Now in the 73rd Day of Lockdown; Walking in Lake Jackson.

It is time to show a few scenes from walks around town leading up to 73 days in lockdown.

Only a few houses down, this family was celebrating an Aggie graduation. I enjoy seeing the yard signs and they offer a nice way to celebrate during The Year of the Plague. They will always remember 2020. And Lacie will always remember that they did this for her.

This year’s class will miss out on some of the usual joys of their college graduation. Their families are doing their best to make up for it. Congratulations, Lacie.

Just around the corner on That Way, one family has planted flowers around their mailbox to add a touch of beauty to the neighborhood. I was a couple of days late. By this time they were a little droopy but still bright in color and attitude.

They were much prettier two days earlier. I am sorry I didn’t have my camera along then.
Continue reading “Now in the 73rd Day of Lockdown; Walking in Lake Jackson.”

Our Old Water Oak Goes Down

We had to take down one of our old oaks yesterday. I took a few photos as the crew worked to bring it down. (For the time being, they show up in the right column where current Flickr postings appear.)

Mr. Hughes cuts across the trunk of an old water oak in our back yard. Note the vertical crack that runs from the base all the way up into the low branches.

The tree was alive still, but as you will see from the photos, it was dying a slow death, full of bugs and now cracked along the length of trunk and just waiting for a good wind to take it down into the power lines.

Going down! Good job Hughes crew.
No rings to count. The old tree fed a lot of bugs and woodpeckers over the years. A family of raccoons once lived on the bottom floor. We could see them with a flashlight through a hole in the root just above ground level.

There was no way to know the age of the tree since about 75% or more of the interior rings had been eaten away by insects. The remaining wood, about two inches deep under the bark, was still very dense and heavy. But with the structural break, it had to come down.

The power company came out and disconnected the power line and stayed to reconnect, so we were only out of power about thirty minutes at most. Hughes Tree Service of Lake Jackson did the job and they were totally organized and planned it well. All done by 11 a.m. Good price, too. Call Mr. Hughes if you need help with a tree.

A little bit of old Lake Jackson gone. But we will plant another one there. Thinking about one of those Meyer lemons. It’s not an oak but it’s a tree. And lemonade is going to taste good in the summer. Notice that, after the water oak goes down, there is still lots of shade under another bigger, older live oak in our back yard.

More Coronavirus Spring photos at Flickr.

Five Minutes that Can Help You Stay Sane

Coronavirus entered my consciousness somewhere around March 6. I had heard the term and read a few stories about it, but it didn’t seem like much of a threat at the time. Some people were dying in China and Americans were becoming trapped on pleasure cruises. But people in China have been seen wearing masks during outbreaks of various viruses for years. And pleasure cruises? Why do people even spend their money on them? Major diarrhea outbreaks on Carnival cruises are so common they barely make the six o’clock news any more.

The evening of March 6, I attended a retirement party for a friend at The Wursthaus in LJ. There was, at that time, beginning to be some nervousness about being in crowds, but no one really thought much about picking up a life threatening ailment as a result of hanging out with our friends that night. We were there to toast one of them who had served our Center for the Arts and Sciences for some 35 to 40 years.

You could still have that kind of a party on March 6 without tempting death and we all made it into the month of May without anyone testing positive for COVID-19. (Have any of us been tested? Sorry. That was a needless distraction.)

The next day I got a haircut. Life went on pretty much as usual. Then LJ and the rest of the country started locking down. We learned about curbside grocery shopping from HEB. We learned how to order and pick up at The Local’s curb. Some were even learning how to cook at home. We learned how to wash our hands properly and how excruciatingly difficult it is to keep from touching our faces. And we got constant news of the horror coming out of Washington (the state with a snake for a governor), New York City, California, Spain and Italy. For us Lake Jackson folks, those were faraway places and, while we had concerns about loved ones in those places, we felt fairly safe here.

Summing Up: After the Plague

For the last few days I have been setting down a few of the things that America needs to work on right away. The experience of dealing with a pandemic during a period of such ineptitude in national leadership has made it very clear that we need to do these things. Limiting DJT to a single term will help, but it won’t fix the things that need fixing. So, today I would like to quickly review the items covered and then offer a quick list of some additional things to work on once we have a congress and administration willing to begin dealing with the realities of our world.

