Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Name

I've read a newspaper everyday, perhaps starting with the "funny papers" when I was first learning to read. We didn't have much of a library in our household when I was being formed in Stockdale and Devine, but we always had the San Antonio Express-News, complimented with the San Antonio Light bought at George Vernon Schott's convenience store on Sunday (and of course, several farm magazines). I learned from Paul Thompson and Jack Anderson, and enjoyed Dan Cook and Dan Klepper. ... In more recent years I appreciated immensely, Carlos Guerra and Rick Casey, and here in Seguin it was Michael Cary.

I don't always agree with the learned historical scholar, T.R. Fehrenbach, but I very much enjoy and always learn from his columns in the San Antonio Express-News each Sunday. Today I appreciated his piece on "Homo sapiens." (We aren't as smart as we like to believe")

T.R. Fehrenbach provokes by suggesting alternatives for our Latin name ... as have others (e.g., William Catton, Jr. and "Homo colossus" in Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change.). In his column, historian Fehenbach briefly discusses suggestions by others (Zoon politikon, Homo economicus) and after hinting that Homo bellicosus may be an appropriate name, finally settles on Homo sap.

This brought back memories of a visit to Sul Ross State University in beautiful Alpine, Texas in the late 1980s, where a retired Marine and Range Science professor--as I recollect--gave a lively lecture on the very challenging impacts to date of humans on the ecosphere. This outspoken flat-topped former Marine thought Homo saphead was an appropriate name for our species.

Thoughts After Meetings/Discussions Dealing with Conservation and Sustainable Community

From: Foods of the Americas Gathering
Our natural resource base and energy sources are finite. Thus there are limits on growth and consumption, ... and if we are going to truly consider quality life for all humans and associated life forms, we have already surpassed these limits. No amount of human creativity, planning, actions can really challenge this situation.

Therefore, the only solution is to lower inputs-throughputs-outputs for human systems, and conserve, conserve, conserve! Notions that we can continue to rampantly convert Nature & Land to artificial, and that this will be better for Life is "hubric" and without scientific basis.

"Wes Jackson's claim--that there is now and always be, a billionfold gap between our ignorance and our knowledge--reminds us that we are living in an immensely complex natural world. This, combined with the difficulties that we have created with our technology, makes one wonder if there is any reason for hope ... ." ... "... when we temper our optimistic view of the power of knowledge, we are left with a profound and necessary sense of humility and a great and well-grounded hope for the future."
From: Joe Marocco (2008) “Climate Change and the Limits of Knowledge” in The Virtues of Ignorance: Complexity, Sustainability, and the Limits of Knowledge Univ. of Kentucky Press

We really must lower inputs-throughputs-outputs of artificial energy flux & material flow in world systems and subsystems for them to be sustainable re quality life for humans and many other forms of life. We'll have to recognize this and deal with it as local and global "communities" if we are to have holistically resilient and healthful systems at all levels of biological hierarchy (cells, tissues, organs, body organ systems, individuals, population, community, ecosystem, ecosphere).

From: Food Council Meeting
Designated/anointed "Green"/"Sustainable" examples ("community" gardens, most conventional organic farms, magnet schools, health and wellness campuses, etc.) which are dependent on high inputs and are truly just "appendages" of a larger broken system, are not the answer for moving toward holistic, comprehensive sustainability involving conservation. Moreover, these so-called "Green"/Sustainable" "exemplars" may temporarily prop up very broken whole systems and delay real movement toward sustainability and long-term health at various systems levels.
We shouldn't halt: development of community gardens, organic farming, special schools trying to address specific "needs, various health and wellness efforts, etc. But we do need to overtly recognize their limitations and failings and work hard, agonize, and critically and creatively think about how we might muddle through the ecological mess we've created and truly work toward fixing it/cleaning it up.
High input-throughput-output artificial systems (which could be crudely determined by per capita consumption and population numbers) are the cause of the destruction of Nature and healthy life systems. No amount of human creativity (planning/design/implementation) can get around that fact. Therefore it is critical that we proceed cautiously and tentatively toward lower input-throughput-output systems.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On My Gravestone?

We should not get so carried away such that our efforts toward sustainability negatively affect our day in and day out quality of life with family and true friends in community. Nevertheless, every action should:
Strive for a world that is socially just, humane and ecologically sound in the short and long term. Live intelligently and simply. Take power from the powerful and empower the poor.

Finally, remember War is for a lazy, uneducated and ignorant world.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ecology-Across-Campuses & -Curricula … and Ecological Literacy

This abstract is from a developing manuscript recently presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Society of Educators and Scholars, Oct. 2010 in San Antonio, TX:

Ecology-Across-Campuses & Curricula … and Ecological Literacy:
Toward Sustainable Livelihoods & Conservation and Sustainable Community

paul b. martin, ph.d., Marvel Maddox, & Jolly Ellis

Siempre Sustainable Network

We know we are in dire straits as a species. Also, many associated species are facing extinction by us. Moreover, at least one billion relatively powerless humans and great numbers of individuals of other species are in the midst of unprecedented peril in this moment.
Therefore why are our institutions of learning--from the pre-kindergarten to post-graduate school--not unreservedly addressing the challenge of: lowering ecological footprints and energy usage in the sectors of the world with power as well as reducing loss of topsoil, biodiversity, & available quality water, & exploitation of the poor the world over? Furthermore, these public and private institutions should be more effectively facilitating the increases in these footprints for those lacking power. The mission of our educational systems should be to realize an average worldwide per capita ecological footprint of ca. 5 acres and daily energy usage of ca. 60 thousand kilocalories, with a very small standard deviation for each.
As a part of this mission, stakeholders should be basing their decisions on ecological principles and processes. They should be thinking critically & creatively and acting in local & global systems with goals of banning inequality, and enhancing conservation, resilience and sustainability. A comprehensive and intensive plan for making this happen through our educational systems is seriously needed.
Development of ecology-across-curricula toward ecological literacy and sustainable livelihoods and sustainable community is a moral and ethical imperative for true scholars and educators. Educational systems should be a part of the solution rather than serving to increase social and ecological problems. We must use education to begin to rapidly change our socio-political/economic local and global systems, otherwise we all face serious ecological consequences in our future.

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road -- the one less traveled by -- offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.” Rachel Carson, Ecologist (Author of Silent Spring)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

BBC Update on Winston's Status

Winston's account on Facebook was hacked. Friends received weird messages, and they began to curse him. He shut the damn thing off.
Poetry class assignment, watch "The Perfect Human" by Jorgen Leth, and write poem in response.
There's a catch. Others in my class have assigned obstructions for me, which means I have to rewrite it after I read those instructions.
Also, this blog needs more bloggers.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Aransas Bay’s Calmer Days

Not so choppy today in Aransas Bay, behind San Jose Island. Water clear, small wind. Hot sky.

Water Street

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Positive Mood Changers

My wife's getting me out to listen to/dance to some good Americana music.

Grandkids, kids.

Pretty & conversant women who understand and love life, and aren't narcissistic.

Listening to 92.1 FM, New Braunfels, Texas.

Listening to 89.1 FM, San Antonio, Texas.

Listening to "Come on People, Smile on Your Brother, ...", Hotel California, Jessica, Roy Orbison, Raul Malo, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, old Bob Dylan music, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, the Groobees, Adam Carroll, Jim Lauderdale, Zack Walther, Ryan Bingham, Wade Bowen, ... .

A long swim.

A long bike ride.

Mom's cooking.

Gilda Colley's pastry.

Tapioca pudding, well-prepared flan, Dona Nilza's avocado pudding, homemade ice cream, good strudel, well-made capirotada/bread pudding.

Betsy's venison backstrap.

Barbequed barbado lamb like Johnny Hoffmann prepared.

George Carlin.

Richard Pryor.

Joe Maddox's jokes.

Linda Gunn.

Marvel Maddox.

Larry Serold.

River bottoms in the Hill Country of Texas.


Ouro Preto.


Santa Fe.

New Orleans.

Getting a real breakthrough in learning about: "conservation and development of resilient and sustainable community" / becoming a better "Positively Ethical Applied Community Ecologist".


A particularly thought-provoking essay / short story / book / TV documentary / movie /radio piece.


Simple living.

Success after lots of planning, community organizing and hard work.


Good--or even average--red wine.

Coco Loco.



I worked up this sustainability list one morning during Earth Week after my wife requested it for her students. (Of course it is not really different from many such lists which have been developed by numerous others.):

Eat healthy and exercise regularly. (Truly integrate this into your workday and lifestyle.)

Experience the real world—your yard, open fields, farms, ranches, parks—and stay away from TV, computers, cell phones, video games & other electronic gadgetry. Get physically, intellectually & spiritually in touch with Nature, the Land, Community and People—the very young and Elders.

