Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quote of the Day...

From a list of rules for young photographers:

"Talent is not when your friends tell you they love your work, but when people who don't like you have to admit it's good."

Hip Hop I Can Handle

It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan or rap or hip hop (or Justin Timberlake,for that matter), but this little history of hip hop is masterfully done by Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon.



via kottke

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No. Dear God, NO!!!! Not Star Wars, too!!!!!


From the Hollywood Reporter:

Sources indicate that George Lucas is set on rereleasing the "Star Wars" franchise in new 3D conversions beginning in 2012.

Starting with "Phantom Menace," Lucasfilm would use several higher-end conversion houses to work on the project.


Fitting that the suckiest of all the movies is due up first in the suckiest way to watch a movie ever. I'll be so glad when this current 3D fad is over.

PS- if you're not familiar with The Phantom Menace, be sure to check out the best review of it ever. It will convince you to save your money.

True Grit

This is the trailer for the remake of the John Wayne classic, True Grit. This is the movie they were making in Blanco earlier in the year when I was out on a photo trip.

I know what I'm doing this Christmas.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SamSung Is Gonna Get Sued

The Evolution of Chewbacca

From BinaryBonsai:




Fascinating article. I love this, especially:


Kiel Bryant: I’m dismayed by the cult of originality — it sets up impossible, false expectations which fail to grasp what art is. Innovation is good, exploration is to be encouraged — they build on what’s gone before — but more often than not it’s enjoyable to simply experience an idea well-conceived, regardless of that idea’s source or its “originality.” And in the final analysis, were Star Wars or [Raiders of the Lost Ark] ever intended to be wildly original? No, they’re pastiche — valentines to the swashbuckling genres of yore. Kids, especially millennials, make a simple and honest mistake borne out of youth: they see Star Wars before they’ve seen its inspirations and assume it came that way fully assembled, direct from Lucas’ head. They witness result, not process. Then, growing as artists or cinephiles, their awareness gradually enlarges, the supporting armature begins to show — and because the film wasn’t what they’d originally dreamt (a total creation, which is an impossibility), they decide George Lucas isn’t worth the praise they originally foisted on him. Absolutely circular, and absolutely pointless.

It is far easier to destroy than to create.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On the Texans Loss to the Cowboys...

It's not that they lost (we Texans fans are pretty used to that). It's who they lost to.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

You said a mouthful, kid

Ain't that the truth.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Joke of the Day

Why doesn't San Antonio have a professional football team?

Because then Dallas would want one, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Re-elect Obama in November

From Democrats.org: [note: don't bother clicking on the link. The story has been removed from the site for some reason.]

African Americans came out to the polls in record numbers to support President Barack Obama’s campaign and ultimately Democratic candidates across the spectrum in 2008. The upcoming midterm election is an opportunity for the community to again voice the needs of the collective electorate by bringing those same numbers to the polls in November. An active electorate will solidify African American support for the President and guarantee that he will have the support to continue passing the reforms benefiting Americans throughout the country. One effort towards that goal is the barber shop and Beauty Salon program--which is a means to reach out to those voters; garner interest; register voters and solicit new volunteers to support the President.





There are a lot of things I find wrong with this, but the top three are:
1. This is just blatantly condescending and stereotypical of the Democrats toward the black community. I find this offensive. And the fact that they have the nerve to conduct a "barber shop campaign" seems downright stereotypical. If the RNC conducted a SportClips campaign, there would be hell to pay.

2. Barack Obama isn't on the ballot. It's not a presidential election - it's a midterm Congressional election. The Democrats seem to be genuinely trying to confuse that fact and misrepresent the election. In portraying the election as being about Barack Obama, they are at once painting him into the victim's corner - in a position where he must be personally defended - and again as the savior of us all. All we have to do is vote for him, apparently. They're trying to gin up the idea that he's running again. They're even using the "O" logo in "Vote 2010" to make it seem as if he'll be on the ballot in November. Shameful.

3. Does the pose on the poster look sorta... familiar? Remind you of anything? No? How about this?


It's subtle, but they're trying to make a martyr out of Obama and to stir emotions of sorrow, loss and desperation. Just remember, with Obama, everything - especially imagery of him in campaign literature and posters - is very deliberate. Remember the "Hope" and "Progress"posters?

