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(1999-2002: Pre-Retirement Years)

Oregon coast

11/1/00-Wed.-By coincidence, the lady to whom I'd referred Fri., 10/27, as having been fired by my current director a few years back, died sometime over this past weekend (10/27-10/29), of an apparent heart attack. Her body was discovered early this week; and I learned of it today. She was Catholic. Her rosary services will be tomorrow evening. I'll probably attend, joined there by some of her other former colleagues as well as several of her relatives. We had seen her a few times over the years, after she had to leave my agency, visiting at times in her home, about three times at our place, and once while she was in the hospital. A couple times we took her out to eat with us. We had not really kept up as one does with a close friend. She wouldn't reciprocate when we'd suggest get-togethers. Some who did stay in better touch with her said this was just her way, that she felt reticent to put herself forward, and so was rather passive about her relationships instead. But as we do better with folks who initiate as well as receiving overtures, this personality quirt eventually put a damper on things. I'm sad to hear of her death at only 62. She had a really hard life after being terminated from her state job, including depression, bad knee problems, two bouts with cancer, hypertension, a heart condition, etc. It had taken her nearly a year to get back on her feet with a new job after my old supervisor had given her the ax. I understand her state employment had been for nearly twenty years before reason was found to fire her. She stuck it out with regular work, despite this major career interruption and all the medical problems, until just barely able to receive retirement benefits, only a year or two ago, then promptly had her second encounter with a malignancy, and has died before seeing the fruits of all her difficult labors. Presumably because her body was cremated, though perhaps because of its condition after several days before her death was discovered, services tomorrow will be with a closed casket.

11/3/00-Fri.-The Rosary service last night, in memory of my former colleague and friend, was quite moving. The drama was supplemented by the most significant thunderstorm we've had in these parts in many a month or even in a year or two, complete with rapid and close lightning strikes, immediate and explosive thunder, and torrential rain. The lights dimmed once and went out completely once, after very near lightning flashes. Both the priest's readings and various speakers' comments were often accented appropriately by the seemingly celestial storm and its echoes.

On my way home, there was minor flooding on some of the streets I needed to "ford."

Yesterday was personally significant in other respects: I received my formal, written evaluation for the prior fiscal year, achieving a rating of "exceeds," meaning at least 10% above the rating standard, in over half of the rating categories, while at least meeting in all the others, confirming there should now be no further risk of early termination for this "state trooper." This next week I'm to receive a small award for a quarter-century of government service. My pay just went up by a whopping $20/month in compensation for my achievement.

I also learned which office cubicle will be my new "home" away from home for the next nearly year and a half. As anticipated, after the interesting mixed messages on my birthday, my next space is directly adjacent to my immediate supervisor's. Oh well. I can live with it for 16-17 months. I am to move this coming Friday and Monday.

Next week at work promises to be challenging on other grounds. Three other caseworkers will be out, so that, besides needing to keep up on my own stuff and prepare for the move, there will be abundant backup to do for absent folks.

There was perhaps a somewhat larger significance to yesterday as well. NASA reported the successful launch and docking with the International Space Station of the first of its now permanent crew. As NASA optimistically announced, if all goes well, humankind may now always have a presence in outer space.

As luck would have it, yesterday also had another interesting peculiarity for our solar system: Venus and Mars were both precisely at their "aposol," or greatest orbital distance from the sun. On hearing this, Fran, familiar with the book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray, wondered if this meant that the sexes were now at their most estranged. But the astronomers assure us that the planets in question were simply at greatest distance from Sol, not necessarily from either each other or Earth. Whew! (Fran and I successfully tested the ability of opposites, or at least complements, to find compatibility, despite the aposol distinction of their respective archetypal planetary symbols.)

11/4/00-Sat.-As usual on my Austin-to-Waco trips, I've stopped for a snack breakfast in Georgetown. Today the "fast-food" place is rather slow, noisy, and crowded. The clerks don't know how to make coffee. The men's room has neither hand towels nor toilet paper. It is a rainy, cool, overcast day as I head north in my little '88 Toyota Tercel EZ.