For short trips: walk, run, ride bikes, or skateboard.

For long trips: car-pool. … Take a train or bus.

Help your family start a garden. … Maybe an organic garden.

Volunteer to help with community gardens or your school’s garden.

Buy something at the Farmers market—and get to know the farmers.

Encourage your family to mulch-mow … and to mow, water & fertilize the yard less. Use locally-adapted native vegetation, and introduce vegetable and fruit-producing garden areas into the landscape.

Compost all leaves, grass clippings, food scraps, and other organic matter.

Buy less, reuse neat old things, and recycle.

Carry a cup for drinking.

Keep air conditioning and heating systems off. Open windows. … (At least keep thermostats low in the winter and high in the summer.)

Help caulk cracks around windows, door and in other leaky areas of your home. Place weather-stripping around doors.

Use less water. Take shorter showers, catch water & and use in the sink, help family fix dripping faucets, etc.

Put a bucket/tub in your shower to collect the "warm up" water & overspray. Use it in your garden.

Use rain barrels to catch roof run-off. (Your plants will love the soft, low mineral water.)…

Completely turn off lights/electricity users! (Use power strips!)

At stores refuse plastic bags. Take your own “cool” bag.

Hang your clothes to dry out on a line & let the Sun/wind do the job.

Prepare to be an educated & responsible ecological-friendly voter who is active in community.

Work/have a career in “jobs” that help others & enhance ecological systems. (Sustainable livelihood.)

Work on a farm, ranch, summer camp and/or park system for the summer &/or after school.

Learn about ecological, carbon, water and energy “foot-printing” & life-cycle analysis.

Encourage peers and adults to be truly responsible in using prescription drugs, alcohol, etc. … Work hard at discouraging addictive drugs such as nicotine (smoking, snuff/smokeless tobacco, etc.) and other such drugs.

Learn about your family and community/regional history.

Learn about the flora and fauna of your backyard, nearby vacant lot and local community. (Natural history.)

Go for a walk with a small child and teach them the names of birds, other animals, trees, other plants, mushrooms, and other biota (cyanobacteria, bacterial disease symptoms) that you see along the way.

Read, write and do arts and crafts of some type. Do “hands on” projects and keep your mind challenged with mathematical and other puzzles, problem-solving, and critical & creative thinking.

Work for real enduring Peace and Justice.

Conserve, help the poor with “hands up” … and stay debt-free.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MAN (And not so much ... Wo man)

Mark Twain wrote*:

"Damn these human beings; if I had invented them I would go hide my head in a bag."

"I am only human, although I regret it."

"Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah didn't miss the boat."

(However, MT/SC had some good things to say about women.)

I know Jesus or his writers said it much better ... but I have a lot more respect for most have-nots than I do for most haves.

I wish we would all strive really hard to be "No. 2"!

*From: The Wit and Wisdom of Mark Twain, 1999, Dover Publications.

LAWRENCE: Devine Warhorse, Aggie, Clark Cougar, O'CONNOR PANTHER, ...

These past months I've lost some good friends, Dr. Lanier Byrd, SGM Wallace Goodlow, USA ret., ... my brother Lawrence.

Lawrence's obituary read:

"Lawrence 'Larry' Alton Martin, age 61, went peacefully home to be with his Lord Jesus on January 28, 2010. Lawrence was the second oldest of six children born to Luther Alton and Louise Martin of Devine, Texas on April 22, 1948. He married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Sue Williams, on November 22, 1972. They were blessed with two children: daughter Lisa and son Matthew. Following his graduation from Texas A & M University in 1971, he began his career in education by teaching biology and coaching at Alamo Heights High School for eight years. During that time he obtained his Masters in Education and Administration from UTSA. He then began work at Northside ISD in 1980 as a coach and teacher at Clark High School. He became an administrator in 1982 and continued to serve Northside ISD until he retired due to cancer in November of 2009. During his career, he worked at Clark High School, Stinson Middle School, Zachary Middle School, and completed his career as Principal at O'Connor High School. He was preceded in death by his father Luther Alton Martin, and is survived by his wife, two children, and five grandchildren: daughter Lisa and her husband Michael Louro of Austin, TX and their 3 children: Jody, Hudson and Ruby; and son Matthew and his wife Kate of San Antonio, TX and their two children: Annabelle, and Samuel Lawrence (expected April, 2010). He is also survived by his brothers Paul and wife Betsy of Seguin, John of Dallas, Charlie and wife Kathy of Jasper, TX, Kenneth and wife Linda of Atlanta, GA, and sister Linda and husband Tim Gunn of Devine, TX. Larry loved the Lord. He was a man of sincere faith and remarkable character. He was passionate about caring for others and he loved people well. He was a servant leader and he will be dearly missed."

Lawrence was passionately remembered and eulogized by thousands in varied wonderful ways!

My Memories of Lawrence Alton Martin delivered in the evening service were:

"Barbara, Mom, Lisa, Matt, all of you wonderful folk …

I’m Paul, … also know as Pablo, or Paul Bain—or 'Paulwayne' … as Lawrence used to say it years ago when we ran around with Greg Jasik and Paul Clay Lessing down in Devine. …

I’m next up in line from Lawrence, with the rest of our 4 siblings being younger--and wiser.

We honor Lawrence Alton Martin today! But in doing this, I think he’d be pleased if I mentioned a few of those who helped make him the wonderful and amazing man he became.

My brother Lawrence had--I think--the best balance of traits from Mom Louise and Dad Alton … of all of us 6 kids. He was a critical listener and life-long learner and the good stuff he got from Mom and Dad was enhanced by what he learned in the fields from Tony Cruz & Salame Gallegos, and on the field from Coach Comalander.

And from Coach Marvin Gustafson. … Coach Gus! … It really is fitting that both Lawrence’s and Coach Gus’s funeral services are and were here in this beautiful church. Really appropriate because Coach Gus had such an influence on Lawrence—and of course directly and indirectly he influenced many of us who are here today.

Also, Lawrence learned from Coaches Robbins, Alexander & Padron.

And vo-ag teacher Mr. Henry Moss, … Mrs. Allen, Mr. Sechist and Leo Bohl, the Outlaws of Black Creek, Gary Wilkinson, Frank Dodson, Dunar Kielman, all the Jasiks, Irwins, Penas, Chapas, Pompas, Haasses, Ehlingers, Campseys, Bendeles, Bains, Jungmans, and Haywoods; Lilian Sauter, Matt Williams, Ken Milam, Dr. Debbie Sonnen, and Dennis Ann Strong.

I could go on and on and name many others from whom Lawence learned, … because as I’m trying to stress--Lawrence truly was a great listener and learner!

He was sometimes strongly opinionated. But he was open-minded. And he did learn from all of you who are here today—and lots of others.
Lawrence was quietly humble, loving, compassionate, tolerant, devoted and devout, disciplined, punctual, … unassuming, … but he was also skilled, hard-working, daring, persevering, and relentless. He was a very likeable people-person. … He was real people!

Lawrence was a role model’s role model. … And I stress again, … his character and integrity resulted mostly from humility, discipline, … hard work to hone his talents into skills, … and lots of innate love. … Love. Man does he love his grandkids, kids, wife and parents, and the only grandparent we knew, Grandma Eva Martin.

Moreover, as his son Matt so beautifully put it Wednesday at the Library dedication ceremony for Lawrence, Lawrence truly believed that everyone is very important and he treated them that way always--and each and every day. Moreover, he was 'adamant' in encouraging and demanding that all live up to their potential in life’s journey—no matter how rocky the road.
Lawrence was 15 months younger than I but over the years he taught me a bunch in varying ways. Through the years he gave me:
healthy competition,
some discipline and order,
a place to live,
great roommates,
a beautiful wife, kids and grandkids,
a solid pragmatic socio-political view ...
and of course, so much more.

He was a really good brother!

I could tell 100s of stories about Lawrence. But don’t worry, I won’t stay up here much longer. And Barbara, … I won’t tell any of those stories where you scold me with, 'Oh Paul, quit telling those stories.'

But here’s several Lawrence stories which I think are telling about his character.

1. Our youngest sibling, our only sister, told me this one this last week.

It’s a hot July day at that little non-airconditioned 2-bedroom house in Devine on Texas Highway 173 where Triple C Restaurant is now, where 8 of us slept and ate, and bathed in a tiny bathroom with a tub—and where your right leg burned from the space heater in the winter when you sat on the toilet.

Anyway, Linda, John Russell and Charlie are watching Lawrence cut into a cold Black Diamond watermelon out on the hot sidewalk. Lawrence just shallowly slices out a big chunk of the rind and then quickly plunges in with his hands and pulls out the whole heart, buries his face in it, and then says, “Here, y’all can have the rest.” Sister Linda said she was too young to really understand what was happening, but immediately brothers Charlie and John Russell were not happy campers.