And then check this out, from the Denver Post:

On black radio stations in cities such as Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis, it sounds a lot like 2008. It's not the music; it's the message.

Aiming to tap into President Barack Obama's off-the-charts approval rating among blacks, the Democratic National Committee has dusted off the presidential campaign's logo, lingo and grassroots strategy to get black voters to the polls this November.
Democrats are betting that if the midterms are a referendum on Obama, they'll like their odds with African-Americans. So in print and radio ads airing in urban areas in battleground states, they have made the midterms all about Obama.


Surely the black community is smarter than that, right? Surely they'll realize that it's Congress that's on the ballot and won't make the same mistake they did last time by casting a ballot simply on the basis of skin color. And surely they'll realize that they, as a group, are being stereotyped and manipulated by their own supposed "black leaders," right? Skin color doesn't make anyone more qualified for office than their sex or what kind of hair color they have. Most black people I have ever known have been very down-to-earth and practical people with a good deal of common sense. How can the "black community" as a group possibly continue to support a man and a congress that tell them that they can get everything - that all their wildest dreams can come true - and that we can spend our way out of the recession, all for nothing? Surely they realize that this isn't a game, right? We're talking about things that will affect us for the rest of our lives and beyond!

There is no free lunch. You can't get something for nothing. You get what you pay for. Sayings like that exist for a reason. They were handed down to us from generations before that had a lot of common sense and wisdom and that suffered - a lot - for what they had. And now, in the hope of getting everything now, now, now we're going to throw all that knowledge away, again?

We're not that stupid, are we?

Photo of the Day

The Democrats' New Clothes

From Democrat.org:

Before a standing-room-only crowd at George Washington University's Jack Morton Auditorium today, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine unveiled a new look—and a new website—for the Democratic Party.




I'm not going to comment on the design here as there's already been some pretty good analysis of it already.

All I'm going to say is that I gotta a think that the people at the Hotel Derek are pretty pissed right about now.



I love these comments from the Brand New design blog:
Reminds me of a standardized test form…I really want to fill in the circle completely with my #2 pencil.

And my answer would be “D. None of the above”

and

Vindication and Anticipation


From the Houston Chronicle:

After defeating Indianapolis and Washington, the Texans are one of the NFL's most intriguing early-season success stories.

Now they host the winless Dallas Cowboys, who rank as one of the league's biggest disappointments.


I've been waiting nine years to read that sentence.

[NSFW] Supreme Court Confirms: Death Penalty is "Badass"



Huge badass thanks go out to Matt for passing this along.

We Should All Listen to Lady Gaga

From the Hindustan Times: (yeah, that's right.)

In support of repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell laws that prevent gays and lesbians from serving in the military, Lady Gaga said at a rally that ‘equality is the prime rib of America’.

"I am here to be a voice for my generation. Ultimately the law is being enforced by using gay profiling and gay soldiers have become targets," she added. The singer said that the policy was "unjust" and against everything Americans stood for.


Wait a minute. Why, again, am I supposed to give a rat's ass about anything this freak has to say?



Notice to Lady Gaga: You sound (and look) stupid. Your political rantings make as much sense as your stupid songs and your wardrobe choices. Luckily, though, we're on minute 11 of her 15 minutes...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yet Another Stupid Move By Television Executives

From AppleInsider:

According to The Associated Press, Barry Meyer, chief executive of Warner Bros., said his company decided to not participate in Apple's proposal for 99 cent TV episode rentals, because they feel the price is too low. Meyer revealed his company's stance this week at an investor conference hosted by Merrill Lynch in California.

"Meyer said the deal was not a good value for the studio subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., which sells permanent downloads shows such as 'Gossip Girl' on iTunes for $2.99 each," the report said.


Please pardon me if this is a dumb question, but "why not offer both?" That way, people like me who only want to watch a TV show episode once, such as the episode of the Bachelor that Kristi missed while we were on vacation, can do so without having to own it. And then also, people like me who want to own every episode of Mad Men can purchase them to keep.

But as it stands now, they're not making that .99 cents from the episode that we missed. We either carry on without it or we try to find it online somewhere. But given the option of spending a measley buck and watching it on the big screen while sitting on the couch or watching it on the computer screen on Hulu or on the network website, we'd almost always choose to rent and watch in comfort.

