We were all ready to see  the past year of 2020 come to an end.  An even year that was odd in many ways.  A pandemic raged around the world and the President of the United States was impeached.  2021: The pandemic is still with us and the President of the United States is impeached…again.  Wait!  Deja vu will not overtake us!  There is hope:  democracy survived and vaccines are arriving. 

Meanwhile, back on the coast.  Odds and ends of life.

This year I will not be volunteering again for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) through United Way of the Coastal Bend.  I started out last year in January but COVID finally shut it down.  This year it started up again in February with different arrangements, again because of COVID.  Clients will be able to leave their documents of copies of documents in a sealed envelope.  Then they will be called back in about a week to review the return, make any changes or corrections and sign the return for filing.  I will really miss volunteering this year, but I thought it best to avoid additional exposure.  Maybe next year.

Good news on the exposure  side.  Husband and I had been on a waiting list for a COVID vaccine through our doctor’s office as the practice is affiliated with a large hospital.  Monday we were called in for our first dose of Pfizer and scheduled for our second one in three weeks; we are in Tier 2.    It was an easy process.  No side effects so far.

Yes, 2020 was a rough year as the pandemic affected us all in some way.  For many the financial impact made it even worse compounded by the uncertainty of when it would end.  Deaths continued as Americans debated the merits of in-person voting versus mail- in ballots to elect a president.  Schools opened and closed.

And life went on with love, laughter and loss. Babies were born and couples married. New careers were launched. I have learned not to take anything for granted.  Each day is a gift.  The seasons came and went as usual while we modified holidays and activities to include masks and social distancing.   Yes, we are  still a divided country in many ways, but surely there is more that unites us.  We will get through this.

New Orleans cancelled Mardi Gras parades this year because of the pandemic.  But you cannot stop the spirit of NOLA.  Residents were encouraged to transform their homes into floats.  There is a book, Porches on Parade, How House Floats Saved Mardi Gras.

Laissez les bon temps rouler – Let the good times roll!

Below is a link for the book.  A portion of the proceed will be donated to local artist funds.  If you scroll down, you can see some of the houses.


Through I subscribe to A Word a Day for daily emails with a new word each day with a theme.  Examples are words  that are eponyms or words that sound dirty but aren’t.  A few weeks ago it was words from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four(published in 1949),  that have become part of our language.   I recall reading  his dark novel in high school and thinking how very far into the future the year 1984 was, why, I’d be an old woman of 40 years.  Today we are 34 years beyond that doomed year,  and I have become a crone.  Below is a photo of my worn copy of the book; I think Daughter used it when it was required reading for a class.

Here are five of Orwell’s words featured and defined for that week:

NEWSPEAK:  Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

UNPERSON:  A person regarded as nonexistent.

BIG BROTHER:  An authoritarian person, organization, government, etc., that monitors or controls people.

DOUBLETHINK:   An acceptance of two contradictory ideas at the same time.

OLDSPEAK:   Normal English usage, as opposed to propagandist, euphemistic, or obfuscatory language.

My old paperback copy has this afterword by Erich Fromm and begins with this paragraph.

“George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning.  the mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose the most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even  be aware of it.”

Fortunately, the soulless world of Winston Smith (main character from the novel) has not become reality.  There have been dark days and some parallels can be drawn from that world and some events even leading up to 2018, but the course of history has surely changed.   Here are some of my humble observations.

Let’s start with the most commonly quoted word from 1984, Big Brother.  Some would think that we already have a Big Brother in the form of federal government imposing rules, regulations and laws and tracking us and  strongly distrust the government.  Internet and social media could be considered as Big Brother the way our smart phones track us as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. that track our locations, likes, friends and shopping habits.  And what of television?  Can we escape that glowing eye from home or almost anyplace we go?  And security cameras seem to be everywhere.

Newspeak is often used by those who want to put a certain spin on a statement or situation.  Those in power appear to be the most skilled at newspeak.

The unperson could be those without a political voice whether by poverty, circumstances, gender, place of birth or sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter movement quickly comes to my mind.

Our current President of the United States of America appears to be skilled in doublethink as he often says one thing and then acts in a completely different way to support, oppose or propose a policy.  There ought to be an Orwellian word for the way he tweets.

Oldspeak was the language of truth and honesty.  Lies were not treated as the norm and truth was not labeled as fake news.

Where did the inspiration for this post come from?  Perhaps I just wanted to write one last 500-word essay on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and convince myself that a negative Utopia did not become a reality in 2018.  Or has it?