Lawrence could be mischievious!

2. Lawrence was a craftsman—a builder of beautiful things … furniture, Dr. Sonnen’s house, his weight machine (Maybe the weight machine isn’t so beautiful, but it is beautifully functional.). … Let’s go to hot, sand-duned, desert-like Lamesa, Texas just south of Lubbock in the early 60s. A couple of brothers are welding on a pea viner—or big pea sheller--which Uncle Peggy Martin was constructing at Cotton King Gin on the road to Punkin Center.

“Good lord! What the heck is this. That splattering mess will never hold Paul Bain!”
“Wow!! Look at that beautiful bead. Way to go Lawrence!! Great work!!!”

(That was our work supervisor, future Dad-in-Law of Lawrence’s, Matt Williams who checked over our welding work. … And yes Lawrence was a good welder!)

He was a good tractor driver too, and could really effectively run, trouble-shoot and fix the sort of "Rube Goldburg"-bean-harvesters Uncle Peggy purchased and modified in the 1960s.

3. OK, now—another hot day; early summer. Lawrence and I are in a cotton trailer full of pink-eye purple hull peas … out in front of the old icehouse and next to the train docks and tracks in what was then agricultural-Devine … tossing the pea pods with pitch forks into another cotton trailer to keep them cool.

This will be our day’s work, just tossing peas to keep them air-cooled before there are enough coming in from the field for a full semi load to send to Allen Cannery in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

I’m the big brother and I try to keep up with Lawrence—and because of this, our Uncle Peggy, for whom we were working, is really getting his money’s worth. … But there is no way I can compete with Lawrence. He’s like a machine, quickly filling each fork-load with pea pods and tossing them high without stopping. Like a relentless machine!!

4. Now let’s travel up old Highway 81—this is before President Eisenhower’s Interstates were completed--on a school trip to the old “natural” pool at Landa Park, New Braunfels—the wonderful town where my Mom was raised. There’s a tall tower at one end of the pool which has since been removed because of danger to divers—and I am too scared to go off of this high tower.

But not Lawrence! I watch him all afternoon--along with all the pretty girls around the pool—go off that tower time after time—doing flips and spins and somersaults and twists and tucks… perhaps not so beautifully, but truly amazingly. (He was already 'The Amazing Mr. Martin.') Lawrence’s body was totally cherry red from hitting the water every which way, … but up that tower he’d climb again.
OK, we need some audience participation! … How many of y’all saw Lawrence walk on his hands at some time in the past—maybe in the school reception area up on the bar or at a Pep Rally? …

He could get kind of crazy sometimes.

5. This is the last story, and this time it’s late fall and much cooler. It’s actually a beautiful crispy cold Friday night, a Warhorse playoff game in Devine which I’d come home to from College Station to see. We Warhorses won the toss to play at home and it is an excitingly wonderful game to watch. There’s this little roving monster-man, my tough daredevil of a brother Lawrence, fighting off blockers and stacking 3 or 4 of them up play after play, and still getting tackle after tackle at near the line of scrimmage.

And in 'Double A' Devine you were in shape and went both ways—offense and defense. In addition to all his tackles as linebacker, Lawrence also did his share of great blocking as offensive guard that night.

I could tell other stories, but I think these 5 are illustrative of some of Lawrence’s many good and amazing traits and skills.

I congratulated Lawrence some years back when he received a principal of the year award for work at Zachary Middle School. He sloughed off the congratulations saying, 'They love the heck out of you one minute, and are ready to can you the next!'

Of course that never really was true in the case of Lawrence. And I know y’all will all continue to love him and will honor him by being life-long learners to the good of others, society and the ecology. I know you’ll keep learning from Lawrence Alton Martin.

Discipline, humility, compassion, love for all, tolerance. For Peace … not War. Belief in all humans—and their importance, and expecting the best out of each of you! …

Discipline, humility, compassion, love for all, tolerance. For Peace … not War. Belief in all humans—and their importance, and expecting the best out of each of you! …

Thank you again Matt/all of you for this honor to speak a bit about Lawrence."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Priceless from Citibank

Cancel your credit card
before you die.
Can you believe this?
Be sure and cancel your credit cards before you die!

This is so easy to see happening - customer service being what it is today.

A lady died this past January, and Citibank billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been $0.00 when she died, but now somewhere around $60.00. A family member placed a call to Citibank.

Here is the exchange :

Family Member: 'I am calling to tell you she died back in January.'

Citibank: 'The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'Maybe you should turn it over to collections.'

Citibank: 'Since it is two months past due, it already has been.'

Family Member: So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?'

Citibank: 'Either report her account to frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!'

Family Member: 'Do you think God will be mad at her?'

Citibank: 'Excuse me?'

Family Member: 'Did you just get what I was telling you - the part about her being dead?'

Citibank: 'Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.'

Supervisor gets on the phone:

Family Member: 'I'm calling to tell you, she died back in January with a $0 balance.'

Citibank: 'The account was never closed and late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'You mean you want to collect from her estate?'

Citibank: (Stammer) 'Are you her lawyer?'

Family Member: 'No, I'm her great nephew.' (Lawyer info was given)

Citibank: 'Could you fax us a certificate of death?'

Family Member: 'Sure.' (Fax number was given )

After they get the fax :

Citibank: 'Our system just isn't setup for death. I don't know what more I can do to help.'

Family Member: 'Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. She won't care.'

Citibank: 'Well, the late fees and charges will still apply.'

(What is wrong with these people?!?)

Family Member: 'Would you like her new billing address?'

Citibank: 'That might help....'

Family Member: ' Odessa Memorial Cemetery , Highway 129, Plot Number 69.'

Citibank: 'Sir, that's a cemetery!'

Family Member: 'And what do you do with dead people on your planet???'

And you wondered why Citi Bank needed help from the Feds?

Monday, May 17, 2010


In his “classic” paper, What Is Education For, David Orr of Oberlin College emphasizes that “no student should graduate from … any … educational institution without a basic comprehension of:” ecological principles, processes and ethics; carrying capacity; least-cost/end-use analysis; appropriate scale and limits of technology,; and how to live well in a place.

With this in mind, our lifestyles are indicative of the fact that we haven’t done very well at educating toward ecological literacy in the U.S., nor in Seguin/local communities. Our biocapacity in this country is about 11.6 acres per capita, yet our ecological footprint is 23.7 ( ). (And this precarious difference is worse for south central Texas.) (Numerous other indicators of sustainability also point to the fact that we are not realizing ecological literacy and appropriate livelihoods/behaviors.)

Moreover, in the U.S. we consume per capita considerably more than 200,000 kilocalories per day, yet over one billion powerless folk consume less than 5,000 per day ( & others.). Our consumption pattern here in Seguin/other local communites in the U.S. cannot yield quality life for most of the billions of folk in the world—for now and certainly not for future generations.

School planners, educators and school systems are obvious pools to tap for leadership that will move us toward a mindset and toward a Natural and agricultural green space which will facilitate and enable livelihoods of conservation and sustainability. In order to foment these pools of conservation and sustainability, we need more neighborhood and rural schools (including high schools) built in concert with Nature and the Land which have no more than 500 students ( ). The landscapes of our schools should be of mostly native plant communities (possessing placards with species identification/information), some agricultural production, living and rainfall-catchment roofs, and limited parking space (encouraging walking, bicycling, bus transport and car-pooling). Buildings should be sustainably built of mostly local materials and should be designed and strategically placed for passive cooling and heating, and for comprehensive, holistic education that is lived and breathed on the campus. Food and drink—and fibers and other materials used on campuses-- should be mostly locally produced, processed, and prepared for consumption.

All folk involved the school system—students, staff, faculty, administrators, school board members, the larger community—should be knowledgeable about the energy and material inputs/throughputs and outputs, and ecological footprints (including carbon, water, energy) of the school and school system, and involved in changing them for the better (effective communication, participatory/hands-on, decentralized/site-based management, lifelong learning/critical thinking). Various “renewable” energy sources, holistic and preventative systems of student health care, composting toilets and simulated-wetlands sewage-treatment systems and LEED certification at the highest level also need to be considered. (And of course we should have additional systemic and holistic “greening of the curriculum.” )

The picture I’ve painted in these previous two paragraphs is part of a dream, … a vision for moving toward a conserving and sustainable Seguin/local community. It most certainly won’t happen over night! … But it will never happen in an effective and efficient manner if we don’t start now!!