Mom has encouraged several of us in the extended family to get together this weekend because of a Celtic Festival which Woodway (a Waco suburb where Horace and Leila's family as well as Mom now reside), along with Austin, San Jose, and several other cities across the country, are holding this weekend. Leila and Horace's oldest daughter, and my niece, Tess, is to be dancing at the Woodway Arboretum, just down the street from Mom's place, as part of the festivities.

I don't know much about our culture's Celtic heritage. In our family, Alice and Ed are the "Celtic buffs." They have decorated their houses, first in Michigan, then a small one in Monte Sereno, CA, and finally their current large, millionaire mansion, in the same town, with designs appropriate to the Lord of the Rings type stories and poetry, which, I believe, derive from Celtic lore. Ed has also created some on-line accessible software based on magicians and warriors in the Celtic tradition. He is heavily into Bay area war games, using scores of his own creations, very unique, artistically done tiny combatants, each with its own special personality, talents, and powers, of Celtic origin.

11/7/00-Tues.-Election Day. Here in central Texas, it's rather messy for our voting, with, once again, abundant precipitation and cool temperatures, more like what one would expect for this time of year in coastal Oregon or Washington. I'm very glad I did my civic duty several days ago. Nonetheless, I took off from work an hour early today, after completing my daily quota of casework. I had a short rest, once home, then took Pepper for a brisk walk in the pea soup that passes for weather here tonight. Next I began to follow the interesting radio and TV "Election 2000" coverage for this suffrage spotlight evening. Fran is away, rehearsing with the Austin Lyric Opera its next performance, "Madame Butterfly."

Things did not work out quite as expected over this past weekend. The entire Woodway Celtic Festival was cancelled due to rain. Tess thus also was not able to do the dancing there for which she had been rehearsing for several months. Very disappointing. She now thinks, however, that she will be performing the same Celtic choreography, through her church, in early December. Then she and her sister, Virginia, expect to be involved in several dance routines as part of their Christmas program. I plan on going up there for that weekend, in the middle of my next few days of vacation leave.

Since we could not participate in the Celtic Festival as anticipated, several of us went over the weekend to a Waco citywide book sale, at which I picked up for 50 cents a great biography, Queen Victoria---Born to Succeed, by Elizabeth Longford. Chris and I also went to a fine film, "Remember the Titans."

Fran and I are now looking forward, as well, to a short time off over Thanksgiving weekend. We'll go to Galveston, on the Texas coast, on Thurs., returning on Sun.

11/8/00-Wed.-Yes, I watched the election coverage on TV and the internet and listened on the radio through the evening yesterday. I checked in again at 3 A.M. and, once again, just before 6 A.M. I do not believe our country has ever had an election to match this for closeness, 1948 and 1960 notwithstanding. It appears to hinge on less than 5000, perhaps only 2000, votes, one way or the other, in the single state of Florida. I think it likely Bush will eventually be named the next President, despite reports of lost voting boxes in that state and confusing ballots there as well, which may well have caused more "votes" for Buchanan, that were intended for Gore, than the apparent margin of Bush's FL "victory" over Gore. With the popular vote going slightly more in Gore's favor, at least so far, yet the electoral college results going the other way, and Congress even closer to a tie than before the election, it is hard to see that either man, however it comes out eventually, after possible further challenges, will have sufficient mandate to get much done. As an investor, this makes me smile! For, if either party had a significant mandate, there is all too great a chance that short-sighted, impractical, less than pragmatic measures would be passed, ones that could be bad for the social concerns of our people, for the economy, or at least for the nation's fiscal responsibility. Bipartisan sharing of power, however, may lead to well-considered, more modest measures, much better, on average, for the stock market. Of course, either man could still have a sweeping effect on the judiciary, with implications that may persist for decades. But, for whatever reason, most appointees to the Supreme Court tend once in office to moderate their pre-appointment views. Both Liberals and Conservatives make political middle-of-the-road Supreme Court justices. And what will be the effects of this razor-thin election on the next presidential vote? I hope that, as a populace, our faith in the U.S. form of representative democracy does not deteriorate despite the shortcomings many on both sides may have perceived in several recent elections, not to mention some of the exasperating antics of politicians, such as Clinton's moral stupidities, Nader's drive for his own way, even at the clearly predictable expense of the very liberal causes he purports to espouse, by forcing the election into Bush's hands, or very conservative Republicans' impelled to get the Democrats by means of a terribly partisan attack on and impeachment of a President who surely had not been involved in such high crimes as envisioned by our nation's founders.