Executives thinking like this - out of touch with the people who consume their products - are holding back digital delivery as a whole.

The tripod is packed away. You do what you gotta do.



Photo by Harris Kubos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Creative minds

Thanks to Julia G. For sharing this.

A 1099 Mess from the Health Care Bill

This has recently come to light as people continue to find out what's lurking within the Health Care bill that nobody in Congress bothered to read. Here is a letter from the AIGA graphics artists professional trade organization, of which I'm a member:

One of the provisions of the new healthcare reform legislation will significantly influence the administrative burdens of your business unless the IRS interprets it in a way that recognizes the challenges of small business. As of now, the legislation states that, beginning in 2012, if you pay any person or corporation more than $600 in a year for goods or services with cash or a check, you must report that to both the IRS and the entity or person whom you paid with a 1099 form.

In the past this only applied to services from unincorporated individuals or enterprises. But under this new provision, for example, if you bought $600 worth of toner cartridges from a big box store with cash or credit, you would have to issue a 1099 to the company from which you made the purchase (and if you were on the receiving end, you would need to report the 1099 transactions separately from gross revenues, presumably).

The IRS seems to be developing an exemption for credit and debit card transactions, although it has not yet been finalized.

The good news is that the IRS has asked for comments from the public. If you would like to be heard on this issue, you can copy and paste the sample letter below, edit it as you choose (adding the strength of your reaction or personal examples, though in civil terms) and email it to notice.comments@irscounsel.treas.gov. Please be sure that the subject line of your email says Notice 2010-51. Please note that the emails must be sent by Sept. 29, 2010.

We understand the government’s desire to track cash transactions, but the current system would impose an unacceptable record-keeping and reporting burden on small businesses like yours.

Don’t hesitate to copy your Senators and Congressperson, with a little “Save small business! Help us!” note or something similar.

Thank you for your support (and your membership in AIGA).

Sincerely,
Richard Grefé
AIGA executive director


I'd like to encourage everyone to send an e-mail to the IRS about this. Think about it: you buy a new TV? 1099. you get your car fixed? 1099. You have to pay your rent? 1099 (every month). You lend someone some money? 1099.

This is the government sticking its nose into our personal lives now trying to track even our cash transactions.

This madness has got to stop.

Quite Possibly the Worst Logo Ever

This is the logo for the Sam Houston State University (my alma mater) College of Humanities and Social Sciences.



I'm not even sure where to begin with how awful this "logo" is. I can almost hear the committee meeting that spawned this monstrosity.

Ugh.

Close Calls

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just In Time For Breast Cancer Awareness Month...


From Fox News:

Sheyla Hershey’s fight to save her M cup breast implants came to an end Thursday, as she underwent surgery in Richmond, Tex., to have them removed, myFOXhouston.com reported.

Hershey -- who was trying to achieve fame for having the largest breasts in the world and has had over 30 plastic surgeries -- was plagued by severe infections and high fevers after her most recent implant surgery in Brazil in June 2010.

"I decided to go smaller -- a lot smaller. I just want a normal size like a normal housewife has," she said.

"I know it's going to be a lot of pain on me because I love to have them, but I realize that my family comes first and I love my daughter and son and they come first."

"Even though I love to have huge breasts ... I'm going to try to live without it. Hopefully I will be done then and be happy and just running around with my kids!"


From an M-cup, even a double-D (which is still huge) is going to seem like nothing at all to this poor lady who seems to think that beauty is tied up in the size of one's breasts. But think of all the things she'll be able to do again now:

• dive to the bottom of a pool (and remain there)
• run
• see anything on the floor in front of her less than ten feet away
• turn around quickly without fear of ripping skin or maiming anyone
• save money by buying shirts and bras that aren't custom-made
• eat at Hooters without the waitresses spitting in her food
• order a grilled chicken breast without causing snickers
• lay on her stomach
• drive without being in the "hoopty" position
• reduce the Earth's tilt in the northern hemisphere back to pre-June levels
• attend PTO meetings without breaking up marriages

Good for her. Even better for the worldwide silicon shortage...

