Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Ring Out, Wild Bells
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Happy New Year!!

Thanks to Graphics Fairy  for the Bells Illustration 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Texas Christmas Gifts - On Sale

Check out this fun Texas Christmas Collection (you can see just a little bit of it below) by various Zazzle artists.  On Cyber Monday use coupon code CYBERMONRTRN for  70% off cards and invitations, 50% off gift tags and labels, 40% off ornaments, and 20% off stockings! 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Butterfly Sightings

I love "fall" in Texas.   It really is sort of like spring.  I saw SO MANY BUTTERFLIES on our lantana bush this week (the one nature planted outside our front door several summers ago).  Here's my son trying to lure one on to onto a flower we cut.  That one didn't take his bait, but another did...a little brown jet like butterfly I didn't get a picture of, which I think was a Little Glassywing.

There were 6 types of butterflies that came to visit all on one day (the ones shown here and also a Monarch, a little Yellow Butterfly, and lots if Little Glassywings).   I had never seen some of them before, but with the help of some online friends we found the names for most of them...

Tawny Emperor

These brown butterflies are a frequent visitor to my yard.

Gulf Fritillary

This is Gulf Fritillary...a male one, to be specific (the people in my local garden forum are amazing...that's the only reason I know this).   These have been in my garden many times before, but I just now learned their names.  Isn't "Fritillary" the best name for a butterfly?  Sounds positively Victorian.

Giant Swallowtail

The caterpillars from these  beauties LOVE my dill and parsley, and are just as fascinating to watch as they are in butterfly form.

Pipvine Swallowtail

But this blue/black stunner stole the show.  What a beauty!   She was always in motion so it was hard to get a good picture of her, though I sure tried.  And every time she moved she shimmered!    I had never seen this type before, but several have visited since.

Here's a picture of her in flight.  I didn't realize when I took the picture that this butterfly nearly became dinner.  Can you find the giant green spider in this picture?

No?  Keep scrolling...

Still have trouble seeing it?   Keep scrolling...but warning, it's creepier up close.  If you do not like spiders you will want to skip this (there's no more butterfly pics).

This is a Green Lynx Spider, sitting on it's egg sack, which looks pretty close to hatching (you can see all the little spiderlings).  The mother, like the other one I've seen, was over an inch long.

Flower Friday

Friday, April 08, 2016

Texas and California Giveaways

Found some local giveaways in California and Texas....

Texas Giveaways

(6/6) Brick Universe Lego Fan Expo Tickets (Plano, TX - June 11-12)

(6/13) Wild West Week Cedar Park Rodeo Tickets (Cedar Park, TX - June 17 - 19)

(6/15) Thinkery Camps (Austin, TX)

California Giveaways 

(5/30) $3000 Lodging + $2000 food in California 

If you know of any others, please share them and I'll add them too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Guest Post by Donna Fitzgerald: My Issues With Texas Roadways

I’ve driven 1-35 East, in and around Dallas enough times that some of my experiences were as bad as a “normal” day in Los Angeles traffic. Anyone that’s been stuck in big Texan congestion (particularly during a rare morning rain storm) will agree that traffic congestion is a major danger on Texas roadways. It’s frustrating and confusing and when I’ve brought it up to native Texans, the response is always the same, “It’s always been this way!” What’s worse is that the average driver spends up to 52 hours being stuck in traffic. That’s many people’s PTO!

So, okay, it’s been this way for a long time--to be more accurate, at least 40 years. The major population boom of over 100% is a main culprit for traffic congestion;  that and the fact that extra roads couldn’t be built quickly enough to accommodate such an influx of residents. Even though TxDOT has a plan to reduce the congestion in some of the biggest cities, I don’t see Texas roadways becoming any less dangerous until other changes are made, too.

The Problem with Texting

I hate texting and driving and I’m bothered that Texas is slow to get on board with putting a texting and driving ban on the whole state.   I’m even more disturbed that it’s not illegal to text and drive in major cities like Dallas. While a number of cities have taken on this issue, currently, the only state-wide laws prohibiting texting and driving includes bus drivers (when a passenger is 17 or younger is present), drivers in school crossing zones, and intermediate license holders for the first year.  At least I don’t have to worry about my youngest daughter crossing in a school zone, right?    When I’ve voiced my opinion to some, I am simply reminded, “If you don’t like it, don’t do it”, but it’s hard to ignore.

I used to text and drive and it was a hard habit to break, but after having one too many close calls and suddenly realizing I was a role model for my soon-to-be-licensed daughter, I knew I had to change. While my husband is perfectly content to turn off his phone and put it in the glovebox, I wasn’t going to risk the temptation and had an ignition interlock device installed in our car (to each their own, right?).  Technically, we can still text and drive, especially to pass the time during gridlock (like every other driver), but as a family, we’ve pledged not to.

When my daughter got her license, we wrote up a driving contract and she signed a pledge not to text and drive, even when or if it becomes legal for her. Additionally, she downloaded a texting prevention app on her phone and surprisingly, she’s inspired many of her friends to do the same.
The Congestion Issue

I know that fixing a major congestion issue will take some time and even with the money to pay for it, I shudder at the thought of more construction and re-routing already problematic traffic. While texting and driving is a significant and noticeable issue during gridlock, I’ve also noticed many motorists engaging in a handful of distractions. One morning, I spotted my neighbor shaving his face behind the wheel:  He saw me and smiled sheepishly.