Feeling as I do, and I think Fran shares in several of my views in this regard, about the relative merits of what the Republicans vs. Democrats stood for in this most recent election, I am inclined now, unless some overwhelmingly favorable factor should hold more sway for a particular area, to narrow the search for a suitable retirement location to those states that did not go for Bush in 2000. Considering that we also do not want to go to places that are out-of-sight expensive, as with Hawaii and California, or where the region is so predominantly urban as to preclude much enjoyment of nature, as in New Jersey, or where most of the location is either very dry or very warm, as with New Mexico, our potential candidate retirement sites should now be selected only from the following:

New York

We are generally agreed too that we need to find a future retirement home in either climate zone 6 or 7, again unless some unexpectedly quite favorable variable is in a cooler area's favor. For instance, unlikely as it might be, if a home in good condition, and with a nice ocean frontage lot, were affordable in Maine, but it happened to fall in climate zone 5, or one in Washington were available in climate zone 8 or 9, we might consider waiving this requirement. With respect to this kind of exception, I've learned of a reasonably priced periodical, "Yankee Magazine," that features New England. It is said to include a classified section with some good real estate offerings, reportedly often less expensive ones than those found on the internet.

11/9/00-Thurs.-We stand on the cusp of a constitutional crisis in our country, as the politicians continue charges and countercharges over the process and outcome of our presidential election. There can only be three results: 1. Bush, who appears to have lost the popular vote but is barely hanging onto a victory in the electoral college, with, currently, only 300+ votes out of 6,000,000 ahead of Gore in the all-important election in Florida, could eventually be declared the official winner; 2. Gore, perhaps after contesting, or assisting private voters in contesting, the voting in one crucial Florida county (Palm Beach), where it is alleged that close to 20,000 voters, most of whom intended to vote for Gore, were effectively "disenfranchised" because of a confusing ballot (approved in advance by both Democratic and Republican party representatives), such that their preferred choice was not counted at all or was counted erroneously for Buchanan, could also become the next President, with equal lack of legitimacy, and would have achieved his goal only by undermining the electoral process which is one of the foundations of our republic, a process that is never perfect and so always vulnerable to legal disputes if we start down that road; or 3. An uncertain outcome, with terribly serious implications for our form of democracy, if neither party is willing to gracefully yield the outcome to the other and we persist in tit-for-tat charges and suits rather than getting on with the nation's political life in close to the normal fashion.

I fear that we are moving down the road toward a significant weakening of our democratic institutions. It is not the first serious instance of this. The increased partisanship of the 1990s, by both parties, seems now to be the rule rather than the exception. I think that not since the crises of violent demonstrations during the Vietnam War, often brutally broken up by police, even at the entrances to the 1968 Democratic Convention, the sweeping measures FDR was taking to offset the Great Depression, some of which were later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, or the tense days after the Civil War, when many in the south justifiably felt left out of true representation in Congress, have we come so close to an ugly period in our country's ongoing struggle to maintain the viability of its most cherished institutions.

To me, preserving the democratic process, and people's belief in it, is so important that it offsets any short-term election concerns of either candidate. Far better that Gore bow out gracefully than that he continue to pursue a legal remedy to the voting process of a particular county in one state. Even if, after all the confusion and delay is over, Gore should thereby win the election, he would do so only by infuriating approximately half the electorate and perhaps leading even more to feel that, not only is everything fair in love and war, but from now on winning at all costs and by any means is also a relevant policy for American politics, an approach more characteristic of some unfortunate third world countries. Does anyone really believe we shall be better off in future elections if the presidential contest this time is not decided except by recourse to the courts? Too bad that Gore did not complete his drive back, early Wed. AM, to his headquarters to then call Bush for the final time and admit defeat. There have been similar instances when voters felt upset over ballot mix-ups. Fortunately, at those times we did not resort to legal action. It cannot help us to do so now!

