Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Freeways rerouted so both sides could exit Houston during Rita, 2005. 12 hours =20 miles.
Every time I go to Houston, somewhere on 45 the traffic is stopped. Sometimes for a car on the side of the road or a bus on fire, sometimes for a naked guy with a machete on the freeway, sometimes for no visible reason whatsoever. Its just stopped.
I can't imagine 6 million people trying to leave that city.
What could possibly go wrong?

Friday, August 25, 2017



The greatest piece of technology affecting our lives today is without a doubt, the computer.  Forty-Five years ago when I was busy flunking High School mathematics class, the teacher brought in a huge machine he called a computer. It was not anything like what we have these days. It looked like something out of a B-Grade Science Fiction movie, dials and windows and buttons all over.  My buddy Scott leaned over to me and said “I’m going to make a million dollars off these computers”.
I just laughed, but Scott is a millionaire now.
Computers touch on just about every facet of our lives every day. Almost everyone has a cell phone, and cell phones are no longer just telephones; they are computers. Cash registers are hardly meant to hold cash anymore. They total the bill using electronics and microchips, and the payment is made by cards that provide electronic  access directly to a person’s account, and funds are transferred, all through the computer and the internet. I haven’t paid a bill with a check in many years. It’s all done online, through computers.

Even now as I type up this essay,  I can recall my typing class in High School. We had a machine back then, very modern, called a typewriter. You struck the keys, much like I am doing now, and a little silver ball with all the letters of the alphabet spun and flew around stamping ink on a piece of paper you inserted into the machine. If you struck the keys correctly you could remove the paper with your 800 word essay, put it in an envelope, lick a stamp and address it to Western Governors University to be graded for your possible admission there.  With the excellent work of the Postal service, it should be there by the end of the week.
Instead, here I sit typing away at a keypad connected to a machine that bears little resemblance to a typewriter, other than the letters being in the same place. When I finish writing, a few clicks, and  within seconds it will have been received by Western Governors University for their perusal. That is truly amazing.

This technology is used for much more significant endeavors; everything from space flight to smart cars, global positioning to law enforcement. Even the company I work for that provides communications for the airline industry relies almost completely on computers. I did not know when I started ten years ago, but most of the communication between a plane and the ground does not occur by voice between the pilot and the control tower. It occurs in the form of data, transmitted by computer, received by computer, and recorded by computer.

The mathematicians from the 19th century saw it coming, the great science fiction writers saw it coming, and they even say certain Aborigine tribes saw it coming. Certainly, my friend Scott saw it coming. 
I never did. Too busy flunking math.

Monday, August 07, 2017


"The mind wants to live forever, or to learn a very good reason why not. The mind wants the world to return its love, or its awareness; the mind wants to know all the world, and all eternity, even God. The mind's sidekick, however, will settle for two eggs over easy. The dear, stupid body is as easily satisfied as a spaniel. And, incredibly, the simple spaniel can lure the brawling mind to its dish. It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind will hush if you give it an egg."
Annie Dillard, writing about an Eclipse

Watercolor by Joseph Zbukvic

Friday, August 04, 2017


Something has been digging little dime sized holes in my garden. They don’t go straight down. They go kinda sideways. Like a little thumb sized armadillos. They leave a little pile of dirt that is dug out, and this little dime sized hole. I thought “What could it be?”
Then Friday I came home from work. I was startled by an animal making a sudden get-a-way in my garden. A Lizard!
A BIG lizard!
He must have been a foot long and he had been digging. There was a hole about the size of a silver dollar and a huge pile of dirt there. So that’s what it is. Its these little lizards I been seeing, and the great-granddaddy. But why? Why are they digging these holes? For food? For shelter? Hmmm….

So I went inside and got ready for Susan to come over so we could go out to eat. An hour and a half later there’s a knock at the door. Susan!
I open the door, and there is Susan at the other end of the porch. She is freaking out.

She’s wild eyed, Susan is, so I smiled and said ‘I know! It’s a lizard! He and a bunch of others live in my garden. Come see!” So Susan eases over real cautious like and I show here the little holes, and then the big one. “I think there are five or six big ones living down there. It goes down about 5 feet into a huge anteroom” I tell her. She’s calmed down a little now, and bends over a little to look down the hole.
That’s when I yelled “AGGGHHHH!” and pinched her on her leg, and she jumped about 15 feet into the air and screamed “AGGGHHHH” and now we are both looking at each other wild eyed and screaming AGGGGHHH and that’s when she clobbered me. “Its not funny” Susan said and we laughed and laughed and laughed.

So we went inside, talked a bit, and decided on Mexican Inn. Its right across the freeway. When we stepped outside I looked again at the big hole. But the big hole was gone! It was all covered up! Why would that lizard dig a hole and cover it up? About then Susan said “Look! There he is!” and I looked down and this great-granddaddy of a lizard was looking up at me, just calm as could be, from right there at my feet.
“Hello Mr. Lizard “ I said.
He bobbed his head as if to say hello.
So I knelt down real slow like, and I swear that lizard was looking at me like a big ol’ Cocker Spaniel, and he swished his tail.
“Do you know how to shake, boy?” I said, and stuck my finger his direction. He cocked his head the other direction lifted a little lizard foot and shook my finger. “Pleased to make your acquaintance”
‘Susan said “Oh my God Steve, you just shook hands with that lizard.”
I said “You know, it aint natural for a lizard to do that. He must be like Mr. Jingles, the circus mouse from ‘The Green Mile’ ”.
But then the neighbor’s cat jumped down from the balcony and POOF, Mr. Lizard scurried away.
So I looked it up today, what Mr. Lizard was doing in my garden with all the holes.
 He’s laying eggs!
You know what that means?
That great granddaddy of a lizard is a girl!
From now on its Ms. Lizard!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


Somehow I wound up in an Honors algebra class in the 9th grade. I wasn’t smoking pot for another year, but I discovered Rhonda, and how much fun getting my hands in her pockets was, and I also discovered that I was brilliant enough to pass Algebra without doing any homework. This set the tone for the rest of my academic career with the discovery that a class could be passed without actually, you know, knowing the material. I may have PASSED Algebra, but by no stretch of the imagination could I actually DO Algebra.

The chickens came home to roost the next year in Geometry, where I was surprised to find that knowing some Algebra would have been good. That’s how I flunked my first class ever. Oh, the pot probably didn’t help.

The next year I was in Chemistry, and without any Algebra or Geometry skills, I was toast there too, and ended up in a remedial math class as a Senior, because the State required its students to have passed at least one HS math class.

It was Speech Class and the Debate Club that saved my HS experience. Watergate had been going on, and Nixon resigned at the start of my senior year, and I was into it enough to think I might want to be a lawyer. I thought I did until about April, when I was called to the Deans office because I hadnt attended any classes except for Speech and Government in months. I had to sit outside his office and wait while he got ready to bust my balls, and it was while I sat staring at pictures of past Principals lined up on the wall that I had an epiphany.
I was a horrible student.
I didn’t want to be a lawyer, if being a lawyer meant another 8 years of school. I didnt want to be a lawyer if it meant even one more semester of this shit. So I decided then and there to be a chef. Because, well I like to eat.
The last day of school when you clean out your locker and turn in your books? I had to go to the office and find out my locker number and the combination.