Friday, September 26, 2008

Confessing Runner

For anyone interested, there is a new post here on Confessing Runner. Just in time for your long run.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


F-ING CENTERPOINT, as it shall evermore be called here, obviously knew better than to tangle with my poison pen---er, word processor, because only a few hours after my post yesterday, the power came on in our house, and we were the first in our neighborhood to receive it.

Shortly thereafter, Comcast noticed I was giving it the stink eye, and our internet and cable service sprang back to life.

Don't mess with the big dog.

Hopefully, I'm not given to unnecessary whining, but I don't think the criticism of F-ing Centerpoint is unwarranted. Although they had a big job to do, restoring power in the fourth largest city in the country, there is every indication that it could have and should have done it much better.

Crews from other parts of the country were shaking their heads at F-ing Centerpoint's disorganized approach and mocking F-ing Centerpoint's crappy infrastructure and grid design. F-ing Centerpoint left the impression that it did not know what it was doing simply by handing out contradictory information. Yesterday for example, their website had four different sets of figures concerning how many customers in our area were without power or when substantial restoration could be expected. All on one website. And just up the road, Entergy had 97% of its customers restored (including in the Woodlands, i.e., with TREES) many days earlier simply through the expedient of advance planning to have a much higher ratio of workers to restoration jobs. Some of those extra workers have now been released to F-ing Centerpoint.

Kind of makes you want to be independent of the grid. Solar panels and windmills anyone?

Anyway, there was much rejoicing last night. Mrs. Greyhound went to the grocery store and purchased the bare necessities--frozen pizza, popsicles, and four bottles of merlot.

Yeah, four. Don't judge.

We packed the generator to the garage, cranked down the ac, and it actually got so cold we had to pull up the blanket. Good times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse--Survival in Suburbia

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Spring, Texas, my home town, out on the edge of the Megalopolis. The whether started out a warm and humid Indian Summer, and later there was delightful, dry and cool, fall weather. Oh, and in between there was a natural disaster that caused a billion dollars of damage and still has over a million people without electric power.

So, it was sort of like a judgment day sandwich. A nice warm piece of summer bread on top, a hearty piece of autumn bread on the bottom, all surrounding a heaping serving of nature’s wrath.

Mmmmmm. Tasty.

Now, 11 days on, with no air conditioning in sight, the daytime temperatures are in the upper 80s with humidity to match. Our little corner of suburbia has become some anthropologist’s bizarre Petri dish.

Looking around the cul de sacs, an acute researcher could observe what happens when the suburbs return to the “state of nature,” that time before organized governments or society where the noble savage emerged from the forest and made a social compact with his brethren not to kill and eat each other in exchange for cooperation for mutual survival and the propagation of the species. So, too, the researcher could notice how these pre-societal family progenitors engage in behavior calculated to demonstrate their social dominance or mating potential.

Mostly this has to do with horsepower, and actually one has a sneaking suspicion that these displays have more to do with “compensating.” Just think “Hummer driver.” Read on and you’ll start to get the picture.

You see, when a McMansion becomes a dark, un-air-conditioned box with no workable electronics, one must fill the entertainment gap and maintain one’s social status in some fashion. Thus, the circle on which we live went from the silence after the storm through a crescendo of internal combustion engines. Now, there is a steady hum as generators.

But in this suburban, American, Petri dish, it hardly suffices to have a mini-generator merely to run the refrigerator, providing only the necessity of food to go along with water and shelter. No, once the social compact has been entered, and we have refrained from attempting to destroy our neighbors, we must nevertheless compete with them. Thus, the corpulent, cubicle dwellers of Magnolia Way have become overnight experts on the engineering limitations and features of power generators.

At minimum, an American, suburban generator must be capable of running the refrigerator, some fans, a couple lamps, and most importantly, the flat screen television, whose glow must and will be seen from the street--a beacon to principle that life depends not only on food, shelter and water, but also on entertainment. The cry might well go up, “Give me Leno, HBO and late night Skin-e-max or give me death.”

But the perceptive sociological observer would note that merely having a few lights on inside the house is insufficient plumage for certain of the species to establish their place within the social hierarchy. Who knows what type of generating capacity is necessary to have one’s house awash and ablaze in light sufficient to hold a party and crank up the music in apparent ignorance of the fact that your neighbors all have their windows open. Or maybe they wanted everyone to hear their music, hmmm? And is this a bigger statement of social dominance than pulling an RV into your driveway and living in air conditioned comfort, albeit in fewer square feet than the party house?

