Sunday, December 9, 2012

They ask me how's Lubbock so far; I've been here only what, four months maybe, so I don't really know. People are nice. It's easy to get around, and has a small-town feel, everyone knows everyone more or less. It's got an economy, which is more than you can say for anything northeast of about St. Louis.

It's odd, though, that the town has developed so far out south and west, and more or less left the downtown empty. I went downtown to the library on Saturday, and once more, the streets were virtually empty. I saw an entire block, empty. No shops to speak of, no Christmas shopping going on, that I could tell. At the library, there was a policeman; the library, at least, had a lot of people. It was maybe the only place that had a lot of people. Ah, but then, it's worm in there, and it's cold out, and it's always open, I think that explains the policeman.

Then tonight I went out to a friends' house way out south, on the edge of development and cotton fields, a good nine miles from our house in town. Out there, he said, there's plenty of traffic, plenty of business, plenty going on all the time. There's water, he said, at the corner of Indiana and ninety-eighth, this water comes from local businesses that water their lawns all the time, but the lawns are red clay and the water doesn't seep back into it. It ends up on the street where people splash it around but it has nowhere to go until it evaporates. So I said, it's nice here, I'd like to invite my kids and my relatives to settle around here, but it seems, if the ogallala aquifer is on its way down, and everyone is just spraying water on red clay left and right until it's gone, then the place doesn't have that much of a future. OK so they're bringing in water from the nearby lake. Maybe that will help for what, a few years? But that water is from the Brazox. There's no infinite supply of natural water anywhere. Ten, twenty years from now people will start fighting over what's left. We'll blame the people with those green lawns and point fingers for wasting all that water for so many years, letting it run into the streets like that and evaporate away because it has nowhere to go.

Ah but in the meantime, people have these nice new cars; gas is below three; the sun shines and they keep building out into the cotton fields. The guy sells off his cotton field little by little to the developer and doesn't care how much cotton he gets off of it; some of it drops from the plants near the road and lines the fence along with paper and garbage strewn out in the country there, blown by the wind. I feel like getting out of the car and grabbing some of it if only because it has to be part of an era. Who can justify pulling up so much aquifer water for that cotton, so that the cotton can just blow around the plains getting in tumbleweeds? Cotton is prosperity and it keeps the banks and the new cars coming, but, does it take our future in the form of the water we'd need to stay here permanently? And those people who are serious about the cotton, growing it in huge bales, irrigating like crazy, what else do they have to do to the red clay to make it come forth with all this cotton? I'm not clear on how this works.

And another thing, the people just outside of town, have their own wells, no water restriction at all, they can draw up whatever they want. Is that because they have another source besides the ogallala? Or because it's just assumed they're using it only for themselves and not for bales of cotton? Not, for example, just leaving a hose running by a tree until the water shoots out and fills up the streetcorner?

A playa is a plains lake, just sits there until it evaporates; maybe in the old days the water had ways of getting down through the soil, back to from whence it came, the ogallala reservoir. These days, places like ninety-eighth and Indiana are playas, because they collect the water too, and everyone knows that, and takes University when it rains. If somebody can explain this to me, please do; one issue is that the city as we know it is so new, nobody has applied themselves to figuring out how to make it survive over time. Another issue is, there are really two cities. One, the old one, has been here a while, but is fading back into the plain. The other, new, aggressive, drill baby drill, get it while you still can, and then maybe if you have some money in a Swiss bank, when the water runs out, maybe you can head out to the south of France or some such place, because you'll be used to the warm dry sun, and you'll have a taste for the monied lifestyle. I feel like one of those old cowboys, squatting in the shadow of the saloon, weighing it back and forth, by the time he's made up his mind, the wagon's up and left town for better parts, the history it leaves behind, merely the suggestion that things could have been better.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Iconic Makeover: Repairs Completed on Historic Dairy Barn, TTU news.

I have loved this old barn since the moment I got here. It reminds me of my grandfather, who combined the love of old farms and the academic setting where you prove scientifically what works and what doesn't, then apply it so as to feed successfully 8 billion people worldwide, notwithstanding a little damage to the environment, or, making all varieties of corn into a single hybrid that is unvarying as far as the eye can see. I'm not sure if everything my grandpa did was good, or worked out as good in the end (for example I'm sure he would not have been opposed to genetic modification), but that's not the point of this post. My questions for this post are: What are they going to do with this barn? Is there a good reason it has to be in tip-top painted condition rather than look like an old barn (which students loved so much, they raised thousands to preserve)? What has happened to the ag school? Is it still thriving, but on the outskirts of campus, and if so, is it better off there?

My idea is simple: barn dances. Make it a social gathering point. I know it's possible, and it will work, and it will be cool. You heard it first here. You've got to do something with it.

I have no idea about the other questions. I'll find out about them sooner or later, I'm sure. I'm not an ag guy, or I'd know that last one. But I'm in international education, and there's lots in that area that I don't know either. One can live in ignorance (and that can be refreshing) but not forever. It's in everyone's best interest to use our resources to their best potential...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Party Next Time, New Yorker.

Great article, though I've just finished reading it. I highly recommend it.

It focuses on Texas because Texas is the heart of the Republican party, and Republicans' soul-searching about what to do about losing the election, and in particular, losing support of Hispanics, has already played out to some degree in Texas.

I hadn't really noticed this, because, coming to Texas from Illinois, I was surprised that as far as I could tell the entire ballot was Republican, with a few principled Libertarians thrown in there for good measure. No wonder Republicans won by accusing their opponents of being MODERATE!...they were claiming the center by moving over further to the right! But, according to the article, the entire state could go Democratic in a few short years, since Hispanics make up an increasing majority (95@ in Laredo, up to 55% by 2040)...and since a million people, myself included, have moved into the state recently.

I don't want to belabor the point; I still consider myself a visitor, or at the very least a johnny-come-lately, so to speak. I don't know much more than I read in the article above, but I've promised my dad I'd get some Molly Ivins books as soon as possible, and I also plan on reading some Kinky Friedman. Jim Hightower might be a little too serious for me, I'm not sure. But the time to start learning is now; times are a-changin'. One Democrat did win in Lubbock County (besides Obama), but I still don't know why; in three major elections (US House, State House, State Senate) the Dems ran nobody. The US Senate candidate was not taken seriously; I think he decided not to waste a bunch of money on lawn signs. It was just as well; Rove poured millions into the election, and what good did that do? As of now, I have no plans to run myself. But I might write a book; be careful what you say around me.