Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cat Ballou

CAT BALLOU  December, 1999 - December 23, 2014
    Beloved, forever in our memories.

The following was first posted on this blog on July 20, 2009.

Cat Ballou is a special cat – the first cat that Jesse has ever liked. Bill and Natalie found him, as a kitten, at a dumpster next to the Burger King in Columbus, Texas. Finding no one who knew anything about him, they brought him home to us in January, 1999. We grew fond of him as we watched his personality develop from a kitten to an adult cat. One day, I walked down the street to visit with a neighbor in her yard. She saw Cat Ballou, who had followed at my heels, and said, “I’ve never seen a cat walking with someone like a dog does!” Usually, when we arrive at home by car, Cat Ballou is wandering “his” territory. When he sees us, he runs across several yards to our house. But as soon as he crosses into our yard, he switches into “cool’ mode, and saunters up to us, his tail held straight up, as if he owns the place. He allows us to pet him for a second, but no more. If we want to pet him some more, he reminds us, with a nip, that he has had petting enough for now. Several of our neighbors are entertained by his pouncing and hunting habits while they work in their yards. Cat Ballou is a handsome cat, a tuxedo cat – black with a white chin, white chest and white feet.

On Sunday morning, April 25, 2004, as I entered the kitchen, I saw Cat Ballou lying in the plants in the back yard. He NEVER lays in the back yard, so immediately I knew something was wrong. He was struggling to breathe. I called Jesse outside. He said “Let’s get Cat Ballou to the Emergency Clinic”. We rushed him to the clinic – his lung capacity was less than the size of a half-dollar. His diaphragm had been ruptured. His spleen was bruised. His intestines were pushed into his pleural cavity. He was in shock – his temperature was 95, should have been 101, so Melanie Fox, DVM, could not operate until 6 pm when they got him stabilized and his temperature was back up.

I went to the Emergency Clinic to see check on Cat Ballou at 10 pm after his surgery. During surgery, Cat Ballou went into respiratory failure. After they revived him, he went into cardiac failure. Again they revived him. They didn’t give us much hope for his recovery.

Distraught, I walked out of the clinic, missed a step-down from a ramp with no lighting, and fell. It was dark and no one was around. I couldn’t get up. My leg was twisted. The pain was intense. So intense that I could not call out. I had to wait until a receptionist came out on her break. I called to her. She was pregnant, so could not help me; but stood by while I slowly pulled myself to a standing position. But, this is Cat Ballou’s story, not mine.

We were told to pick up Cat Ballou at 6:30 am on Monday, April 26th – the Emergency Clinic is open only nights and weekends. We transported Cat Ballou across town to our regular vet, but our vet was out of the office until 10:30 am. Because Cat Ballou had to be hooked back up to his oxygen and IV fluids right away, we transported him back across town to Westlake Feline Hospital. This turned out to be a good move because there are several veterinarians there, and we needed the expertise of them all before the week was over.

Thomas Bradfield, DVM, at the Feline Hospital kept Cat Ballou stabilized during that Monday, April 26th; however, he asked us to take him back to the Emergency Clinic for the night because Cat Ballou needed constant monitoring. So back we went to the Emergency Clinic. His red-blood-cell count was 17 and needed to be at least 30. We agreed to a whole blood transfusion. At 11pm, the clinic found a donor cat – where, I don’t know - and did the transfusion.

We picked Cat Ballou up at 6:30 am on Tuesday, April 27th, to transport him back to the Feline Hospital. He was becoming more alert, but would not eat. They force-fed him, and gave him IV fluids and pain killers though out the day. We picked him up at 6 pm and brought him home, spending a sleepless night watching over him, giving him IV fluids, drawing the fluid off his pleural cavity, and trying to force-feed him. Cat Ballou was having trouble standing on his back legs. He would walk to the litter box, then collapse when he tried to use the bathroom. We thought he was weak from surgery and woozy from pain-killers.

At 8 am on Wednesday, April 28th, we took him back to the Feline Hospital where he was stable during the day. Brent Rains, DVM, took over his care. He removed Cat Ballou’s bandages and his pleural cavity catheter, and attached a morphine patch to his side. We brought Cat Ballou home for the night. We had made him a window seat, and he sat or laid there most of the night, snuggled up against the catnip cat pillow that was one of the many gifts in the get-well basket from our friend, Jim. Cat Ballou was still having trouble walking and would not eat.

