Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Connection and The Power of Vulnerability

Good stuff in this one. Very good stuff. Poignant, in that I am one of the ones with vulnerability issues, which I have been unaware of, or numb to, until watching this. Interesting how things we need to hear and discover about ourselves come along http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifjust in the nick of time...

Here's the TEDx intro: Brene Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Plains Milky Way

It's a high-res video so it takes a bit to load - at least it does out here in the infrastructure impoverished hill country. It's a high-res video of a really cool time-lapse photography project.

But it's worth it. (The load-wait.)

It'll make a grown man feel like nothing.


Well, like a speck of dust maybe. Perhaps.

Cosmic dust.

A infinitesimal speck of uncreative cosmic dust on my camera sitting on a dusty shelf in a dusty office.

Plains Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

The Truth about the Economy

Robert Reich explains it all in 5 bullet points in 2 minutes. Down there. At the bottom of my insipid ramblings.

Back in the early 1990's, I remember having a very strong gut feeling about an undercurrent redistribution of wealth. We were a family of three living in Flower Mound, Texas - I was a project manager/estimator for a construction company, wifey was a dental assistant/office manager, daughter in public school.

We we living a modest lifestyle within our means - a $95k garden home, an Isuzu Trooper, a Nissan Sentra - no boat, no jet ski, no motor cycle, no lavish vacations, no debt besides mortgage and car notes. Hell, we only budgeted "movie night" (with dinner out) once a month. Our vacations were to Colorado and northern New Mexico - camping out in the National Forest - with a night in a cheap motel every third night or so.

The problem was that this modest lifestyle was eating up essentially 100% of our net income. We didn't have much in the way of savings. No investments. I think I had a 401k. Sundays were my budgeting/bill paying/expense projection days. I tried and tried to figure out where to cut back. Sure, we could have cancelled our cable and saved $25 or perhaps $35 a month. There were no cell phones back then so we had to have a land line. I'm remembering now that I had a company car - so the gasoline bills were low, too.

I remembered looking back to our first car after we were married - a Toyota Corolla for $1,200. And looking at my Isuzu Trooper at $12,000 - my college graduation-gift-to-myself. And then Sentra six years later at $16,000 - used. I remember projecting my weekly take-home pay week after week, month after month, and nothing ever accumulating.

I'm sitting here now acknowledging that we could have shopped for clothes at Wal-Mart instead of Dillard's. We bought our furniture - what little we owned - at Haverty's and Dillards and Foley's. I remember going from a full-size bed to a queen size and thinking/feeling how indulgent and luxurious it seemed.

I remember wondering how we could be working so hard, making good money, living within our means - managing at just above the frugal level. I remember wondering why we were basically just breaking even. I remember wondering why all our neighbors had boats and jet skis and motor cycles and were taking Disney and European Vacations. Most of that was credit cards and HELOC (home equity line of credit), if that credit/default/redistribution of wealth device even existed then.

What I remember most is the feeling that someone, somewhere, was getting rich - accumulating wealth off the backs of the hard working common folks - the "middle class" - and that someone damn sure wasn't me (us).

Those memories are fading into the distant past now - my recollection is vague - but I remember it being very strong back then. A very powerful gut feeling of injustice happening out there in the world. Ah. It's still there, that feeling.

Oh well.


I think I'll make myself a tequila sunrise and go bake myself outside in the shade.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting

Free and comprehensive.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Unforeseen Revisited Redux

The documentary "The Unforeseen" came up at dinner last night. I have also been noticing over the past several months that a new mega-strip (large scale strip development - my terminology) development is being built on South Mopac.

Just what we need, more big-box pharmacies and big-box liquor stores. Actually, I'm not sure who/what the tenants will be, but it really doesn't matter.

Actually, here's a list of everything I've been aware of down here in Hays County and southwest Travis county:

:: Widening of two major roads from Wimberley east to the I-35 corridor.

:: Widening of Elder Hill Road - the secret back short-cut from the Salt Lick BBQ to Wimberley.

:: New primary high-voltage power lines along (future) Toll 45 SW.

:: PEC (Pedernales Electric Co-Op) performing a large scale (hundreds of trucks) electrical upgrade of some sort throughout their service area.