No one likes to hear that the schools and other components of our built environment--on which we’ve worked so hard, and sacrificed and struggled to build in an ethical fashion--should have been smaller and developed in concert with Nature and the Land. Established people in a local region don’t want to hear a relative newcomer (our arrival here in Seguin was 1985) spout off that the high tech, high-energy and -resource input ways of doing things—which we were particularly manipulated toward, taught and lived after WW II--were way off base. And we don’t want to hear and know that we can’t just tear down what we’ve built, and cannot just throw energy and resources and the “American”/can-do attitude at it, … and then magically fix it.

We Texans and Seguinites are a proud people, set in our ways. And all of us, young and old, in the US, Western Europe, Japan and other “developed” nations, and among the elite in the less-developed nations, have really become addicted to “big” and “consumption” and “wasteful lifestyles”--conventional air-conditioning and water heating, cars, SUVs, and pickup trucks, eating exotic product from all over the world which costs much in energy-units, etc., etc..

Nevertheless, we need to reach down deep and get some humility, all of us—the “wet behind the ears” and the “wise and experienced”—and begin to critically think about how to begin to lead our community into conservation and sustainability. We’ve got to learn to live lightly on the Land and compassionately attempt to provide quality life for all--everywhere and forever.

Therefore, let’s be brave, ethical and critically-thinking as community, and cautiously begin to accept the monumental challenge to develop a long term plan that involves a revamping of a local (Seguin) school district toward holistic ecological literacy and sustainable livelihoods/community.

Let’s begin to work hard to build small neighborhood schools in concert with Nature and the Land, that teach and promote ecological literacy and that give us hope for providing quality life for all for years to come.

(This wasn’t easy to write. … I sort of would like to just be a part of status quo--and doing a little gardening and picking native dewberries & grapes, and looking at the beautiful new calf crop, and efficiently reducing personal consumption/reusing/recycling, and bicycling to the Wellness Center regularly, and helping my wife, Mom and Mom-in-Law, and kids and grandkids—and not worry and struggle with real issues and real change toward conservation and sustainability.
But … .)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Banned Books List for 2009

CHICAGO –Lauren Myracle’s best-selling young adult novel series "ttyl," the first-ever novels written entirely in the style of instant messaging, tops the American Library Association’s (ALA) Top Ten list of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009.

Two books are new to the list: Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer and “My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult.

Both Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” and Robert Cormier’s “The Chocolate War” return after being dropped from the list in 2008.

“Even though not every book will be right for every reader, the ability to read, speak, think and express ourselves freely are core American values,” said Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Protecting one of our most fundamental rights – the freedom to read – means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves what they and their families read.”

For nearly 20 years, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has collected reports on book challenges. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed or restricted because of content or appropriateness. In 2009, OIF received 460 reports on efforts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.

Though OIF receives reports of challenges in public libraries, schools, and school libraries from a variety of sources, a majority of challenges go unreported. OIF estimates that its statistics reflect only 20-25% of the challenges that actually occur.

The ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009 reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality

3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

Seven titles were dropped from the list, including: His Dark Materials Trilogy (Series) by Philip Pullman (Political Viewpoint, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz (Occult/Satanism, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); "Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya (Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Violence); Gossip Girl (Series) by Cecily von Ziegesar (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); "Uncle Bobby’s Wedding" by Sarah S. Brannen (Homosexuality, Unsuited to Age Group); "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); and "Flashcards of My Life" by Charise Mericle Harper (Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group).

Also new this year is an updated list of the top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of the Decade (2000 – 2009). Topping the list is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, frequently challenged for various issues including occult/Satanism and anti-family themes. A complete listing can be found at

For more information on book challenges and censorship, please visit the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Banned Books Week Web site at

Monday, March 01, 2010

Could traffic attorneys be a trend for the future?

If you get a traffic ticket, a letter often magically appears in your mailbox promising to fix it

Erika refused to divulge her last name last week as she stepped away from a cashier’s window at San Antonio Municipal Court on Frio Street. The young woman had been cited for exceeding the speed limit on the freeway. Her lead foot cost her $160; she is on probation and will have to spend a Saturday at a local comedy-cum-defensive driving outlet, setting her back another $30. To keep her driving record clean, she can’t receive a traffic violation citation during the year. If successful, she could pay a lower auto-insurance rate and will avoid getting costly points from the state.

Erika took off work and went to the trouble of negotiating with a municipal-court judge. However, shortly after receiving her traffic citation, she also received letters from three local attorneys who offered to appear in court on her behalf. “I threw [the letters] away,” she says. But she wondered how the attorneys learned about her traffic violation in the first place.

Attorneys began accessing information about traffic violators through the state’s open records act in the mid-1990s, says Municipal Court Manager David Presciado. “We’ve been doing it for some time, although I think there was a big push around 2001 when it became the thing to do, with attorneys trying to access information.” The court also provides information to insurance companies and defensive-driving companies,” Presciado added.

A handful of San Antonio law firms pay the court a $25 access fee, either by the week or by the month, depending on the amount of business they want to solicit from traffic violators. The cost depends on the information they seek, such as the names of those receiving traffic violations, the most common citation issued.

“We tried not to give it out to them, but because of open records laws, basically we had to,” says Presciado.

Signing up clients in the municipal court system seems lucrative, since approximately 300,000 citations and 100,000 parking violations are issued each year in San Antonio.

Presiding Municipal Court Judge John Bull says the court has always had a plea-bargain court available to attorneys. “San Antonio is a large municipality and there are attorneys that will come in with a large volume of traffic violations, representing people on tickets. The original reasoning was to find a place where they could go.”

Traffic violators have the option to appear in court themselves, and if their driving records are clean, may negotiate a deferred adjudication if they are skilled enough, but more likely a judge will grant that status, but with a stipulation that the driver take a defensive-driving course. The attorneys who advertise their services virtually guarantee probation without the requirement to take driver’s-safety courses, and of course their clients will save an hour or two by not having to appear in court downtown (which requires time off from work or play).

Using the Open Records Act, several San Antonio lawyers troll the rolls of traffic violators and send them letters advertising their services. The attorneys then go to a special plea-bargain court and negotiate deferred adjudication for their clients.

On Wednesdays, attorneys come to plea-bargain court with 200 traffic tickets they would rather not take to trial or to a hearing before a judge. Citizens with traffic tickets go to an appearance court where they can address the tickets themselves.

Local attorney Barrett McKinney sends letters to potential clients on his letterhead, but he labels them as advertisements. “Don’t pay that traffic ticket!” reads the headline on the letter. “Today, it is more important than ever to protect your driving record,” the letter continues. “Many people mistakenly believe the only penalty for paying a traffic ticket is the fine. For instance, paying a ticket can often result in higher insurance premiums that you will have to pay years into the future.”

McKinney offers to obtain a deferred adjudication for his clients, who can sidestep attending a driver’s-safety course. “It’s rare if I can’t get a ticket deferred for somebody,” says McKinney, a former police officer in South Dallas and Castle Hills. He also worked in the Bexar County District Attorney’s office before becoming a lawyer.

“This is a large part of my business, but I don’t make a whole hell of a lot of money,” McKinney says. “But it is a good reference for other cases, generating referrals more than anything.”

Attorneys who work in plea-bargain court say they have established good working relationships with municipal-court judges. In addition to McKinney, Jesse Sepulveda, David Clarkson, and Diana Casarez Minella, negotiate the lion’s share of traffic tickets. “You’ve got to have resolve to stick with it; it is a lot of work to send those letters out all the time.”

To attract clients, Minella advertises her previous stint as a municipal-court prosecutor. “Keeping violations off your record is important now that Texas has implemented a point system that tracks convictions you receive,” Minella’s letter reads.

“According to the Texas Transportation Code, a point system was adopted by the state in 2003,” says Minella. “For every conviction you get two points, and if you get six in a 36-month period, you will have to pay $100 a year for your license. A conviction for no insurance is an automatic $250 per year. Most people don’t know that if they go pay the ticket, it’s an automatic conviction and the points accumulate. I get a lot of calls asking for me to fix what they did.”

A municipal-court judge who asked that his name be withheld said many times someone will bring a soliciting attorney’s letter to court and hand it to the judge, thinking the letter originated from the court. “They have the idea that the lawyers work for us.

“Personally, I don’t like it,” the judge says. “I didn’t like the idea of lawyers soliciting clients [a forbidden practice two decades ago]. It’s demeaning to allow attorneys to do that. But they do provide a service; a lot of people simply don’t have the time to come down here.” •

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Guadalupe bifaces discovered on Guadalupe River

SEGUIN — Local archeologist Robert “Bob” Everett paid a visit Thursday morning to an excavation site where hundreds of arrowheads, spear points and other Native American artifacts were recently uncovered along the banks of the Guadalupe River.