We kept him at home on April 29th, force-feeding him and giving him Lactated Ringers IV fluid.

On Friday, April 30th, we returned to the Feline Hospital. An x-ray showed a dislocation of his pelvic bones from his sacrum. The original x-rays had not covered this part of his body because the most immediate trauma was to his chest. Unlike in humans, cats have only cartilage holding these bones together, so even if they pop the bones back into place, there is nothing to hold them in place. Dr. Rains, after consulting with the other vets in the office, and two specialists, said we could get an orthopedic surgeon to operate and pin the bones together or we could do nothing and eventually the bones would fuse – perhaps a little crooked. Understanding the consequences, but wishing not to subject Cat Ballou to further surgery, we chose the latter course. Cat Ballou got an enema to make sure his bowels were not blocked. His IV fluids were continued, and he spent the night at the hospital.

On Saturday, May 1st, when we arrived to collect Cat Ballou and his IV bag, we found the results of his lab tests were not good: his bone marrow was not producing red blood cells and that his kidneys were failing. The vets had started Cat Ballou on injections to jump start his red blood cell production. As we were leaving, the staff at the hospital were sad because they thought they were sending Cat Ballou home to die. However, we were not so sure. I bought fresh chicken livers, mashed them up with the blood and fed them to Cat Ballou. I bought a marrow bone and fed the marrow to him. Jesse and I gave him his IV fluids every day. We talked to him and petted him; Bill and Natalie sent him healing energy; and Jim gave him Reiki and prayed to St. Francis.

Five days later, on Thursday, May 6th, we returned to the Feline Hospital. Cat Ballou’s blood work was approaching normal. His red blood cell count was still low, but higher than before. His kidney creatin was still a little high, but lower than before. His kidney BUN was normal. The staff were all amazed. They removed Cat Ballou’s stitches. They gave him a B12 injection. They armed us with Cat Tinic, Lactated Ringers IV; needles, a prescription for a red-blood-cell booster serum, and a supply of Kidney D cat food, and told us to keep doing what we had been doing.

Eight days later, on Friday, May 14th, at the Feline Hospital, I reported a knot in Cat Ballou’s abdomen. Dr. Rains felt it, too. An x-ray that was inconclusive. A barium x-ray showed the barium moving through Cat Ballou’s digestive system with no blockages. However, after the x-ray, the knot was gone!

By now, we were weary of trying to force-feed Cat Ballou. If you have ever tried to force a cat to do anything, you know what I mean. Besides, his claws, which had been shredded during the accident, had grown back, and he had remembered how to use them. I had an inspiration for feeding Cat Ballou! He has always liked the juice off canned cat food, but doesn’t eat the food. I thought why not liquefy the cat food! I blended a mixture of the Kidney D food, salmon juice and warm water. He lapped it up – not a lot, but with gusto. He eats a little more each day. Now, I sometimes add cod liver oil and his Cat Tinic.

Ten days later, on May 25th, exactly one month after being run over by a car, we returned Cat Ballou to the Feline Hospital for a check up. He was well-hydrated, his gums were pink, his temperature was normal. Most importantly, his red blood cell count was 34% - well within normal range, and his BUN is normal; however, his creatin has risen from 3.7 to 5. We will continue giving him the Lactated Ringers IV fluid, and feeding him low-sodium, low-protein food.

Nine days later, on June3, Cat Ballou is sleeping peacefully on his Novafoam pillow on the sofa. When he was really sick, he chose to sleep between Jesse and me on our bed. We see his moving out of our bedroom as a sign of his continuing recovery. For the past few weeks, he has taken over the living room as his own. Gradually, he is taking over the entire house. He is leaping onto the counters and tables and window sills. He comes to greet us when we come home. He drinks from his new water fountain, and eats both dry and canned food with dainty gusto. He still likes the gravy best. Cat Ballou is learning patience, is making friends with Checkers and Madeleine, our other two inside cats. Cat Ballou looks out the window when awake – he is an outside cat, after all. Every once in a while he goes to the door and piteously whines to be let outside – to no avail on our part.

