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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Something Worth Supporting...The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

I got my annual call tonight from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society asking if I would be a sport and mail out some donation envelopes to my neighbors. They can send me the package and by me sending the envelopes to all my neighbors, the Society doesn't have to spend the money on postage. It sounds like a good plan, I suppose.

I have volunteered for this thing the last four or five years with limited success, and don't worry if you are a neighbor - I'm not keeping score - that isn't the point. But really, I'm thinking that based purely on statistics (previous donations), I could eliminate certain addresses from the mailings and save money on stamps, right? But then that would be cheating. If I told the people I would send envelopes to all the houses, I should just do it. Oh sure, I could hand carry them, but then that puts people on the spot. So this time around, I passed on the offer to be the guy who sends the envelopes. I had something that is probably more effective in mind.

Instead, what say we all save a little postage and I'll provide the link to the web page for my neighbor who is going above and beyond my simple efforts to put stamps on envelopes and send them out to 15 addresses.

Mary Kay is training to participate in her first triathlon on Memorial Day in Austin, and by contributing (even a buck or two), you can not only motivate her to make it all the way, you'll be relieving any guilt I may have had about saying no to the envelope sending.

So please, consider it a double good deed and check out Mary Kay's page.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Yard Work Report: Feels like Italy...

In quite possibly one of the goofiest things I have done in my life, I built a beach in the side yard of the villa we lived in when we were stationed in Italy. I know, how did I get the water there? Fair question.

The truth is, when we lived in Italy back in the late 80's, the coolness of living in Italy just hadn't sunk in for me. Not unlike when I lived just north of London and dreamed instead of being back in Florida, I came up with different ways to transform the place that I was, to the place that I wanted it to be. This is common, isn't it?

So we lived in this villa, a property behind the Hotel Carbrun that had a one car garage, but the fact that I had a truck combined with an extremely tight turn to make over the patio made it impossible to even consider parking inside. We used that garage to house a washer and dryer and a bunch of empty stereo boxes. Unlike today, we didn't have enough junk to fill up a house, thus, the garage wasn't needed to hold our overload of junk like it is today.

Back to the beach. I had probably just seen Top Gun for the tenth or so time and came to the conclusion that we needed a volley ball court in our yard. Plus, why should I have to pack my family up and drive the full three miles to the beach, when, if I was going to get some sand to build a volley ball court, I could just get some more sand and build a beach, suitable for sitting there and looking at the sand fleas?

And so I drove my Chevy Luv pick-up truck back and forth between our villa and the beach just down the road probably five or six times until I had, one shovel and one truckload of sand at a time, enough sand to transform the driveway that made up the side of my villa into a beach.

Being a shift worker, it was not uncommon to see me laying out in the blazing sun on a hot summer morning with Armed Forces Radio playing in the background while sipping a tall Peroni, not embarrassed at all that it wasn't five o'clock there, or even close to noon. Good times. And I don't think I ever got a tan; just drunk.

The volley ball court built on my beach was a hit with co-workers, and Americans gathered at our villa often. We hosted parties and dinners and cookouts and we taught local Italians how to make chili and even, gasp, grill corn on the cob. And they ate it!

I loved that little beach because when I went through all the effort to make it, I was thinking of Whitney Beach in Florida. When it was finished and my friends and neighbors and wife and kid enjoyed it, it was simply, home.

One of the things we love about our backyard here in Silver Creek, is that we can sit back on the deck and look beyond our yard into the trees and see a vision of Garner State Park. It takes little or no imagination to narrow your vision to exclude the privacy fences and sheds and swing sets, and look directly into the trees and see the birds, squirrels and the occasional possum. If we only had a small river...
So Sunday as we did some work on the side of the yard that was once a vast wasteland of weeds and dirt, I took a break from pulling new weeds from the flower bed we have created and sat down on the deck, sun in my eyes watching my wife continue to work in the garden. For just a moment or two, with the sound of the radio in the background, I could feel myself, if only briefly, back on that little transformed piece of driveway that was too narrow to pull a truck into. No sand and no volley ball net, but the feeling was just the same.The sun that hits you in the eyes here in Texas is the same sun that will heat you up in Italy or attempt to peer through the clouds in England, or anywhere else you happen to be. I know. With observation skills like that, I ought to be consulting heads of states everywhere. But the point is, It doesn't take much to adapt the place you live, into the place you want it to be. It is funny to me that as I sat on my little deck in Texas, I was fondly thinking of a place I was trying to escape so many years ago.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A-Team Prepares Soccer Fields in Silver Creek

On Saturday, over a dozen A-Team volunteers stepped out into the unusually cool morning air to help get the picnic area and soccer fields in Silver Creek ready for the opening of the season. In spite of occasional wind gusts, A-Team members made quick work of gathering downed tree limbs, painting picnic tables, picking up trash and generally spiffing up the place.Here, A-Team volunteers paint one of the soccer goals in preparation for the action that starts soon. During the week, the fields will be marked with lines and when the season kicks off, the kids will get to test out the new grass that was installed a few months ago.

There are a few A-Team volunteer events in the planning stages coming up, including a chance to join forces with the Gifted and Talented students from Timberwilde Elementary. We are also looking into some efforts to plant shrubs along some of the sidewalks in the area in order to cover create cover for the fences. The great thing about volunteering with the A-Team is, you can join in on your own time line. If you can only help for an hour, nobody will pressure you to stay longer. On top of that, you will meet some great people and it will be fun.

Need more info on the A-Team? E-mail me and I'll put you in touch with the right folks.

Lunch Report: Red Robin is Open...

No, not the new Red Robin that has been threatening to open in Alamo Ranch, but the one at The Rim. We have been before (several times, actually), but there was some little incident that I could have sworn caused it to close down at least briefly. Something health related. Anyway, whatever that little issue was, they must have gotten it resolved because they sent my wife one of those e-mail coupons for a free burger, and we can't let something like that go to waste, now can we?When we walked in, they had this poster up advertising the Burnin' Love Burger. Ignite my taste buds? Well, why not? From the looks of the poster, it seemed to have some sort of grilled jalapenos on it, and I am happy to report, that me likey! In fact, if you ever go to What-a-burger and don't have them throw some grilled jalapenos on your burger, you are missing a good time.

