Info for Texas voters

The League of Women Voters of Texas has an updated voter guide for 2016. If you got the printed version, there have been some minor changes. You can download the PDF. LWV also have a web site where you can get personalized information about who’s on your ballot ahead of time. Just go to vote411.org and enter your address. There’s been a massive jump in early voting in Austin. Accordingly, expect to wait in line.

Slice of life

I walked past a 90s Buick. It had a broken rear bumper, the side trim was ripped off at the front, one of the tires was flat, one wheel had been replaced with the spare, one of the tail lights was broken, and there were patches of rust on the bodywork. The alarm was sounding loudly. Wouldn’t want anyone to steal it, after all.

Going solar, part 1: History and practicalities

The first working solid state solar cell was developed in 1883 by Charles Fritts. Just 1% of the solar energy hitting the cell would be converted to electricity, and the cell was made from selenium with a thin layer of gold, making it far too expensive. It wasn’t until the development of silicon semiconductor junctions in the 1950s that solar cells started to become economically practical. Bell Labs developed a silicon-based solar cell with about 6% efficiency in 1954.

The rat

We were sitting in a neighborhood café when I saw her. Someone had lost interest in their lunch, and had dumped a plate half-full of food onto the top of the gray plastic tub where the used coffee cups go. She was sitting nearby, nibbling at a piece of pita bread she had grabbed from the plate, her whiskers glinting in the afternoon sunlight. I sipped my iced coffee and watched.

Icepocalypse

This morning, Austin Texas had freezing rain. There were 90 car crashes within an hour or so. Texans just have no idea how to drive in bad weather. I’ve driven in Minnesota, in winter, in the middle of a blizzard — and lived. I’ve driven in ice storms on black ice. Frankly, the situation in Austin today would be no big deal, if it wasn’t for the sheer incompetence of so many Texas drivers.

Baby bird of a different kind

This evening I went out for a walk; partly for exercise, partly for relaxation, and partly to take a package to the UPS drop-off. As I rounded the corner onto Oltorf Street, I walked under a large tree which partially overhangs the street. On the ground I saw the unmistakable shape of a partially crushed dead baby bird. A few steps on was a second baby bird, as dead as the first, with ants crawling over it.

Texas weather

It’s so dry, even the bamboo is dying. I saw clouds overhead the other day, and wondered why nobody was seeding them to get rain. Then I remembered Rick Perry’s praying for rain. Then I thought: Why not combine the two? Take Rick Perry up in a plane and throw him out, and have him pray on the way down.

Home improvements part 1: New deck

It occurred to me that I haven’t written about the epic home improvement odyssey we’ve been on for the last few months. The story really started in the fall of 2005, a few months after we bought the house. When it rains in Austin, it really rains. You can hear what a typical storm sounds like by downloading a recording I made. (It’s binaural, so listen with headphones for full effect.

Year of the click beetle

It seems as though each year, a different kind of Texas wildlife undergoes a population explosion and decides to visit our house. We had the year of the woods roach. That was pretty unpleasant. The year of the junebugs wasn’t much better, because the dead ones got everywhere and looked disconcertingly like dry-roasted peanuts. There was the year of the snail invasion; that one mostly troubled our neighbors. Much cuter was the year of the eight squirrels, and the year of the geckos was nice too.