Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Late Night Packing

My flight leaves in five hours. I haven't gone to bed yet. I have to pack the computer and then do the little trick with the sewer pipes and the garden hose before I leave. The mosquito net is hanging up on the back porch, having been soaked with Permethrin. In the morning I will pack it with my walkie talkies, GPS receiver, and digital camera. Geeks on safari.

Good news! I found the cable to download my pictures from the camera! Even so, due to popular demand (2 whole comments from Mighty Bob) I have decided to keep illustrating using Microsoft Paint. It's a less-is-more kinda thing. I'm sure that one day they will be worth like, lots of money.

I am excited about the possibility of seeing the Mayan ruins in Copán. The conference I am attending Thursday through Saturday is in a city called "Copán Ruins". I hope the conference isn't actually in the ruins. 'Cause my presentation requires PowerPoint and I figure the Mayans were Mac users anyway.

We are also going to try and be in Danta Uno on Wednesday, October 1. This will be the end of the first billing cycle, which could be interesting. I hope it goes well. I would appreciate your prayers for our safety, for ordained meetings and networking, and for knowledge and skill to repair what ever is wrong with the system. Oh yes, and we are planning to meet our Honduran lawyer too. I have to get some sleep...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sergio's Calls

Today during church my phone vibrated six times. It was Sergio, the in-city employee we have to help our village electricity system in Danta Uno, Honduras. It seems that there was a lot of rain and lightning recently, and that, presumably, the lighting has caused some problems with the system.

Techno-speak: The inverter is displaying a strange error message. I suppose it can't be too bad, or the inverter wouldn't be doing anything. End techno-speak.

Sooo... Ryan and I are going to Honduras Tuesday! We were thinking about going anyway because of a conference being held in the city of Copan. See www.projecthonduras.com/conference. It's a conference for all kinds of non-profits, ministries, and organizations involved in working with the poor in Honduras.

We will spend some time in Danta Uno helping them with their technical problem, and guiding some finishing construction touches that need to be done. And we will also be there for the end of the first billing cycle, an important time. And in the middle of it we will attend the conference.

My next post could be from Honduras!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Serpent's Story

Welcome, oh new followers, to Orangehouse, may your time continue to be wasted. Dan and Aunt Peepee, and Nicole, peace and amusement to you. Since I have added the "Followers" feature to the blog, there has been a slow and steady stream of tiny new icons appearing as if by magic, and so it nearly is. I am cyber Micky Mouse wielding the Google magician's hat and reading from his esoteric book of blogging secrets. I neither know nor care how it works. Let's hope I don't unleash an proverbial army of walking brooms, or if I do, that they will at least clean my garage.

I have several thoughts tonight. I will set them apart with bold type for your ease of viewing and to erect mental delineations with which to help you digest my otherwise unintelligible communications. (If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm in a weird mood tonight.)

Stories from Houston
Mom stayed with us for twelve days after her Houston house lost power in Hurricane Ike. She and her three cats temporarily moved into the boys room while they "camped" in sleeping bags in the living room. It was a pleasant and easy visit, thanks Mom. She heard from both a neighbor and my stepmother on Thursday: the power was finally back on! So today she packed up and went home. When she got home everything was fine, except for one strange visitor.

When I was with her the day before Ike made landfall, we secured a supply of emergency water by filling up the bathtub and lots of pots and pans. When she got home, there was a snake in the bathtub, swimming around, presumably waiting for a stray water buffalo to get too close to the edge. I have illustrated this for those of you with a lack of imagination. I may have taken a few artistic liberties.

I don't know how it got there. Could it have come up from the drain? This seems unlikely, especially since there was a rubber stopper over the drain. Could it have been in the house and found the bathtub in an attempt to find moisture or to wash its hands? This too seems unlikely. I suspect telekinesis was involved, but I can't prove it just yet.

So Mom got one of those arm extenders for short people to get cans of chili-mac off of the top shelf. She put on a face shield in case it was a poison spitting viper and then picked it up and took it out to the storm drain where it began a new life in the sewers of Houston feeding off of raw humidity.

Two blocks away is my father's house. He and my stepmother also left Houston to stay with my brother Chris and his family out in the Texas hill country - a beautiful part of the world, by the way. They received a scary call from a neighbor that someone had tried to break into their house. So they drove home earlier this week, even though there was still no electricity. I have not been able to reach them since I got their message, telling me of the situation. When I call their cell, service is still unavailable. And when I call the land line, something else that I can't remember happens. I am considering smoke signals.