We were seated in the front of the restaurant, almost in the bar area, and instead of a booth, we had this tall wobbly table with really uncomfortable wooden bar stools. The place was packed, as usual (I guess nobody else had any concerns about that minor health issue) and we had to wait several minutes for our waiter. In that time, we were able to decide what we wanted, thus when the guy made his way to us for a drink order, we'd get the entire order going all at once. You know, with a plan like that, how can you go wrong?

Did you know that Red Robin has this little deal going where they give you bottomless french fries? We had several different waiters try to hand us baskets of fries during our visit, and each time when we declined, they looked at us like we were nuts, "But they're free!"

We did have a great waiter, Levi was his name if I recall, and he was the first waiter we have ever had that told us we could substitute onion rings for the fries for an additional 99 cents. This is actually a good deal because, if you recall from my previous report, they serve onion rings on this tall ring stacker thing. That little puppy will cost you $8. I know, outrageous. If you add up the rings that we got with our burgers for a combined $1.98, there were just as many. So if you go to RR, just do the substitution and save a few bucks.
In the corner of the area we were in, there was a group of young guys, probably high school or college age, who knows, and they were having a nice time doing the goofy things teens are supposed to do; messing with each other. They had those fruity kind of lemonade drinks where get actual chunks of fruit in it, so one of the antics involved taking a straw and attempting to suck it from one end through the straw. While waiting for more baskets of bottomless french fries, one kid (the second one from the right in the picture) put his head down almost as if the strenuous work of sucking fruit through a straw had caused need for a nap. His cohorts immediately went into action with one kid first taking the salt shaker and shaking a bit into the sleepy kid's lemonade. Not to be out done, another friend grabbed that Red Robin seasoning they have out on the tables, and poured a substantial amount into the drink. This was followed by a third kid reaching over and stirring the new concoction so the specialness of the drink would be distributed evenly. That's important in a high quality lemonade, you know.

When the tired kid lifted his head, the others were doing everything they could to mute giggles and not give away that anything was amiss. Now if you are a cool kid and they spike your lemonade, you should just drink it and pretend you don't even notice. In fact, I'd suggest holding up the glass and stating loudly, "My God, this is the best lemonade I have ever tasted. I wonder if I can get a gallon or two to go?" In doing this, the young pranksters are denied their enjoyment at your expense. Instead, the victim here just said, "Real nice." Then grabbed the iced tea from the kid next to him and drank most of it in a single suck of the straw. That kid has some good lungs.

I'm not so sure while I found the whole episode entertaining. Perhaps it was because these yout's weren't vandalizing the restaurant; just each other.

For some reason, it took an extraordinarily long time to get our burgers out to us. You can always gauge things based upon how quickly people around you are getting their food. Plus, we have been to this pace before and I once commented that their staff was like a well oiled machine. Nobody sits around and waits for anything, they are always busy doing something. So I was surprised at the wait. And sure enough, when some guy from the kitchen finally came out with our burgers, he apologized for the long wait. At least they were aware of it.
My wife went with the Whiskey River burger. We've both had this one before and it is a wise selection. It has the little fried onion things and some sort or sauce. She cut it in half, then went to town on it.My Burnin' Love burger sucked. Do not waste your time on it. I think what they did was get a regualr burger, pour a little bit of Taco Bell salsa on it, and called it Burnin' Love. I'm sure Elvis would be proud. Oh sure, I ate it, but I kept thinking that I could have had one of those Red Robin burgers that comes with a fried egg on top of it. I hate missed opportunities.

So there you have it. Neither of us got sick, so whatever health issues they had experienced before must have been corrected. Our particular waiter was great, and Johnny-on-the-spot with tea refills, an absolute requirement for me. The wait was a bit longer than normal - okay, a lot longer than normal, and other than me not liking the fraudulaent Burnin' Love burger, all was good.

You may now safely return to Red Robin.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Evening Update: Happy Birthday...

This has been a whirlwind week which has resulted in limited posts, so as my wife utilizes the magnificent magic of our U-Verse powered DVR to catch up on The Guiding Light, I'll pass along a few random notes.The first thing is, today is Eva's birthday and she is ahem-years-old. We went to her mom's house for some cake and ice cream and this evening, we will screen Gran Torino. Cake, Ice Cream and Clint. My wife doesn't ask for much more than that.


I had sort of an awkward moment the other day. Oh, I know that is fairly common for me, what with my collection of strange pictures taken of weird people, vehicles, animals and bumper stickers, but this was more of a personally weird moment.

I was sitting in my office talking to a co-worker about the briefing I was about to deliver to a room full of law enforcement officers on what is in effect, youth crime. As we sat there and genuinely knocked on wood, thankful that our own kids had never been in any sort of trouble requiring the adjudication of matters by the legal system, another co-worker, a man who I have known for at least a decade, walked in and asked for advice about his high school aged son who was getting ready to appear before a judge for some violation.

In a perfect world, our kids are born with ten fingers and ten toes, all the right parts and a fully functioning head on their shoulders. They learn to crawl, walk, run and can physically do so, and with the right nurturing, they pick up your good habits and hopefully, recognize the bad ones and opt to forgo them. And still, in a perfect world, at every step of the way, I genuinely believe that there is a whole lot of luck that is required in order for you to get your kids from birth to responsible adult.

So I sat, literally minutes away from talking to a group of law enforcement types with a pitch to have them find, apprehend and put away young offenders, when a man who I know and respect came in with news of his own misguided son who had gotten caught up in bad things, and now needed to see a judge.

The truth is, any kid is susceptible to doing stupid things. It is how you handle the stupid things your kids do that makes the difference. But even then...

My wife and I won the lottery. A little bit of the chankla, a whole lot of luck.


The wind is rolling in and I swear, in the last few hours the temps have dropped from solid shorts and t-shirt weather to no kidding, bust out the snuggly. That must mean it is time for the movie.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Call From Anna...

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Anna Caballero, you may recall that she is one of the handful of candidates seeking to replace Delicious Herrera in the SA District 6 Council seat. She called to say she enjoyed reading the blog post I made regarding her announcement at OPMP a while back.

