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Trees and Toads and Roaches

Sunday, 17 May 2015, 20:00 UTC


The rain continued to fall, today. Hours of it. Delicious hours of it. Half the day. Delicious. At least the trees are likely of that opinion.

On the other hand, our neighbors a block down the street might see it differently. Runoff there tends to course down the center of their block, racing thru backyards on days like this, assaulting patio doors and flowing out the front if they’re not careful to construct passive (and active) waterworks to divert the torrent.

And Bill across the street probably doesn’t see it as deliciously as the trees, either, as the saturated ground forced us to call off our planned posthole-digging, fence-moving party today.

But the trees. (And it really is always about the trees, isn’t it?) The trees must find the rain that we’ve had to be a relief from the brutal drought of the last many years.


Bang. Slap! BANG!

A loud slapping-swatting sound came from down the hall.

“Oh, oh,” I said. 

I heard a mumble come from the fair and industrious Trudy and the sound of triumphant footsteps crossing the living room floor.

“Was that what I think it was?”

Another mumble. “Yes…”

Then from the dining room, she added, “I don’t understand why those big roaches won’t just stay outside.”

Probably because they are fleeing the rain the trees find to be so delicious And probably because they are fleeing the toads whose song we can hear out back at this very moment.


Friday, 15 May 2015, 21:34 UTC

Oh you’re gonna miss me baby
And I’ll be so far away
Oh you’re gonna miss me baby
And I’ll be so far away


Lake Levels

Wednesday, 13 May 2015, 19:40 UTC

It has been raining, of late. The tomatoes and the cucumbers and the peppers and watermelon and grass and trees and weeds are celebrating with a showy show — green, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many years.

According the the Lower Colorado River Authority, two weeks ago, 14 days precisely at this very minute, the Lake Travis lake level was 629.48 feet above sea level. At the moment, it is 630.54 feet. That’s a lake level rise of one foot. One foot in 14 days!

But here’s the thing of it. The historical average level for Lake Travis is 670.47 feet above sea level.

Let’s see, at the current rate of one foot in 14 days, let’s call that two feet per month, we only need it to continue raining as it has been for another … 20 months. 

Non-stop rainy, drizzly, stormy days for a year and a half. That’s all we need.

A Long Time Ago

Wednesday, 13 May 2015, 04:47 UTC

Ranga and I work together. I’m an engineer on the project. He’s a product manager. We had just ordered our lunch and were standing there looking at all the soups on the menu. We spoke about our plans for a week-long company event in the summer.

He is going up the weekend before. I am staying the weekend after, meeting the fair and industrious Trudy afterwards for a trip to Assateague Island to see the ponies.

“I went up there with a friend once in the summer,” I said. “I was a summer intern. It was 1981.”

His eyes widened. “Wow!” He emphasized the w’s when he said it.

I looked over at him. “What, wow?” I asked.

“That was a long time ago.”

I looked down for a moment, lost maybe in a reverie. Then I looked up. “Yes, it was a long time ago,” I conceded.

“I wasn’t born yet,” he said.

It doesn’t seem that long ago. But I guess it was.

Country Dogs

Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 00:48 UTC

Outside it was cool and crisp. There was a slight breeze blowing. We took the dogs for a walk.

We took them for a walk into the night. Into the fresh air washed clean from the rains of the day. Down the block. Over to a vacant field where the wildflowers have been left to grow. To where the grass is high. Into the wild.

To say that Miss Izzy and Mr. Guinness live lives of leisure does not quite capture the reality of it.  During the day when we are at work, they can wander in and out of a doggie door. Out into the backyard and back into the house where they certainly nap in luxury most of the day. Out into the hot sun and then back into the cool house when they’ve had enough. But of course like any dogs, at the end of the day, they are eager to go out beyond borders of their little Eden, out into the wild.

For us this night, the wild was was not very far away. Just down and over a couple blocks. To a vacant lot where the grass is long and the wildflowers grow. Along the edge of a soccer field, on a path well-worn by soccer moms and soccer dads and soccer kids. Not all that wild after all, but wild enough for Izzy and Guinness.

They were pulling at their leashes. They were enjoying the cool and crisp, enjoying the breeze. Izzy stopped and raised her head. She gazed into the vacant lot, peering over the long grass at shadows in the distance. 

“Ok, miss Izzy. Let’s go,” I said, stepping off the sidewalk into the grass and the wildflowers.

She leapt off the sidewalk following me, bounding over the grass the was over her head. Bounding once. Bounding twice. Keeping her head up. Bounding thrice. And with that third bound, she decided that she’d had enough. She stopped and pulled me back to where we had come from, where the grass and the weeds wouldn’t scratch at her belly. Back from that little bit of wild. Back to the sidewalk, where Guinness patiently awaited her return.

He had no interest in the grass or the wildflowers or the shadows in the distance. And now, neither did she.

Because you see… we don’t have country dogs.

Night Thoughts

Monday, 11 May 2015, 00:31 UTC

Something woke me up. 

In the dark, in the bed, I turned over. But at that moment, the same thing that woke me up must have startled Izzy, because she woofed once and that started barking loudly as she ran out into the living room, barking madly thru the screen door at something in the backyard.

The fair and industrious Trudy got out of bed and settled her down, sliding the glass patio door shut so that Izzy’s alarm might not wake the entire neighborhood as it had us.

But that was two hours ago. Guinness has settled down in the living room. Izzy is quiet now, curled up somewhere at the foot of the bed. Trudy sleeps motionless beside me. And I am here, wide awake, unable to turn my brain back into off.

They’re going to build another highway, another bridge over the river towering over the existing one. And the legislature is going to pass a law stripping the city from its ability to regulate (to forbid) plastic grocery bags. And another law allowing concealed weapons on college campuses. 

