General Archive

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Clears the Way to Marriage Equality

Marriage Equality Logo from Human Rights CampaignThis is going to be posted all over every news site and many, many other blogs besides this one, but I just can't help but share in the good news. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of marriage equality. Here's a link to the article from MSNBC, Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality.

There were two questions before the court, whether states had to license same-sex marriages, and whether states had to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Happily, the court ruled yes to both questions.

The vote was closer than I would have liked to have seen. I'm not really surprised at Alito, Scalia, or Thomas, but I was hoping Roberts would have been on the right side. I know it might not have been the original intention of the 14th Amendment, but I don't see how someone from today could read that amendment and not think it mandates marriage equality. And to the people arguing that this decision overturns the will of the people - that's the whole point of this amendment and the Bill or Rights, to ensure that people's rights aren't trampled by the tyranny of the majority.

Oh well, I'll leave it to other sites to analyze and discuss the decision in more detail. I'm just happy to share the good news.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Human Rights Campaign Marriage Equality Logo)

Friday, June 5, 2015

XKCD Crosses the Line

Take a look at this pathetic excuse for a comic that's the latest from Randall Munroe:

Click to embiggen and to read the mouse-over text

Sacrilege!!! Beer is the nectar of the gods. Sure, it may be an acquired taste, but a lot of the things I like now were acquired tastes. I didn't particularly like coffee when I was younger, but now I do. Same thing for Brussels sprouts and steak (though I think my adult taste for steak may have more to do with discovering 'medium rare' as opposed to cooked to the consistency of leather).

Beer is incredible, from the clean flavor of a Dallas Blonde, to a refreshing Modelo Especial, to a smooth Guinness Draught, to a complex La Fin du Monde. Even Natty Light hits the spot on a hot day.

I can not believe that Randall Munroe would go so far as to imply that beer actually tastes bad, or that people only drink it out of peer pressure. It's an insult, and in protest, I plan to boycott his site for the next 48 hours.


I've written about beer before, 2012 Great American Beer Festival, which reminds me that there are a few local beers I still need to try.

And even though I've already posted this before, I still like this picture, so I'm posting it again. This is from my pilgrimage to the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.

Jeff at the Spoetzl Brewery

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wichita Falls Flood Information Resources

During this recent flood scare, one issue I had was finding good sources of information. There was no single location that linked to all the good resources - I had to find them piecemeal. So, in the event that there's another flood in the future, I want to have one location with all these resources so I don't have to go searching for them again, and so that other people can easily find them. Below is a list of the resources that I found most useful.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wichita Falls' Historic Drought Ended by Historic Flood

The drought in Wichita Falls is over. I'd mentioned the drought on this blog twice before, in 2011 and 2013. This was the worst drought on record for the region. Our reservoirs had dropped down below 25% capacity, and it had even gotten so bad that the city was recycling treated sewer water directly back into the drinking supply (more info: NPR - Drought-Stricken Texas Town Turns To Toilets For Water).

But since weather here seems to always be a case of extremes, the drought went out with a bang, with the wettest month on record for the city, and 'Moderate' flooding that forced evacuations of a few neighborhoods and actually did flood a few houses. We did dodge a bullet, though. The original forecast for Saturday was another big storm that would have dumped a lot more water into our watershed, and would have probably caused a 'Major' flood, exceeding the record high we had back in 2007 (which I also blogged about). Luckily for us, that storm bypassed Wichita Falls, so our flood wasn't near as bad as it could have been.

But you could read about the flood anywhere. The thing that made me want to write this blog post was a small little event in our backyard. Since the last flood, we'd built a deck over the pond in the back. And as the water came up this time, a bunch of spiders and other creepy crawlies got trapped on the deck with nowhere to go, so I took a few photos and a short video. Here's a picture of two spiders facing off to see who gets to keep the high ground (the bigger spider to the right won the face off).

Spiders fighting for high ground during flood
Click to embiggen

And here's a video showing all the critters on the last high spot on the deck, a corner that was just a bit higher than the rest of the deck (I'm not too ashamed at my workmanship - it was only about 3/4" higher than the lowest corner).