In that note, I made mention of her web page and the fact that on her list of issues, tagging and graffiti had not surfaced. We discussed this and she tells me that she is working to update that and let people know of her strong desire to rid SA of this problem. I'll look forward to seeing what ideas she has. I suspect, during our association's meet the candidates night on April 6, tagging will be a topic.

Speaking of: Yesterday was quite a day with my presentation to the SA Graffiti Task Force followed by a much briefer performance at our monthly GNWatch meeting. We were given twenty minutes at the beginning of the meeting to just present a few thoughts and I finally shut-up (if only briefly) an hour later. I shan't go into the specifics of the meeting for obvious reasons, but suffice it to say, we left a few dropped jaws with the slides put up on the screen. On the way out the door, the Deputy Chief of SAPD had some very specific messages to take back to our community which I will convey in our local newspaper, Passages.

You'd think I was some sort of community organizer. Isn't that how Mr. Obama got started? Well, that and the Harvard degree...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A-Team Event This Saturday...

Looking for something to do this Saturday in the Great Northwest area? I offer you this little tidbit from Mike Yager:

A-Team Members:
We will be working on the Silver Creek soccer fields and adjacent picnic area this Saturday, March 28, to get ready for the start of soccer season the following Saturday. If you can make it, we can put you to work. If you can, bring a leaf rake for working in the picnic area. I think we have enough of the other tools we will need.
START TIME: 9:00 a.m.
ASSEMBLY POINT: just west (towards the picnic area) of the gate to the maintenance storage buildings
QUITTING TIME: no later than noon
I look forward to seeing you there.
Mike Yager
A-Team Coordinator

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sleepless in San Antonio Update:

You'll forgive me if my typing shows signs of drowsiness, I trust. As a follow-up to the last time I spent an evening of sleeping with an audience, fully wired for sound and movement, I was asked to return for a repeat performance, but this time, wearing the magic sleep app-nee eliminating face mask on. Sorry, no pictures.

So Monday night, I was genuinely excited about participating in this little experiment. You may have noticed a lacking enthusiasm in posts over the last several days, and the reason is directly related to be exhausted. In fact, the entire weekend consisted of naps and ribs and more naps, and not a whole bunch of anything else. So in my mind I had this idea that I would be fitted with this mask that blows air into my nose (and mouth apparently), and it would result in the kind of deep sleep that one can only get by being an attractive actress in an Ambien commercial. Okay, so maybe I had some high expectations.

When I got to the sleep clinic, I knew to expect the wires and such. I had a different technician this time around, and while she was very nice, she was not playing around when it came to attaching probes to my skull. In an effort to make sure she got the conductors precisely where they belonged, she used a measuring tape to map out the surface of my head, then used a pencil to draw little X's. And no, I'm not even kidding. By the time all the probes were attached, the paperwork had been completed, my teeth had been brushed and my head had only slightly stopped throbbing from the assault, I was ready to get the proper mask fitted for the test.

As we got started, the technician asked me if I was a "mouth breather". WTF? I'm now embarrassed to say that my only understanding of the term up to this point was somewhat derogatory in nature; please don't be offended but because of my lifelong line of work (the military), I thought the lady was asking me if I was a 'tard.

After a few tense moments of me asking her if she'd like to rephrase the question in a more professional manner, we got to the bottom of the confusion. In fact, as I am now aware, being a mouth breather is an actual medical condition that means you breath from the mouth (as opposed to breathing from the nose). Where do they come up with this stuff? Turns out, her line of questioning was medically relevant, and not a comment on my sleeping attire: a pair of cotton pants with Ford emblems all over them.

We tried a full face mask that was just unsat. I'm sure I wasn't the first patient to want to imitate that guy from Silence of the Lambs, though I suspect my technician had never seen the movie. Given our previous conversation, I also suspect she thought I was a bit touched.

We also tried a nose only mask (what with me not being a mouth breather and all), but when I opened my mouth to talk, a sudden gust of air blew straight out and I just thought that might be a little traumatic in the middle of the night if I tried to yawn or something.

So we went with a fairly reasonably sized mask that covered both the nose and the mouth. The tech made sure that it was strapped on pretty tight so I could move around during the night and not have it come loose.

With the mask selected and the wires all hooked up, the tech left me and went to the control room where she then had me go through a series of calibrations - the moving of the eyes, the pointing of the toes, the holding of the breath and such. I wanted so bad to let loose with an enormously loud fart, just to see how that would register on the sensitive medical equipment, but I suspect they are used to that sort of thing, so I refrained.

I watched a few minutes of the 10PM news but decided to turn the TV off and try to get the wonderful, deep, REM action going. Then I laid there for at least an hour. My head really hurt from the attack of the marking pencil, and the fact that the bundle of wires seemed to be knotted up right at the back of my head. I tried to move a few times to get comfortable, but my technician had to come to the room twice to re-install nodes that had come unattached during my movement.

The other thing was, I thought they were trying to purposely suffocate me. I was told that they start off with the air flow fairly low, then if they see you entering an Apnea event, they increase the air until it is enough to keep you from the disrupting the air flow. But because it started out with such a low volume of air, I felt like I was hyperventilating, and thus, this kept me from simply dosing off.

When I finally decided that it wasn't a conspiracy to off me, I started to drift, and then I experienced the first of several events where the air kicked in just as I was about to stop breathing. Of course, that tends to wake a person up!

At some point, the air flow was right because I went into some of the deepest sleep I have experienced in years. I mean, I had dreams of friends from junior high school that I had not thought of in 30 years. And then about ten or fifteen minutes later I woke up.

Well, who knows really? By the end of the night, I suspect that I had experienced a lot more quality sleep than I have had in years. But, the downside was, because of the probes, and the wires and the inability to move around and feel comfortable, I had serious stretches of just laying there waiting for the whole thing to be over with, and in terms of time, I'm guessing I got a few hours total.

I was prepared for the tech to walk in at 5AM and wake me so I could get the stuff disconnected, brush my teefes, and get home to shower and get ready for work. At 5:40AM as I was in the middle of the best sleep I have had, possibly ever, she woke me up and I was not really pleased about a) being awaken, and b) being awaken 40 minutes later than we had planned. That can throw someone like me off, by at least 40 minutes!