Of course, I grew up Baptist, Calvinistic and Puritanical before fundamentalism was cool. And folks like us are conspicuous in our plainness and proud of our humility. We believe in conspicuous non-consumption. We drive 10 year old Toyotas, even if we could afford new Hummers. We save our money and pay off our credit cards. We have no mortgage crisis, because we bought less house than the bank want to lend us money for. We buy suits off the rack, and used race wheels.

OK, maybe race wheels is a bad example.

Add to this that I descend from stock whose Native American progenitor refused to enroll with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and refused to take handouts lest he become beholden to the government and less human as a consequence. (True story. I come by my conservative nature genetically). We moved one step ahead of civilization for decades on end, living on the frontier and making our own way. We are the self-reliant few who made the Monroe doctrine a reality--conquering the prairies, taming the west, pushing America’s manifest destiny from sea to shining sea.

Yeah, that was us, recent Euro-trash immigrants. You can thank me later.

People like this have no need of assistance, government or otherwise, nor of creature comforts unnecessary to subsistence and survival. We can live for weeks on end in the dark, create fire with flint and steel, boil water, consume non-perishable food, and jeer in quiet, self-satisfaction at the softness of our pasty, suburban neighbors while gripping our firearms in the darkened recesses of our homes.

But did I mention that Mrs. Greyhound and ‘Pounce arrived home on Monday? And did I mention that our weather gods have once again reminded us that this is Houston, and so one must always be coated with a salty layer of slime while drops of sweat trickle down your backbone and over your belly? And did I mention that Mrs. and ‘Pounce spent one (only one) sticky night with no fans and no ac on Monday? And did I mention that, low these 12 days after the storm, F-ING CENTERPOINT has not managed to get the power restored in a neighborhood with very few downed trees and NO OVERHEAD POWER LINES? And did I mention that one of Mrs. Greyhound’s friend had her power restored, and no longer has need of the gigantic, ultra-smoothe, Subaru generator that powered essentials in three houses in their neighborhood?

Twenty-four hours after Mrs. Greyhound’s return, we had a giant, Subaru generator humming on our back porch. To my Native American forefathers, this, undoubtedly, is a sign of the apocalypse.

Gosh that fan felt good last night.

Well, that's the News from Spring, Texas, where all the schools are exemplary, all the food is fast, and all the commutes are below average.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Go here for some photos of the aftermath of the hurricane.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Journalistic Drinking Game

I have pictures and video that I still intend to put up on the hurricane blog when I have both time and a broadband connection. Currently I have one or the other--a broad band connection at work and no time, or time in the dark at home, but no internet connection at all. And not to put too fine a point on it, but all the best things to do when the power is out require a partner. Mine isn't here.

OK, TMI. Back to the post.

In the interim, the local and national news has become tiresome. Nationally, we're apparently off the radar screen. If it bleeds it leads, but we're not bleeding or disfunctional like New Orleans. Our mayor is basically giving FEMA the forearm shiver, forcing it to get the heck out of the way so that folks who know what they're doing can get the trains running on time again. And most folks in Houston would be happy to take care of themselves, thank you very much, if the lights would just come on. So, don't mind us, NBC or CNN. Sure, we're the fourth largest city in the country and we go dark every night without civil disorder, and we're responsible for 25% of the country's refining capacity. But don't mind us. We're just fine.

Me in particular, I've got it really good compared to folks on the coast. I've got a job to go to, a house that's still in one piece, enough supplies to last weeks, enough money to take care of myself, and places that are open where I can purchase things with that money. Focusing a camera or a headline on "bleeding" lead stories of destruction provides none of the information we need. Most folks could mostly take care of themselves if the local news would actually provide information, born of actually asking questions like "who, what when, where, why, and how." Instead, all we get is sound bites, born of lazily attending news conferences and merely repeating what is said. Then, news radio breaks to interminably repetitious call in interviews with Joe Bob or Betty from Baytown who says the power is out, it rained really hard, and there's lines for gas.

REALLY? SERIOUSLY? I would have never known.

