30 March 2008

Trees and dirt

On the right, meet Big Daddy, the biggest tree in my tree-filled but otherwise ugly backyard. He's a big booger of a tree, 90 inches in circumference at the base. (Yeah, I just ran out & measured.)

Daddy & the other cool trees (left) are a primary reason I live where I do. When I was looking for a house, I found that most of the new places in my price range were on lots that had either recently been farmland or were razed of their old trees to simplify construction of little cookie-cutter homes. Each of those homes gets one 25-gallon tree for the front yard, and so the neighborhood *might* look like a forest again in 25 years or so.

My current house is about 15 years old, but the rule in The Woodlands (until recently but don't get me started...) always was that developers had to work around the existing trees as much as possible. Plus there are wild spaces all over. So driving in The Woodlands makes you feel like you're driving around in the woods -- to the point where it's darned easy to get lost out here.

Anyway, I love my trees. But I do not love my backyard. As mentioned in a previous entry, I've asked a landscaper to design something wonderful. Unfortunately, I have not heard from him since our first meeting. I know, these things take time, and I am *trying* to be patient. Meanwhile, here are the "before" pictures. Sad, but true. Except for the cool trees, it's a mud-pit.

Above, we're looking from the concrete slab porch toward Big Daddy. On the left, we're looking from Big Daddy back toward the porch. Pretty, right? I am pretty sure grass will grow in a lot of that dirt space if the landscaper can do some grading to prevent Lake Smukke from forming out there after every 1/4-inch of rainfall. Oh, sure, having some real *soil* out there instead of this sandy dusty crud would probably help, too.

22 March 2008


A number of Twitter users have created 'color teams' for a geek Olympics, of a sort. Event #1 involves posting photos of ourselves in 'team uniforms,' throwing rocks, paper or scissors.

Being geeky, I am on FF1CAEteam, which is the hex color designation of a lovely bright pink. Amazingly, the racing Nomex still fits and is mostly still pink although wow it faded over the years.

Had to post the photo on Flickr, which I had not used before. Now I'm blogging from there -- an experiment. Does it work? If so, I also took some 'before' photos of the non-landscaping today & the glorious trees that keep the sun from allowing any grass to grow in the backyard.

19 March 2008


I'm a professional communicator. I don't have any fancy license, but I have a college degree and people have paid me to write & edit text for the last 25 years or so. 

I am not a professional engineer, but I occasionally make forays into that world. Every time I do, I fix some typos, turn some passive voice into active voice, and learn a lot about how the world works. I take engineering classes to expand my mind & my technical knowledge, but I never think, "Any monkey could create a job design if they had the right software. Why the hell do we need these high-priced engineers?" 

Holiday Inn Express commercials notwithstanding, I believe many things in this world are best done by trained professionals. Heart surgery, for example. Soldiering. Plumbing. Electrical wiring. Bridge-building. Cooking. Cleaning.

I had a professional landscaper visit my house yesterday to plan out something wonderful for my backyard. I could go out and buy 50 plants, dig some holes and stick plants in 'em. Afterward, my backyard would be the landscaping equivalent of the newsletter that one of our engineers recently threw together using a hideous Microsoft Word template, some dark photographs of unidentifiable instrumentation, and some random text in a miniscule font that his target audience will not be able to read without a magnifier. Not to mention the black text on dark blue background. (sigh) Because, of course, any monkey with the right software can be a professional communicator. 

Or, perhaps, a professional landscaper. This evening, I told my neighbor about the landscaper's visit. He said, "Why don't you just do it yourself? I did mine..." In a rare burst of restraint, I did not say, "Yes, I see that." This is, after all, the neighbor with the naked guy on his back porch.

Irony? He's a professional elementary school administrator who complains that people think it's so easy to deal with 200 screaming kids all day long. 


02 March 2008

How the Flu Works

I'm pretty sure I saw this on the Discovery Channel, but I may have confused some of the details (heh). 

The flu begins its life as a nasty little bug, the kind of bug that none of the other bugs likes because it's always mean and never shares. When it grows up to full bugness, it has achieved Supreme Meanness, and it is ready to take on humanity. 

It jumps into its first victim, where it begins its nefarious plot. The game begins with a clone army, which it prepares in the lungs of the infected, hapless soul, even before that person realizes s/he is sick. The first sign of illness, in fact, is a teeny little cough, which serves the evil bug by dispersing clone minions into other hapless victims -- again, before the cougher even knows s/he is sick.

After the victim has done a few days of the bug's evil, the clone armies begin to march out of the lungs and start tearing up other parts of the body. The victim now realizes s/he is sick because s/he begins to feel nausea, fever, chills, runny nose, headache, etc. In short, the victim feels s/he has been run over by a bulldozer.

The truly evil part of the bug's plan is the nausea. The bug knows that if the victim does not eat or drink enough to keep the body's defenses up, the bug can win. So the victim must stuff him/herself with water, chicken soup, Gatorade, Saltines, and/or Girl Scout "Cinna-Spins" even though they would rather just curl up & die.

All of the battle is going on at the cellular level, so you can't *see* anything. Victims may look flushed from fever or pale from nausea, but they don't have any knife wounds or missing limbs. Thus, it's easy to poke them and call them slackers. But in fact, their metabolism is running so high they are burning more calories than they could wish to eat. This leads to what cyclists call "the bonk," where your body just runs out of energy & shuts down higher functions, like consciousness. And thus, we nap. And nap. And then nap some more. 

I've been sleeping on & off for the last 36 hours, trying to let my body handle the Battle of the Bug. I've avoided drugs because fever is one of your body's natural defenses for these nasty bugs, and it's a good and useful thing as long as it doesn't get up over 103-ish, where it starts frying brain cells (not a great idea). I have this mental image of my body's defenses all lined up & ready for battle, and some Pharmaceutical Pom Pom Squad standing in the way trying to 'help.' No thanks. My body is well-equipped for this battle. 

And so, I'm letting my body handle the mess. I'm tired of coughing, and I really wish I could take some aspirin to stop the general aches but that would reduce the fever too, so, I'll suffer. Actually, rather than suffer, I'll just go back to sleep. Right after I force down another cup of soup.