So I was sitting at work today reading over some documents and decided I had had enough. By noon, I was home in bed, in my comfortable Temperpedic, no wires attached to my head, nothing to keep me from tossing and turning as needed, and no audience staring at me to see if I am in fact, a mouth breather.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lea's Ribs Report: Heaven...

You may recall that my wife and I ran into regular reader Lea and her husband Mat at Lowe's a while back. That meeting would prove to be quite fortuitous for us, since it resulted in an invite to some real, no kidding, meat falling off the bones ribs for lunch today.In addition to being some just good ol' folks with a warm and inviting home, I'll put Lea's BBQ ribs up against any one's. Not being polite or sucking up for more; they were just that good.

Everything was done just right and she was kind enough to send me home with some leftovers for my lunch tomorrow. Yum!
No doubt at all, Lea's Ribs are a Tasty Treaty! Now I need to hit the treadmill for sure.

Cellular on Patrol Class a Success...

Saturday, my wife and I attended a Cellular on Patrol class at our lodge. You can read about it here...

Friday, March 20, 2009

GNWCIA Meeting Report: My Notes...

My wife and I made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest to attend the monthly Board meeting of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association (GNWCIA). I'll keep the notes brief - because... Oh who am I kidding? This will probably end up being fairly long winded. It was in fact, by normal standards, a barn-burner, and we haven't had fun like this in a while!

Residents to Speak:
Have you ever watched the San Antonio City Council channel on community television? I know, if all you have is basic cable, sometimes it comes to that. Unless you are a dork like me who has the full package and still looks at the goofy stuff.

There are a few regulars who show up to every council meeting with a long laundry list of beefs with the council and I admit, I have watched in amazement as this one man, a guy named Jack Finger, gets up and has accusation after accusation about how the city council is doing this wrong or not following that policy. I confess that I have found the monologues quite entertaining on occasion.

As Mr. Finger brings pages of notes containing the proof, the proof, dammit!, that city council has gone astray in their inner workings, and asks each council member to recuse themselves from this; that, or the other, because somebody received a $12 donation from an old lady in Alamo Heights, and she was once the neighbor of the babysitter of the nephew of a particular council member; thus, conflict of interest is apparent. And city council members stare into their PDA's and drink Bill Miller's iced tea. Or is it vodka?

After you see this train wreck a few times, the entertainment value is lost and now, Mr. Finger just becomes an eccentric part of the proceedings with no more relevance (and no-less I should point out), than the lady whose job it is to change the slides each time someone speaks. Point being; the meeting wouldn't be the same without somebody to flip slides, but let us not lose sight of the fact that like the lady flipping slides, Mr. Finger is not the most relevant piece of the city council meeting. Though make no mistake, in his mind, he is the key component.
  • Our first speaker was Sentinel publisher, Joe Martinez.
I'll let that sink in for a moment or two...
  • Up next, Mr. Robert Rodkey thanked the board for doing what he believes is a good job.
  • Mr. Ben Pucci spoke to also thank the board for their efforts, but he was a bit concerned about the new signs, especially the cost ($70K was his figure) and concerns that people might cause car accidents; in fact, someone had honked at him because he was stopped at the intersection too long while reading the various messages. It happens.
  • Ms. Kathy Callahan spoke of her concern for the addition of new by-law amendments on the ballots for the forthcoming annual meeting. She mistakenly thought the board had voted to eliminate all amendments (as in, any) from the next vote. In fact, they only killed the specific proposed amendments that had been sitting in limbo for a few years.
  • Mr. Mike Yager spoke on two topics. First, he wanted the board to know he was uncomfortable with the closing the executive board meeting (usually held the first Thursday of the month) to directors only. As a side note, while I understand why they needed to do it, I would also prefer to be in on the festivities. Once a month is not enough!
  • Mike also mentioned the desire to have another A-Team event. For those of you who do not know, the A-Team is our volunteer effort to go around the neighborhood and fix things - painting, cleaning, volunteering, etc. As it turns out, there is an A-Team event planned for Saturday the 28th of March to help get the GNW Soccer fields ready for the season. Wanna help us? Meet up at 9AM on Saturday or e-mail me, and I'll get you in touch with Mike.
And after that, the meeting started!

Community Manager Report:
  • Did you notice that there is a Coyote and/or Chupacabra roaming the neighborhood? Well, in spite of the many appearances on local TV, newspapers, Blogs and other media outlets, the mangy animal in question is still on the loose. If you encounter said creature, please do not call the police or the Animal Care Services. Chupacabras and Coyotes both fall under the purview of Parks & Wildlife. By the way, while I don't recommend you get close enough to become lunch, if you do get pictures, e-mail them to me for prompt posting here!
  • The CM addressed some of the concerns brought up in The Sentinel newsletter regarding the accounting practices of the board. You should know that in fact, the Sentinel quoted a letter from the accountant, took it out of context and still got it exactly wrong.
  • CM also addressed concerns about allowing the carriers of Passages (our local monthly newspaper) to stuff a flyer for a local restaurant (House of Pizza) in with delivery of the paper. He pointed out to the board that the business covered the full cost (an additional fee paid to the carriers) for stuffing, and in return, they have been a very good business to the community, sponsoring luncheons for our youth sports teams and other events. I think this is awesome. One of the CM's goals was to build a rapport with local businesses, and this is just one of many ways to do it. Kudos, Darin!
Committee Reports:
  • Government Affairs: The GNW is sponsoring debates to be held on April 6, 7 and 8th for Council District seats 6 and 7 (on the 6th and 7th respectively) and the Mayoral seat on the 8th. The dates and times for the 6th and 7th are locked in. The time on the 8th is being moved to a little later due to conflicts with another debate. Keep your eyes on the marquees (and the road) for updates as we approach the date.
  • Election Officer: Candidate night for the two new Directors will be held on April 14th at 7PM at the lodge. This will be a great chance for you to meet our two new Directors (assuming we have a quorum), Beatriz Dean and Mark Martinez. By the way, I have had brief conversations with both these people and they seem eager to get started on the board. We should really give them our support by voting them in.
  • GNWatch. Cellular on Patrol class at the GNW Lodge, Saturday 8am to 1PM. Free Donuts and pizza. Who could ask for more?
  • Scholarship Committee: Kathy Callahan reports that the potential scholarship candidates will all wait until the last minute to submit applications. Happens every year. Do you have a kid who needs a scholarship? Better get those applications in, soon.
After a short break, the meeting got underway again to listen to some new business.

