“A Hole in Texas”

Which of these is not like the others?





Answer:  None of the above

OK, it was a trick question worthy of the author of the blog Fight Against Stupidity and Bureaucracy.   All of the books named above were written by Herman Wouk, of course.   How many of you knew he wrote “A Hole in Texas?”

On July 4, 2012 physicists worldwide celebrated when  CERN, headquartered in Geneva, announced they had discovered a new subatomic particle that did indeed look like the Higgs bozan.  Named after Peter Higgs, who along with other physicists discovered what was called  Higgs field in 1964.  Higgs, 93, was in Geneva for the announcement and stated that  he never thought his theory would be proven in his lifetime.  It was also called the God particle and seems to be thought to be the glue that holds everything together.  My understanding is that they smashing atoms deep underground in a circular tunnel deep underground on the Franco-Swiss border.  I think I am digging myself into a non-scientific hole so I had better stop digging and get back to my main topic.

 All of this talk of super-colliders and physicists  reminded me of a book I read a few years ago.   I found it while I was randomly searching the shelves and stacks of books at Half-Price Books.  While I have read manyl of  Herman Wouk’s popular books, I had never even heard of this one, “A Hole in Texas,” and promptly added it to my purchases after checking the blurbs on the back cover to make sure it was by THE Herman Wouk.

Photo from his website


Published in 2004, it is a satirical novel revolving around the real-life  Superconducting  Supercollider (SSC), a particle accelerator, that was being built in Waxahachie, Texas from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.  Several states had vied for the project, but Texas politics and  bravado won the prize.  America had put the first man on the moon; America would prove the existence of the Higgs boson.  In 1991 work began in Waxahachie, a small town about forty miles south of Dallas.  The town and surrounding area experienced a boom similar to an oil boom with an influx of scientists, engineers and construction workers and jobs for the locals.  The tunnel would be constructed 200 feet underground deep in the bedrock.

President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush both had supported it.  However, with estimated costs soaring and its scientific value questioned, Congress and President Clinton cancelled the project in 1993 even though $2 billion had already been spent and over fourteen miles of tunnel had been bored.   A hole in Texas indeed!

Abandoned Buildings at SSC site -Photo from Wikipedia

Back to the book.  Confident with his years of successful writing, Wouk seemed unafraid to have a little fun in his golden years.  The plot centers around the realities of the project in Waxahachie, the politics of Washington, scandal and Hollywood. Guy Carpenter, an ordinary scientist, gets caught up in something he never could have imagined.  One reviewer describes it this way, “…occasionally corny but also playful, thoughtful and passionate.”  Wouk tries to get serious and provide the reader with light scientific facts but in reality he doesn’t “…know what the Sam Hill a boson is.”  I recommend it as a look at the lighter side of science, politics and the media.

After the abandonment by the United States of the quest for the Higgs boson, CERN went on to build their own particle accelerator, the Large Hadron collider in Europe.  And the rest is history.

It may be twenty years too late, but what do you think?  Should the United States have abandoned its hole in Texas?

Related articles:
Physicists Find Particle
Herman Wouk to Publish New Book
Status of site today

Tuscany in Texas

In June Husband and I went to the Texas hill country to buy peaches from our favorite grower, Gold Orchards, and to check out some wineries.  The Gold Orchards store is basically a small roadside stand in the tiny town of Stonewall on highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

There are about ten wineries located on this 36-mile stretch of highway called Wine Road , but the one that caught my attention was Grape Creek Vineyards with a sign that proclaimed, “Tuscany in Texas.”   Tuscany is on my list of places to visit, but each year there seems to be some reason why we can’t take that trip to visit our friends in Tuscany at their olive farm, Podere Boggioli.   This might be as close to Italy as I would get this year.  With a little wine perhaps it really would seem like Italy!

Entrance to Grape Creek Vineyards-Photo from their web site

The entrance with its bell tower sets the mood as the gravel road leads upward between Chenin Blanc vineyard toward the Tuscany-style villa that serves as the tasting room and gift shop.  It did not disappoint.

Thinking Tuscany…not Texas

The villa did indeed reflect old world architecture with its tiled roof and beams, stonework, landscape and obligatory fountain.  Even Italian music quietly playing added to the ambiance.  As we got out of the car a limo pulled up and out tumbled several excited and well-dressed ladies.  Now that is the way to tour wineries!

Inside we browsed the wine-related items and a generous selection of crackers, cheeses and nibbles.  We missed the Barrel Tasting Cellar Tour that included a tour of the winemaking  facilities and barrel cellar.  Instead we settled for tasting six wines and chose from white, red, sweet and semi-sweet and port.  We bought three bottles:  2011 Viognier, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Texas and a port.

OK, so maybe those working in the tasting room spoke with a Texas twang instead of  in Italian and I was really not in Tuscany.  Still this small yet elegant winery with a bed and breakfast is worth checking out if you are in the area.

The Crone in Faux Tuscany

Husband in Faux Tuscany

From Johnson City you see gently rolling hills, peach orchards and pass the entrance to the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site that is worth the stop.  The self-guided tour is free and takes you by the graves of President Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson.

At the end of the road is Fredericksburg which offers history, shopping and good food.  We had lunch at Fredericksburg Brewing Company and enjoyed sampling excellent ale.

Our last stop  Gold Orchards was to buy a half-bushel of peaches for peach cobblers.   I use a recipe from “Aunt Pearl’s Cookbook, A Man’s Cooking” by Joe Sears.  Maybe I’ll share it in another post!  Cheers!