MONDAY MADNESS: The Coastal Crone’s Political Poll


Voting is serious, but this presidential election has been sad, crazy, wild, vulgar, funny, stupid, silly, unbelievable, entertaining, shallow, unpredictable and way too long in my humble opinion.  There are all sorts of polls from every angle to try to predict the popularity or  trust of the candidates by region, gender, income, age, ethnicity, education,  etc.   I have created my own simple poll, thanks to WordPress.

Participation is open to anyone who visits my blog (following is appreciated but not  required) and is not limited to legal United States citizens.  International participation is encouraged.  Polling is anonymous and comments do not have to reflect your choice unless you wish to do so but please keep them civil.  Thank you very much!

POLL NOTE:  If you want to view results, click on “View Results” which will show comments that do not show up in the regular “Comments.”  I do want want anyone to think I am blocking ANY comments!!   I think that comments that show up there are by those who may not be using WordPress.


Indian Lament049

Last week I was going through some stacks of papers by my desk and found this vintage postcard addressed to my father.  It read:

Mr. Andrew Harvill
Freer, Texas


Chandler, Arizona
Sept. 11, 1935
Hello Boy:  We long way from home.  Some country here.
Henry Ford
Woodrow Wiederkehr

In 1935 the United States was slowly struggling out of the Great Depression under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He would win  the presidency again in the 1936 election over Republican Alfred M. Landon.   Eighty-one years later this lament could mirror some of the dissatisfaction today as we head toward the 2016 presidential election in November.

(An oil boom around the small Texas town of Freer was pulling it out of the Depression  as men flocked to the area for the jobs in the oilfields.  In 1935 my father was twenty-five years old and was either helping his father on the family ranch or working in the oil fields.  More likely he was doing both.  He had a wife and child with another on the way.   I wonder what his two long-time friends from Freer were doing in Arizona?  Today Chandler is a prominent suburb of Phoenix.)


Wine, Rain and a Wedding at the LBJ Ranch

The morning rain had stopped.  Our favorite wineries did not open until 10 o’clock so we decided to stop at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.  We had been there before but had never toured President Johnson’s Texas White House.  Checking in at the visitors’ center, we were informed that the last tour would begin at 11 o’clock  because a special event was being held there.  The pass for the window of the car was put in place, and we started on the self-guided LBJ Ranch Tour Route that follows the Pedernales River.  The park brochure describes it this way.

“President Johnson drew strength and solace from to demonstrate the cultural and conservation practices associated with ranching prompted President and Mrs. Johnson to donate a portion of the LBJ Ranch to the National Park Service in 1972.  Johnson stipulated to park planners. that the LBJ Ranch remain a working ranch, and not a ‘sterile relic of the past.’  To that end, the National Park Service maintains a herd of Hereford cattle descended from the President’s registered herd and manages the ranch lands as a living demonstration of ranching the LBJ way.”


The road meanders along the river until it turns and crosses it via a low river crossing.  It took us past on old school where Johnson attended, his reconstructed birthplace, the Johnson family cemetery and a modest farm-house where his grandparents had lived.  Remnants of Johnson’s Herefords grazed quietly as we passed cattle guard after cattle guard seemingly accustomed to the slow movement of cars.

The first thing you see at the Texas White is Johnson’s jet.  He would fly into Austin on Air Force One from Washington and then take the smaller jet to the ranch where a small landing field was constructed.  Husband reluctantly agree to a photo.

2015 05 23 (6)

The building next to the jet had been an airplane hangar originally, but it had been converted into a visitors’ center.  At the entrance a huge white tent was set up with white tables and chairs and red-checkered table cloths; people were busy decorating the tables and getting things set up.  I imagined some local fundraiser for a charitable cause.  We proceeded inside to obtain our tickets at $3.00 each.

Soon a park guide gathered our small group together.  We walked to the entrance of the house that was surrounded by a low white picket fence.  A small delivery truck full of wildflowers, some in blue and white pots, was being unloaded.  I assumed they were for the special event scheduled for later.

For those of us who had lived through the Johnson administration years, being inside the Texas White House was like going back in time.  There were three television sets placed side by side so that the President could keep up with the news on CBS, NBS and ABC – no cable in those days.  Telephones were scattered all over the sprawling house; the guide told us that Johnson was constantly on the phone.

At the end of the tour our park guide casually mentioned that we had chosen to visit at a special time as Jennifer Robb was getting married that evening at the ranch.  So that was the reason for the flowers and tent!  I remembered that Lynda Bird Johnson Robb was the daughter of President and Mrs. Johnson but did not know anything about her children.

Now I wanted more details!  I walked to the front of the house outside the fence and saw a woman (dressed in shorts & boots)  placing what appeared to be horseshoes on metal rods.

“Excuse me, ” I said.  “Are those for the wedding?”

