Friday, December 25, 2015

Golden Pecans, part I

Young, A. Lubbock's pecan bumper crop good for business, nut lovers, Lubbock Online. Accessed Dec. 2015.

It's good to hear about the people who are in the same occupation I am, namely picking up pecans wherever I can. My own back yard has been good for maybe ten pounds so far, and on my way to work, I stop at a professor's house and pick more. Also I have a neighbor who doesn't touch theirs'; I grab a few there as I walk by as well. I try to keep my hands off where I don't know the people or where I really don't know if they want to get out and harvest their own, but I've noticed that for the most part, people don't care. A whole town of pecans, and they're just sitting there, waiting for the harvesters.

A friend of mine told me that they're hot all of a sudden in China, but I haven't confirmed this. Does this keep the price high? Or would the price come down, later in the year, as people come out with these thousands of pounds of shelled pecans, and they all hit the market at the same time? Or, here's another question. Say I bring home my 26 pounds (as it stands, I've added a pound or two to that, but I'm not sure how it'll work, and I supposedly will be able to pick up my shelled pecans around the middle of March)....and let's say there's a glut on the market and I can't even give them away to my immediate relatives. Do they keep? If so, how? How long will they last?

The pecan place gave away two kinds of mulch: the rough kind, they sold, as people found it useful for all kinds of things. It breaks up the soil, someone said, so it's generally well-sought-after. But there was another kind, the finer mulch. That was free, and it sat out in their driveway in two large gallon-drums. People use that in pin-cushions, they said, and they gave that away free, or at least they gave some away free to an older lady who asked them. She had asked me first, but I had asked the worker there, who was an Iowa Hawkeye like myself, and also a musician. She, upon finding out that it was for pin cushions and was for free, got them to make her a bag of it, and she took off with it.

Now that set me to thinking: maybe I should go into the pincushion business. I have lots of quilt fabric still hanging around. I want to go back into quilt making, but for the time issues, and being overwhelmed by work backed up. Pincushions would allow me to basically do one little thing at a time, and, on top of it, put pecan mulch in there.

It's a true-to-life, down home, Lubbock-style occupation. We're into those, these days, due to the fact that the academic world is just pretty much going down the toilet.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


OK so the football season is beyond its halfway point, and I know enough about it to know we Raiders are a little better than expected, but not quite up to the level of the big boys, which this year includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and maybe TCU who we almost beat. I stand by my earlier claim that science and health are showing football to be deadly, at least at the level it's being practiced and played at these days, but I also find that I totally love Texas folks and can't help be drawn in to this Big 12 kind of town, totally involved in these games and their outcomes.

Of course I also have a lurid fascination for Oklahoma State, which received a few million from T. Boone Pickens, spent it wisely, and got a bunch of Texas kids to come up there and turn around and beat all the Texas teams. Oklahoma, too, grabbed our quarterback and made him a star. And it totally rankles all the Texas teams when they get beat by Oklahoma, it's like your little brother beating you at chess. It's unacceptable! But we don't have a T. Boone Pickens, so we have to play by the book, and use real money, and get kids who don't mind living in Lubbock. A tall order!

So to me the low point of the season was when Baylor's quarterback broke his neck and all they could talk about was this young kid who was coming up behind him, now they'd have a chance to have a look at him. All these teams have three or four quarterbacks, and sometimes the one who's playing isn't the crowd favorite, but wait a minute, the kid broke his neck....the article didn't mention whether he'd be paralyzed for life, or just have to wear one of those ugly neck braces around for an eon. I don't want to be so into fandom that all I can do is talk about the next victim.

Yet, like everyone, I look forward to the Thanksgiving Day game, and the rest of our schedule, and though I don't actually watch any of it, I do care. You can't live in Lubbock and not care. If I ever have a couple million to blow, I'll consider it, really. No, to tell you the truth, I probably won't. I wouldn't support that six trillion dollar war, either, except I had to, they made me pay for it. That's the way it is, though, we're all one family. If one of us is out there gambling the millions, the rest of us end up paying for it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

11 am kickoff times

One of the things I've learned about Texas is that football is year-round news. Even now, when we all should be concentrating on the NBA finals or the NHL Stanley Cup, which have been unreasonably and unseasonably stretched into June when it's sweltering outside and it's difficult to care, instead we are worried about all the 11 am kickoff times throughout the Big 12 schedule. These 11 am kickoffs are the talk of the town, the league, the area, everyone.