Stories From The Boys
In the evenings, the boys and I have a prayer routine. I ask them what they are thankful for this day, and they spend a short while praying and telling God thanks for the little blessings of their days. It's really quite cute and can offer insight into their minds that I often find priceless. Tonight, Jono prayed something like this: "Dear Lord, thank you that Gahma had a snake in her bathtub, even though it wasn't poisonous, and she probably was glad it wasn't poisonous, but it was cool anyway. Amen." There you go.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Walter and Romulo sit together in the lab and determine the future of global cocotech. West meets East. Ties are required.

You may be wondering how I have posted a photograph, not a dumb sketch. It's on account of how I learned how to take pictures with my phone and email them to myself. I have nothing else to say about this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Journey Into New Media

You may have noticed that I have not posted any photographs in a while. I seem to have lost the cable that connects my camera to the computer. I tried jamming the SD memory card into my USB port, but it didn't seem to work.

So while I continue to look for it, I have decided to illustrate my posts with Microsoft Paint.

Here's me dreaming of how nice it would be to find my camera's download cable.

What do you think? Should I start illustrating instead of posting photographs?

And by the way, who are you Fogghorn? You are a mystery to me. Do I know you?

Guests for our Engineers with a Mission Meeting

Tonight at the engineering building we had our second meeting of the year for the student organization that I sponsor, Engineers with a Mission. We had over 40 students and a hand full of "old people" like yours truly. We had a guest speaker all the way from Indonesia, which is like, really far away. His name was Romulo Arancon, and he is the Executive Director of the Asian And Pacific Coconut Community. No kidding.

The APCC is a consortium of 15 nations, from India to Papua New Guinea to Vanuatu, that represents the interests of coconut farmers, especially the small farmer that has perhaps 100 coconut trees on a couple of acres. And just like the Professor on Gilligan's Island, Romulo told us of lots and lots of commercial uses for coconut-based products. Coconut meat (copra) can be used as food or animal feed, of course, and coconut oil can be made into biodiesel, and the husks can be woven into mats and sold as erosion preventing devices, and the shells can be pressed into particle boards and roofing tiles. And this is just the tip of the cocotech iceberg, baby.

Also in the audience was one of the main supporters of our Honduras project this summer. I won't use his name without permission. At any rate, it was great to meet him face-to-face for the first time, and for him to get a chance to meet some of the students he impacted directly with his financial gift. Jonathan, Ryan, and Lisa all got to say hello, and he knew us all by name from, get this, reading this blog!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Followers, a New Gadget

I have added a new thingy to my blog, a tool called "Followers". Congratulations to Mighty Bob (not her real name!) for being the first to sign up. When you sign up, you will receive a steak dinner, a copy of my new book, and a barrage of unsolicited emails for life. What a deal.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my infrequent blogging as of late. While we were in Honduras I was posting several times per week with stories that were meant to inform and entertain, and with photos that were meant to express the world as I was seeing it. Since I have been back, the boys and I are reinvolved in Boy Scouts, The M and I are reinvolved in leading a small group associated with our church, the students and I are reinvolved in learning engineering, and some of us are trying hard to launch a company to franchise village-level energy micro-businesses. And frankly, I have been fighting a little depression.

I know that exercise helps with my depression. When I lift weights or ride my bike or even walk, I tend to feel better. But apparently, once a month is not frequent enough. I seem to let all those other things take priority, because frankly, they are more fun and/or interesting. If only I had access to a nice gym to work out in - oh wait, I do, and it's free. If only it were located at the university so I didn't have to go far out of my way to exercise - oh wait, it is. Maybe I can get a graduate student to do it for me...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Inside Ike

Shortly after my last post from Houston last Saturday we lost power. It was around midnight, so Mom and I got out our flashlights and lit a few candles. After a while we clicked on the battery powered television and continued to watch the eye of Hurricane Ike make landfall on Galveston island sixty miles south east of us.

Throughout the night we would look out the windows at the dancing trees and listen to the wind make the chimney hoot like a giant Coke bottle. Every so often the weather stripping beneath the back door would vibrate as the air was sucked out of the house. It made a startling reedy sound like a bass clarinet.

By three or four in the morning the winds were at their peak. I ventured onto the front and back porches and was struck by the loudness of the wind. But it was the sky that surprised me the most. The ever-present dull amber glow of the Houston sky was intermittently splashed by bursts of intense a blue-white light characteristic of electric arcs and exploding transformers. I paused to say dude, then went back inside.