We figure he has used up at least six of his nine lives: 1. Falling off our metal roof, leaving scratch marks down the front fender of our car; 2. Being locked in our neighbors’ garage for a week while they were on a skiing trip; 3. Having a wooden garage door closed on his back; 4. Being run over by car; 5. Experiencing respiratory failure during surgery; and 6. Having cardiac failure during surgery. Because Cat Ballou is so important to us, Jesse and I, and Bill and Natalie, and our friend, Jim, don’t think we are ready to gamble on his remaining 3 lives.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


I have fallen in love with the gorgeous Bryce Steede, and the red-headed Ali is winning my heart, too, even though she fights hard against her own happiness by holding onto her "Closely Guarded Secret." Sometimes I just want to shake her and tell her to let it go; but she's a strong woman and probably wouldn't listen to me anyway. 

There's plenty of tension, a few scary moments, some laugh-out-loud scenes, lots of tender romance, and enough HOT love scenes to satisfy anyone. We watch the blossoming connections between two people who, for their own particular reasons (which unfold as the story progresses) have never before truly experienced what being in love means. 

Author Natalie Money has tremendous story-telling talent. Her character development is a slow blossoming so that we feel we really understand the main characters, as well as the supporting characters, especially Steven. Reading this book was like watching a movie in my head. I can't wait for her next book. In the meantime, I think I'll re-read this one.

For preview, go to     Reviews and preview Closely Guarded Secret by Natalie Money

For more info, go to     Author's Page: Natalie Money

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Our" Peacock

January 22, 2015: 

About a week ago a peacock began nesting at night in one of our backyard trees. At first he really scared us, and the cats, with his screams, beginning a little after sunset and continuing at intervals for about an hour.

The first night was pretty nerve-racking. Poor Miss Madeleine nearly knocked the cat flap off its hinges getting into the house, and I jumped out of my chair! No photos yet because of night time and his being up a 50-foot tree with leaf-cover.

Green Pastures Restaurant on Live Oaks keeps peacocks, as do the people in an old mansion next to the railroad tracks on West Mary St near S Lamar. Other individuals keep them, also. 

The peacocks (male) go walk-about in the Spring, trying to find a peahen (female) mate. (Guess this one is over-eager because it sure is NOT Spring here yet.) They used to go back to their homes to nest at night, but this one may have gotten lost - or is afraid to cross South Lamar Blvd, which means he is pretty darned smart!

Wild peacocks are omnivorous eating fruits, berries, grains, small mammals, reptiles, arthropods, amphibians, small snakes and insects like ants, millipedes, crickets, termites, centipedes, locust and scorpions. They will also eat flower petals, seeds, grass and plant parts as a part of their diet in the wild. Surprisingly enough, these birds will eat snakes, especially poisonous snakes. They have actually been seen stalking and then eating these snakes.

Domestic peacocks have a bit of a different diet than their wild cousins. They can eat insects, plants, cheese, cooked rice, grubs, flowers and cat food. They will also graze on grass as well as seeds and bread. So their diet is a bit more varied than their wild cousins.

March 1, 2015 from a neighbor: "My mother saw a coyote in the front yard at Cliffside & Spring Creek Dr. this morning, and it was eating a vulture. Odd!"

J and I are very sad. Our peacock is dead. Our neighbor posted this note on our neighborhood listserve: "This morning I posted a notice that said a coyote had been seen at Cliffside and Spring Creek Dr. Our local peacock has been living on the corner of Rabb and REL. Today my neighbor found the peacock's coyote munched body. (Now I wonder if my mother saw it eating a peacock, not a vulture like she thought.) Anyway, chicken owners and others you have been cautioned and our neighborhood is sadly down one handsome peacock."

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Women’s Health Care in Texas

I got my knickers in a twist today when I read an op-ed in the Austin American Statesman, from 5 Texas legislators(1) that 130,000 low-income Texas women will lose their health care on March 15, because Rick Perry won't accept Federal money meant for breast, cervical, & HIV screenings, and birth control.

Won't accept it because the medical care workers who do the screenings might possibly work for, or refer a patient to, a clinic (say, Planned Parenthood) that also provides abortions, a clinic that, BY STATE LAW, -- just like all clinics that provide abortions in Texas -- cannot accept any State funds for abortion services. In addition, no federal money under this program can be used to fund abortions.

The Federal government wants to give Texas this money for women’s health care, and it says Texas, by enacting a rule that makes accepting the Federal money a no-no, is in direct violation of Medicaid rules.