Proposed Bylaw Amendments:
Director Myrl Britton Gave a draft presentation that is being prepared for the Town Hall Meeting to explain the two proposed Bylaw changes for our HOA.

  • The first change is to "provide for the levying of fines for violation of Association covenants, conditions, and restrictions." And of course, if you vote to add this bylaw, you will vote to change the "period" after the previous bylaw to a "semi-colon". Obviously, if you don't vote to add the new bylaw, you wouldn't be voting to swap out a period for a semi-colon.
I know this sounds asinine, but when I saw the Sentinel delivered to my house this afternoon, the publisher actually made a huge deal about not making the punctuation change a separate vote. Let's discuss this for a moment.

Imagine you voted to change the period to a semi-colon, but voted against adding the new amendment. Can you imagine the English teachers trying to explain this to your kids in preparation for the TAAKS Test?

  • In the second proposed bylaw change, Director Britton suggests we remove the following bylaw: "(l) assure that a total monetary reserve for all funds of no more than three hundred thousand dollars ($300,000) be maintained. This amount may be raised only through yearly surplus funds in the general operating budget."
This one is a no-brainer. That cap was put in place several years ago and as one thoughtful audience member pointed out, he could by a 1968 Ford Mustang for $2,600 in 1968, but now, the same car would be roughly $26,000. Fact is, cost of living rises and you need more money in reserve than you did several years ago. Leave that amount to the board, not some arbitrary cap.

But again, I have to laugh at The Sentinel thinking that the omission of swapping out a "semi-colon" for a "period" at the end of the previous bylaw would require an additional vote. If you vote to delete the last bylaw in a section, it is obvious that you change the punctuation to reflect that the section ends (with a period).

Jack Finger would be proud

I have come to the conclusion that there are people who will poo poo any idea that does not originate from their own mouths. We saw a bit of that at last nights meeting.

I don't want to sound too much like my President, Mr. Obama, but I told my wife that some people would vote against giving cotton candy to retards just because they didn't think of it first.

And I have already called the Special Olympics folks to offer a full apology before you even finished reading this.

See you at the next Board meeting - I hope.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Criminals for Sensible Gun Control

I know this is old, but I saw it today for the first time. Quite enjoyable.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Places Not to Eat and Other Important Notes...

I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass kickin' contest, so I regret that I will have to consolidate several posts into a single report here. In addition to going through the entire process of setting up a new computer and all that entails; getting files transferred, and all the pain of that, I have several other projects I am working on that have left me little time to post, watch TV, eat, sleep, and oh by the way, work full time. I told my neighbor Gus, if it wasn't for the pesky 10 hours a day for work, I could probably get a lot more stuff done.

So anyway, trying to consolidate things I had been having "issues" with my awesome computer. Long story short, I went to PC Outlet and bought one of those refurbished Dells loaded with Windows XP (which is what I wanted), a huge hard drive (which is what I needed) and 2 Gigs of memory (which is the least I can deal with), all for $269.
Oh sure, I had to spend a few more bucks here and there to make everything suitable, but it beat going out and buying a full new system. Oh, and if any of you can give me explicit, detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make my DVD-drive work after adding a second 500Gb hard-drive, I'd appreciate the knowledge.

UPDATE: Kudos and thanks to reader Anon E. Mouse who sent me an e-mail with enough info to help me check my settings and fix the problem. He is a computer consultant, so if you need help of your own, why not give him a call?


So on the same day we went to PC Outlet, we decided to go eat at a BBQ place I found on the Google. Interesting story, sort of. A few weeks ago, I was looking for a place to eat and I was doing the usual thing of opening up a Google map of the general location we wanted to go, then start doing searches on businesses with keywords such as BBQ or Diner or whatever.

I stumbled upon this place and went to the web page. It was more of a catering business but they mentioned having a restaurant. When I looked at the bio of the owner, sure enough, he was a guy my wife went to high school with. And for this reason (and probably why I would never make it as a good critic) I won't bother to mention the name of the establishment (though you can probably figure it out).

Anyway, the day I did the search, it was on a Sunday. They are closed on Sunday and Monday. Long story short; it took us several weeks before we could finally get to the place, and it was this past Saturday.

We find the place over on San Antonio's east side. Between the Alamodome and AT&T Center. We followed Garmin to the appointed intersection along Commerce Street, but I never did see a restaurant. Finally, I decided to pull into a convenience store and ask for directions, and my wife says, "Oh, there it is." And I respond, "Where?" And she points at the convenience store and says "There!".
Yes, this is my kind of hole in the wall. A restaurant in a convenience store.

I asked her if she wanted to just skip it, but I think we both agreed that it was worth going in and at least getting the food to go.

Let me fast forward to the actual food. We both ordered a combo deal where you get two meats and two sides. We both wanted chicken and brisket. I was going to have the potato salad and green beans, and my wife was going to have beans and Spanish rice.

As we were waiting, the lady behind the counter told me that the chicken was going to be a while and offered instead to give us pork ribs. Not a problem with me at all. As the lady was bagging up our Styrofoam containers, I asked her about the two sides and she said, "Oh, I gave you macaroni and beans." Well okay then.

Just about then (and maybe because I was taking pictures of the place) the owner came out immediately recognized my wife. They exchanged brief pleasantries and I said to my wife, "Where was he when we were paying for this meal?" Hey, you never know.

Anyway, the bag of food was heavy - really heavy like maybe they had thrown in some extra meat and such. Bonus! We left and made our way to do other errands and look for a suitable place to park so we could eat. The fine diners that we are, we pulled into a Wal Mart parking lot, loosened up the eating pants and got ready for what was sure to be an awesome dining experience, picnic style.

My container had some brown sausage and some pork ribs. My wife got some inedible brisket and more sausage. We just laughed, and started to dig in with plastic utensils.
Don't let the pictures fool you. The BBQ sauce was nasty. I can't even identify what the sausage was made of, though I did eat it, somewhat timidly. The pork ribs were just barely acceptable, but in fact neither of us ate all of them. The brisket looked like what is burnt on the bottom of a pan and you have to pry up with a chisel before scrubbing with a Brillo pad. In all, this was not a stunning performance for a place that we had been waiting to enjoy for several weeks.