Now it's hard not to see this concern as a veil for outright alcoholism. Here you have to make 11 am the peak of your alcohol buzz, which means you start drinking at about 8, which means you have to plant everything - barbeque pit, lawn chairs, port-o-potty, well before that. It's a hardship for people. Most of Tech's fans come from places like Shallowater, Littlefield, Tahoka, etc. Add another hour or two to the equation. Companies have invested thousands into buying and securing kegs, bringing them down to campus, setting up a parking lot space with a covered awning, setting out chairs and tables, chips, barbeque, you name it. You're basically asking them to get up at four or five to get started.

Now there are plenty of locals, myself included, who will argue that all this adds up to less drinking. The average person simply can't drink that much that early, or won't, and that's good. Actually I think they can drink that much that early, but because people are less organized, and have fewer kegs in place when it happens, they do drink less. And that's good for the rest of us citizens. We mostly want to get up and down University without killing ourselves, or be able to walk in the street without being verbally assaulted. To us a home game that's all over by two or three is almost as good as an away game.

It's ironic to me that this whole 11 am thing is driven by television. I guess I should admit that the whole thing is, when you get down to it, even the game itself. Here in Texas, there is an enormous live following: people fill the stadiums, and even the students can't get in (and college football is supposed to be for the students). But nationwide, the interest in, say, the OU - UT game on television, outside the OK / TX area, is considerable, and much more lucrative, and this is what they're interested in, harvesting interest from outside the area and bringing that mone here. These teams play in their stadium, you make maybe what, a couple mil? And it's all OK / TX money. But they play on television, at 11 am, you make 60 mill, 100 mill, something like that, and it's national advertising bucks. I don't know the numbers. But apparently the numbers are determining the kickoff times. And the kickoff times are determining the total alcohol consumption.

People don't want to watch a 2:30 game. Wives let that happen, then it's football all day, 11 am, 2:30, 5, and maybe 7, and of course 9, maybe take a few minutes to eat. A whole Saturday shot, and it's not even time for NFL. They take aim at that 2:30 game and tell their husbands, you promised to sweep out the garage. And the ratings go down for that middle one. And let's face it, the whole thing is entertainment for a wide swath of men who might have come close during college, but now the best they can do is watch it on television, and fantasize about those years when they could bash into someone and it would make a difference. More about this later, but I'm interested in whether we aren't generating a huge entertainment machine in which there are clear victims, the young who keep getting fed into it, whereas the world's television viewing audience, the financial engine of the machine, is creating an imperative that we deliver up the bodies and pay them appropriately. Well I assure you, they're talking about it, anyway. If my son wants to use his journalism degree, and write every day, what he needs to write about is 11 am kickoff times. That's the kind of article everyone is reading.

Friday, May 1, 2015

So the frat apologized today, for the events of last September that touched off the "No Means No" campaign. Their sign had implied that No meant something else besides No, and this was deeply offensive to lots of people, including at least half a dozen in my office building, which houses teachers of Italian, teachers of French, teachers of Spanish, teachers of Portuguese, you get the picture. I found it ironic that people of all these diverse language backgrounds - the place is like Europe, after all - found it necessary to post large signs that declared what "No" meant, as if there was any doubt, or any word that could possibly be less ambiguous in the world of language vocabulary.

But back to the frat. I've been challenged to give one good reason why any frat should be allowed to continue propagating its "brotherhood" idea, which plays a huge role in shaping the social lives of male students on this campus. The women and their sororities don't seem to be as bad, but many of them target the fraternities as housing the most desirable husbands, or boyfriends, to start off properly, and so often they seem to be all in it together. But they play a huge role on campus, so the question would be, can you ban them? Can you even imagine a campus without them? Can people live normal lives free of the entire institutions that keep them going?

When I was in college, frats were enormous drinking machines; there were guys in there who drank it by the keg, and you could tell. Soon after that they turned to coke, at least at Univ. of Iowa, and from what they say here at Tech, it seems to be similar here. Where do they get the money? Who knows? Are they in collusion to see how many lives they can ruin, on the way to ruining their own, or driving the name of the frat down into the gutter? It seems to me that coke makes people more arrogant; they drive faster, they get an attitude, they lord it over people around them. Don't frats have a problem with that kind of stuff already?