If Bush is declared the winner, well and good, from a liberal's point of view. He will then have four years without any real mandate, will accomplish little, and will be easy to beat badly in 2004! Is that outcome not better than threatening the whole system by questioning too closely a result that, after the fact, you do not like in one tiny part of Florida?

11/10/00-Fri.-The latest news from NPR indicates that Oregon now appears also to be going for the Democrats in this year's Presidential race. Thus, if this is confirmed, that state also remains in the competition for where such liberals as Fran and I would possibly retire. This is a fortunate addition to the list of retirement candidate states, as both Fran and I began our saving and investing for our leisure years with Oregon specifically in mind (before, of course, we had visited there and discovered that many others felt the same way we did about such a beautiful place).

11/11/00-Sat.-Up about 6:45 A.M. Got ready and drove over to Wal-Mart and got my car lubricated and had them change the oil, etc. Fran picked me up from there while they were working on my car. We went over to Golden Corral for a pig-out buffet breakfast; and I picked up my vehicle on the way back. We figured that was enough work for the morning and so took a nap, before Fran had to leave for a rehearsal. She will also be performing with the Austin Lyric Opera tonight.

The last couple weeks have been a little stressful at work, with preparations for the upcoming move, etc. I made the transition yesterday and am now pretty well organized in the new location, where I'll likely remain for the balance of my days with the state, assuming the recent ridiculousness in American politics does not result in quite serious and unstable consequences.

Fran and I have both been busy; and I've not gotten our investing stuff up-to-date for several weeks. But this is now my main project for the rest of the weekend. Unfortunately, the trend in the stock market has been significantly down recently.

11/14/00-Tues.-As I write, am listening to "Appalachian Spring," by composer Aaron Copland, whose 100th birthday celebration is today. This is widely held to be not only his best composition but also the very finest piece of uniquely American music. A recording of the work is available, along with Copland's biography, at the indicated link.

Fran is off rehearsing, as she has been for several days, with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, with whom she'll be performing a tribute concert in Copland's honor, starting this next weekend. She has at least one significant solo and has gotten me a comp. ticket for Sat. evening. I'll thus be enjoying the works of one of my most admired composers and on hand for the performing of my favorite musician. Cool!

Yesterday and today, I was up, as usual on weekdays, at 5:55 A.M. and off, to work, by about 6:50, arriving about 7:20. Am settling in after Friday's move of my "ool." Things are getting back into a good, if frenetic, routine.

The investment analysis over the weekend showed our assets had held up surprisingly well during the recent market jitters. Grand total assets still remain above $900,000; but that is misleading, as it includes the value of a projected retirement annuity, as principal, the amount required to generate it if allocated conservatively. Our actual current holdings are a bit above $600,000. We are far from rich, considering how long we've been setting aside half of our income and how expensive real estate is likely to be in areas we'd find most attractive for retirement within a couple years or so.

The political news is not good, at least in the short to intermediate term, for folks hoping to maintain or even increase their nest-eggs. Both the U.S. bond and stock markets are heavily dependent on overseas investments. There are signs that foreign investors, not to mention domestic ones, are getting nervous about our markets, given the political instability here lately, the weakening of the office of the U.S. President (inherent both in the frivolous, partisan impeachment of Clinton and in the recent election stalemate), and the inability of our Congress and Presidency to get much of anything done together for quite some time. Even if the bitter wrangling over who will be our next chief executive is resolved soon, and it may not be, the "winner" could be damaged goods, both in the eyes of the electorate and in the view of the rest of the world. In such an atmosphere, it seems implausible that much good will be accomplished in Washington in the next four years. How long can a country remain great if its government has ceased to function effectively? Much now depends on the capacity of our politicians to rise to the status of statesmen (and stateswomen).

Yesterday I wrote a new Phil's Place entry, based on an image of the Cascades.

Pepper and I also went last night for a pleasant walk in the cold, windy weather we've had here for a day or so.