“This is the richest archeological site I’ve seen on the Guadalupe River in 35 years,” said Everett, a steward with the Texas Historical Commission’s Texas Archeological Stewardship Network.

Everett and his wife, Carol, examined numerous artifacts when he visited Jody and Floyd McKee, owners of the Saffold House on Stockdale Highway along the south bank of the Guadalupe River.

“There could have been a series of villages of different tribes over the past 11,000 years. It appears to have been heavily occupied for an expansive period of time. This could have been a major village with satellite villages strewn along the river,” Everett said.

He said many of the artifacts are from the Archaic to Early Late Prehistoric periods in geological time. He also advised the McKees to carefully control their excavation sites and to measure them as well as they can.

Finds at the site include more than 30 Guadalupe Biface pieces, which were chert or flint tools whose use was uncertain. There are knives, adzes, drills and awls and one atlatl in addition to the spear points and arrowheads that range in size, shape and color, some with corner and side notches. The McKee collection includes a very rare Andice spear point in addition to Wilson, Georgetown and even a Hell Gap artifact that Everett said does not originate in this area.

Everett said the tools could have been used to deflesh an animal hide or to even carve wood.

It’s possible that the site on four acres in back of the McKees’ historical home could have been the site where dugout canoes were carved from local trees.

The McKees had put the house that was built in 1865 on the market after they restored it, and they had an offer from a venture capital firm that wanted to build condominiums, a restaurant and parking lots to serve them on the property.

“If they had paid what we were asking and we had sold it, we wouldn’t even know what we have here,” Floyd said.

Jody said her husband dug out some soil from the property behind their house and spread it in the yard around the house to fill it in.

Then one day it rained, and the McKees found artifacts that had washed to the surface of their yard.

“All of these arrowheads were everywhere. We took out another scoop, sifted the dirt and found all kinds of things. I took a rake and found stuff while raking the surface of the yard. I found five axe heads. You can almost kick the dirt and find something,” Jody said.

“We have stuff in boxes and buckets and on shelves, including more than 30 Guadalupe Bifaces. To find 30 of them in one hole is unheard of,” she said.

“We are not going to sell our house now, this is too much fun,” Jody said.

Since their significant find of Native American artifacts in their back yard, the McKees and their dogs have been working full time digging and sifting dirt in their big back yard. The dogs dig into the piles of dirt, unknowingly kicking up spear points and arrowheads in their attempts to cool down on a hot summer day.

Floyd said he wants the residents of Seguin, especially those who live alongside the river, to know what they have found in their yard.

“It would be a shame for people in Seguin not to know what they might have in their back yard,” Floyd said. Since their first discovery in March, he has dug out an 8 ft. deep, 10 ft. wide, and 50 ft. long trench in one section of their property. The McKees also dug in another spot overlooking the river, and found about five of the Guadalupe Biface pieces, which suggests that five to six people had a workshop at that site.

Floyd McKee has a special interest in Seguin’s history, as he is descended from Sarah Day and her son, James, who were original stockholders with Lot No. 27 on Walnut Branch’s original town map. Sarah was caught up in the Runaway Scrape in 1836, and her son and Floyd’s great-great uncle James Calahan were Texas Rangers assigned to the Seguin post. His grandfather, James McKee, was a district judge and congressman who owned property in the McKee Hill area where Juan Seguin is currently entombed.

The McKees plan to excavate much of the rear of their property to determine the extent of the site of prehistoric occupation, but will stop stop if they encounter a burial site.

“We haven’t run across any bones yet, if we do that we will have to stop and find out what it is,” Floyd McKee said.

Everett, who had been enticed to visit the site after being ill for some time, had brought along his reference book, “Prehistoric Artifacts of the Texas Indians.”

“This is an important site,” Everett reiterated.

“A lot of natives found old spear points and reworked them for reuse,” he said.

Carol Everett said her husband was happy to visit Seguin’s newly-discovered archeological site after a long recovery period.

“This made his day, it made his whole week,” she said.

“Look for a Clovis point, and I’ll be back,” Bob Everett told the McKees.

“There is no telling what we will find out here. Over the past 10,000 to 12,000 years there must have been a lot of camps out here. It is mind boggling,” Floyd said.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saving the infirm at Louis Armstrong Airport, 2005

When The Levee Breaks

Air Force medical teams pluck families from chaos

By Michael Cary
SAN ANTONIO -- New Orleans native Robert Danfield stared balefully out of the airplane's small porthole, a row of parachutes hanging above on the bulkhead, and glimpsed a final view of his hometown. As a 9-year-old in 1965, he had lived through Hurricane Betsy; 40 years later, he and his family barely survived Hurricane Katrina. "The grace of God is what got us out."

As the passengers boarded the airplane, the air overhead buzzed with rescue helicopters that landed by the twos and threes every 30 seconds at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, unloading hundreds of people who were plucked out of their attics, from rooftops, and hard-to-reach high ground in the Crescent City.

The C-130's engines roared and the aircraft vibrated underfoot. A medical technician distributed earplugs to weary residents who had only hours earlier been rescued. The plane smelled metallic, like a set of keys held too long in a sweaty palm.

The 25 passengers who could walk were strapped into red, webbed seats designed to carry paratroopers, and they sat subdued. Air Force medical crews hooked up intravenous saline pouches and attached blood pressure monitors to the critically ill patients - those with tuberculosis, kidney failure, or sickle cell anemia - who were strapped into 20 stretchers rigged along the spine of the plane.

Danfield patted his nervous wife on the knee as if to reassure her that they were leaving the chaos of New Orleans, where thousands were still being rescued from their attics and rooftops. Although the death toll hasn't been calculated, city officials estimate thousands of people died during the week that passed since Katrina stopped the heartbeat of the city.

Nine months ago, Danfield, 50, moved into a newly mortgaged home near Franklin Avenue with his wife, Deborah Glenn, and his stepdaughter, Heather. Their three-bedroom home in the New Orleans' 8th Ward is located about midway between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River.

When Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast on August 28, Danfield's family was among the 20 percent of New Orleans' 480,000 residents who did not evacuate. Relieved that the eye had veered to the east of the city, they went to bed feeling safe in their home.

But, Danfield, says, about 6 a.m. Monday, Heather awoke from a dream that her family was in danger. Later that morning, floodwaters breached a levee on the 17th Street Canal, and Lake Pontchatrain flowed into the 8th Ward, engulfing most of the homes.

Like scores of residents, the family became trapped in the attic by the rapidly rising floodwaters. To escape, Danfield knocked a ventilation fan out of the roof. He broke off a PVC pipe and used it to fly a white T-shirt through the hole to signal any would-be rescuers. But the disaster had just struck New Orleans, and few had arrived to rescue the thousands who were suddenly stranded.

Fortunately, Danfield had a flashlight, and that night he used it to send signals into the darkness with the thin hope that help would come. On the afternoon of August 30, rescue workers from Coast Guard and National Guard units pulled the family to safety and delivered them to the New Orleans Convention Center, where, Danfield says, they stayed in "pure hell" for the next three days. Thousands were stranded at the facility without food, water, electricity, medical care, or law enforcement.

Now Danfield confronted a bigger problem. Glenn suffers from kidney disease, and without crucial dialysis treatment, her health was rapidly deteriorating. Danfield decided he needed to move his family to the Superdome, where he thought his wife would more likely receive medical care or be evacuated.

So, on Sept. 2, the family traversed the one-and-a quarter miles from the Convention Center to the Superdome. "We waded through water up to our waists, past dead bodies, to get to the Superdome," Danfield says. There the waiting began anew.

As the Danfields were settling into the Superdome hoping to find medical help for the ailing Glenn, in San Antonio, aircraft were departing Lackland Air Force Base every 45 minutes to rescue sick and injured New Orleans residents who had been transferred from the Superdome to Louis Armstrong International Airport, where military forces had set up the largest triage center in United States history.

At 4 a.m. on Sept. 3, a five-person medical crew at Lackland Air Force Base with the 452nd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron joined an Air Force flight crew from Arkansas, which had been put on alert Thursday night. The crew loaded medical gear onto the C-130 cargo plane. The crew included nurses, technicians, and an additional three-member Critical Care Air Transport Team, including Maj. (Dr.) James Johnson, a cardio-thoracic anesthesiologist, Captain William Wolfe, a critical-care nurse, and Staff Sgt. Sybyl Thibodaux, a critical-care technician, all from Lackland's 59th Medical Wing.

At 6 a.m., the pilot lifted the aircraft off the runway and sped into the pre-dawn, set to arrive at Armstrong Airport less than two hours later. The seven-person flight crew and the medical teams were taking help and hope to thousands of severely traumatized New Orleans residents.