Flip Table Now



Compare this funny video from the Microsoft Mac Business Unit with this contrived "funeral" for the Blackberry and iPhone elsewhere in Microsoft by the Windows Phone 7 team:



Both celebrating a "release to manufacturing" of a product. Fun and light versus morbid and contrived. It's at once a fitting metaphor for the struggle between Apple and the non-MacBU Microsoft.

UPDATE: I love this quote from John Gruber at Daring Fireball:
Microsoft has never been cool, has never had good taste, but their lack of cool and lack of taste are spiraling out of control.

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Quit Telling People The Truth."

From Medical News Today:

Kathleen Sebelius, US Department of Health and Human Service Secretary, has told AHIP (America's Health Insurance Plans) members to stop using scare tactics and half truths to place the blame for 2011 premium increases on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius stressed that the Affordable Care Act should have a minimal impact on premiums for the majority of Americans.

In a letter to AHIP, the national association of health insurers, Sebelius accuses several health insurance carriers of sending letters to enrollees falsely blaming 2011 premium hikes on the new legislation.

There will be "zero tolerance" for this type of misinformation and unjustified increases in premium rates, Sebelius warned.

Sebelius reminds AHIP that the provisions included in the Affordable Care Act were fully supported by AHIP and its member companies.


In other words, "you knew what you were signing on to."

Does it strike anyone else as odd that the government takeover of health care is actually causing premiums to increase, which is the exact opposite of what we were all promised. It's no wonder that a bureaucrat like Sebelius is getting a little defensive about it.

And the fact that "the Affordable Care Act should have a minimal impact on premiums for the majority of Americans" is just plain ludicrous, given the amount of money spent on the takeover and the control that it wrested from the private sector.

It's going to get worse, folks...

Watching This Made Me Hurt.

Event Reminder

In my e-mail this morning, I got an event reminder for the upcoming Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concert, with ZZ Top as the opening act.

I thought that was hilarious. Who would possibly forget THAT!?? (and that they had spent a trillion dollars on tickets)

September 10th

Here it is again, on the eve of September 11th, one of the most solemn and memorable days in our nation's history. Tomorrow I'll fly my flag and wear red, white and blue as HR requested. And many people will remember where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day eight years ago.

But do you remember September 10th? Do you remember what you were doing or what your life felt like the day before the world changed forever?

I have the good fortune of having a very clear recollection of that day. For me, it was a great day. I was working freelance, which meant that I had the liberty to work just about anyplace I wanted. On that particular day, I chose to work outside at the park at the San Jacinto battleground. I took my laptop outside to work on a project and to enjoy the incredible weather we were having in Houston. A cool front had rolled through and it was sunny, low humidity and highs in the upper 70s. It was perfect - the kind of day you'd remember forever if the following day the entire country wasn't plunged into panic-stricken terror.

I remember putting my laptop down and taking off my shoes and feeling the soft grass under my feet as I walked around, just appreciating the day. I was taking drum lessons back then, and I remember playing on my practice pad with my first pair of drum sticks while I waited in line at the Lynchburg ferry.

I went home and Kristi and I took a walk down Heights Blvd. on the jogging trail.

The day had such a perfect, wholesome feeling - as if nothing could go wrong. It was such an optimistic feeling. Looking back years later, it seems so primitive and wonderful and special. It was before you suddenly couldn't do so many things.

It's the kind of day I wish for my children. No cares. No worries. No fear. No restrictions. Just a day in the sun. A day to work and to play and to be happy and free. I think its the freedom I miss the most.

(originally posted September 10, 2009)

Big Bend, Part 4 : The Conclusion

See also: Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3

I was the first up the next morning. It was bothering me that the other guys kept having to wait on me, so I wanted to be ready to go. I showered and got dressed before anyone else got up. The other guys groggily came around and we began packing up to leave. The office opened at 7:00 and we wanted to be there when they opened so that we could go ahead and get on the road. None of us were really hungry, so we decided to wait until Fort Stockton to have breakfast. The sky behind Casa Grande - formerly El Capitan - was beginning to glow where the sun would rise over the ridge, so I got out my camera.