Beyond that, all we get is the same worn out phrases over and over. It's like some sick, college drinking game. You feel like you ought to take a shot of tequila or every time you hear the buzz words, which if I never hear them again, it will be too soon. We are well and truly tired of the following words and phrases, which through their repetition, have been denuded of any meaning:

1. Hunker--as in "hunker down." Where? How? With what equipement? For how long? Never really said. We just "hunkered."

2. PODs--as in "Points of Distribution." Giving it a TLA (three letter acronym) does not make the sites any less chaotic, nor any less necessary for those who put up a week's worth of their own supplies. The only reason they work is because local citizens took over volunteering to hand out materials to their neighbors, and local radio stations and officials knew where to put them. The real story is how neighbors are taking over, and this story is largely untold.

3. Devastated--Yeah. Barrier island. We get it. Break out your thesaurus or give specifics about streets, blocks, structures, stores--you know, like information people can use to plan their lives for the next several weeks and decide whether and how to rebuild.

4. Recovery--Again. We get it. Recovery has no meaning. What part? Where? What infrastructure? Who's doing it? What do they need?

5. "Round the clock"--blah blah blah. Yeah, Centerpoint is working "round the clock" to get the power outages restored. (See the outage map here and a map by zip codes here. According to the maps, 41-60% of the people in my zip code have power--but I saw no lights in my recon last night.) What are they doing? What's their plan? What infrastrucure specifically needs to be repaired and how? Your guess is as good as mine, because nobody has asked that question. But "round the clock" they go. Mining the internet or chat forums will get you some more details, but then you have a credibility concern about the information you're getting.

I'm sure I could think of others, but the situation really points out the utter failure of informational outlets, in government, in business, and in the media, to provide useful, raw data that people can use to make decisions about how to handle a crisis. There's a pulitzer out there for the man or woman who isn't too lazy to ask some interesting questions. But as of now, journalism is reduced to standing in front of an angry sea or a dramatic background of destruction and blubbering superlatives, as if it is "news" that hurricanes are windy and wash things away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

All Clear

No damage apparent at my place from Hurricane Ike, and everyone in neighborhood is safe. But not enough power and bandwidth for a proper post. More later when lights and internet are back on line.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Confessing Runner

For those of you who are interested, there is a new post just up on the Confessing Runner blog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike--I'm blogging this

During the day yesterday, the cone of death moved more in line with the Megalopolis where I live, so we're expecting hurricane conditions this weekend. The conventional wisdom is, "run from water, hide from wind." Depending upon how your crow flies, I'm 50 to 70 miles away from the coast, well clear of the storm surge. So, I'll be hiding, not running.

While I do, hide that is, I hope to throw out some pictures, video and narrative of what it's like in Spring, Texas during the storm--hopefully very regular and rapid updates when I'm not sleeping. So, check out and tell all your weather nerd friends.

Because You Asked

At your request, and because the customer is always right, here is the rough recipe for black beans and quinoa. I found it online, originally, but have modified it to suit me over time.

Dump about a tablespoon or two of olive oil in your wok or large saucepan for purposes of sauteing some an onion you chopped and at least a heaping tablespoon of chopped garlic. Saute until golden, a little brown and carmelized if that's how you roll, or less so if not.

Dump in 2 cups of chicken broth and 3/4 cup quinoa, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and ground pepper to taste. Stir so it gets mixed well and does not stick. Medium heat until boiling, reduce heat, cover, simmer 20 minutes, checking and stirring periodically to make sure it's not getting too too dry or sticking to the pan and burning.

While it's cooking, set aside two drained cans of black beans and about a cup+ of frozen corn.

Add the black beans and corn to the quinoa mixture, continue simmering about 5 minutes until heated through.

Top off with some chopped cilantro (to taste) and maybe even garnish with some colby/jack cheese. It keeps in the fridge all week, and tastes even better after the spices have married overnight. I hold the cilantro and cheese in reserve until I pull it out and heat it up.

Mmmmmmmm. That's good eatin'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New School/Old School

Well, it's been a quiet week in Spring, Texas, my hometown, out on the edge of the Megalopolis. The Megalopolis, along with nearly all the Gulf Coast, was again in the "cone of death" representing the potential path of a hurricane, this time Hurricane Ike. Old School residents of the Megalopolis have not yet become concerned. They simply watch the local news, and when the man standing in front of the green screen tells them to be concerned, they just blink because they've seen this all before. On this one, I kind of tend toward the New School, haunting the weather underground online and comparing computer models. Those models have been shifting with alarming regularity, but it looks like we'll escape the worst of it again.