Last Tuesday (May 28) I suggested that the first priority should be to adopt a program of universal health care.

Next, I talked about the electoral and legislative processes that could benefit from some tuning and the application of current technologies. The guiding objective would be to improve the fidelity of communications so that voters can be assured that those in the seats of power in government hear “their masters’ voice” more clearly.

On Thursday, I addressed the need to correct the imbalance in income and wealth distribution that has occurred over the last four decades of Tea Party tax cutting and the Republican attacks on the graduated income tax.

Saturday (May 2), I talked about the necessity of having the public sector and education professionals in charge of primary and secondary education again.

And, finally, the need to restore the civil service and properly staff the government with qualified, independent, non-partisan professionals is also of paramount importance.

That should keep the 117th Congress busy for a couple of years. But there is so much more that needs to be done while we have at least two branches of government enlisted on the side of sanity, goodwill, and a spirit of sharing. Here are a few:

  • Maybe we should look at how we are teaching civics and government in public schools and in college. We are experiencing a generation of voters who have no clear understanding of their job and responsibilities in a democracy. They think it is enough to have an opinion, wave the flag and cheer for other people’s sacrifices without understanding what the government does and how to apply one’s own constitutionally endowed power to make it work for their own interests and those of their families. So, enough about the patriotic symbols and hero-worshipping the founders: Let’s teach about the principles underlying our constitution and the mechanics of governing.
  • Make our foreign policy consistent with the need for promoting governments around the world that will take care of the rights and needs of women and children as their top priorities. (Of course, we must first make that our policy here. Much of that can occur if we take care of those top five items I discussed.)
  • Make major investments in infrastructure consistent with Green New Deal goals that will provide jobs and address climate change issues.
  • Put climate change at the center of our domestic and foreign policy concerns. Four long years have ticked off the clock of doom while DJT gave his pulpit over to science denial and the short-term interests of industries that make money from environmental exploitation. And while we are at it, we need to re-examine the principles of American capitalism and how It relates to government and the people.

And as we take on this list of necessary reforms, we need to always keep in mind the constitutional features that have tended to make us less a nation and less a democracy. It may be time for us to try nationhood and democracy rather than the federal system that works pretty well so long as people behave as if we are a nation. However, lately it has proven to be an impediment to national action when we most needed to act as a single nation.

And, democracy? We owe our tears and shame for what we have done to that sweet ideal as DJT has exploited and corrupted our public purposes at every turn and has placed America on the side of dictators and power hungry narcissists like himself, wherever he finds them in the world.

Item #5: Restore the Civil Service – Enough of the Shallow State

When I was in college in the early 1960s, I developed an intense interest in government. Government seemed to be a potent tool that could be developed and used as an instrument of peace. That fit so well with my personal values that I decided to make a career in it. I believed that there was sweet spot somewhere between anarchy and absolutism that met the needs described by Thomas Hobbes in The Leviathan to transcend man’s natural state without government:

“In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

A tour of duty as an officer in student government persuaded me that my personality was not suited for service in public office, I gravitated toward civil service where most of the policies of government were implemented. Pressed for employment after military service and with our first child on the way in 1971, I secured a position as a social service worker with the Texas Department of Public Welfare.

Item 4: Repair and Restore Public Education

The public and private response to the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the failure of public education into sharp relief. But let me be clear, this failure is not the product of “bad schools”, teachers, or uninspired learners. It has roots in many sources including poverty, poor nutrition, underfunding, electronic distractions and, maybe most significantly, the combination of pinch-penny funding and legislative meddling in the professional business of educators.

And what does this have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic? Don’t strain your eyes looking for science illiteracy, weak critical thinking skills, lack of knowledge of government, history, health care policy, international politics and the basics of public communication.

Popular notions of American exceptionalism have led us to think that the USA would be the world’s leader in addressing any crisis of this nature. We have the science, the technology, health care infrastructure, manufacturing and distribution capacity. So why are we struggling to explain to the public that injecting Clorox into the veins is not such a good idea? Or that injecting UV rays into the veins – even if it were a good idea –presents unique challenges? Maybe the physics department at Trump University can work on that one.