Perry essentially says, TOO MoFo BAD! Perry says he just can’t take that Federal money, that Texans love life too much -- the health of Texas women be damned!

Right next to the 5-Legislator article (our local daily paper is trying to be fair and balanced) is an op-ed by Rick Perry saying that the whole thing is Obama's fault because Obama cancelled the fund for the wellness program! Talk about SPIN. Well, maybe the legislators are too tactful to say it, but since my knickers are twisted, I will call it what it is: LYING.

As the 5 Texas legislators wrote: "The governor (Perry) will spin this as Washington's fault. But, let's examine the Governor's track record. Perry boasted on the campaign trail about eliminating two-thirds of the funding for women's health last (legislative) session. According to state health experts, this eliminates access to health care screenings and birth control for nearly 300,000 (women).” Then they added, “The (new) rule adopted by the health agency (on Feb.23) adds 130,000 more women to this number."

Perry says, “Because Texas refuses to fund abortion providers and their affiliates, (my emphasis) the federal government has announced that it will cancel the Women’s Health Program.” (again, my emphasis.) The program is not cancelled, it is alive and well in other states.

Perry’s actions and his lies to defend his actions are unacceptable to this Texan. In his article, Perry states, “Texas is an easy target for such attacks because we value life and have worked hard to preserve and protect its sanctity over the years.” If we value life so much, isn’t it fascinating that Texas leads the nation in the number of prisoners executed, the number of teen pregnancies, the number of uninsured citizens, #7 in the number of students who don’t finish high school(2), and is fourth in the Nation, after California, New York, and Florida in the number of homeless: homeless families, homeless veterans, and homeless mentally-ill people?(3)

How about the fact that from 2007 to 2010 (under Perry’s watch – remember all those jobs Perry says he created?), the number of minimum wage workers in Texas rose from 221,000 to 550,000, an increase of nearly 150 percent, and that the average salary of those jobs is $10,100 per year?(4) That is, $10,100 a year with no benefits, i.e., healthcare.

Yes, in Texas, we value the sanctity of life as long as that life is in a womb. When that fetus emerges as a human baby in Texas, if it is not born into a financially-secure family, its life becomes a lot less exciting to our Governor and our ruling party. By refusing this funding for Women’s Health Care, Rick Perry has made sure that that baby’s early life and childhood will be even harder. It takes a healthy Mother to provide for a healthy child. A Mother who will probably not want to become pregnant again for a while, but who has no access to birth control. That $10,100 a year, doesn’t stretch very far -- unless the $10,000 is coming from us Texans to pay for one month of Rick Perry’s rent, while he draws not only his salary, but also his retirement pay from the great State of Texas.

25% of Texas women currently are uninsured. (National average is 16.3%). The National Cancer Institute says that Texas has the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the USA. Before Perry turned off the spigot, the Medicaid Women's Health program saved Texas taxpayers over $40 million dollars a year by helping keep women healthy, helping them space their children, and helping them detect diseases before they became more costly and deadly.(5)

Now who do these women turn to? They don’t have access to screenings, health care, or birth control. As the 5 legislators said in ending their op-ed article, “This isn’t about Texas versus Washington; this is about Perry versus low-income women.”

Are your knickers now twisted, too? I hope so.

(1) Elliott Naishtat, Dawnna Dukes, Eddie Rodriguez, Mark Strama, Donna Howard, Austin American Statesman, March 6, 2012



(4) Bureau of Labor Statistics

(5) The Texas “Alternatives To Abortion” Program, March 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I had the opportunity last night to see the Austin-made ECHOTONE a weirdly-named, fascinating movie, directed by Nathan Christ.

I, and the rest of the sold-out audience, spent 1-1/2 hours in rapt enjoyment of a beautifully put-together film and its marvelous soundtrack.

Cinematography by Robert L. Garza, especially the shots from the top of a crane, on the top of a downtown Austin skyscraper, is breathtaking.

You will come away from this movie with a greater understanding and appreciation of musicians and artists who struggle to create and perform amid the challenges of the changing landscape of Austin. A list of the featured musicians is at

I am a Beatles, Roy Orbison, classical and jazz kind of person, and had never heard of most of the musicians; but, as a result of seeing ECHOTONE, I have a new appreciation for modern music. Dana Falconberry, especially, with her sweet voice and lovely lyrics, has stolen my heart. Did I mention how marvelous the sound is on this movie? Usually, I have complaints about sound: can't hear the dialogue for the music; uneven music levels, etc. This movie's soundtrack is absolutely perfect, thanks to Dave Kelly's post-production wizardry.