So, New School on that, but I had an Old School workout last night. I went to the track where my marathon plan coach had prescribed, after a warmup, 5x1000 at T pace on one minute's rest to be followed by 6x200 at R pace on :45 rest to be followed by a cool down. While that sounds very technical, I was without a watch or a heart rate monitor. So, I went decidedly old school. Run hard, rest as little as you can get by with, then run hard again. I would not have made the fifth 1000 were it not for the presence of Coach T and her main squeeze Scuba Steve running with me. Old School guys don't like to give up (or puke up) in front of the kids.

And the recovery nutrition? Also Old School: Pizza and Beer.

And the swim this morning? Old School again. Outside, in the dark as soon as the pool opens. First in. Swim hard. Don't even think about quitting until you've got at least 2k in the bank. And none of these "jammers" or "square leg" swimsuits for old guys without waists. Old School. Little black Speedo baby.

OK, that was way TMI. But I've rediscovered a couple of abs and some ribs in the last week or so, so I was all wild and crazy.

But two nights ago I went New School in the dad department. While Superpounce is a pretty adventurous eater for a kid, we have not been able to get her to eat anything with beans in it, particularly black beans. Now, an Old School dad would just put out the food and say, "You'll eat it and you'll like it. Either that or you'll go hungry." Actually, an Old School dad would not have cooked the food, but would be inquiring about the whereabouts of his meat loaf and potatos while watching Walter Cronkite from his La-Z-Boy, alternately drinking a Miller High Life and snoring.

Ahhhhhh . . . . those were the days.

Oops, did I say that out loud? Sorry, I digress.

A New School dad, however, not only cooks food, he resorts to strategerie to get his offspring to eat the healthy options he puts on the table.

I know 'Pounce enjoys spicy foods like my Black Beans and Quinoa, and I know she likes to cook with me. So, I figured she would eat it if she was the one who "cooked it." I was right. I prepared all the ingredients before hand--measured the cumin and cayenne pepper, chopped the onions, chopped the garlic, put the black beans and corn aside, gathered two cups of chicken broth and 3/4 cup of Quinoa, measured a couple table spoons of olive oil into the wok and called the 'Pounce any time it was time to saute, stir, pour, combine or "cook."

She loved it, both the cooking and the eating. And when Mrs. Greyhound commented on how good it tasted, 'Pounce tapped her chest like an NBA player who just sank a three point shot and said:

"I know--I cooked it."

And that's the news from Spring, Texas, where all the schools are exemplary, all the food is fast, and all the commutes, are below average.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Confessing Runner

Just in time for your weekend long run, a new entry has been posted in the Confessing Runner blog. Go here if you're interested.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

'Cause That's How I Roll

**Note the Buck to Doe ratio in this group of triathletes**

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Trial Of The Century

Those of you keeping score at home will know what today is. Yes, it is September 3, the day in which I got my day in court on the fiasco where Officer McBreakfast Taco, aka Deputy Constable Williams of Montgomery County, Texas, tried to bully me off the road, and when I complained to his supervisor, saw fit to back date a ticket for failing to "git off the road."

Anyone of you who has seen me practice law would know that my anal retentive preparation knows no bounds. I have even been accused of filing a Motion For Summary Judgment from the bike course of Ironman Coeur d'Alene. This, of course is false, but totday, I was loaded for bear. I had my exhibits prepared. I had my copy of the Transportation Code. I had blown up pictures of the site of the road where he accosted me, and I had a blown up map showing the location of his house about a mile away from the spot of the violation.

I made short work of the violation, persuaded the prosecutor to dismiss the ticket altogether, and was done by 9:00. Because that's what kind of lawyer I am. I'm that good.

OK, it really did not have anything to do with my ability. It was only because I was a lawyer at all. Since I had on my best lawyer suit and bow tie, I got to take a seat in front of the bar instead of standing around the wall with the rest of the (alleged) criminals. Then, the bailiff (the one with the gun) instructed me to cut in line (because you're a lawyer) and check in with the clerk and tell her who my client was--er, me. Then, the prosecutor called on me and met with me first, because I'm a lawyer and had on my fancy suit. Meanwhile, the rest of the citizen taxpayers looked on with a degree of jealous loathing that made me glad they had all been wanded and run through a metal detector before coming into the courtroom.

I know. It totally sucks for the rest of the folks who also have jobs and schedules. But, membership has its privileges.