The crew landed at 7:50 a.m. and taxied to the D gates, where people lay on stretchers in the middle of the airport concourse. They had been rescued, processed through triage, and were queued up for the many medical evacuation flights that would occur until everybody was in medical facilities in Texas or other states. Complicating matters, rescue airplanes and evacuation helicopters had to share one runway, because the remaining tarmac at Armstrong Airport were eroded by floodwaters.

"We're going to Ellington," said Maj. Stacia Belyeu, the nurse in charge of the aeromedical evacuation team. Ellington Field is a former military airport that Houston now maintains, 15 miles south of downtown.

Chief Master Sgt. Rodney Christa of San Antonio was in charge of evaluating patients, many of which were rescued from nursing homes and hospices. He is assigned to the 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland. Since Aug. 31, he said, "we worked until we couldn't, 16 hours on duty, four hours to sleep."

Christa said his airport troops were dealing with people whose needs differed from the wounded who arrive from Iraq and other battle zones. "There are things we haven't seen before. If I don't move fast enough, people will die. If mom is sick or injured, we're moving the whole family."

The scene inside Armstrong Airport resembled a hospital critical-care unit, except that uniformed troops stood guard, lounged in airport gate waiting areas, or slept on the floor during off-times. Other troops helped with patients, patrolled the concourse and entrances, or prepared MREs, the military's prepackaged meals.

The airport terminal was littered with duffel bags, and other troop gear. The building was lit and air-conditioned by a generator with air blowing through ducts in the entryway. Foodstuffs and other relief supplies sat in stacks adjacent to medical triage areas roped off to keep TV camera crews away from the patients that lined the passageways. Outside the airport terminal, misery and chaos reigned among the young and old who squatted among the refuse, trying to get into the airport and out of New Orleans.

On the tarmac, the flight team revved the motors of the C-130. The evacuation crews had loaded the 20 patients on stretchers and 25 more who could walk.

"Tell CNN these people are not refugees," said Belyeu. "They are Internally Displaced People, or IDPs. Refugees leave the country."

In Houston around noon on Saturday, Danfield and Heather walked off the airplane alongside Glenn, who was pushed in a wheelchair across the tarmac to a terminal where hundreds of relief workers and medical personnel had set up an intake area. Glenn soon received her life-saving dialysis.

The C-130's four powerful engines revved again, and the airlift crews boarded the cargo plane for another flight to New Orleans to pick up 40 patients who would be evacuated to Lackland. Johnson, Williams, and Thibodaux lay back in the webbed seating in the aircraft's cargo hold for some much-needed rest before they landed again in New Orleans.

"We'll go back to New Orleans, but not to live there again," Danfield said as he smoked a cigarette and pondered his family's future. He dialed numbers on his cell phone, trying to reach relatives in Houston. "I have no identification, no credit card; not a nickel in my pocket. We've just got to start over ... we're thinking about staying in Texas."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Government responds to Falcon Refinery Superfund oil spill

Waterfowl covered in
toxic crude perish,
oil cleanup continues

A crested cormorant, two coots and a northern shoveler perished over the weekend after they were found immersed in toxic crude oil at the Falcon Refinery Superfund site in Aransas Pass on Feb. 11.

Despite intensive efforts by wildlife management groups at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep on Mustang Island, four birds died on Sunday, Feb. 16, Valentine's Day.

A fifth bird, a black-crowned night heron, also was found at the Falcon Refinery oil spill site last week and was taken in at the ARK for treatment, but it also has died from a disease unrelated to the toxic crude.

Heavy rainfall and a strong wind from the north aided efforts by state agencies and private contractors to clean up an estimated 1 million gallons of crude oil that gushed through a crack in a storage tank last week.

Officials from the Texas General Land Office, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency were on site in Aransas Pass to oversee the cleanup effort by a GLO response team and a private contractor.

The Falcon Refinery was designated as a toxic Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002, and it was previously reported in the Aransas Pass Progress and the Ingleside Index that the site was due for cleanup by 2010.
The latest oil spill occurred during a crude oil transfer operation by a company that is leasing three storage tanks on the site.

“Right now the rain is helping with our response effort, flushing oil that got into a freshwater marsh back into a freshwater pond where we have a collection effort set up,” said Jimmy Martinez, senior response officer for the Corpus Christi region of the General Land Office.

Martinez said that employees of Superior Crude Gathering Co. of Corpus Christi were pumping oil into a storage tank about 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, when the crude leaked into a secondary containment area (berm).

“The General Land Office was not notified until about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10. We mobilized our team and brought our command post out here at 8:30 a.m. At that time we asked TCEQ to conduct air monitoring for us, and in a couple of hours we had the all clear to send in our first responders to make an assessment,” Martinez said.

“Once we received the all clear we went over to the Superfund site. There is a 55,000-barrel tank that was holding 52,000 barrels of crude oil, and there was a rupture at the base of it,” Martinez explained.

“Oil was gushing out pretty significantly and was going into a secondary containment area, a dike berm,” he said.

The oil had leaked out of Tank No. 13; Superior employees attempted to pump oil into Tank No. 15 and managed to transfer 28,000 barrels into it.

“During that operation we observed another tank failure, this time in Tank No. 15. Now we’re dealing with two failures,” Martinez said Thursday afternoon.

“We also found three different breaches of those secondary containments, and oil was flowing into the duck pond and freshwater marshes,” he said.

“Once we observed the oil coming out of Tank 15, the company pumped water into it to raise the level of oil above the rupture, and we’ve been able to maintain that level throughout the night so no more oil was coming out of there,” Martinez explained.

“A barge arrived here this morning, and we began to load up the barge with 28,000 barrels of the oil that was in Tank No. 15. That operation started about an hour ago,” Martinez said around noon Thursday.

“We simultaneously had vacuum trucks on the scene to suck oil out of the secondary containment, and we had an overnight operation where we actually recovered approximately 2,000 barrels of oil in the secondary of Tank No. 13. We recovered 2,500 barrels of oil overnight, which brings us up to 20,000 barrels of oil,” Martinez continued.

Matt McCauley, senior response officer for the GLO, said he monitored the Falcon oil spill site over the weekend.

“As of yesterday (Monday), approximately four barrels of oil remained outside the containment area, in the freshwater lake and in a ditch,” McCauley said.

On the inside of the containment area, there are approximately 1,000 barrels left, and we’re hitting hot spots of pooled oil,” he said.

“Our operations are scaling down out there, and we haven’t solidified the amount of oil spilled and the amount recovered. We’re still working with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Railroad Commission and Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Everybody is still heavily involved in the operation,” McCauley said.

Intensive care for the four birds last week involved a non-profit organization from Houston and personnel at the Animal Rehabilitation Keep.

The care and cleanup of oiled birds is a delicate process, and on this occasion did not turn out well for the birds, who were discovered dead on Sunday.

“Everything worked the way it was supposed to, but unfortunately when birds are oiled, it is a give and take situation when the birds ingest the oil. Sometimes with oil spills that’s the way it goes,” said Brent Koza of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response office in Corpus Christi.

Koza had delivered a specially equipped travel trailer to house the birds in a warm environment while they underwent treatment.

A special cleaning tank apparatus donated to the GLO by the Citgo energy company was put into use for the first time last week at the ARK.

“The machine worked beautifully, the way it was designed to. Personally and professionally, I was disappointed with the way the birds died, but I was satisfied with the way the machinery worked,” Koza said.

Martinez said the oil spill site at the Falcon Refinery will end an emergency phase “when the oil is removed from the water itself, that is our primary concern.”

He said that by the end of Wednesday, Feb. 17, the GLO “will back off and the railroad commission will take control of longer term remediation.”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

St. Valentine's Day 2010

I kinda really don't like this holiday. I have been home watching TV all day and since I heard the winds outside gonna check on my laundry. The winds are whipping up. When's the Single people holiday? A holiday when we get to eat strawberries in chocolate? So, well, call me what you will, on today, the holiday for lovers, I am going back to bed. It'll be forgotten by tomorrow. Adios y buenas noches.

My Broken Ankle Adventure IV

So, now most of my time is occupied by a lot of contemplating. I'm scheduled to see my personal doc with the County as a follow-up scheduled before the accident happened. Confused?
It's the Sunday now after the Tuesday night that changed the way I'll live the next 8-9 weeks.

I order the cheap stuff from the Pizzeria. I do have personal info I'd like to keep that way, so I'll say that there are very kind and generous people on my planet. I do have info I keep private

So, I do very little at a time. I intend to fo the final "Organize" in my kitchen. This is mundane and boring. But I kept organizing it and I would discard or get something else and so there was less space, and is less space... So, anyway, those are the kinds of things I worry about with my elevated ankle and hoping the injury is not as bad as it may be. I just can't feel it as I normally would as there is always the risk that I already have a degree of something unexpected and bad. So, I hope that I can snag the guitar, and be inspired to write hopefully...