OK, so I'll admit, in fact I have no idea what they do in those frats; I don't even have a reliable source to tell me. I can say that it seems that well over half of cars have some kind of greek letters on the window; student conversation on social media such as yik yak seems to be obsessed with them, as if they are everything, you're either in, or not. But I really don't know. And I wouldn't know if it was even possible to ban them, or get a campus to live without them. How would that be done? And would it make things any better?

Start up a conversation. Get some freshman to say he's thinking of joining one. Let people tell you what that entails, besides a lot of money. Do you get access to their test files? Do you get free "tutoring"? Or is it just a benign kind of social thing, where you have somebody to hang with on weekends, and they pretty much just stand around outside, eating good food? Let them tell you some good reasons to join frats. I've forgotten most of the ones I ever knew.

e pluribus haiku 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A cold, snowy February has come down upon us, much like the Februaries we used to have in Illinois, only nobody here is really quite used to it. 82 accidents in one weekend; a 15-car pileup on the Marsha Sharp, and more snow expected tonight leaving everybody on pins and needles about whether the whole town will start up at ten, like we did the other day, or whether it's up and running at seven as usual, with or without a huge snow dump.

I tell everyone stay off the Marsha Sharp; hills are the hardest. Hey, people in Iowa and Minnesota don't know how to handle those glazed hilly on ramps either. Staying off them is the best way.

They shouldn't have messed with the groundhog, I say. I'm very superstitious. You diss the groundhog, what is he supposed to do? Six weeks of winter, that's not proper punishment, that's just the usual. But a couple of ice storms will go a long way.

Ambulances, medi-vacs, those guys are having a field day. But spring is around the corner - and what does that mean, dust?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Charles Whitman Day

I'm opposed to Chris Kyle Day. I have no feelings, really, about Groundhog Day, even though I spent some time growing up in Pennsylvania. I'm opposed to Charles Whitman Day, too. Charles Whitman was an American sniper, but he shot people from the UT bell tower, and didn't care too much who he killed at the time. To me, that's nothing to be proud of.

So the Governor thought Chris Kyle was worth glorifying. He grew up in Texas, went off to fight in the Iraq War, and became a high-powered sniper. He justified killing all those people because he felt he was saving American lives, and because he was pretty sure that the US had every right to be there doing what it was doing; in other words, we were the good guys. But he also came to see the enemy soldiers as animals, inhuman, and he even said so. After you killed one, all the rest were easy. He didn't really have a problem with it.

When he came home, he bragged about getting on the New Orleans Superdome and sniping away at looters down in the city below, around the time of Katrina. He also bragged about killing two guys who tried to steal his car on a highway outside of Dallas. What people say is that there's no evidence that he actually killed people randomly around the US and got away with it; more likely, he just told a good story, and got caught up in the fact that people liked to hear about a successful sniper. They could relate to the idea of good guy / bad guy and they pretty much decided that he was a good guy.

That was Governor Abbott's idea. If he was American, and all those guys he killed were Iraqis, then he was a good guy, and everyone he killed was a bad guy. That's a pretty black and white world, one could say, and it doesn't account very well for the fact that some of those guys had families, cared about their homes and cities, and may even have felt like they were defending their home against invaders.

The groundhog lives in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania, and by the time winter is over, everyone has forgotten what was supposed to happen, based on the fact that he saw his shadow or didn't. It's a kind of ritual, with an imaginary connection between animal behavior and cold weather, and I think that if he really wanted to sleep all along, they have to bait him out, either by offering him an irresistible treat, or putting a stick down in his hole to poke him until he comes out. But he's a groundhog; he doesn't kill anyone, randomly or not, unless he intends to eat them, and even then he's kind of lazy. But I'm sticking with him, because I don't go for this random killing idea, where you just go out and pick people off, because you've lost touch with their humanity.

I've kind of left out this guy who went bonkers and killed Chris Kyle himself. The thing is, I don't know too much about him, or why he'd go off and just kill somebody randomly. He apparently killed another guy, too, a friend of Kyle's, and is now on trial for it. May justice prevail, is all I can say, and if this guy isn't stable enough to be trusted with a gun, put him somewhere where he won't have access to one.

But don't go saying that all there is is good guys and bad guys, and since he killed a good guy, he's a bad guy. I just don't think it's all that simple.