The east side of the city is gentrifying at a rate that will complete the refashioning of the city, effectively banishing those without significant means to somewhere else, anywhere but inside the city limits where real estate is now only affordable to the upper crust. 

The trail they were going to bring to this neighborhood will bypass us after all, sticking to the other side of the freeway in response to the howls of protest from a vocal handful of loons worried about dangerous others walking and riding nearby. 

I have a code review to do, and I didn’t do it over the weekend. And we have deadlines looming in July that are unlike any deadlines I’ve ever faced before.

My family is gathering in Michigan in the middle of July on precisely that weekend when my company is gathering in Maryland. So I’ll miss the kids as another year passes and they head into middle school.

Ben has talked about changing jobs, which might be a good thing. But he has also talked about moving far away.

The Bermuda grass needs to be pulled in the garden bed in the back. And the Hackberries coming up along the fence. There are fire ants in the pepper plants. The wild blackberries are taking over the beds on the south side of the house. Will our first apple on the apple tree make it? And the two persimmons? There is poison ivy in the new pocket park at the end of the block.

Do I have my running stuff packed for tomorrow? Where is my laptop to take to work? I didn’t pack my lunch. Will the Monterey Oak heal its wound. Will the neighbor’s Walnut tree drop that branch on our power line? Why isn’t the oven broiler working? Will Martin finally get the permit allowing him to replace the patio door at the condo? Should we do the flooring ourselves? Do we need a new circuit if we put new lighting in the ceiling?

In the dark, in the bed, I sit up and fumble for my glasses and walk into the study and begin typing the the keyboard. Because clearly, my brain is not going to turn off.

Lagrange Points

Tuesday, 05 May 2015, 19:43 UTC

I was sitting at the keyboard trying to deal with NuGet packages that were there but weren’t there. I was just about to restart Visual Studio when I got a text from Ben.

“I’ll come over tomorrow night before it gets too late…” it started out.

That’s a good thing, I thought, him coming over before it gets too late. He usually stops by after dinner with his mom, but it’s always late, and the fair and industrious Trudy has resigned herself to the inevitable, and with drooping eyelids I am wishing that I had, too. 

That’s what I was thinking as I started the second sentence.

“And I want to talk to you about orbits and Lagrange points.”

Ah yes, I thought. That’s a good thing, too…

…wait, what?

Texas Arboretum

Sunday, 03 May 2015, 21:22 UTC


We stood on the crushed granite trail on the hilltop gazing beyond the grass waving in the wind. Beyond the faded Bluebonnets. Beyond the explosion of orange and yellow Indian Blankets growing among the grasses. Beyond the clusters of Oaks. 

Clouds floated by. The sun shined. The sky was blue.

Trudy held her face into the breeze and sighed. “We don’t get days like this very often.”


The field of Indian Blankets rippled. A butterfly alighted on the lavender blossom of a thistle. She looked over at me.

“Are there tears in your eyes?”


The ground was soft under the canopy of the massive Live Oak tree. As we stepped off the trail, the ground invited our footsteps.

We walked around the massive trunk and then sat down, leaning out backs against it, closing our eyes, listening to the birds in the canopy.


A Scissortail was sitting on a protective fence surrounding a young tree some distance from the trail. I pointed at it. As Trudy turned and looked, it leaped into the breeze, its scissor-tail splitting and turning as it darted out across the prairie grabbing something out of the air and flying back to its perch.


It’s dark outside. The wind chimes are ringing in the back. A cool breeze is blowing in thru the window over my hands on the keyboard. It’s May. That cool breeze won’t be hanging around here for long. It feels luxurious.

It is late. I stand up to crank the window shut and pull down the blind.

Trudy was right. We don’t get days like today very often.

I wrote it

Saturday, 02 May 2015, 21:22 UTC


What? … Really what?

Girl sliding down the slide? Caterpillar in the grass? What is wrong with you?

What do you mean?

Why do you write that stuff? No one wants to hear that crap.

I mean, come on. Really. You’re gone for most of a month and you come back with that!?

It’s what I wrote… What do you want me to do? It’s what I saw and what I wanted to say. And I don’t know who reads it. And mostly I don’t care. I wrote it. I write it.

You do. 

So live with it.

The Second Time

Saturday, 02 May 2015, 17:55 UTC

She toddled around a bit at the base of the playscape, looking up at her father who was looking down at her. It didn’t seem as if she had been there before.

Other older kids were running and biking and laughing and screaming all around her. She turned away from her father to watch them. Her mom came walking slowly up to her and grabbed her gently under her arms and handed her up to her dad who reached down from the top of the playscape.

He had a wide smile on her face. Her face was uncertain. He held her hands and had her walk over to the top of the slide. She had other ideas. He had to coax her along. 

An older girl was sitting at the top of the slide waiting her turn. Then in an instant she was gone, into the plastic tunnel, down the spiraling slide.

The dad coaxed his little girl to the slide, picking her up slightly so he could swing her into a sitting position. And then he let go of her.

They were far enough away and the general din of the playground was sufficient to drown out whatever it was that he said to her. He patted her on the back. He pushed her a little bit closer to the edge. He whispered in her ear. He pushed her once more. And then she too was gone, into the plastic tunnel, and … and … and there she was coming out of the tunnel, rounding a turn lying on her back with her hands and legs waving a little bit hither and yon.

She came to a stop before she reached the bottom.

She sat up with a startled look on her face. Her mom kept her distance. And the little girl looked back around the spiraling turn and into the tunnel and then she looked out at the kids around her and then back again into the tunnel. And then beaming smile exploded across her face, and her eyes lit up. She waved her arms in the air, and she kicked her feet.

And at that moment, in spite the general din of the playground I could clearly hear her scream with glee ready … so ready … to try it for the second time.