_MG_3115

We checked out of the cabin and complained about whichever liar had determined the mileage up on the trails. What they claimed was 3.3 miles felt a lot more like 20 or 25 miles. And we got on the road. Johnny wanted to try to get some wildlife shots on the way out, and was hoping that we would see some javalina or a bear. We saw some javalina, but I didn't stop the truck in time and messed up his shot. I told the guys that if I saw Creepy Guy walking on the road that I was just going to run him over. As we were headed down the mountain, Johnny suddenly spotted something big and black to the left near the top of one of the hills. It was a bear. We slammed on the brakes and all jumped out of the truck to take a look. It was about 300 yards away, headed up the hill. All of us had our cameras out and were snapping away. Then some rude lady in a white Honda came up behind us and yelled at us and barked at us to please move, even though the truck was about 80 percent off the road already. Stupid crabby lady. I hoped that back up at her campsite that a mountain lion was eating her dog.

_MG_3131

_MG_3138

_MG_3155

As we reached the Panther Junction park headquarters, all of our phones sprang to life and began dinging and pinging with missed texts and messages. The signal wasn't very strong, but it allowed us some contact with our loved ones for the first time in a few days. It was odd because we hadn't gotten any kind of signal when we passed by just a couple of days before.

We left the park quietly, begrudgingly. Outside the park, the speed limit increased, so we went faster. There were birds everywhere. We saw quail all over. Ahead of us, there were some on the road that began running off the road as we approached. Suddenly, one darted back onto the road and tried to fly just as we reached it. It slammed into the passenger's side window with a loud thud, waking the snoozing Harris and Mark with a start. The window had already been cracked, but now there was a big, new crack where the bird had hit. I think that if he had hit just a couple of inches to the left where the other crack was, that it might have shattered the window and Johnny would have had a quail in his lap.

The drive back to Fort Stockton seemed extraordinarily long. Maybe it was because we were hungry. Maybe it was because I was worried about every bird I saw flying into my truck. I don't know. But it seemed to take forever. We stopped at IHOP and everyone had a really big breakfast. The wind was really blowing and we were fighting a nasty headwind on the most of the way back, which didn't do great things for our gas mileage. Lunch was Mexican food in Fredericksburg. Had we had one more day, I bet we would have gone and hiked Enchanted Rock while we were there. But that sounds like it'll be a good trip for next time.

We pulled into Brenham around 6:30 and unloaded the truck at Mark's house. We shook hands and said goodbye and all went our separate ways. Harris almost took out one of Mark's trees with his truck as he was backing out. And normal life resumed.

It was great to see Kristi and the kids again. I felt as if I had been gone for a couple of weeks instead of just four days. I came back and there was a notable improvement in Noble's speech and he was using some new words. Right now, he's changing hour by hour. I swear Kayci, in addition to losing the tooth, had grown two inches. I came back home to the life that I love and to the people that I love. All the next week, I slept very, very well as my body tried to recover.

So now it's time to finish putting away the camping gear. Kristi and the kids have been very patient about it. And it's time to start planning ideas for the next trip. It took me 15 years to get back to Big Bend after last time. I don't want it to take that long again. In fact, camping and being outdoors is something that I love - it's so much a part of who I am. Back in high school and college I went camping all the time, sometimes three times a month. And I want my kids to grow up with the great memories of camping and the outdoors that I have. So my pledge to myself is that we're going to build that into our lives. It may only be a camping trip a couple of times a year with the family - and hopefully a couple more every year with the guys - but it will be something. Being outdoors in God's creation recharges my batteries and re-centers me in a way that nothing else can. It's part of what makes me... me. And I like when I feel like me.

Thanks for reading my long, rambling account of the trip. I know it's been long, and there have been a few inside jokes. It'll be back to geeky things, Apple and politics before too long here at Destructoville. But I think I'm going to take a little break and just relax for a little bit. But before long, it'll be back to regularly scheduled ranting. Take care.

_MG_2975

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Big Bend, Part 3

See also: Part 1 and Part 2

I awoke at 3:00 AM and thought it was morning and that the sun had come up. The moon had risen and all the stars had come out, and it was blindingly bright. I had trouble going back to sleep, so after an hour or so I pulled out my iPhone and watched the last half of Anchorman. Toward the very end of the movie, I drifted off to sleep until my alarm woke me at 6:30. I had set it so that I could make sure and catch the sunrise. Our cliff faced southeast (which I guess is why they ended up deciding to call it the Southeast Rim).

