Monday, June 28, 2010

Texas State Democratic Convention

Just wrapped up a weekend of acting as a delegate from Brazos County, Senate District 5, to the Texas State Democratic Convention. The take-home message: the Democratic Party is is the party of persons with both heart and mind, as summarized in two t-shirt messages--

t-shirt: "I am a Democrat. End of discussion. See back of shirt." The back of the shirt listed public programs from Social Security through Family Medical and Leave Act, and just about every compassionate social program between.
t-shirt: "I think; therefore I am a Democrat:

Although the process of democracy is cumbersome, my faith in the positive outcome is renewed. The conference brought me to tears so many times: when military veterans among the delegates were recognized, service by service, by the Corpus Christi Veteran Band.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chamber Music Institute

Summers mean the start of the wonderful Marian Anderson String Quartet Chamber Music Institute, a summer camp for string and piano musicians of all ages and abilities. Individual students and chamber groups are coached by the members of this world-class quartet. But since it is a music camp  there is contra dancing with live music, a performance by a local jazz trio,  a master class, cultural potluck dinner with talent show, theatre workshop, and, of course, a Texas-style barbeque. Historically, students' ages have ranged from 7 to better than 70, all held togehte with the glue of a love of classical music.

The City of Bryan is truly fortunate that The Marian Anderson String Quartet has chosen to make this city their home. They have been quartet or ensemble in residence at the City College of New York and four other universities before starting a eight-year-long artist-in-residence program at Texas A&M University.

Not only does the quartet undertake a demanding touring schedule, but they have made outreach to the community a great priority. The quartet performs in public locally at least eight times per year, and they hvae works tirelessly through the Sisyphian task of building the Chamber Music Institute from the ground up. The First Methodist Church allows the CMI to use its lovely facilities, including two commercial-grade kitchens and multiple practice rooms.

Although anyof the musicians could have made a successful career playing in a major symphony orchestra--for instance, the cellist played with the New York Philharmonic--they instead chose to devote their talents to bringing their music to small communities and people who might not have the opportunity every to hear live chamber music.

The Marian Anderson String Quartet is the gem in the crown of Bryan, Texas,

Saturday, June 12, 2010

White on white

The drywall is finished. A big milestone passed. The house is wonderfully insulated. I'm ready to start painting. The drywall floating and sanding took much longer than I expected. Leandro and Robisel did a great job, but I need a break from the...activity.

Leandro and Robisel after a long day sanding drywall compound.

Leandro, the great and powerful.

I moved my bed into my bedroom temporarily. Note to self: sleeping in a minimalist room is restful. No clutter. No furniture to dust. No baskets of yarn--and I do love yarn--to trip over or get tangled in.

My living room now.

Lots of room to park my commuting bicycle in the empty living room.

Bryan/College Station received 4.5 inches of rain this past week. In Texas, we don't complain about rain until it floods, but for someone whose virtual kitchen is outdoors, wow! that was a lot of rain. Still and all, I'm really enjoying this outdoor kitchen, which has given me some ideas about fixing up some permanent outdoor kitchen when the interior is more or less complete.

My 35-year-old Svea 123 backpacking stove became, well, balky in a fiery way a few weeks ago. (Maybe because I used automotive gasoline instead of white gas?) This stove has given me many years of great service. I've carried it literally thousands of miles, first in a backpack, then in bicycle panniers. I expect with a good cleaning, the stove will continue to offer good service in the backcountry. But it is not practical for "regular" cooking. Anyone who has worked to achieve the perfect gas pressure in the Svea by lighting a pool of fuel in the small well around the burner knows what I'm talking about. Lighting the Svea was art and science born of years of experience.  And, any Svea user knows the jet engine-like noise during cooking and the blissful silence when cooking was done. My new two-burner propane car-camping stove is sinfully easy to light. Turn the knob and strike a match. And cook, silently.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Drywall, almost 3,000 pounds total

Who knew?

The drywall (sometimes called by its trade name, Sheetrock) in a 900-square-foot house, would weigh 3,000 pounds. More or less.

The great and powerful Leandro single-handedly tore out, by hand, all drywall from my house, save one wall, and piled it up in the right-of-way. Disposal of construction material is the responsibility of the homeowner.

When I realized my four-cylinder quarter-ton Nissan was not up to the job of hauling a trailer beefy enough to carry even part of this load, I hired the big guns, G&M Haulers, two entrepreneurial Aggies who founded a business specializing in moving Texas A&M University college students between apartment complexes.

Hauling construction debris? Not so much.

Being accommodating businessmen, as well as good sports,  though, Joe and Jose showed up on on the dot of 7:00 a.m. pulling an immaculate shiny black 16-foot enclosed trailer with their dualie (I refuse to spell it dually, the Texas preference) pickup truck. For any Yankees reading this post, a dualie (or dually, but to me, the -ly ending implies an adverb rather than a noun) refers to a larger pickup truck with dual rear wheels on each end of the axle.

Four of us shoved, racked, scooped, and swept drywall debris into the trailer. We then drove to the county landfill, weighed in, and were directed to "road" carved into the side of mountain of landfill debris. At the pinnacle of landfill mountain was an orange-vested man directing traffic, so busy was this place.

The scene at the top of the mountain was surreal. Enormous earth-moving equipment with wheels 8 feet in diameter driven by grim-faced men pushed garbage around. Trash clung heavily to the huge wheels. I recognized red net grapefruit bags and green twine and plastic garbage bags. As the four of us hauled and swept and carried, two legitimate city garbage trucks backed up on either side of us and dumped their loads. Just another day at the office for them.

Circling overhead and alighting--sometimes atop the heavy equipment and sometimes on retaining fences were members of a committee--what a terrific collective noun!--of about 50 vultures.

Business as usual at the county landfill.

But that was only the first wave of drywall.

For the second load a few weeks later, I took the drywall to the largest indoor recycling center in Texas, Brazos Valley Recycling, about 6 miles west of my home, and about four miles west of Texas A&M University. What an operation! An enormous set of corrugated metal green buildings not visible from the highway. Although I had driven past the road hundreds of times, I had no idea it was there. Adjacent to the recycling facility, a dozer operator had carved an epic canyon over the years by removing fill dirt and top soil. To my Southwestern sensibilities, the canyon had very much the look of the reddish steep-walled formations in northern Arizona or southern Utah.

The owner of the recycling facility offered to give me a tour! Oh, YEAH! The business recycles construction materials; all manner of wood, and all color-separated for use as mulch; even the handy 5-gallon plastic buckets, all crushed and baled; and broken concrete. Now that's some recycling I can get behind! I was as excited as a kid at Six Flags!

In case you are wondering, gypsum--one of two components in drywall, the other being paper--is used to harden and make impervious the beds of cattle tanks (ponds holding for cattle to drink). Gypsum is also good for lawns.