Fortunately, my daily schedule is flexible and I can often plan my trips around the worst times of congestion. In order to plan my day and know what to expect, I check out the Texas Highway Conditions map on a daily basis. My daughter makes fun of me, but without my “heads up” she wouldn’t know what to expect either.

This guest post was written by the author, 
and fellow Texifornian, Donna Fitzgerald.

Pictures by Pixabay 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Railroad Commissioner Websites Are Comedy Gold

I've been researching republican primary candidates, and oh my word, reading Railroad Commissioner candidates' websites is comedy gold...

Take Doug Jeffrey's whole paragraph and a link to his facebook page is the whole thing. No mentions of issues...just a bio with this gem to convince us he has experience in the oil industry (which is what Railroad Commissioner regulates...that and gas, but ironically, not railroads):
"Doug has continued his family's tradition of raising cattle and has active investments in the oil and gas industry." 
Like, "I invest in oil companies" is the closest thing he has to experience...all grouped in there in a sentence about his cattle experience, like that's just as relevant.  Nice.

 Or try this one by John Greytok (who's site overall isn't too least it has some content, this quote not withstanding)....
" 1994, outraged over the arrogance of the Clinton White House, Greytok filed suit against Bill Clinton in a Texas federal district court." 

And that was ALL it said about that. So, was the suit about... Clinton's arrogance? I mean really, cause he didn't  say WHY he sued him, other than that. I can just picture that day in the John Greytok stands in front of the court and in a booming voice says, "I file this suit over the egregiously pompous arrogance perpetrated by President Clinton."

Ron Hale does talk about issues a little...but someone please get this man a copy-editor.  He has a whole line of "bullet points" all formatted like this....
Conservative Principles I plan to regulate on the basis of traditional values, limited state and federal government involvement, individual liberty, and free market principles.
Wow, that's new...this is the first Republican I've heard of that wants to regulate conservative principals. Seriously Hale, advice from a former English need a dash or a colon or some bolding or something in there. Really, pay some college student $20 to edit your's worth it).*

 *Yeah, yeah, I know I'm going to be creamed for that cause I probably have a few errors in this myself. Granted, I'm not expecting anyone to vote for me though.

So, who did I decide on?  Someone who doesn't have a website at all (at least not one I can find)...which usually would be a pretty swift knock against him, but nearly every article on the race I could find seemed to be endorsing him, and their reasoning seemed sound.  The Dallas News, The Eagle, Corpus Christy Caller Times and Waco Tribune all endorse the geologist and current commission employee Lance Christian (not to be confused with Wayne Christian, also running, who seemed to get some pretty hearty UN-endorsements).   The Texas Tribune also had a very detailed and mostly positive article about Lance, though it wasn't an official endorsement.  And the Houston Chronicle suggests a vote for EITHER Lance Christian OR John Greytok. 

Below are some quotes from those endorsements...

For Lance Christian
Of all the candidates, Lance Christian not only is the most knowledgeable about the commission, but wants to use that knowledge to help industry thrive responsibly. He's a geologist working for the commission — not just a geologist but one versed in hydrology. His science background and his knowledge of the inner workings of the agency would be uncommon assets to the commission. He knows better than the others which rules work and which don't.-Corpus Christy Caller Times
Unlike many of the politicians in this race, he keeps a focus on the straight and narrow duties of the commission: preserving the safety of Texans and our environment, and fostering the oil and gas industry. But maybe he doesn't go for the political pot-shots because Christian can actually talk about the policy and science that consumes most of the day-to-day duties of the commission.
- Houston Chronicle
 [Lance Christian is] likely to bring a measured, reasoned voice to difficult discussions about energy and environmental concerns. For example, Christian cited a need to review regulations to help the embattled oil and gas industry, including revamping a bond structure to allow small operators greater financial flexibility in plugging dormant wells. He also said the commission needs to carefully address harmful environmental emissions without hurting a struggling industry. This is a reasonable, balanced approach.
- Dallas News
For the record, the only candidate who stood out of the Texas Railroad Commission wannabes assembled...was Lance Christian, a low-key, 44-year-old geologist who works for the commission. He talked about things like horizontal drilling, injection wells and protecting groundwater. In short, he knew what he was talking about and didn’t feel the need to proclaim himself pro-Israel or pro-gun. 
- Waco Tribune

 For John Greytok

Greytok has legal expertise. With a law degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, Greytok has served as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the state of Texas and as a briefing attorney to the chief justice of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. He understands the legal aspects of the commission's rulemaking and is also endorsed by former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.
- Houston Chronical

Anyways, also along the way I found some seemingly non-biased sources for info.  This article lists quotes from a candidate forum (which unfortunately I couldn't find the full transcript for.).   While the Dallas Morning News itself isn't un-biased, their voter's guide seems to consist of verbatim answers to questions from the candidates, so offers a good overview without their own slant to it.     There was also a Q&A session I found, but  Lance Christian wasn't included (he came into the race late, so maybe that's why).