Robert's Random Ravings

What a Beautiful World

I have spent the last few days watching dozens of HD nature videos at different web sites. One of the sites I particularly like is called Earth Touch. These videos show beautiful things from the world of nature, such as the jungles of Ecuador or the seas off the coast of South Africa; the birds of Indonesia and the fish of the coral reefs.

At the present time, our news is filled with so much ugliness. We are told of murders and suicides and terrorist attacks and economic failures. I have gotten pretty tired of hearing about all of that. You would almost forget how beautiful the world really is. That is why I have been watching these videos. I have seen beautiful antelopes and impalas grazing on the savannahs of Africa. I have watched sharks and pufferfish and shrimp and all sorts of sea creatures going through the coral reefs off the coast of Africa or off the coast of Central America or Australia.

I have seen butterflies wandering around plants and flowers by the hundreds.

I have seen cranes trying to migrate over the Himalaya mountains, fighting the blistery cold and heavy winds.

I have watched penguins struggles down the snow-filled hills of Antarctica to get food for their young ones.

I have watched the zebras and the wildebeest grazing together in Africa, and all the while birds are flitting around eating parasites off of their backs.

I have watched mother polar bears and grizzly bears caring for their newborn cubs and finding food for them.

I have watched macaques, gibbons, orangutans and various other primates as they make their way through jungles and forests all through Africa and South America.

I have watched as elephants and hippos migrate hundreds of miles, following the ebb and flow of available water.

It’s an amazing show. There is so much to see and I know that we have barely scratched the surface. Everywhere you look in nature there is a stunning show on display. The instinct that drives animals to find water and food is incredible.

The rebirth of the world in blazing color every Spring is breathtaking. I am now privileged to live in an area of the country that has all four seasons. Having grown up in Florida, I never fully appreciated how beautiful springtime is. Now I do. Here in Texas, after the cold weather starts to wane, the flowers start to poke up out of the ground. The wildflowers appear everywhere as a testament to the earth’s rebirth. There are hundreds of types of wildflowers here. And even when we have had little rain, nature still puts on a show.

Then the birds start their mating rituals – they find places to build nests; they call out and find mates. The sound of the birdcalls, especially in the mornings and late afternoons, is beautiful. I love to go outside and just listen to them. I particularly like the birdsong of the purple martin and the northern cardinal (which happens to be my favorite bird). I recently also had the joy of listening to the caw of a peacock at a restaurant in Central Austin. Not only do they look good, they sound good too!

So when we get all caught up in the shrill, harsh reality that is the world that mankind has created, it is so nice to sit back and take in the beauty of nature. G-d’s magical creation. And the show that it puts on, especially in the spring time.

I always start thinking of that Louis Armstrong song:

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself… what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white.
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world…

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04/24/2009 Posted by | General | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sadness in East Austin

church
It has been a sad time for a parish here in the eastern section of Austin. The church is called Cristo Rey Catholic Church. Their priest was getting set to retire from the ministry. He purchased a property in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas. He was moving his belongings down to his new home in preparation for his retirement.

Last week, word came that the priest was missing. There was some hope for a while, but most suspected foul play. This past Sunday, the bad news came. His body was found next to his mattress on the side of a highway in Nuevo Laredo. The caretaker of his property in Nuevo Laredo is suspected in the stabbing death of Rev. Jesse Euresti. This has been reported, among other places, in the Austin American Statesman. To read more about this, click here.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

  • April 7: Rosary at 7 p.m. at Cristo Rey Parish in Austin
  • April 8: Funeral Mass at 7 p.m. at Cristo Rey Parish in Austin
  • April 9: Private burial

So, why am I writing about this in my blog? I am writing about this because I am sad that such violence still exists in 2009. I am sad that this quiet church (which I had the privilege of visiting this morning in the Reverend’s honor) has been touched in this way. I am sad that this man who was just weeks away from retiring has had his life snuffed out in this way.