In the end, we put all the food back in the bag and I put the bag in the bed of the truck for the ride home. My wife then looked at me and said, "Quick, I need some shit to eat so I can get this taste out of my mouth." I guess that's about all you need to know.


We were in the HEB Plus doing some quick shopping and came across a nice lady giving samples of sausage with different versions of Stubb's barbecue sauces. I love that stuff. After the lady shooed off several little girls making repeat trips to the free samples, my wife started talking to her about the sauce (BBQ sauce, that is).
Anyway, turns out the lady was Mrs. Linda Stubblefield, the wife of "Stubb's" Of course we took a picture. And of course she autographed a bottle of the sauce for me. And no, I'm not going to not use it simply because the lady signed it. Unless you send me an e-mail wanting to buy it from me.


Tonight, I got home from work and my wife wanted to go to IHOP and get a BLT. Secretly, I wondered if the service we got the first time around would have worn off now that they have been open for a few months. Simple answer: Yes. The place wasn't even crowded but it took FOREVER to get the food.
My wife had a BLT that was seriously lacking in bacon.I had (and I knew it was a mistake as soon as I ordered it) a Philly Cheese Steak. One word: awful. The onion rings were fine.

In fairness, my wife overheard another waitress explaining to her table that they had a new cook working and he had not quite figured out the menu. Like he was not aware that pancakes came with a certain order, and then when he made the pancakes, did not know that three instead of two came with the order. These are all things that happen, I suppose. Apparently among the problems with being new was that he had no idea how to properly make a Philly Cheese steak.

So there you have it. It has really been a banner week.

And It's only Monday.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dinner Report: Texas Ribs & BBQ, Clinton, MD...

A quick dinner report from regular reader Anon E. Mouse who is in D.C. at the moment. Lee sends some pictures from a place called Texas Ribs & BBQ.Just south of D.C. in Clinton, MD, things are looking mighty lip smackin' good! Look at the size of those shrimp!

Got some vittles I need to see? Send me a picture and the name of the place you were doin' yer eatin' at. Pictures of the food in the upright and locked position works better than sideways, but we'll make do!

GNW Sentinel Report: All you need to know...

If you live in our area, I know you are squirming in your seats in anticipation of the March 2009 release of the GNW Sentinel, a newsletter which presents the opinions of its publisher, my friend Mr. Joe Martinez. If you simply can't wait for the 4-page rehash of the stuff he brings up at the monthly neighborhood association meetings, I'm here to summarize and comment as needed. You'll thank me later.

The first quarter of the news letter regards meeting minutes.

As you may recall my last report on the meeting of the GNWCIA, I wrote that one of Mr. Martinez' complaints was about requesting minutes from a previous meeting and receiving what was essentially a fully blacked out page. Let's recap what I wrote:

He did in fact present to the board and the assembled audience several pages of what appeared to be meeting minutes where literally all but the headings of each paragraph were blacked-out as if they were a freedom of information request on some special project at Area 51. By any reasonable person's assessment, if you are a resident and you want to see the minutes of a board meeting, this is not what you would expect to receive.

It would turn out however, (and in a conversation with me later, Mr. Martinez refuted this claim), the Chairman upon seeing the blackened pages immediately directed that Mr. Martinez receive the correct version.

Was the matter of the redacted minutes blown out of proportion by Mr. Martinez? Apparently, that is in dispute. I simply don't know, but at the board meeting, he was again offered the minutes and did not seem interested.

As expected, Mr. Martinez not only didn't care about the meeting minutes (he already knows what takes place from his well placed sources), but he needed an attention getting ploy to start off his newsletter. I don't mind that he brings up the redacted notes; I agree that as residents, we need to be able to review the minutes. But let's not be disingenuous about the fact that the board attempted to correct the error.

Just purely out of curiosity (and this should have no bearing on right versus wrong) I have to ask, just how many residents from the almost 5,000 homes that will receive the Sentinel, have ever actually requested meeting minutes, much less attend a monthly board meeting?

Up next in this Sentinel, there is much discussion about the proper procedures for the budget and financial statements. Once again, I must tell you in all frankness, this is a broken record issue with Mr. Martinez.

As someone who does attend the monthly meetings, I sat right there in the meeting and listened to the professional auditor give our board a thumbs up and clean bill of health. When questioned by Mr. Martinez about perceived failures in accounting procedures, the auditor went into excruciating, eyeballs-rolling-into-the-back-of-your-head detail, to explain why things were done the way they were, or in cases where there were options on how to handle things, he explained that the choice selected was "okay".

Bottom line, the GNWCIA received a glowing report from the auditor and Mr. Martinez even complimented the board at the time. Now, in this edition of the Sentinel, he would have you believe that all is going to hell in a hand basket. I submit that your parakeet will especially appreciate the financial section.

Of course, there is always room for agreement, and I am happy to say that from what I can see, Mr. Martinez has hand-picked two fine candidates for the next election of the Board of Directors. I echo his sentiments when he asks readers not to allow the embarrassment experienced last year when we could not get a quorum - thus no election. I also concur that as residents, we should solidly support the new candidates by obtaining that quorum and voting.

Where we once again have to part company is in the final paragraph where Mr. Martinez asks you to give him your proxy. Make no mistake, this is perfectly within the rules and if you don't plan to vote or can't/won't attend the meeting, then please, give your proxy to someone.

But Mr. Martinez has already demonstrated a willingness to gather a large block of proxies, then walk out of the meeting causing there not to be a quorum.

If you want to give your proxy to someone, give it to me. With the exception of one or two meetings where I was out of town for business, I have attended every meeting of the board - in fact, I have a better record than many of the sitting directors.

So there you have it. I hope I didn't spoil your enjoyment of the Sentinel. And of course, I encourage Mr. Martinez to leave comments correcting anything I have misinterpreted.

Didn't get your copy of the Sentinel? E-mail me and I'll send it to you.

River Walk Construction Update: Rain!

