from Seawall Boulevard in Galveston.  I had heard that 20+ foot storm surges were predicted, but that didn’t prepare me for what I saw.  I spent a good amount of time in Galveston while growing up- family trips to the beach, crabbing off the piers, one memorable New Year’s Eve with friends, etc.  I know what Seawall Boulevard and the seawall itself normally look like.  That makes the images in the news of the storm surge very striking.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Galveston or the seawall, this is an image of the seawall in normal weather:

Not all of the seawall has beach in front of it like in this picture, but the areas where the news crews have been filming are very similar to this.  There is a decent sized beach area, some large boulders/rocks and then a 17 foot high concrete wall.  The seawall is kind of like a Jersey barrier on steroids.  Even so, it’s not enough to stop the storm surge.  This picture taken by Johnny Hanson of the Houston Chronicle shows the storm surge bursting over the seawall:

You have to admit, the waves coming onto the roadway seem much more menacing when you know just what they are surging over.  This is with Ike still a good 6+ hours away from landfall (when the picture was posted).  It’s only going to get worse.

I’ve been through two pretty major storms in Houston.  Hurricane Alicia and Tropical Storm Allison.  I was pretty young when Alicia hit and don’t remember being excessively worried. Plus, growing up in Houston I knew what we needed to do to prepare for a hurricane and my family was ready.  We were lucky with the damage we experienced.  One tree went down in the front yard, the floodwaters came to within about a foot of the house (it’s on a lot with an upgrade) and we were without power for 3 days.  We had a grill, propane cook stove, and plenty of water.  My sister and I had bought small inflatable canoes (pool toys) earlier that summer on family vacation and we used them to paddle up and down the street.  For a kid, it was actually kind of fun once the storm had passed.  For the city, there was a lot of damage from the high winds.  Thousands of glass windows were broken or blown out completely from buildings in downtown, business signs across the city were damaged, and trees and power lines were down.

Tropical Storm Allison was a different experience.  High winds weren’t the problem.  The rain was the problem.  Allison basically stalled over the city, inundating Houston with 35 inches of rain in a day and half or so.  If you do a Google image search, you will see dozens of pictures of the flooding.  One of the images I will never forget is actually from when the floodwaters were receding.  It showed an eighteen-wheel tractor trailer perched precariously on top of another tractor trailer.  The floodwaters had been deep enough for it to float over the tractor trailer on the bottom.  The Houston Medical Center was particularly hard hit by Allison.  It is in a part of the city that is somewhat more likely to flood.  Many of the basements were completely flooded.  At that point in time, the basements of the medical center institutions were primarily used for research laboratories.  Thousands of research animals, tissue samples, and significant amounts of research data were lost.  The costs of the damage due to flooding in the Medical Center from Tropical Storm Allison were over 2 billion dollars.  Although I didn’t live in Houston at the time, I was visiting that weekend.  Much of what I saw and experienced still seems surreal.

So, now another storm is predicted to make a direct hit on Houston and Galveston.  It might be a category 3 when it hits (like Alicia was) and will definitely bring much rain and high winds.  The storm surge hasn’t reached the shore yet and waves are already topping the seawall.  This storm has the potential to cause a great deal of destruction.  I’m thankful that my mother is safely far away.  Damage to the “things” she owns that might not survive the storm can be dealt with.  I’m also glad to hear that the evacuation plans of the state of Texas and the coastal communities have gone as well as they have so far and that so many people have made the smart decision and have gotten themselves out of Ike’s path.  I’m not so happy with the tens of thousands who reportedly stayed in areas under mandatory evacuation, but living in a free country means they have the right to make stupid decisions.

If you want good coverage of the storm, check out the Houston Chronicle.  They have great photo slideshows, videos, and up to date news.  They are a much better source about this storm than any of the national media I’ve looked at.

Geographic Orphan

September 2, 2008 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Family | 4 Comments

I was having a hard time deciding on a title for this post when I remembered hearing the phrase “Geographic Bachelor” used for servicemen whose “regular” duty station is far away from their wives/families.   I don’t know the details of who qualifies as a Geographic Bachelor and who doesn’t, I just decided to co-opt and adapt the term for my own purposes so I could have a title.

Anyway, my family is currently very spread out across this country.  Although, my brother and SIL have PCSd from her overseas assignment, so at least I can say this country instead of this planet.  My parents, brother, sister and I are spread out over four states (sister and Dad are in the same state) and even my cousins are all spread out.  We have 9 different states of residence represented just among the “cousins” and neither of my parents lives in the state they were born and raised in.  I’ve decided that this makes me a geographic orphan (at least for this post).