11/16/00-Thurs.-Almost through another wearying workweek. Still playing catch-up after the move. Fran is extremely tied up with rehearsals and/or performances, getting home usually after 10, and sometimes after 11, each night, after a full day teaching too.

Pepper and I are taking walks each evening, while Fran is occupied with her music playing. The dog will probably be featured before long on a cute site for dog-lovers, Crazy for Dogs. This is pretty neat!

The new issue of The Wagnerian Express is due out this weekend. I've been too busy and tired to come up with new ideas for it yet; but something will likely occur. And Fran has most of her part already done. As usual, her creativity and talents are really coming through for the upcoming edition, on a Thanksgiving theme.

Regarding the U. S. presidential election, I gave the reader warnings of how bad things could get; but few were listening. Now, sure enough, the inflammatory rhetoric of the various parties has had the almost inevitable result. While the traditional media are trying to keep the whole story from us, perhaps to avoid further escalation, "The Onion" has the courage (or self-indulgent recklessness) to tell us what is really going on. Just remember, I told you so! I'd not be surprised if things get even worse before the voting fiasco is over. Stay tuned to "The Onion." Your life may depend on it!

11/21/00-Tues.-Over the weekend we were pretty busy getting the latest Wagnerian Express completed and online, a satisfying task to have finished, but sometimes rather intensively occupying in its final stages.

Yesterday, I strained my back while at work, doing something as innocuous as putting my valise under my desk. By evening it was hurting badly. During the night, the normal shifting about in bed seemed excruciating; and the pain deprived me of sleep. By this morning, my lower back on both sides was quite tender, with at least mild muscle spasms. The combination of fatigue and back pain with nearly any movement, plus the normal day-to-day frustrations of my best of all possible jobs, especially leading up to some time off, when every available crisis occurs on cue (just when I am trying to get completely caught up), put my mood just slightly above rock bottom. I now allow myself about one glass of wine a week, a little more on vacations. I am hoping Fran feels like going out to eat tonight and to a place that serves such spirits. It has been over two weeks since I last imbibed. Tonight, if ever, seems the right time.

Larry, one of my friends at the job, took a few minutes of his lunch break to check out Pepper, where she is being showcased on the web, and afterward commented that I should be "a proud Papa." Well, she is a neat dog; and Fran's picture of her and write-up for the feature make her seem, as she is, really special. Larry also said he clicked on the link from her piece back to the Wagner Home Page, with The Wagnerian Express and multiple other links to material Fran has put out for us on the Internet, now well over 200 pages, besides my journal and poetry sites. This was Larry's first time to see our home page or its satellites. His only comment was an appreciative: "My god! I could have spent all afternoon on the web and never left your sites!" Yes, I agreed with him, Fran has been amazingly productive over the last 6-7 months, since she figured out how to get us online.

Larry witnessed something cool the other morning. He has a five acre lot and lives somewhat out in the country. There's a pond on his place, with lots of turtles year round but seldom other significant wildlife. But a few mornings ago, as he started down his hill in his pickup on his way to work, he saw 100-200 ducks resting on his pond, apparently just taking a break there before continuing a southward migration. He cut his motor and coasted quietly past, so as not to disturb them.

Fran's Thanksgiving vacation begins once she gets home this evening, mine not till tomorrow night. Since the move at work made timely efforts difficult, and upper management had kept the casework coming even during that administratively created disruption, I have gotten well behind once again. So, I would have mixed feelings about a possible early departure tomorrow, as has sometimes been granted as of Noon of the day before Thanksgiving. But I figure that, since the election is over, at least here in Texas, the politicians will be less disposed to give us a treat this year anyway. And I can use the extra hours to get more work done!

Fran, Pepper, and I will be going to Galveston Island for a mini-vacation, starting Thurs. morning. We expect to stay at a Motel 6 that is convenient to several attractions, including good seafood restaurants (one of which provides a Thanksgiving buffet), beach walks, a new aquarium, a pyramid greenhouse tropical butterfly, fish, turtle, bat, bird and flora exhibit, etc. It is too bad my back is acting up just now. That's the way it goes.

