General Archive

Monday, August 15, 2011

End of Wichita Falls Heat Wave Streak

Hot ThermometerWell, the record setting streak had to come to an end some time. The high temperature in Wichita Falls this past Saturday was only 93ºF, breaking a string of 52 consecutive days where the temperature had exceeded 100ºF. The previous record, set back in 1980, was 42 days. The summer's not over, yet, though, and we're probably still in for some more scorchers, so there are still a few more heat related records to be had, such as most total days over 100º in one year (we'll probably break that one today).

More Info: NOAA - Heat Wave and Summer Temperature Data for Wichita Falls

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Visitor at Dusk

The other day, just after I had gotten home and gotten out of the car, I heard a rustling in the bushes in front of our house. My first thought was that it was the cats, but I realized that our cats aren't clumsy enough to make that much noise. So, I took a step back, and waited to see what would come out.

Armadillo in my Driveway

It's a bit hard to tell from the grainy photo from my cell phone, but that's an armadillo. I've seen a few dozen armadillos, but what makes that one unique, after my having lived in Texas for nearly ten years, is that it's alive. Honestly, every single armadillo I've seen before this one (not counting zoos), has been roadkill. It probably has something to do with me living and working inside the city limits, but I've seen living bobcats, coyotes, skunks, possums, rabbits, beavers, foxes, raccoons, deer, bats, and plenty of other animals, but never a live armadillo.

I followed this one around the neighborhood for about 10 or 15 minutes before it finally went through a neighbor's backyard into a strip of trees. My daughter just missed seeing it, but at least heard it rustling in the woods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Alex Uba, R.I.P.

Growing up, I had two friends that I met in kindergarten, and we remained very close throughout elementary and middle school. When I moved to Maryland at the start of high school, we stayed in touch for a while, making several back and forth visits, but we began drifting apart, until eventually we lost contact. A little over a year ago, I joined Facebook, and discovered that one of them, Alex Uba, was also a member. So, we contacted each other then, but after so many years, there wasn't much to say, and our friendship went back to silence.

A little while ago, I found out that Alex died just a few months after our latest contact. I was shocked. After so little contact over the years, you'd think it would have lessened the impact, but it still hit me hard. I guess I'd always maintained some hope that the next time I made it up to my hometown, I'd give him a call and get together for a few beers. Hell, I still have his old phone number memorized, which I thought might still be his parents' number, so I envisioned giving them a surprise call out of the blue. I'd even occasionally have dreams where our old group met up. Now, I guess I can go look for his grave to pay my respects.

I was flooded with childhood memories of all the things we'd done together. We went through Cub Scouts together, then Boy Scouts. We went camping together nearly every month, shared tents, had the same cabin at summer camp. One year, at the end of the week pool competition, he, the other kindergarten friend, and I won the three person human raft swim race. I helped him on his Eagle Scout project. I went to his birthday party every year, and he always came to mine. I slept over at his house more nights than I could count. In elementary school, we made fun of his name calling him Uba the Tuba, and they made fun of me calling me deaf Jeff. His family took me along to Sunnybrook pool for years when they had a membership, and then we swam at his house once they got their own pool (Sunnybrook Pool has since been filled in). I rode my bike over to his house. We rode around in the go kart that his dad built for him. We towed each other on sleds behind the old used snow mobile his dad fixed up. We flew kites in the field behind his house. We played backyard football and kill the carrier. We even invented our own game that we called Spanish football. I remember the time we bought little balsa wood airplanes and flew them in the field across the street from his house, mixing and matching parts to customize our planes. He loved golf, and took me to a real golf course for one of only two times in my life I've ever played 18 holes. We went to Waltz for miniature golf, the driving range, and the par 3 course. I even caddied for him for a tournament one time. We bowled at Jay Lanes. He played baseball. I didn't, but I'd still be the catcher for him so he could practice his pitching when we played catch. He didn't like his one neighbor, so one night, along with another friend, we toilet papered their trees, threw crabapples into their pool, and tied toilet paper bows around their cars. We fessed up the next morning and had to clean it all up. He found his dad's girlie magazine stash in the attic, and we used to thumb through those every chance we got. We played Hardball and 4th and Inches on our Commodore 64s until our thumbs hurt. They took me to Dorney Park a few times every summer. We went trick or treating together, saving the Huff's house for last, where we always went in for cookies and hot apple cider. He built models, and had his best on display up on his dresser. We were both in the band - I played trombone and he played clarinet. We played tennis together the year one of the middle school teachers tried to start a tennis clinic. We went to the same church, and were in the same CCD class. We went through First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation together. We were both altar boys, and served together a few times, though he usually served on Saturday night, and I usually served Sunday morning. There was one time when a new altar boy combined the two collections into one sack, and me and Alex tried to split it back up again, only to get caught by the deacon just as we were finishing and scolded not to mix up the money between the two (we never told him it was all screwed up to begin with). We'd even snack on the non-consecrated wafers. I remember the time we used a Ouija board, and we were amazed at how well it worked, until we asked it which one of us was the coolest. Most of all, I remember a good friend, and I can't believe he's gone.

Knowing how I feel after not having seen Alex for 15 years, my heart goes out to his parents, his sister, and his wife that I never met. Alex, you will be missed terribly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fastnacht Day

Fastnacht Day is once again upon us. I'll be busy making fastnachts tomorrow morning in celebration. Since I don't have anything new to say from last year, or the year before, I'll just quote that entry one more time.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia CommonsDepending on where you are in the world, you may call tomorrow something else, like Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. But from where I'm from in Pennsylvania, it's called Fastnacht Day. Traditionally, you make potato based donuts, called fastnachts, supposedly as a way to empty your larder of all the fatty, sugary foods in preparation for the Lenten fast. My elementary school even used to give out donuts with the lunches on this day. So, in celebration of Fastnachts, here's a recipe on my main site on how to make fastnachts, and a link to the (not so thorough) Wikipedia article.

You're supposed to wake up early to make the fastnachts on Tuesday morning (they're freshest that way), but I usually make them the night before. They keep pretty well in a brown paper lunch bag. I also like to put a little bit of powdered sugar into a ziploc bag, and a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon into another one, to coat the fastnachts just before eating them.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Added 2011-03-08 - I brought my fastnachts in to share at work today. The people who were here last year remember them from then, but almost all of the new people hadn't heard of them. Anyway, to see just how popular they are back up in Pennsylvania, go read this article. Look at those pictures, and just how many fastnachts they're making. And according to this article, bakers in Hagerstown started baking on Sunday night to meet today's demand.

A guy from Chicago mentioned a similar tradition up there - paczkis, from the Polish immigrants. But instead of a hole in the middle like my family's fastnachts (not all fastnachts have the hole), they have a filling, usually jelly or creme. I guess lots of groups have invented traditions to allow indulgence before a 40 day fast.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy National Margarita Day

MargaritaToday is National Margarita Day (it's also National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, but that's not as much fun to celebrate). The origin of the margarita isn't exactly known. There are many stories, but most place it some time in the '30s or '40s in Mexico or the southwestern U.S., particularly Texas (more info 1, more info 2). It's currently the most popular mixed drink in the U.S.

If you want a way to celebrate at home, my wife has two very good variants.
Beer Margarita


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