ECHOTONE is playing tonight, tomorrow night and May 1st, on 6th Street at the Alamo Ritz Theater, where you can eat dinner (or have a big basket of really good French fries with chipotle mayo, and become so engrossed in the movie that you spill the chipolte mayo down the front of your shirt), have a drink, sit in a comfy seat, and enjoy.

Here is a trailer for: ECHOTONE

This Austin movie about Austin artists is, itself, a work of art. Hope you will go see it and let me know what YOU think.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Playing Detective

When I worked for Half Price Books on South Lamar, we noticed a car parked behind the store for several days. It was a rather new and good looking sedan. After about 4 days, I reported the car to the police, who had no interest in dealing with this car. This was during a time in Austin when a couple of bodies had been found stuffed in car trunks, and the news was filled with the story of a young woman who had been reported missing, so we employees had been sure an officer would be eager to check out this car. No luck.

We began to be quite concerned; and being of a literary bent, we began devising all types of plots surrounding the car's circumstances, thinking that any day we would begin detecting an unpleasant aroma arising from the trunk area. We decided to do some Agatha Christie sleuthing.

I began making phone calls to area rental car agencies, asking about missing cars. I discovered that the sedan had been stolen from an Advantage Car Rental outlet which used to be located down the road from Half Price Books, on the west side of South Lamar. The car had been missing for some time before finding its way to Half Price Books' parking lot.

The Advantage manager did not seem as pleased, as we had though she would be, to recover this car, which did not have a body in the truck, by the way. From Advantage's attitude, and reluctance to pick up the car, I presumed that they had already collected money for its loss from the insurance company, and the finding of the car meant reams of unwanted paperwork.

So much for good deeds. (And a dreadfully anti-climactic ending to my tale!)

Friday, January 07, 2011

Looming $25 Billion Texas Budget Deficit

In response to Paul Krugman's article in the January 7, 2011 New York Times:

This following article from the Austin American-Statesman shows the real price of the Texas budget fiasco.

This story breaks my heart, and shows just how close many of us are to being Texans without any safety net at all. The young man in this story, a University of Texas graduate on his way to a bright, successful life, is now vegetating in a nursing home with no hope for therapy or treatment to help him regain his life and future. He did not make the "lottery" to be eligible for treatment. Do you remember Sarah Palin and her fear of Democratic "Death Panels"? Well, here is the Rick Perry Texas version of that - only it is not only the old - it is people in the prime of life who are being told the equivalent of, "Your life is not worth a plugged nickel. And, here, let me pull that plug."

When George 2 was Texas governor (1995 - 2000), he bragged about cutting Texas real estate taxes. As a result, my real estate taxes went from $2576 in 1994, when Ann Richards was governor, to $3939 in 2000, when George 2 left Texas for the White House, and Rick Perry stepped into George 2's boots. Under Rick Perry's regime, my real estate taxes (same house, no improvements) rose steadily to $6444 for 2010. Rick Perry also brags about cutting property taxes! What kind of accounting is this: fifteen years of real estate tax cuts equal a 150% increase in my real estate taxes?

But, my woes of trying to hold onto my house while on a fixed income with rising property taxes, is small potatoes when compared to those who are sick, maimed, injured, unemployed, homeless, hungry, cold, and mentally ill. These Texans are left out in the cold -- literally -- with no safety net except the kindness of friends and strangers. Friends and strangers, whether charitable organizations or individuals, who themselves are stretched to the breaking point.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Christmas Eve Surprise

This true Christmas Eve story starts at home. Here I am, slogging through gift-wrapping detritus, fingers sore from pulling and pushing tape onto hundreds of spots on almost as many packages, I certainly am not up to cooking. Or even putting together a sandwich. I know! Thai food to takeaway. I wonder if Thai Fresh is open on Christmas Eve?

Gathering my covered plastic recyclable containers, I head across the railroad tracks to Thai Fresh on West Mary, Austin, TX 78704.