Johnny was awake and thinking the same thing I was. He had his camera in hand. As I walked out toward the rim, everything was in silhouette. The pink and purple sky glowed behind the crisp black outlines of the pine trees. The I saw something move. It startled me for a moment. It was big, and it was moving quietly out toward the cliff. My first thought was that it was a bear. Ironically, just then, my stomach growled, and I stopped in my tracks, waiting for the next sound. The Thing moved slowly, quietly, deliberately. Soon I could see that it was walking like a man up on its hind legs. I stepped closer and got my camera ready...

_MG_2730

Harris was standing out next to the cliff watching the sky glow brighter and brighter. He had beaten all of us. As it turned out, none of us had slept all that well that night. The other guys were talking about thunder that they heard off in the distance and hoped that it wouldn't rain. They talked about something they heard scratching around through our campsite. I had heard no such things, but when I did sleep, thankfully I slept soundly. Mark soon joined the three of us out at the cliff edge and we watched as the sun slowly, then more and more quickly, rose through the mist. Johnny and I clicked away with our cameras.

_MG_2756

_MG_2772

_MG_2796

South Rim Sunrise Panorama

We had each brought our own breakfasts. Mine consisted of cereal bars, apricots and nuts. I think Mark and Harris ate dried oatmeal. Johnny fashioned a hanglider out of the skins of the deer we had seen the night before, swooped down to a nearby Mexican village for a full Migas and burrito breakfast and then scaled the 200-foot cliff back up to our camp site. Or maybe he ate nuts, too. I don't exactly recall.

As we broke down our camp, one of the deer from the night before - a buck with velvety antlers - was very interested in what we were doing. Just as the night before, he wasn't shy at all and came within just a few feet of us. Johnny and I got some great close-up shots as he grazed on grasses nearby and just kinda hung around.

_MG_2906

We got on the trail about 9:00 and quietly made good time. Our legs took a little time getting loosened up. It was already getting warm. The night hadn't been anywhere near the 48 degrees the forecast had called for. The good news was that our hike was supposed to be considerably easier than it had been the day before. The bad news was that all of us were running low on water. The warm weather and strenuous hike had taken up more water than we had planned for. I left the cabin with six liters and was down to just one to last all day. The other guys were in a similar predicament, so we had agreed to take it slowly and take more frequent breaks if we needed it so as to conserve water.

We walked along the rim and were treated to several more great, sweeping overlooks. On the Southwest Rim, we got a great look of "The Saddle" and "Mule Ears," both rock formations named for the way they look. Santa Elena Canyon was also faintly visible through the haze. Our hike was fairly level until about halfway down the Northwest Rim trail, when it began to a gentle slope downward that would continue for most of the day.

Soutwest Rim Panorama 3

_MG_2957

_MG_2961

At the Laguna Meadows trailhead, we stopped for a rest. It was getting pretty hot at this point as we descended from the rim's altitude of 6500 feet (give or take six inches). I took off my shirt and hung it from a tree limb to cool off a little bit. Then we heard someone shuffling up the trail from the way we were headed. I finished putting my shirt back on just as we got a look at the hiker's face. Guess who it was. Wrong. It was Creepy Guy. Running into this guy three times in three days in three completely different areas of the park was just more than I could take. We all said hi to Creepy Guy, who asked if we had seen any wildlife. He obviously wanted to tell us about something he had seen, so we bit and asked him what kind of animals he had seen. Creepy Guy went into great detail about all the stupid bugs and birds he had seen on the trail, including a couple that I really, really wanted to call BS on (but didn't). By this time, his company was becoming pretty stale, so we asked him where he was headed. "Wherever my feet take me" was his reply. I damn near came unglued. But luckily I think he sensed that we were about to perform a ritual killing right then and there on his creepy arse and turned to be on his way. Once he was out of immediate earshot, we couldn't hold it in and ragged on the Creepy Guy for his attitude. I said that there was only room for one smartass on this mountain, to which Harris replied, "yeah, and there's already four." We had a good laugh and got moving again.

The rest of the hike was more long than tough. The Laguna Meadow trail is 3.3 miles of mostly measured, downhill trail. It would have been much easier to have come up this way (note for future reference). We had elected to keep walking and to have lunch back at the cabin. There was great celebration when we rounded a hill and finally saw the Basin Lodge in the valley below. More celebration followed when later we realized that we were finally below the elevation of "Disney hill." We stopped one last time with about a mile to go and finished off what little water we had left.