“Yes, ” she replied. “They will be married up at the house on the lawn, but she wants to cut the cake down here by the river.”  That would explain the flowers being unloaded there, I thought.

“Oh, that will be lovely!  May I take a photo – I won’t include you in it.”

“Yes, that’s fine,” she replied as she continued placing the horseshoe things firmly in the ground.

I could just imagine flowing white silk fabric being entwined in the horseshoes to guide wedding guests toward the Pedernales River and a bride’s table with a huge cake.
2015 05 23 (1)

On our way out we had to pass the tent.  Politely, I asked if we could take a picture.  Again, a friendly wedding planner said it was fine and volunteered that the couple had reception the night before in Austin at the LBJ Library and that she hoped it would not rain.   I joked that my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.

2015 05 23 (4)

On out way out we stopped at the Johnson family cemetery where President and Mrs. Johnson are buried near the Pedernales River.  At each of the headstones was a huge bouquet of wildflowers in short blue vases identical to the ones brought for the wedding.

2015 05 23 (13)

Later that afternoon as we left our last winery, Texas Hills Vineyards, just outside Johnson City, it started to rain.  Oh, I thought, I wonder if it is raining back at the LBJ Ranch.

To find out how the wedding went, click the link below to a website maintained by an Austin newspaper.

For those on Facebook, check out even more intimate photos of the wedding on their 5/27 post.


Run for your life!



September 17, 2011

By this time next year the final avalanche of red, white and blue balloons and confetti will have fallen in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Tampa, Florida.  The delegates from every state will cheer wildly as the candidates embrace and raise their joined hands high as their proud families gather around them on the stage.  We will all have watched it on television.  The candidates will then be off and running for president and vice-president of the United States.I have been running for years…not for any office but for my well-being and sanity.  Granted I don’t run as fast as I used to, and some days it is more of a fast jog that a run.  Running is a mostly a solitary form of exercise and that suits me.  I put on my old-fashioned Sony headphones with the antenna and take off toward the bay or the park.  Depending on my mood, I listen to either classical via  National Public Radio or a local country and western radio station.  On good days I make it to the public library and back.  Running releases tension and sometimes even inspires my creative side with a new idea or solution.  It is not for everyone.   If I don’t run fairly regularly, at least three  times a week, I become a rather cranky crone.  I know that someday I will have to slow down to a walk, but in the meantime I will keep moving.

Run for your life!  Election 2012 is coming and the campaigns and debates have just started.   See you at the voting booth!

“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

Straight from the Heart…what would Ann Richards have to say?

Ann Richards at a 1994 fundraiser in Houston

As I have written before,  I don’t want to get into political controversies as I see enough of that on the daily news.  In July of last year I did post a piece titled “What Would Molly Ivins Say if She Could?” 

Now that the Republicans candidates have been winnowed down and President Obama has officially set his campaign machine in motion by raising big bucks, I wonder what the late Ann Richards, former Democratic governor of Texas, would have to say.  She certainly would speak her mind on the issues of women.

Richards was state treasurer of Texas in 1988 when she delivered the keynote address at the Democratic Convention in Atlanta, Georgia and came to national attention with her dry humor at the expense of then Vice President George H.W. Bush.  She became governor of  Texas in 1991 when she defeated Clayton Williams Jr, a wealthy rancher who made a joke about the weather and rape during the campaign.  George W. Bush regained the honor of his father when he ran against her in 1996 and won to become governor of Texas.  Some say that is what propelled him into the White House.  I tend to agree.

Her life was not without controversy.  She spoke out on women and minority issues.   Her marriage to David Richards fell apart as her involvement in politics took a toil on her personal life.  She admitted a problem with alcohol when confronted by family and friends and sought and received successful treatment for it.  She and Molly Ivins were friends and enjoyed sharing a drink or two together when they both lived in Austin.  Ann Richards died of complications from esophageal cancer in September of 2006 at the age of seventy-three.

It seems ironic or perhaps appropriate that one of her daughters, Cecile Richards, has been president of Planned Parenthood since 2006 and has been drawn into politics via that organization.  I think Ann and would be cheering her on! 


I’m not afraid to shake up the system, and government needs more shaking up than any other system I know.

Teaching was the hardest work I had ever done, and it remains the hardest work I have done to date.

The here and now is all we have, and if we play it right it’s all we’ll need.

Jill Buckley on Ann Richards: She’s sort of the female good old boy.

I have very strong feelings about how you lead your life. You always look ahead, you never look back.

I also wrote a piece in August titled “Run for you life!”   The political scene will be hot this summer and won’t cool down until the results of November 6 are in.  Exercise your right to vote and respect the views of others.  Remain civil…after all it’s only on election!

Straight from the Heart