But, me being the softy that I am, I couldn't just leave all those spiders to drown. Granted, it looked like they could swim decently, but since most spiders don't have good vision, and I saw a few heading off into deeper water, I wasn't sure how many of them would actually make it to shore. So I went and found a board long enough to make them a little bridge, and laid it across the water for them. It didn't take but a few seconds before the first spider had found the bridge and made its way over, and a lot of other spiders weren't too far behind. I only got a couple pictures of the bridge. Neither was great, and I probably could have gotten some better ones had I taken more, but right after I took those pictures is about the time it dawned on me that all those rescued spiders were now crawling around my bare feet, and I wasn't sure what type of gratitude they'd display.

Anyway, here's the first picture. You can see one spider fairly clearly on the side of the board close to shore, and a couple out of focus spiders on the board farther out in the water.

Spider bridge to rescue spiders trapped by rising flood waters
Click to embiggen

And here's the second picture, looking out towards the end of the bridge. You can see that the high spot's almost covered. There are two almost in focus spiders about halfway across, and a third out of focus just starting the crossing.

Spider bridge to rescue spiders trapped by rising flood waters
Click to embiggen

There was actually one more spot on the deck where I set up a bridge to rescue spiders, but the picture I took of that was no better than the pictures above, so there's no reason to post it. On the little actual bridge that connects the deck to the shore, there were a few weeds and grass sticking out above the water, and the spiders had a whole series of web bridges along those plants. I set up a board that just touched the plants, giving those spiders a thoroughfare to dry land.

All in all, the weekend turned out about as well as could have been hoped for, at least considering the forecast on Saturday morning. The rain filled up our nearly empty reservoirs, and the flood wasn't close to as bad as it could have been. And I managed to save a few little critters.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Traveling Bad Luck Trifecta

Bad Luck TrifectaI had a trifecta of bad luck traveling back from a conference yesterday (at least they were all minor instances of bad luck, and nothing horrible).

First, the flight was full, so I had to check my carry on bag instead of putting it in the overhead bin. It wouldn't have been a huge deal, but my flight wasn't scheduled to get into DFW airport until 10:00 pm, and I had a 2 hour drive to get back to Wichita Falls. I was hoping for as few delays as possible to getting on the road.

Second, once our plane was getting close to DFW, we had to go into a holding pattern. There had been a lot of thunderstorms in the area, shutting down the airport for a time, so there were a lot of delayed planes trying to make it in, and we were at the end of the line. Eventually the plane landed, when the flight attendant came on over the speaker system and said that it looked an awful lot like Houston out there. I think most people thought he was joking about the hazy weather, but I jumped right on my phone to pull up the maps, and sure enough, we were in Houston. Eventually the pilots came on to explain the situation - we'd been in the holding pattern too long and ran low on fuel. We had to divert to Houston to refuel, and to wait on the situation in DFW for the pilots to decide what to do. After an hour or so sitting in Houston, they refueled the plane and we flew on to Dallas.

After waiting longer than I wanted to at the baggage claim, I got my suit case and went off to the parking garage to get into my car, when this happened. I'd noticed a lot of traffic on the way to my car, but I chalked it up to all the construction going on at that terminal, and was even thinking to myself that I was glad the exit from the garage would bypass most of that traffic. I had no idea that the one road leading out of the terminal was flooded under two feet of water. Traffic was backed up all the way into the parking garage, and I think I sat for nearly an hour just in the garage before the water receded enough to where cars could start making their way through. After that, it was probably another good 20 minutes feeding into the main road to get out, and I didn't actually leave the airport till around 3:00 am. By the time I got to where the flooding had been the worst, it looked just about like this:

DFW Flooding
Image Source: CBS

Luckily for me, I have family down in the area, so I crashed at my brother-in-law's place (brother's-in-law?), and drove back this morning in daylight. It was a bit more eventful of a trip than I'd have liked, but in the big picture, I suppose it wasn't really all that bad. Even with the delays, it took less time than it would have taken to drive it.

Horseshoe Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, edited by me


Selling Out