We finally dragged into the cabin area about two 'o-clock. We each drank as much water as we could and sat down to rest. Sandwiches followed, which were just ridiculously good.

_MG_2967

_MG_2968

_MG_2969

_MG_2970

It was early in the day, and rather than take naps, we wanted to do something else. Mark suggested taking the scenic drive down to the river to see the Santa Elena Canyon,. I especially liked that suggestion since it would mean an hour of sitting in the air conditioned truck. So we grabbed our hiking boots, got some more water for the hike into the canyon and took off.

Along the way, we drove along the desert floor and stopped several times to view some of the sites, such as an abandoned ranch house and to see the Mule Ears:

_MG_2973

As we drove toward the Santa Elena Canyon and the Rio Grande, there were huge sheer cliffs rising in front of us. The closer we got, the more massive and imposing they became, like a giant gate put there to keep anything from passing. We pulled up to the Santa Elena Canyon trail area, which was completely empty. This was the only part of the trip when I had been really, genuinely nervous. There were thick bamboo-like plants all around the trail headed down to the river. It would have been an ideal place for someone wanting to stage an ambush to hide. It would also be a great place for illegals to hide. But luckily, the walk down to the river was only about 50 yards. The river was up, so we couldn't easily walk over to the canyon trail to go into the canyon without getting either really wet or really muddy. So we elected not to go across. In front of us were the giant cliffs we had seen from the road separated by the Rio Grande. On the right side was the United States. On the the left side was Mexico. There was an uneasiness in the air, and we didn't stay long.

_MG_2981

_MG_2988

_MG_2989

On the way back, we took a dirt road called Old Maverick Road. It started out in fairly good shape, but got more and more rough as we went. After a couple of miles, we saw a Border Patrol truck coming toward us slowly, searching for illegals. It was a relief to see him. He waved as we drove by slowly and we proceeded on our way.

_MG_2993

About halfway down the road, we stopped at a little shelter called "Luna's Jacal." It was here in this little house that a man named Gilberto Luna lived to be 108 years and raised 14 kids. The roof of the jacal (pronounced hah-KAHL) only came up to my chest, which means that to be inside, one would have to stoop or crawl. I guess they only slept inside. I couldn't even imagine the kind of tough, rugged existence these people must have had.

_MG_2999

_MG_2998

As we reached the road that traveled back up into the Chisos Mountains, we stopped. Johnny had seen a snake on the side of the road and wanted to photograph it. I never saw it, but he said it was a coachwhip. Turning around to head back to the truck, I couldn't believe my eyes. The scenery seemed so unreal. The misty mountains rose in the distance from the desert floor, which was covered in all kinds of plants. It was amazing.

_MG_3066

_MG_3036

_MG_3062

A little further up the road in the mountains, we stopped again when we saw a huge tarantula crossing the road. I had recently read an article in Texas Highways magazine about them, so even though he was creepy I realized he wasn't dangerous. So Johnny and I shot some photos of the spider as Mark and Harris watched out for traffic.

_MG_3072

_MG_3079

We pulled back up to the cabin hungry. We had brought barbecued chicken, beans and plenty of potato salad for dinner. There were four chairs on the front porch of our cabin, so we sat outside and ate. A Mexican Jay (think really big blue jay) was harassing us, so he almost got hit by my flying plate. We had a big laugh about that. Then we watched a roadrunner scurry around the cabins, imagining that his friend the Mexican Jay had sent him on a search and destroy mission. Luckily, he was spared from the business end of my plate.

The sun was beginning to set and shone pink and orange on Casa Grande - formerly known as El Capitan. We opened some beer and sat outside talking, laughing and having a good time. Mark brought some kind of blue rum drink called Zombie. It tasted really good and we went through it quickly. Then the spiced rum came out. We sat there for almost six hours just laughing and talking. We had no place to be and no schedule other than to get up in the morning and head home. It was a great time.

_MG_3082

_MG_3085

After the Zombie came out, all my photos started looking like this:

_MG_3095

_MG_3111

Actually, I was trying to get a shot of the stars using a long shutter, but I never really achieved it. After a long day, we were in a great mood and finally stumbled in to sleep. We all slept pretty well that night.