11/22/00-Wed.-37 years ago today, in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was shot to death. I was laboriously completing a chemistry experiment for a college course at the time. It was not going well. The difficulty was greatly magnified by the grief I was undergoing while trying, somewhat vainly, to stay concentrated on the task at hand. I lived in a little cottage north of the University of Texas at Austin campus, to which I would routinely walk or bicycle, or, a little later, drive my first car, a used VW bug. It was a horribly distressing, sad time. Although she and I were no longer really an item, I called my former girlfriend, Charlotte, then working on her master's degree at the University of Illinois at Champaign. We talked for an hour while both watching, over and over, the startling television footage.

The same kind of belligerent, right-wing, ultraconservative Republican recrimination that was prevalent in those days, that could lead one to imagine that such people might have been behind this slaying (though I do not anymore think that) seems echoed now in the current presidential election and its aftermath. I like to think that the Republican Party was different in the days of Lincoln. In any case, in this time, we hear Republicans using any slanderous, lying means to tarnish the sincere efforts of Florida's voters and public servants, simply to support their power- hungry personal ends, to assure that thousands of that state's citizens be disenfranchised, if that is what it takes for their man to come out ahead. As I've indicated in earlier entries, I certainly do not think Gore is perfect or that he and his party are not also trying very hard to win what is essentially a tie, but for the competing litigation and tit-for-tat manipulations. But at least he and his supporters are not calling the opposition, or the honorable vote counters, "thugs" and using similarly belittling innuendo about them, just in order to get things to come out his way.

It is well past time for both sides to back off from all the harsh, bitter rhetoric and to show proper respect for each other and, more importantly, for the democratic process. Since Clinton won the presidency, the Republicans have shown a significant capacity for ignoring the rules of decorum, descending more and more into the back-alley, with gutter talk, accusing their opponents of every kind of mischief, whether true or not, just to advance their own positions. In the impeachment debacle, they essentially attempted a coup, merely because they felt they had the congressional votes, trying by means far beyond the intent of the nation's founders, to undermine the man they could not have bested with the ballot or by other legitimate political means. The situation cannot go on like this much longer without serious consequences.

On the positive side, my back is somewhat better today. And I got more done today at work. So, I am optimistic we shall have a good, little vacation over the next few days! It will be welcome to forget for awhile all the ugliness of modern politics. (Still, I should keep things in perspective. These Republican folks may talk rough. But there are no jack-boots in the streets. As yet, at least, there is no recourse to other than established means, through legal channels, for redressing their grievances.)

11/23/00-Thurs.-We got up early and headed for Galveston, arriving about 1:30. We got settled into our motel room and then drove over to Landry's, on Seawall Blvd., where we enjoyed a huge Thanksgiving Day ocean-view buffet. Back at the motel, we took a nap, getting up about half-past 5. Drove to Seawall Blvd. again. The surf was up, much more spectacular than usual for the Gulf coast. Red flags were out, warning potential swimmers of the high water and strong undertows. We went out on a couple rock jetties to watch the waves crashing over them close up. Cool! We walked along the beach for about four miles and got all wet in wind-driven heavy rains. But this was fun!

On the way over here, from Austin, we saw several flocks of snow geese in loose V-formation. Really neat!

11/24/00-Fri.-We rose about 7 a.m., saw a beautiful rainbow, and drove over to the beach about 8:30. After a passing rain storm, the early clouds and sky, combined with large, frothy waves, and high wind created a very dramatic, photogenic setting. We took a lot of pictures. After breakfast, and having left Pepper back at the motel, we went to Moody Gardens for their rain forest exhibit and to see their excellent new aquarium. We took a few score more photos.

Another nap followed. We capped our day with: supper at the Fish Tales beach restaurant; another nice, long walk by the ocean, and watching Galveston's fine fireworks display, in celebration of the start of its Christmas festivities. On our walk back, I went out to the end of one jetty to take a private pee in the dark, the waves still large and smashing over the boulders nearby. In the glow from the city lights, I saw a huge rat, about a foot long besides its tail, slowly walk out of my path.