I am a little bit disappointed that there are only 7 selections. Disappointment turns to happiness when I see that 6 of them are gluten-free. "Let's see. Fill this container with Silver Noodles; that container with Massaman curry; this one with Thai special dish; that one with rice noodles with chicken and egg; this one with rice stick with fried tofu."

"I know you can't eat this yellow curry -- it has a bit of wheat;" Jam, the owner says, " but would you like some of this bone-in chicken dish?"

Thinking of my budget and the fact that already I have five dishes, "No, I have chicken at home. But I will take some of your coconut milk ice cream."

As we walk toward the ice cream counter, a tall, slender man, spiky hair, modish dress, scarf around neck, swings through the door and announces, "I have never eaten here before. I will take one of everything!" "Well, that was theatrical," I think to myself. "He must be starved."

At the ice cream counter, "How about a taste of Anise Seed Orange?" I ask. "Yumm, I'll take that, and the Eggnog, and how about a taste of your Coconut Corn? Yes, that is delicious, I will take that, too."

At the check out register, Jam said, "That will be $7.58."

I look at her, dumbfounded. "For all this food?"

"Oh, the food is free. We are giving it away today! I am charging you only for the ice cream."

Can you imagine the surprised and happy feeling spreading from my brain to my heart?

"But, why?" I stutter as I pay for the ice cream and drop a big tip in the tip jar.

"Well, it is Christmas Eve, lunch is over. We want to go home, and it seems a shame to throw out this good food. So, I posted on facebook that we are giving it away." Laughing, she asks, "So, you didn't know?"

"No, I just wanted some of your delicious food. What a great Christmas present you have given me. Thank you so much."

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Arizona's Show Me Your Papers Law

Every time I hear or read about the Arizona's Show Me Your Papers Law (aka Arizona Senate Bill 1070), I think of the Nazis requiring the Jews to wear a Star of David and carry their "papers." Then I remember the Republicans' vociferous opposition to a national identity card - I guess that is for people who "look like they don't need papers, i.e. white." Then, I think about Arizona being the land of Mexicans and Native Americans long before any white folks showed up to annex it to the United States, creating an artificial dividing line between families and communities that had existed on land that straddled the border for hundreds of years. Then, I think about all the Midwesterners who have moved, lock, stock, grass, trees, flowers and shrubs to Arizona's desert, creating all-white enclaves with water-guzzling golf courses, and home lawns and gardens with pollen producers where none previously existed. We white folks just have a way about us, don't we - bullying our way in, then demanding that everything fit our neat little idea of how things should be.

Why don't we ask what is the root cause of the crime problem in Arizona, and the other border States, that is blamed on immigrants who, for the most part, are just trying to create a decent life and feed their families? There are 2 root causes: one is the U.S.'s hypocrisy called the "War on Drugs," a 'war" that has created - or not done anything to stop - a gigantic Mexican money-making, people-killing business based on growing, transporting and selling illegal drugs; and on incarcerating Americans who buy, sell and use these illegal drugs. Our "War on Drugs" has not done a thing to stem the flow of drugs, but it has created a multi-billion dollar prison system in the USA, helped ruin Mexico's tourist business, and blocked the ability of average northern Mexicans to make a decent living, or to keep their families safe.

Number two is the U.S.'s hypocrisy in allowing businesses to hire and underpay illegal immigrants on a seasonal or business-cycle basis, then to discard them when the work slows or runs out, or the building booms burst. Both are issues of supply and demand: better known as the Free Market, of which certain politicians think so highly. The Free Market always considers humans a disposable resource. Just look what happens to a company's stock price when it announces a lay-off: the price invariably rises. So, we come down to the question of who benefits from the status-quo, and from blaming immigrants for our woes, and from creating divisions among Americans by inspiring and promoting the immigrant-enemy myth. Immigrants actually contribute to the wealth of our country - unlike the raping and pillaging being done by Goldman-Sachs and the Wall Street mortgage-banker crowd, who have stolen our retirements and our homes and given themselves billion-dollar bonuses for doing so.

In order to fix a problem, we have to know what the problem is, not just what the symptoms of the problem are. We can put bandages on as many symptoms as we want, but never cure the problem. On the other hand, we can put on our thinking caps (which haven't seen much use lately), face the root causes of our problems, then make the tough decisions that will confront, and solve, our problems without eroding our civil liberties.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Heat Pumps in this Texas Heat? YES!