I gave am armful of (what I thought) were nice articles or clothing. I hope the young lady liked it/them and she can/will use them. So, I am down to judging the clothes and now will go into 2 piles. Cold and Hot (weather related). I've made a lot of progress very slowly. It's nice to look at the clothes and see a niticeable reduction in the size of the mountain. I have 2 other "monsters". One being "the cassettes". The other being "The VHS". So, here I am staring at my swollen ankle thru to all these VHS tapes. Hmmmm.. I have many containers of music charts. Put Away. Air tight. Closet. But they take a bunch of space. And so I want to economize my living quarters space or lack thereof.

And but now, I'm sleepy. And it's been days of this and pain in the waking hours. But it's a lot of thinking. Thank you God for forcing me to take the opportunity to learn. Posting more later.

My Broken Ankle Adventure III

So, after a peaceful, non-eventful ride to drop off the kids and then get some gas and then head on out to Spohn, we parked and JoAnne dropped me off where the ambulances bring patients. There was a think, Latino prisoner being watched by a lady cop. Joanne and I couldn't help but look at this young person in a head brace that looked like a wifi antaennae ( don't know how to spell antaennae). This young person was throughly sedated. We walked on to the triage age so they could assess my injury. After being warned by a well-meaning relative of some patient that it was a 6-8 hour wait. We asked her what was wrong with the patient. He had like boils and lesions. So, I understood what triage was doing. A boil or lesions should be handled in the doctor's office and not in the Emergency Room running up all kinds of expenses. It sounds like an out-patient surgical procedure. They took my info and we sat out in the waiting area and before hardly any time (we're talking ER time, like Dog Years), they called me to be assessed in Triage. Definitely,
a potentitial broken bone is more of an emergency. So, we walked to an exam room I hadn't seen yet. We waited. Nurse verified info. We waited. That took my vitals. We waited. Dr. Rudy came out and examined my ankle. We chatted and I by chance mentioned a previous break of that very ankle. Dr. Rudy had one of those Dr. House moments like where time stops and they do a surprised House face close-up.
An angel from heaven all glowy white and smiling brought me a pain-killer and a cup of water.
So, quite casually he suggests I get x-rayed just to make sure I didn't re-injure my old break.
Mr. Joe, came and applied an air-cast. I was pleased because it was not heavy and I could shower easily, scratch if necessary. They had splinted me in treatment of a sprain.

A nice x-ray tech showed up and wheeled me up to xray, splint in place, in a wheelchair.
I jumped on their counter and x-rays were taken of my foot in various positions. They wheeled me back to little exam gurney. Weeeeeee! That Lortab made for a nice improvement in my disposition and pain level. The wheelchair was much too much fun for a woman my age.

So, we waited. Joanne read her latest book. I fidgeted like a little kid. I was so tired. The Lortab helped but made me sleepy. Suddenly, an x-ray machine was at my feet at the end of my gurney. Now they needed x-rays without the splint. I knew it. So, we unwrapped my ankle and they positioned their x-ray machine and took more intimate pictures of my right ankle.

We waited. After some while they came back to tell me the old fracture had been re-fractured. Sonuva!!! In came Joe with a new cast for me. This time a hard cast. I was told to get an appointment with ortho as soon as possible.

They gave me crutches. I am horrible on crutches. I am more likely to cause more harm than prevent it in crutches. So, we went to the window and I was processed out. Right by us were about 6 very big Bandidos, their ladies, and an older Bandido that wasn't looking so good.

They gave me my prescription and I found out that they had a 24 Spohn pharmacy. Good to know. After I paid $10, she released 1 more 24 hour period's dosage. So, we were off to wait for 1 days worth of pills. We passed the Bandido contingency and now the sick dude looked like he wanted to hurl. We flew past that and ended up waiting at the Pharmacy.

We waited. I got my meds.

We passed the waiting area and everyone was gone except for the Bandido Lady and about 3 Bandidos. We asked about their friend and they said he was in bad shape but was getting help now. We told her we'd pray some for him. We tried to open the glass doors but between me, crutches, laptops, purses, backpacks that wheelchair was something else to handle. Three of those Bandidos jumped up like Knights in T-shirt Armor in their leathers, bandanas, and badges, and they made sure we cleared the glass doors. They were very gentelmanly. Joanne went to bring the car closer and I just stared at the stars wondering WTF.

We went (the trip was a blur, I took 1 Lortab and now had a foot in a cast). We were gonna treat ourselves. It represented the substitution of something sinful in place of the paper dolls my mother used to give me when I got sick.

So, we relaxed and Joanne had some Strawberry Pancakes, I had Strawberry Blintzes, and we split a fried banana Cheesecake with nuts at IHOP. The evening was complete. Joanne dropped me off and I made my way to bed and lay down. Emotionally drained. Physically in pain. Discouraged. We bantered with a very charming mid-east gent, manager, and then it was all over for anything strawberry on that table.

I slept all that day after the sun came up on Wednesday.

The next Thursday morning Joanne picked me up and we were off to CC around 8:30am when she discovered me posting and awake on FB and declared that we may as well get an early start. I agreed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Oil spil at Ingleside Superfund site

This story first published on Dec. 9 in the Aransas Pass Progress newspaper

Falcon Refinery Superfund report due in 2010

By Michael Cary
Staff Writer
Petroleum wastes contained in tanks, equipment and piping at the Falcon Refinery Superfund site adjacent to Redfish Bay is due to be reported cleaned up in 2010.
The Falcon Refinery Superfund site, located 1.7 miles southeast of State Hwy. 361 on Farm-to-Market Road 2725 between Aransas Pass and Ingleside, was a refinery operated intermittently since 1980, and is listed on the Federal Register as "currently inactive."
During its operational heyday, it maintained a 40,000 barrel per day capacity for petroleum products such as naptha, jet fuel, kerosene and fuel oil.
The site included a dock facility on Redfish Bay where materials were moved between barges and storage tanks.
The site produced crude oil, but in addition contained hazardous substances, including chromium and other chemicals, and had dumped wastes from holding tanks and leaking drums into Redfish Bay wetlands.
Residents near the facility had as early as 1985 complained about odors from processing impure crude oil, and then complained about odors from a spill in 2000.
The Texas Water Commission discovered in 1986 that the site contained untreated wastewater in tanks that had been discharged into sandy, unlined containment structures.
In November 1995 a spill of approximately eight barrels of crude oil mixture occurred in the wetlands adjacent to the facility.
In 2000, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (formerly the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) found a leak from a naptha "stabilizer unit," with an estimated 220 gallons of industrial waste that had leaked from the tank.
The commission in 2000 found fluroanthene, pyrene, benzo(a)anthracene, chrysene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, benzo(a)pyrene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, benzo(g,h,i)peryline, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, barium, manganese and mercury in sediment samples in the wetlands of Redfish Bay.
The Texas commission and the federal Environmental Protection Agency lists the National Oil Recovery Corp. as the responsible party for the site that entered into an agreement in 2004 "to perform and finance the removal action and remedial investigation and feasibility study for the Falcon Refinery Superfund Site."
The purpose of the removal action is to address the wastes from the tanks, the equipment and the piping that exists on the property.
According to an EPA report on the Falcon Refinery, "the removal action is ongoing.
"The purpose of the remedial action and feasibility study is to determine the nature and extent of contamination and to gather sufficient information about the site to support an informed risk management decision regarding which remedy is the most appropriate for the site," according to the report.
The EPA approved the work plan, a field sampling plan and an quality assurance plan in October 2007, with an addendum in May 2009.
The work is "expected to be completed in 2010."
William Zagorski, emergency managment coordinator for San Patricio County, said that beside posting documents regarding the superfund on the TCEQ's Web site and in other locations, there has been no update for local authorities.
"This is an ongoing superfund cleanup, we're not involved, we're local. We don't hear anything at all, it's the Feds and the way they do things," Zagorski said.
Jim Price, San Patricio County Commissioner, said the site cleanup is "long overdue.
"That site was left untouched with oil spilling over the tops of tanks and feeding into the bays and wetlands without anyone doing anything about it," he said.
"But I do think they have removed oil from old tanks, gradually tearing the tanks down and cleaning the place up," Price said.
"The government came and continued to let the owners operate part of that terminal while the rest of it was being cleaned up. They have quite a few trucks running 24 hours a day in and out of there," Price said.
Currently, the Superior Oil Co. has leased some of the storage tanks, and uses them to store crude oil from operating oil wells.
"The government came and continued to let the owners operate part of that terminal while the rest of it was being cleaned up. They have quite a few trucks running 24 hours a day in and out of there," Price said.
San Patricio County Judge Terry Simpson expressed some frustration with the length of time it is taking to clean up the Falcon Refinery Superfund.
"What usually happens with federal funding is they run out and wait for more money. October 1 is the date for the new federal budget, with funding to continue to remove materials from there," Simpson said.
"They have been removing material and testing for several years now. I wish they could get it taken care of in a year instead of several years," he said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lists 159 toxic waste superfund sites in 62 Texas counties. The Falcon Refinery Superfund Site is the only one listed in San Patricio County. There are several superfund sites in adjoining Nueces County, where Corpus Christi is located.
Those superfund sites include the Baldwin Waste Oil site, the Ballard Pits, the Brine Service Co., Industrial Road/Industrial Metals site and South Texas Solvents.
Selected superfund sites in Texas are in various stages of cleanup, according to EPA public documents.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Broken Ankle Adventure II