Anyway, it wasn't really lawyering skill that achieved the dismissal. The only "skill" involved was being an attorney with 14 years experience knowing that it costs nothing to be nice, even if you feel like being a hot head. I walked into the conference room with the prosecutor, smiled, shook her hand, introduced myself and my case.

She knew me immediately.

I had called the prosecutor a couple of weeks ago, and left a polite message, explaining my particular case, and encouraging her to look into it, as I intended to try it unless it was dismissed--something they almost never do. She did look into it. Because of the polite heads up, she knew my case from the hundreds in her file (only one involving a bicycle no doubt), said they had taken pictures of the road where I was cited, and proceeded to dismiss it because it was too narrow for the statute I "violated" to even apply. (A cyclist is entiteld to "take the lane" when it is less than 14 feet wide in Texas. This one had an 11 foot lane and an uneven 2 foot shoulder).

So, we talked a bit about local cycling clubs because she is interested getting more into cycling. I told her about the Woodlands Cycling Club and the fact that the head DA, her boss, is actually a member. After our friendly visit, I shook her hand as an honored colleague, and walked out of there at 8:57.

Then a nice lady tried to hire me in the parking lot. True story.

So, Greyhound 1, Deputy Constable Williams 0. But my point has not yet been made.

In all probability, Constable Williams never intended to show for trial anyway. And his boss, who was willing to whitewash his conduct and issue a citation for a roadway where the statute does not even apply, is still in office at the pleasure of the local voters. And neither of them knows anything more about the rights of cyclists now than they did before. So, is it over?

Nope. It is on.

Constable Williams and the Chief Deputy who had his back get another letter, and another chance to apologize. If they do, then we're all friends again.

If they do not, they will be thrown into the displinary system for bad law enforcement officers, and (still thinking on this one) perhaps a criminal complaint as well, because of the manner in which Constable Williams endangered me with his pickup truck. I'd be in jail if I had done it to him. Only fair that he should have to clear his name and have a criminal complaint on his record.

And one more thing. Every time a deputy constable gets a raise, it has to be posted on the agenda for the county administrative hearing. Those agendas are public record and are searchable online. Who knows who might show up to object and question the good officer next time Constable Williams' merit comes up for discussion?

This will go easier if he just says, "I was wrong. I'm sorry." What are the odds his pride allows him to do it?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Well, it's been a quiet week in Spring, Texas, my home, out on the edge of the Megalopolis. Summer has come to an end. Odd to think of it, because it will be in the 80s and 90s for many weeks yet here on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. And, as a consequence, we probably have not spent our last weekend watching the "cone of death" on the weather channel and wondering whether the Megalopolis will get up close and personal with named storms like, "Gustav" or "Hannah" or "Igor." Sadly, as much fun as we had this summer, summer died while we were watching TV and I was writing a brief.

Strange how things run down when you're not paying attention, how life gets on "while you're making other plans." For example, I took the picture up top probably 18 months ago, in the depths of winter, at the outdoor pool where I like to swim. The pool is a beautiful, 50 meter, saline pool where all the women are masters, all the men swim in the fast lane, and all the kids are on swim team. It's the best I have ever swum in, and I could use it any time I wanted because I have a full membership to the aquatic center.

But this picture has a certain loneliness to it, the few persons standing there on the side, bundled against the cold. Unseen in the picture are the swimmer kids tearing back and forth, made invisible by the long shutter speed that was necessary to get the shot in the dark. Ghost swimmers, they are. This morning I was swimming with ghosts again.

News has come out that the aquatic center is closing at the end of the year. It's too expensive to run, and the local school system has built its own facility. The highest and best use of the land is not to provide solitary lane space and aquatic meditation for middle aged triathletes. So, this morning, I was the only swimmer, in the darkness, occupying the far lane in an Olympic size pool. The surface of the water and the flags over the pool rippled with the outlying winds of Hurricane Gustav, and maybe with the memory of all swimmer kids and the millions of meters of swimming that they have swum there.

The diving well over there was the haunt of an Olympic gold medalist. Champions beyond number have swum in the pool. But now it is on life support, and I am the only one left. I've heard it said, "if these walls could talk." Where do the achievements go when they knock down the walls and the school records are removed? And what of us who have no written records, those who just go from being unable to swim to being unable to quit swimming.

I suppose it is carried in our muscle memory, maybe our DNA or blood. Maybe we carry it and infect those who come in contact with us, infect them with something good. Maybe we can create antibodies to laziness and average and 9 to 5. Maybe.

I hope so.