In June, I asked my neighborhood group for advice about a heat pump for an all-electric condo. Advice ranged from "don't do it," "only works in deserts," "to do it," "you'll save up to 75%."

Well, I went ahead and did it: had Strand Brothers install a Lennox heat pump (heat pumps are the only AC system that the City of Austin will give a rebate on for all-electric condos.) Also got 10 more inches of insulation in the attic, new duct-work, larger duct outlets in the upstairs bedrooms, an additional air intake opening to the indoor AC unit, and solar screens. The new AC system takes a 2" filter that needs changing only every 3 months.

Results: we went from using 2728 KWHs in June, to 1404 KWHs in July. Electricity cost went from $300. 61 to $147.18. The new heat pump was installed 7/6; but the insulation, new ducts, duct-work and solar screens were installed 7/21. Because the weather was equally hot in June and July, and no other variables changed, we are expecting even more savings in next month's bill because of the increased attic insulation and solar screens.

Plus, all the crew members from Strand Brothers were very professional and took tremendous pride in the work they were doing.

The rebates are still coming in, but we expect that they will cover about 30% of the cost of the installation.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Won't Fly United Airlines Anymore: Now I Won't Fly Delta Either - EVER

Click on title above to read When Nature Calls, the story to which I am referring.

I laughed when Continental put out that little blue carpet for their big spenders to walk on. It was amusing to watch a few passengers purposefully, sometimes arrogantly, stride across that 2' x 5' strip of blue. I thought, "Do they know how dumb they look." After the final blue carpet treader had left his, usually, footprints on the rug, the gate agents would chain off the little piece of blue carpet, and the rest of us "regular" passengers would walk parallel to the blue carpet - just inches away from it - then through the same door that the blue-carpet people walked through, merging into one line to board the plane.

That little charade is fairly harmless and slightly amusing to all but the most obtuse; but, when a passenger, locked inside a metal tube flying through space and time, has to GO, all bets are off. Anyone who ever has had the diarrhea knows that diarrhea waits for no person, and certainly not for a beverage cart. Good grief, Delta Morons, get a modicum of common sense.

A FELONY! I wonder how many passenger fares this idiotic response to a bodily function has cost Delta? I am hoping LOTS. If this is an American business' idea of how to treat its customers, that business deserves to disappear. If this is a flight attendant's idea of how to treat a passenger, then that flight attendant needs to see a psychiatrist PRONTO. She is NUTS, and does not belong on any plane or in any position dealing with humans or animals. Rocks, maybe, but that's it.

Maybe its just me. I grew up in the white society of the 50' and 60's when we we taught that America was better than other countries because everyone was treated equally. No kings, queens or royalty for us. Even though I discovered that the "equally" part was NOT SO TRUE, especially if your skin color was a different shade from mine, I held onto, and worked for, the ideal of equal treatment for everyone, regardless of skin color. As those "Colored Only" signs came down from restrooms, water fountains, doctor's waiting rooms, movie theaters, bus sections, train cars and restaurants, it seemed a huge victory for equality, as well as for common sense. Never did I EVER imagine that in the 21st Century, someone in America could be charged with a FELONY for using a segregated restroom - segregated, not by skin color, but by class. Not by royalty and peasant class, but by airplane seat section class.

It is bad enough that someone, somewhere in the American Business World, came up with this rule that only certain people could use the tiny little pottie in the forward part of a plane NO MATTER HOW BAD THEY HAD TO GO OR HOW BLOCKED OFF THE OTHER TOILET MIGHT BE; but what about those other people who joined in and said "Oh, that's a grand idea. Let's implement that!" What is worse, is that a flight attendant, a person who is trained in safety, people skills, and care-giving; that that person physically would try to block another human being, with diarrhea, from using a toilet. It makes one want to shout, "Have these people lost their f***ing minds!"

Truly, Delta, you have lost my business forever. You join that other no-fly airline, United, whose flight attendants in 2003, treated, not just me, but all passengers in my part of coach seating, on a flight from Paris to JFK, with such rudeness, disdain, and inattention, refusing even to make eye contact with passengers, that I swore I would never fly United again.

Here is a memo to all those rule makers at the airlines: You offer low fares; we buy them. When we buy them, we do not pay for them with our dignity. Never assume that. NEVER.