It's now 2010. I am living in an RV in old town Port Aransas. This RV has a series of steps. You take a step down to the kitchen, a step down to the bathroom, a step down to the bedroom.
I have a bad habit of stacking coats on this chair on the upper level and was about to tidy up and hang them up and put them in the closet. I tossed a bunch of plastic hangers on top of the stack of coats. I went to see something on the TV Guide channel to make sure they were showing House and 24. Two of my favoritos.
Earlier in the day I had planned to drop off my mini laptop because he keyboard has stopped working to take advantage of the manufacturer's warranty. I awoke not feeling well at all. I am a diabetic and there are days I just don't feel good at all. More often than not, it's in control, but there are days that for no apparent reason, I feel like hell. Bones hurt, my head was congested, my hip bones hurt. It was 7:30am and begged off the trip with the friend who was going to take me. He was out playing golf already. I know he thinks I'm a wimp because I sometimes just don't have energy or don't want to do anything but stay home with my dogs.
So, I stayed in and slept. I just felt terrible. I read a little Facebook which sometimes cheers me up. I have some very humorous FB friends that even tho I haven't met many of them, feel like I know them and want to know what they are up to.

I got up and made some toast. Drank coffee. Slept a little more. Around late afternoon, I took to doing some chores to try to wake myself up. I was about to make me some tomato soup and more toast before my shows came on. I forgot all about the hangers I heard fall on the floor and took one step off the TV area and weeeeee! I went flying on the idiot express again. I almost hit my head on the step, but don't think I did. I didn't hear bones break. I landed and I guess as I reached out managed to pull everything off the table by me. An open suit case from my trip to Dallas, guitar gear, coats, miscellaneous stuff landed and covered me.

I freaked out that I had fallen yet again. AGAIN. So, I unburied myself just manically throwing off stuff. I made myself stand up. Okay...the right ankle showed a small puncture wound. Made by something unknown. The right side of my right ankle had a lump that protruded more than my ankle bone. I held on to the edges of stuff and made my way to the couch.

House was starting. I popped 2 Aleve. I propped my leg on top of the back of the couch, up high. I watched House. It was a great show all about Dr. Cutty. I hobbled to the fridge and found 2 little lunchbox coolers. I went back to the couch and found a sock and stuffed the lunchbox coolers around the ankle. I put the foot on top of the back of the couch. 24 came on and I took my regular meds and lay and watched the show. I texted a few people.

After 24, I took more Aleve and took my anti-anxiety meds. Once I found position where I didn't move at all, I fell asleep. If I moved, there was pain. I slept with my boys who managed to be unusually sedate.

I awoke around 3am and texted my boss, my friend from Minnesota, Luis, Joanne, and a few others. My friend from Minnesota called and wanted to take me to the ER right then. No way Jose. I had a gig Luis and I had been trying to get set up for about a year later that night and I was not going to cancel that. No way. He seemed shocked but music is the most important thing to me.

I took more Aleve and went back to sleep. I awake later in the early afternoon and made some huevos and frijoles and flour tortillas. Drank some orange juice. I slept some more. About 4:30 pm I took a shower, got dressed, did make-up, oral hygiene, put my stuff outside to load into the care.

My Minnesota friend had agreed to take me to the ER after the Lobsters of Love for Haiti show. Luis was under the weather, but we were determined to kick some butt. After Luis picked me up and we got our stuff ready to complete the set-up, Minnesota came up and said Hello and put a dollar in the jar and went back to eat his lobster and continue drinking.

We started playing and about the 3rd song, Minnesota came up and just flat out told me "DOWN". I said, "Down what?". He relied that I had to turn down the vocals. I asked him why was anybody was asking him to have us turn down since he wasn't staff, wasn't my boyfriend, wasn't our management. He angrily responded that it was too loud for him. I mumbled well, ok. Shot a look to Luis who said, "Hey he's yours". I responded, "The hell he is". And jokingly told Luis I was just going home. My leg was in hard pain. It was cold on stage.

It was great to see Ms. Jackie there. She's a regular at Quiksilver. It was great to see North Beach Jennie, her daughter Kaitlyn (who is now taller than me), and her new pal, Kat, a very nice young woman it was a pleasure to meet. It was great to see JB and his lady. Great to see Surfer Mike. It was nice overall, but this weird behavior from Minnesota bugged me.

As we played I saw Minnesota talking to Moby Dicks management and I was distracted while I sang wondering what in the hell he could have to talk to them about. It was distracting. We played 2 hours without a break. We took a break.

I slowly made my way off the stage. My ankle really hurt. Minnesota walked over, drink in hand, put his arm around my shoulders and laughingly asked me if my ankle was ok. I told him I was in real pain. He then told me, "You must be really high then". I was shocked. I said no. I was in no way high having only taken Aleve. He seemed to be put off a little. I managed to remove his arm as he was starting to really annoy me. I made my way to the bar and made small talk with bar management and customers. Minnesota sat glumly and sucked on his hard liquor. I was talking to a gentleman when I noticed that Minnesota was yelling at Luis! He said, something God-damn and something about Luis getting his shit together. What!? WTF!? I immediately asked Luis to let's get started again to extricate him from that situation before he did what I wanted to do myself and pop Minnesota to another planet. Luis said he had to say hello to friends and that was good. I avoided Minnesota and in a few minutes we did go and do the last of the set.

Before we started tho, I called Joanne Klein to tell her Minnesota was drunk on his ass and I wasn't gonna be driven anywhere by him in that condition and I would prolly take the B Bus in the morning and could I please have a ride home if that happened. She asked me if I wanted to go tonight, she would take me.

We did our last set. Wrapped up gear. In a few minutes, JoAnne picked me up and Luis went to work his overnight shift. We drove to CC, dropped off Em and Alex with their Dad (thanks, Dave!) and made our way to Memorial Hospital.

My Broken Ankle Adventure I

Well, a few years ago, before 8am on a weekday, I was in a hurry to get to work at Las Colinas in Irving. I lived in a small servant's cottage behind a large "estate" type home. The house in front had many bedrooms and was probably 100 years old, and was made of native rock.

The cottage in the back was quiet in and peaceful and in the back of the property by the ally.

I had let the heel of my shoe wear down to the nail. Yup, it was an accident waiting to happen. I had forgotten something or another and returned to my bedroom. The car was left running because it was a matter of quick retrieval.
I hurriedly stepped on a concrete step, and weeeeee! I took a ride on the idiot express. I slid and when I hit the floor heard the bone break. I felt the ankle bend TO THE OUTSIDE. It was a surreal site to see the ankle bend that way at an unnatural angle.

I stood up and couldn't put ANY weight on the right foot. It was numb and yet in very profound pain. I called my friend, Hector, and he drove me to Presby Hospital at Walnut Hill and Greenville. They were very kind and took care of my fracture. Put me in a wheelchair. Wrapped it in a cast like splint. Told me to follow-up with an ortho doc. They gave me pain pills. I called in to work. Hector brought me home and I slept. In a few days, I was able to drive myself and followed up with an ortho doc named - Dr. Paine. Fo' reals. That was his name.

They put me in a blue ortho boot. I was hopeful that I would be ambulatory. I was. It was a miracle.

That night, I was to open for Sara Hickman at Club Dada. This was considered a much coveted gig for Dallas musicians. My little gang of pals showed up in support. I was lifted on to the stage and in a pain pill haze, did my opening gig. Standing. Standing on my broken ankle in my blue boot.

Sara was very warm and gracious and asked about my well-bring. She was nothing but kind and I am thankful for the opportunity to open for such a great artist.
The next day, exhausted, I slept most of the day.

I wore the boot for weeks. I did gigs. I worked in my office. Eventually, I didn't have to wear the boot on my shrunken, pale, hairy, healed ankle. They diagnosed it as an avulsion ankle fracture.