Archive for July, 2008

Boomtown: Part 1

July 31, 2008

We live in Pearland, a suburb just south of Houston.  Forbes Magazine has listed the town as one of the most rapidly expanding suburbs in the country.  The population has grown from some 37,000 in 2000 to over 80,000 today.  City leaders say that we may have over 100,000 people by 2010.

Our neighborhood is part of that explosive growth, changing from rice fields a decade ago to a neat and orderly “master-planned community” of houses, lakes, trails, and retail, retail, retail.  The latest entry in the retail scene is Pearland Town Center, a multi-use development just around a few corners and down the road.  PTC is intended to be a 21st Century iteration of the shopping mall, open to the elements, landscaped with trees, lawns, and yes, another lake, complete with a clock tower, pavilion, and little “main streets” with diagonal parking.  There are apartments, offices, a hotel, restaurants, two free-standing department stores, and 70-odd mall-type small retailers.  Opening day was yesterday.

Across the street is yet another development, the somewhat more conventional Shadow Creek Town Center.  The anchor store is the HEB Plus!, a supermarket/big-box store about the size of two football fields.  Imagine a conventional supermarket/drugstore combined with a Costco combined with a gourmet market, and that will almost, but not quite, characterize it.  I gather that SCTC will also have at least four banks, not counting the one inside HEB Plus!

The most peculiar thing about these two “town centers” is that neither one is anywhere near the center of town.  That would be about five miles to the east.


Goodbye Dolly, We Hardly Knew You; Who’s Coming Next?

July 24, 2008

I’ve heard from a few friends and family asking about the Hurricane.  Nothing much happened here.  Dolly made landfall yesterday near Port Mansfield after crossing over South Padre Island.  That’s several hundred miles away from us up here just off Houston’s Beltway.

Although the rains and flooding in the Rio Grande area have been bad, we had only about 3/4″ of rain yesterday here in western Pearland, and maybe just over an inch today.  For the Houston area, that’s not even enough to tie up traffic, or at least not any more than usual.  By contrast, several times last spring heavy Spring rains flooded freeways and surface streets.  This year we’re in a drought, and the little bit of rain we’ve had is welcome.

We’re actually hoping for a couple more tropical storms in our neck of the woods this summer.  I can deal with a small hurricane, though no one wants anything big.  After the Rita evacuation mess in 2005, there is a sense that most folks in Houston will stay home if a hurricane comes, sensibly allowing a more orderly evacuation for people who live in coastal storm surge zones.

The one thing that most concerns me, when and if a hurricane comes, is what we’ll do if or when the power goes out.  Assuming we’re here at home, it will be deathly hot and humid.  With Freddie’s health and the menagerie, I’m not sure if we could hold out for a couple of days of that without air conditioning.  We have batteries for the flashlights and radio, we have oil lamps, we have a propane grill to cook our food, and we can store water.   But the heat…?  Without even a fan…?

Hmmm.  It should be manageable.  We sold our generator before we left Galveston, but maybe there’s some sort of solar panel or battery unit for running small appliance.  It’s got to better than sitting in a stalled-out car halfway in a traffic jam halfway between here and Waco.

Today At The Pond

July 20, 2008

backyard pond 07-20-2008

Originally uploaded by bsienk

Inflation, Part 3

July 19, 2008

We like avocados.  We like avocados a lot.

A few months ago HEB was selling wonderful avocados four for a dollar.  Those days are long, long gone.  Sometime in the Spring the price and supply started fluctuating.  At first I thought it was just a seasonal variation, but after shopping around a bit, I wonder.

First the price went up to three for a dollar.  Then it was fifty cents each, and they were squishy, some with bruises.  This was back in May.  I was at Wal-Mart one day and found avocados three for a dollar, so I picked up six and went on about my business.

By late June, HEB’s avocados had risen to 88 cents each, and still with little improvement in quality.  I still shop at HEB most of the time for items on sale and a few things that can’t be had at Wal-Mart.  Randall’s and SuperTarget are both too expensive for my budget, although they make for nice window-shopping for those who have the time.

This week the HEB advertisement didn’t feature anything I needed, so back to Wal-Mart I went, for IAMS and trash bags and other necessities that are pretty much the same wherever you buy them, but up to ten percent less at Wal-Mart.  And ‘lo and behold, those lovely avocados are still three for a dollar.

Sam Walton must be smiling back from the hereafter.

It’s all about meme

July 14, 2008

Freddie told me yesterday that when he saw his brother and sister-in-law last month, brother Moe had adopted the saying “Google is your friend.”  For example, they would be driving around the Indiana countryside and Priscilla would see some bales of hay or something of the sort, then wonder aloud about how they were created or how much hay was in them or such and such.  Moe would then say, “Google is your friend.”

We’re talking about a group of 50-somethings here, not the crowd who picks up the latest slang, unless maybe it comes through their college-age daughter.  Or maybe it comes through Priscilla working in her city’s public school system.

Anyhow Wikipedia indicates that “(t)he term Internet meme is a neologism used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet.”  The phrase, “Google is your friend” is one such meme.  So is the word “meme” itself, which probably only sociologists and linguists used until just a few years ago.

When you think through the implications of the meme being spread through the Internet, worldwide to millions of computers and eyeballs at the speed of electrons, it seems to me that by the time something becomes an Intenet meme, it’s already passe.  Instead of the Warholian fifteen minutes of fame, it gets only fifteen seconds, and then the voracious inattention span moves on.  The meme has “jumped the shark” (another meme) and it becomes a cliche.

I don’t know why I kept thinking about the subject this morning, but when I was taking my shower, I was telling myself, “Google is not my friend.  Google is my servant.  Maybe Google is my slave…”  It’s understood that one doesn’t make friends with the help.  One treats it with good manners and gives it correct compensation (nothing, in this case, since Google is free) and a Christmas bonus (again, nothing), but the help is not one’s friend.  The help knows it’s place, and I know mine.

Good help is hard to find.  That’s another cliche, from before the time that “meme” became a meme.  In this case, I’m grateful for the help.  But I don’t go around pretending it’s my friend.