:: A new mega-convenience store/gas station at 45 & 1826.

:: Development Notice signage at 1826 & Nutty Brown Road. Rumor has it that another mega-convenience store/gas station will be going in here.

:: A high-rise pole mounted billboard on RR 1826.

:: New model homes popping up in the formerly foreclosed development "Avana" along 45.

:: New golf course water permits being issued by the Hays-Trinity Water Conservation District.

:: New DFC (Desired Future Condition) issued by the Texas Water Development Board allowing a thirty-five foot (35') draw down of the aquifer.

:: A new report indicating that at current growth and use rates, the Colorado River (and Barton Springs and basically all the other rivers in Central Texas) will be DRY AS A BONE by the year 2060 - in fifty years.

It appears that everything is progressing according to plan.

Here's the original "Revisited" post from August of 2008 - in its entirety:

Great Blue Heron

Well, that was a first. It was the first time I have ever cried watching an environmental documentary. Perhaps it hit home for me because it was all so close to home for me. Austin, Barton Springs, Barton Creek, The Edwards Aquifer, The Texas Hill Country. My roots there pre-date the Alamo. My roots go back in Texas before there was a Texas, before there was The Republic of Texas. Deep, deep roots. Deeper feelings, or rather, emotions, about it all.

So, I just finished watching the documentary "The Unforeseen" (on the Sundance Channel), mostly about development, urban sprawl, growth and water in one particular area of Austin, Texas. It carries a much bigger message though, a broad and deep message about all that is facing us these days. It goes not to our standard of living, but to our quality of life. Not quality as in "how good is it?", but quality as in what is the depth, breadth, character, texture, taste, and feeling of our day-to-day lives as individuals, families, social circles, as communities, cultures, societies and nations.

Following are some things, key points, key words that stuck out for me. At the end of the post are some links for you to find out how to purchase or rent the DVD. Or, just be on the lookout for it and watch it when you can.

Developers defined as the "classic American character", reshaping the future and getting rich in the process...

On golf courses: "I find them repulsive, so uniform and so green, the earth whipped into submission for these men..."

Developers, they know the cost of everything, but they know the value of nothing...

A conservative lobbyist, speaking, apparently, on "liberals" who enjoy swimming and leisure time along Barton Creek..."these self-indulgences will catch up to you eventually..."

"If the people will lead, the leaders will follow..."

Robert Redford: "...quick return on short term investment, with long term damage...a scar is all that is left..."

A private citizen on private property rights: "...don't want a bunch of sumbitches telling us what to do with it (our land)...."

A private citizen shouting and waving a placard: "People are number one! Bugs and birds are at the bottom of the list...Save people first!..."

Economists have set up this meter of economic activity...that all growth is good...that ANY economic activity that involves money changing hands is good for the economy...and does not take into account any down side or long term unforeseen costs...

There should be honest accounting...the true cost...the long term cost...

People are making choices that damage other people...that damage everyone...that damage nature and the environment...that damage the world...and humanity...

We should be living in harmony with nature, not in opposition to it...

Add quality to the housing stock, without actually expanding housing...housing for everyone...affordable housing...use what's already there...it's not all about size and quantity and gargantuan scale...improve the landscape until we run out of opportunities to improve it...

Something about "the pursuit of the almighty dollar"...

If you don't act on the gift (of the natural world), then you are part of destroying it...

Growth itself is not the enemy...it is the nature of that growth...the quality and character within it...

"...where all the land has not been consumed by intention..."

We should have a stronger, more mature regard for the future, unwilling to leave a mess behind us...

I was struck by the title "the unforeseen" - that today, we are actually living and reaping the unforeseen consequences of multitudes of actions and directions - paths and choices - individually and collectively - both societal and economic. Are we evolving or devolving?

We are reaping the unforeseen.

The Unforeseen Film Site

The Unforeseen on IMDB.

The Unforeseen on Treehugger.com

The Unforeseen on PBS

Pre-Purchase the DVD :: Release Date September 16, 2008

The Unforeseen on NetFlix

Here's my original post :: On the universe, life and water :: The Unforeseen