In case you hadn't seen the news, San Antonio has been in a record setting drought this year but in the last two days, we have gotten a wonderful, almost steady stream of the good kind of rain that fills the aquifer and makes the grass turn green.

So today, I had to do some work at my downtown office and thought I would wander over to the River Walk near McCullough and St Mary's, to see how the sudden onset of precipitation had impacted the construction.
Well! I wasn't expecting water in the river! I know, that probably sounds goofy, but if you have been following my river walk construction updates, you know that the water along this stretch of river has been diverted into two huge pipes. Apparently, all this rain was a bit more than the pipes could handle. And look how the brown grass (which I was sure had just withered and died) is totally golf course green.And of course, other shrubs and plants and trees (except for the palm that looks like it didn't make it) are looking good. The last picture (above, right) shows the end of the water pipe feeding back into the regular river at the Lexington Avenue Bridge. It is flowing pretty darn good! We'll see how long it takes the excess river water to be drained.

Wanna see all the pictures? Of course you do. Head over to the River Walk Construction page on Flickr and see the transformation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

San Antonio Zoo Report: Nice Monkey...

On Monday, I took the day off from work and due to the good weather (overcast - not rainy but no fireball in the sky to make life miserable), my wife wanted to use the buy one - get one free coupon she had for the San Antonio Zoo. We haven't been in years and there has been a lot of upgrades and improvements to the facilities.

I'll spare you a full, cage by cage accounting of every bird, reptile, sloth, and zebra we encountered and simply give you a brief recap, along with a polite invitation to head over to the Flickr Page for all the pictures I took during the trip.

And the first thing you might note over there was the first thing we encountered on our way in. What with spring break in full swing, the zoo was totally packed. We ended up having to park about half a mile away on the other side of the Japanese Tea Gardens next to Augie's.
As I was looking for a spot, I noticed this guy taking pictures of his incredibly hot Ford Mustang. It was black, had nice rims and was seriously shiny. Then, some strange chick in a bikini shows up and starts getting her ass prints all over the hood of the car. Thankfully, the guy caught her on film to help with the prosecution. But just in case his camera jammed, I went ahead and got some evidence. You never know; Crime Stoppers may have a reward for help in arresting the inconsiderate gal.

And speaking of parking. As we drove past the main parking lot, my wife mentioned to me that there were available slots because there were cars leaving. Yet, the police officer pointed to the Lot Full sign and wouldn't let us in.
Well apparently, a guy in a Mercedes was giving the officer a hard time about the fact that, if people are leaving the lot, it must be freeing up slots - simple math, right? And the officer apparently agreed and let them in. Figures.In spite of being really crowded, we did not have to wait in a long line to get in. And once inside, it occurred to us that we were the only adults there without a gaggle of little kids with us. Ha Ha!We went around and saw the usual sights. I'm often depressed at the zoo. I know that many of the animals (like these bald eagles that had been shot and cannot fly) survive only because they are cared for in captivity, but still, I think of how lonely it must be to be stuck in a small space and have to be the target of screaming little kids all day long, with their ear-piercing screams and constant thumping on glass and cages. And again, I realized we were at the zoo with out kids and looked at the other stressed out parents and thought, Ha Ha!One of the new features is a a butterfly haven where for some reason, you pay an extra dollar to go inside a sealed off building full of a bunch of butterflies. I know, you have to be thinking that it can't be good to have a bunch of screaming little kids running around in a place where the animals can't escape. But in fairness, a lady gives you a little list of rules on the way in and two little girls that walked in with us were explicitly told that if they screamed even once, the zoo keeper would come and get them, and their parents would never see or hear of them again. That was comforting. For me, anyway.In all seriousness though, we have been to the SA Zoo many times over the years and really, I always had hoped that maybe some rich billionaire would buy up a huge parcel of acreage and put together a really awesome zoo facility. Or maybe even add a full zoo to Sea World. I just always thought that the zoo in San Antonio, being built inside a quarry and really limited in real estate, created too small of an environment to do justice for the animals there. Having seen places like Busch Gardens, I see what the free enterprise system can do, but when a zoo is dependent upon donations and few tax dollars, it seems to suffer.Having said that, I am happy to report that I think our zoo has improved dramatically since the last time I was there. There is serious construction underway to build some sort of African experience (the animals, not the killing) and I also noted staff everywhere, cleaning up crap and also talking with visitors explaining things. I was very pleased.

On a final note, before you push the play button, I should tell you that no visit to the zoo is complete without seeing the monkeys toss fecal matter at one another (or at the people gawking). But if you can't witness that good time, there is always a chance that you will see something extraordinary. I walked up with the camera rolling and had to fight may way through a pack of teenage girls squealing with disgust (or was it amazement) as one little friend put on a show.

I know. Good times.

The Lowe's Report: Outstanding Customer Service...

I don't really care one way or another about which Home Center I shop at - Lowe's or Home Depot, because for the most part, they carry the same stuff, the employees are interchangeable as far as expertise on product line, and the prices are roughly the same. I love the fact that when one opens, the other is usually going to open up within a few blocks. This keeps them both on their toes and that is good for all of us.

But, my wife was insistent that I pass along this bit of really good customer service she received at Lowe's in Alamo Ranch, so, as Monk might say, "Here is what happened".

Last Saturday, we went to Lowe's and purchased over $250.00 worth of stuff. Most of it was garden related items - things like plants and grass seed and things that are pretty much not something you can easily return.

For example, it is a fairly good bet that even if I had the bag, I could not go out into the yard with tweezers and pick up all of the grass seed that we threw out into the dirt. Hell, the birds easily ate a quarter of it already. And even though technically, I could dig up the plants and shrubs we bought, it would take a lot to motivate me to do that.

So on Sunday, we went back to Lowe's to purchase a few more things when the lady at the register mentioned the coupon cards that came in the Sunday paper. I think one was for $10 off on a $50 purchase and another was for $25 off on a $250 purchase. I immediately said nothing of our purchase the day earlier for fear that my wife would have me out in the back yard with tweezers and a shovel. But she, on the other hand, looked at the cashier and said, "You have got to be shittin' me."

So, long story short, today, my wife grabbed up the receipt and the coupon card from the paper and went back to Lowe's, prepared to do battle with all levels of management if need be. I promise, you'd best be going to lunch about now, when she is determined.