By 5:30 AM the worst seemed to be passed, and we went to bed grateful that no serious damage had been done to the house. When we woke up the next day and took a look around the neighborhood, we glimpsed the damage others experienced.

But that's tomorrow's post.

Friday, September 12, 2008

From the Event Horrizon (the leading edge of Ike)

I drove to Houston today and it seemed like Christmas. It seems that much of this part of Texas has taken off from work to prepare for Hurricane Ike. The inbound roads were nearly empty, perhaps one car every mile or so. The outbound roads were full, but not gridlocked.

That's why it seemed like Christmas. It was apparent that most of the businesses and restaurants were closed, and the lack of traffic and day-to-day activity is only like this on major holidays.

The power has gone on and off about a half a dozen times so far. The eye has still not made landfall, and we haven't even seen any rain yet. But the winds have been gusty (between 40-55 mph so far) and the trees have been falling across power lines somewhere, presumably. Here at Mom's house, we have a bunch of candles and flashlights, fresh batteries for a little TV/radio, and a bath tub full of water.

We went driving around during one of the more prolonged power outages of an hour or so. People by the dozens were outside throwing footballs, playing cards, or sitting in plastic chairs. It seems everyone was just waiting for the storm, and when the power is out you might as well go outside. It was a bit like a big party. Mom and I went by my father and step mother's house (two blocks away) and went in to visit for a while. It was good to see them, since I have not seen them since we got back from Honduras.

Since the storm is supposed to be at its worst overnight, we plan to stay up pretty late. In preparation, we took a nap this afternoon. As usual, when I travel I bring my CPAP machine to help me with my sleep apnea. It fits with straps over my face and blows a Constant Positive Air Pressure in my nose as I sleep. Sound bothersome? Not really. You get used to it. Anyway, when the power goes off while you're sleeping with it, it's as if someone suddenly put a pillow over your face. You wake up quickly!

More later, as long as the power stays on...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heading to H-town (H is for Hurricane)

It looks like our buddy Hurricane Ike, or "HI" as I like to call him, is heading directly for Galveston and Houston in an apparent effort to drive up the price of oil. I have been watching the news and looking at satellite images; it promises to be a pretty big storm. Yet, after the massive gridlock evacuation attempt before Hurricane Rita, the authorities in Houston are recommending people not evacuate.
So, after speaking to my mother today, I decided to go down to Houston and ride the storm out with her! I asked a couple of other professors to cover my classes, and after driving through rivers in Honduras I'm brimming with over-confidence in my ability to drive in high water (in a minivan?). I'm getting my camping lantern and borrowing Jono's LED headlamp. I'm filling the ice chest with ice which is in short supply in H-town. I'm grabbing the floaty noodles and rubber torpedoes. And I'm putting fresh batteries... in my camera!

Does this sound crazy to you? Am I nuts?

Or am I just desperate for blog fodder?? Check back soon to find out...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Any Way the Wind Blows

Looks like hurricane Ike may be headed to Houston. This is alarming since I have family there. My mother, in fact, was scheduled to come visit us this weekend, but has decided to stay home and monitor her house and cats. I doubt she will receive anything worse than a broken window or a few missing shingles, but we'll see. My father, step-mother, and several in-laws and friends also live there, so I will be watching the storm carefully.

I haven't been able to blog as frequently as I had been, because since I've been back in the states, I have been so busy with school, kids, scouts, the house, and lifegroup, that I am wiped. Also, after Honduras, my life in Central Texas seems a little tame...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Shack - loved it

I finished reading "The Shack" today. Wow, it was powerful. I loved it. It was deep, and moving, and funny, and comforting. It made me long to know God in a deeper way. Here is my version of a "back cover" review.

A father, after loosing his little girl horribly and tragically, lives for years with pain and bitterness. On the three year anniversary of her disappearance and murder, he returns to the scene of the crime after receiving a mysterious note in his mailbox. Is the note a prank? Is it from the killer, still at large? Is it from God?

He goes there alone, to the isolated shack in the Oregon wilderness, to find out who sent him the note. He intends to confront his daughter's killer with a borrowed pistol, or if the note is indeed from God, to accuse him of passivity and demand answers for his pain. What he finds is the last thing he expected. God is there, but he is a "large beaming African-American woman" who smells like flowers and loves to cook.

If you read it or have read it, I would love to know what you think or thought.