General Archive

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pysanky Easter Eggs

For a while now, I'd been wanting to try to make Pysanky eggs for Easter, but every year I'd thought about it too late to get anything delivered in time, and none of the local hobby stores sold the right supplies. Well this year, I finally remembered to order a Traditional Ukrainian Egg Decorating Kit
from Amazon a few weeks before Easter, and my daughter and I decorated a few eggs. I only had enough time to do one, and the result isn't worth showing here. But my daughter does pretty good at these types of things, and she had enough time to decorate three eggs. Here are the results:

Pysanky Easter Eggs

We'd originally figured that our first attempts wouldn't be worth saving, so we started off on hard boiled eggs that we'd turn into the traditional Easter deviled eggs. And while that prediction was true enough for me, it was a bit off for my daughter. Still, she ended up decorating two hard boiled eggs before she went the more traditional route of blowing out the yolk and white of a raw egg to decorate an empty shell.

In case you've ever wanted to try this and wondered about the cheaper more traditional styluses vs. the electric ones, the cheap ones worked just fine for us after a few minutes of figuring out how to get them to work properly. You'll need a candle, but once you melt the wax in the reservoir, you can 'write' for a decent amount of time before having to re-heat the stylus. It wasn't really a pain at all to keep putting the stylus back into the flame.

Anyway, it was fun, and I think the results turned out pretty good (for my daughter at least). I'm pretty sure we'll try the same thing again next year.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Happy Easter!

I don't normally just post webcomics, but this one fits in perfectly with the normal themes of this website and the upcoming holiday. Click on the comic to go to the source.

Jesus n Mo Comic

Oh well, I guess since I've already started this post, I might as well link to a few Easter-themed pages on this site.

  • No More Easter Bunny - an entry I wrote shortly after my daughter figured out the Easter Bunny wasn't real, pondering why we trick our kids with holiday myths
  • Random Thoughts After a Night at Mass - just some musings I had after one of my first times back in church after becoming an atheist (which just happened to be over Easter weekend)
  • Easter Bread Recipe - nothing skeptical or atheism related about this, just a traditional recipe for Easter bread that my mom always made when I was growing up, and that I now make with my daughter every year

And here's an article in The Guardian, The pagan roots of Easter, which describes just what the title says it does (though I'll be honest and admit I'm not sure of all the claims in that article).

Happy Eostre everyone!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chick-Fil-A Tastes a Little Less Like Bigotry

Chick-Fil-AIf you've followed this site, you might remember my entry from a few years ago, Chick-Fil-A, Bigotry, and Rights, where I partly described Chick-Fil-A's policy of donating to hate groups and other anti-gay groups (nearly $2 million in 2010). And I also went on to say how I was boycotting the restaurant in response, because I didn't want any of my money going to support such odious causes.

Well, I'm about a year late in describing this, but it looks like Chick-Fil-A has changed their ways. According to an article in Think Progress, Chick-fil-A's Foundations Dramatically Reduce Anti-LGBT Giving (Updated), the company has reduced its donations to anti-LGBT groups by 99.2%.

Now, I'm still not a fan of Dan Cathy, and don't think I would like him if I met him personally, but like I wrote in the original entry, "if we limited our patronage only to those businesses run by people that we agreed with on every issue, there wouldn't be many businesses we could go to," and my boycott of Chick-Fil-A was largely because of their financial contributions to hate groups. Now that those financial contributions have basically ended, I don't feel as bad eating their chicken sandwiches (even if I still think they're lazy for shutting down entirely for a full day every week).

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