11/25/00-Sat.-Yesterday on the motel room's HBO, we watched the last ½ or so of "There's Something About Mary," a film we'd both enjoyed immensely when first out. There followed a bit of "the beast with two backs," to quote Shakespeare.

I slept very fitfully last night. Got up, to stay, about 6:30. A train's whistle was blaring, the cars rolling by nearby. I took Pepper out for a morning walk and, besides the usual selection of seagulls in this area, saw a pair of brown pelicans gliding over, maybe fifty yards away.

We had a quick breakfast at Burger King and then went for a fifteen minute ferry ride. We saw dolphins close by, during our bay trip, as well as white pelicans, one of which appeared to ride the bow air wave for awhile, staying just with us without needing to flap its wings. We also saw more brown pelicans and numerous cormorants. Fran also saw small fish leaping out of the water just ahead of the ferry and a couple immature brown pelicans.

Each of our days on this little vacation is very different. After our ferry crossing of Galveston Bay, we took the first paved road off to the right, from Hwy. 87, after some houses, to a beach that had large portable toilets. From there we walked back, roughly south, near the water's edge, to Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, an area of about 1000 acres of dunes, beach, mudflats, and marshes, where hundreds of thousands of birds stay or stop-over each year. Indeed, we saw several great white egrets, in addition to the more common shorebirds such as gulls and terns. We also saw, overhead, hundreds more snow geese, continuing their migrations. Some of these birds may have flown all the way from Alaska.

Our beach-combing yielded interesting collectable and/or photogenic results: the large, perfect skull of a loggerhead turtle; the wing and beak remains of a couple skimmers (apparently all that had been left by a fastidious fox); a very toothy fish skull (perhaps of a bone fish or white fish); a large, dead fish (about 3' long), still intact; and the also still intact, rather gruesome, apparently aborted fetus of a dolphin. It was already well formed, about two feet long. From its still good condition, it must have just died, and then been deposited there, the night before.

Once back in Galveston, we went to Cici's for a pizza lunch, followed by another nap.

This evening, we drove over to the East Beach, at the point where the eastern part of Galveston Island meets the bay, and between the busy ferry landing and the ocean itself.

We stopped first at a small area of pools and flats, like we'd seen this morning across the bay, but narrower. There we saw hundreds of skimmers, some great blue herons, etc. But it was getting dark; and there were also a lot of mosquitoes.

At the East Beach, Fran found some interesting barnacles. I was intrigued with an "ultralight" aircraft convention. There were about ten of them buzzing colorfully all 'round. One had sparkling white warning lights and, after the sunset had almost ended, released a short series of neat fireworks.

Back in town, we stopped again at Fish Tales. This was pleasant enough; but there was a mix-up about Fran's ice cream order; and the jerks wouldn't rectify it, pretending that her obviously black walnut dip was the black cherry she'd ordered, instead of just admitting and correcting the mistake.

Back at the motel room, we gave Pepper a badly needed bath.

All in all, it's been a good vacation for all of us. Pepper and I, however, have both had allergy problems with some very painful and persistent ear infections.

We three are due to head for Austin in the morning.

11/26/00-Sun.-Home again. Fran started taking pictures of one of our yard's Chinese parasol trees, now with brilliantly yellow foliage, and discovered in its upper branches a roosting screech owl. It was still around after we'd returned later from shopping.

11/29/00-Wed.-4:00 A.M. Insomnia. Just when I need alertness at work the most, worries over the backlog, like a horde of hungry mosquitoes, hound me and will not permit the balms of rest and rejuvenation. I am up, therefore, for a snack and a break from obsessing about all that is wrong with my best of all possible workplaces, in hope that, by such distraction, I shall be able to sneak into snoozeville. Two full days remain before I shall be on leave for a few shifts. It seems, to my tortured view, that at least a week of work is to be done, to be caught up before then. Anxiety, anger, and sadness vie for dominance over my emotional state. What is needed is a calm, relaxed, focused concentration, to achieve as much as possible in whatever productive time remains. All, then, now depends first on sufficient slumber. I shall retire again.

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