Instead, upon hearing the circumstances, the lady in the returns department did a full refund on all the items - in spite of the fact that all the grass seed and the plants and potting soil and bushes and such were still in my back yard. And then she re-rang them up to make them qualify for the coupon.

Oh, and get this. Because the price on several of the items had gone on sell since we purchased them, they refunded the difference in price of those items. In the end, when everything was rung back up at the new lower prices, the total was less than the $250 which would qualify for the $25.00 off. So, my wife had the cashier add in four more Bougainvilleas (at the lower price) to get back up to $250, and thus, get the $25.00 off.

Bottom Line: They easily could have said something crappy like, bring in all the items - track down the birds and make them regurgitate the seeds - and really make it difficult, but instead, the representative, Ms. Jeri, simply made the whole experience something worth passing along.

So there you have it. Kudos to Lowe's in Alamo Ranch. Your great customer service will have us coming back.

The Post Interview Report...

No, not a job interview. A local writer is doing some work related to his Master's degree program and sought the assistance of several local bloggers to be interviewed for the project. While some went the route of answering a questionnaire via e-mail, I agreed to a face to face interview. It was actually pretty enlightening for me since I wasn't fully clear on what type of information was needed.

We met at the GNW Library and the interview took place in a small sound-proof (I hope, anyway) room. Patrick, the writer, recorded our conversation so I wouldn't be able to deny any of the evidence later. Or perhaps, he could tell from my blog that I am fairly long-winded, and there would be no way to keep up with me in the form of notes. Either way, we (mostly me) talked for just over an hour and a half. Geeze. My wife is right. I do take the long way around a barn.

A lot of the questions were centered on the "why" aspect of blogging, and whether or not I think I provide anything like a benefit to anyone. Good question really. I hope at minimum a few folks are somewhat entertained or at least informed from time to time.

Another part of the discussion talked about blogging versus traditional newspapers. I enjoyed that quite a bit. I certainly don't consider my blog a source of news per se, but I cover backwards driving vehicles and fashion tips for my neighborhood a lot better than the Express-News.

Anyway, the whole thing was a lot of fun and I hope the information and, dare I say it, insight that I provided will be of some use to the project.

Patrick has another project he is working on, and you can check it out here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lunch Report: Broadway 5050. Finally...

We were in Alamo Heights and in need of some vittles so what better opportunity to mark another restaurant off the list by stopping into Broadway 5050 for an awesome lunch. Oh, do I give it away too soon? Well make no mistake, we were some happy campers.Parking is on Broadway (hence the name) and it caused me a little nervousness when I pulled in to the spot. I immediately started contemplating how I was supposed to back out of the parking place in busy traffic. The parking places are angled so you can just pull in from the busy street. This is sort of like in the old horse and buggy days where you didn't have to worry about everyone in town owning a vehicle. Now, things on Broadway are busier; even the house staff own cars. But, let me set you at ease; the stop light will accommodate you and when you are done stuffing yourself, you can easily pull out of the slot and mover along.

Had I figured this out sooner, I would have stopped in a year ago. Honestly, we have driven by and marked other places off our list simply because the parking looks like a nightmare. Now I know. And now you know.
I had no idea what to expect on the inside. This place could easily be set-up anywhere in San Antonio; it isn't some ritzy Alamo Heights thing. It has the feel of a 50's diner (sort of like the Pig Stand, only cleaner). If you are so inclined, they have a fully stocked bar and loads of beer on tap as well as a huge collection of bottled brews. Oh, and honestly, the iced tea is out of this world.Some booths had the same checkerboard pattern seen on the front of the building while the one we sat in had some sort of Quentin Tarantino theme going on with nifty cutouts from Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Dusk till Dawn.The menu is full of good options including daily specials. My wife finally decided on a pulled-pork sandwich. It is served on toasted bread and comes with baked beans, Cole slaw and shoestring fries. Instead of fries (she gave them up for lent) she substituted onion rings.Yea, the cook sent her plate out with fries, but then made up a special order of rings for us. And the rings were outstanding. Have I had better? Sure. Were these wonderful? Absolutely.

The beans were good but what really stood out was the barbecue sauce that accompanied the pulled-pork sandwich. Look, I'm not going to sit here and say that the sandwich was better than Augie's, but this is a diner, not a BBQ place. Having said that, if you order it at 5050, you will not be disappointed. The sauce, as we found out, is made on site by the 5050 folks. We told the waitress that they should bottle it and sell it. Dip your onion rings in it and you will be very pleased.
The daily special was fish & chips and so I ordered me some. In spite of the good iced tea, I forced myself to also order a Newcastle Dark Brown, on tap to assist me in getting in the fish & chips mood.In addition to the expected fish & chips, the plate comes with a tiny salad (about half a cup worth) and some of the aforementioned Cole Slaw. Before I could even think about using the tarter sauce, our waitress asked if I needed some Malt Vinegar. Just fabulous! While she grabbed that, I started on the Cole slaw. I am telling you that we have had Cole slaw at a lot of places. I don't know if this was made at the restaurant or purchased from a supplier, but it stands right up there with among the best, creamiest, most flavorful slaw's I have ever experienced.

The fish was fried with a crispy texture and it was in nuggets, almost like you get with some catfish. Unlike the fillets I had at the Rams Head (which was excellent), these were a little more crispy and could easily be picked up for fast eating. I did try the tarter sauce and it was good, but to be honest, the malt vinegar was hitting the spot for me. I'm not a huge fan of shoestring fries, though they were not bad, but my wife needed help with the onion rings so between the two of us, we left enough fries to feed several families in Ethiopia. Hopefully, they will get them while they are still hot.

We eat at a lot of places. More often than not, we seem to leave thinking that it was going to be better, based on what people told us or what some advertiser claimed. I have no way of knowing if we were simply lucky, hitting the place during a slow time (it was about 2:30 in the afternoon), but we were totally pleased. My wife was doing the Happy Dance over pulled pork, so you know it had to be good.

If you are in or around Alamo Heights and need some vittles, skip Good Time Charlies and the Pig Stand and head directly over to Broadway 5050. Or eat at all three and have a heart attack. Your call.
Either way, Broadway 5050 is a Tasty Treat.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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