As we’ve gotten older, more established into our careers and home, and (for some) have started families, the times we’ve all been together have ended up being few and far between.  At this point it’s pretty much weddings and funerals.  Even then we haven’t all been able to make them.  We came pretty close for one cousin’s wedding last fall and it was nice just to spend some time with everyone.  That’s why, even though I know this sounds strange, I’m actually looking forward to my grandmother’s funeral at the end of the month.

Grandma died last month after a massive stroke.  After the stroke she lived more than 36 hours, defying the predictions of the doctors who said she wouldn’t make it 24.  I’m fairly certain the stubborn streak in our family can be traced through her.  The last few years of her life weren’t peaceful or easy.  She had significant dementia and generally didn’t recognize any family.  The last time she said my name it was because she thought she was saying hello to her dead half sister who died close to 40 years ago (one of my namesakes).  There were times that she was somewhat aware of what was going on, but they were limited.  I’m not glad that my grandmother is dead, but the past few years she was existing, not living.  It’s strange how stark the contrast of my maternal grandfather is.  He is two years older than Grandma and “sharp as a tack”.  Heck, I think his memory is better than mine!

So, at the end of the month we will travel from across the country to bury Grandma.  My aunt planned the timing of the services to make it easier for everyone to make travel arrangements and take time off work.  I think this trip will be easier than the last family funeral (no one was murdered this time after all) but I really wish it was for another wedding instead.  Meeting up like this just reinforces my discomfort with our increasingly mobile society and the distance so many families have among members.

One Smart Bird

May 21, 2008 at 8:30 am | Posted in Bizarre News, Family | 4 Comments

There have been a number of really funny bizarre/offbeat news stories recently. I haven’t been posting them here because Gunner stops by and reads every once in a while and it would ruin the surprise when he receives the printed copies in the mail. I have a decent number printed up and ready to mail out, so I decided to go ahead and post this one here.

I don’t know if many of you know much about parrots. I’m certainly not an expert. However, my brother and sister-in-law have a blue and gold macaw and I’ve spent a fair amount of time around them. It’s actually kind of funny to listen to the words, phrases and sounds they pick up. With my brother and SIL’s bird, certain words and phrases sound just like her while others were clearly learned from my brother. The funniest thing though has to be a sound that he picked up.

At one point my SIL had a bad cold and was sneezing a lot. I guess the bird picked up on the fact that each time she would sneeze my brother would “pay attention” to her (e.g. respond with “Gesundheit”, “God Bless You”, etc.). The bird really likes attention and will actively seek attention from the people around him. I’m sure it sounds absurd, but it is truly funny to hear and watch a parrot “sneezing” until his people his talk to him. The first few times I didn’t believe it was him- it sounded just like a human sneeze!

The bird in the story I found learned something much more useful than how to sneeze like a human.

Continue Reading One Smart Bird…

Burial at Sea

May 12, 2008 at 7:00 am | Posted in Family, Military, Under the Sea | 7 Comments

(Or reason 1,976 why my family thinks I’m crazy)

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while. I read an article a few days ago that made me decide that now is the time. A little over 5 years ago one of my uncles died following a lengthy illness, without a will or written instructions about what he wanted to happen when he died. He had spoken about a preference for cremation so we know the family got that right, but otherwise we were pretty much winging it. The chaos the family experienced trying to plan after my uncle’s death actually had one good effect- some of us have started making our wishes known. For example, although we have no idea where she wants to buried, we all know that Mom expects her obituary to end “..and (Mom) loved flowers”. She doesn’t “want any of that in lieu of flowers donate to this charity crap” (yes, my mother actually said crap when she made this statement).

It took me a little bit longer to decide what I want beyond the fact that I want to be an organ donor. My family is everywhere- mom in one state, dad and sister in another, extended family in a third and brother/sister-in-law on another continent courtesy of the US Army. I’ve also been moving around a lot. I lived in the state mom lives in until about 10 years ago, but have lived in three states since then. As a result, I don’t feel the need to be buried in any particular state and I don’t want any of my family visiting my remains at a cemetary. I do however have a specific request. I want to be buried at sea. Not like the burials at sea most people are familiar with (e.g. no pushing a weighted coffin off the side of a ship for me). I have something MUCH cooler in mind for my burial at sea. My plans are one of the many reasons why my family thinks I’m crazy. Most of them have laughed about it as a matter of fact.

Do you want to know more?

Continue Reading Burial at Sea…

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