My partner and I went down to the church today (it is called Cristo Rey Catholic Church and is located in East Austin) so that we could pay our respects to the family and donate money to the fund for the funeral. We also wanted to, in our own way, stand with this congregation in its time of need. We do not always agree with the actions of the Catholic Church and the Pope, but these people are good, honest people. They have a beautiful sanctuary and facility in East Austin and while I was there, I was thinking that it represented what a church really should look like. It was not filled with gold statues and gaudy decorations. It is a simple, beautiful building – much like the community it serves.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Reverend Euresti. I know it will not be easy for them, but I pray that their faith in G-d will help them in this time of sorrow.

04/07/2009 Posted by | General | , , , , | Leave a comment

Time Warner must be stopped

Road Runner/ Time Warner

Road Runner/ Time Warner

Time Warner is a dreadful cable company. I know this because I have had to endure their service (or lack thereof) for the last 8 years. When I first moved to Texas, I bought a house on the north shore of Lake Travis in a town called Lago Vista. It is about 40 miles from downtown Austin. I was excited to try out the small town lifestyle (with the safety net of the nearby larger city of Austin). One of the things that I thought I would have to give up, though, was high speed internet. I was very pleased to find out that Time Warner’s Road Runner service was available out in Lago Vista.

The Customer Service that you get from Time Warner leaves a lot to be desired, but in fairness, I do have to say that about 90% of the problems I have had over the years with them are related to their cable television product and not their internet product.

Overall, I cannot complain too much about the Road Runner service. It has been fairly stable and steady, and the speed has gradually increased over the years without an increase in cost. In fact, the cost has actually gone down. That is until now.

Now Time Warner has been testing a new program of charging customers based on the actual amount of bandwidth they use per month, as opposed to the unlimited usage that it currently offers. This test has been going on in Beaumont, TX, a small town near the Texas/Louisiana border. Based on the results of their testing of approximately 10,000 households in the Beaumont area, it appears that Time Warner has decided to expand this program to a few additional cities. I am very disappointed to find out that Austin will be one of those cities.

According to this article at businessweek.com:

In April, Time Warner Cable will begin collecting information on its customers’ Internet use in the Texas cities of Austin and San Antonio and in Rochester, N.Y. Consumption billing will begin in those cities later this summer.

They apparently are going to offer four tiers of usage: 5, 10, 20 and 40 GB, with an additional charge of $1 per additional gigabyte of usage.

To say that I am furious is putting it mildly. I rely more and more on the internet for viewing television shows, buying MP3s, renting and viewing movies online, etc. All of these things use a lot of bandwidth.

I frequently download updates to software that I own, including Windows and Microsoft Office. Some of these updates can be 250 MB to 500 MB alone. As a reference point, a typical album of MP3s is about 100 Megabytes. Downloading a high def movie (such as the online videos from Netflix) can be 5 – 8 GB each.

The businessweek.com article goes on to say:

A recent report from Sanford C. Bernstein suggests that a family on the 40 GB plan that streams 7.25 hours of online video a week (a fraction of the 60 hours Americans spend watching TV in a week) could end up spending $200 per month on broadband usage fees. And that’s just for video viewing, before factoring in such Internet activities as music downloads and photo sharing. “To put it mildly,” says Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett, “the decision to limit data consumption can be expected to have profound implications for [consumer] behavior.”

I remember the old days of online services, long before there was such a thing as the world wide web. I used Compuserve in the early 1980’s when service cost between $12 and $24 an hour, depending on your access speed. Those bills really got up there and I thought it was a huge step forward when Compuserve and America Online started to charge a single monthly charge instead of per minute fees.

This policy on the part of Time Warner will stifle innovation and make the internet more and more unaffordable for the average person. I think the only response that makes sense on the part of the consumer is to terminate their service with Time Warner and go to another company that has a fairer billing model. If TW thinks that I personally will put up with paying $200 a month for the same thing that I have gotten for $40 a month over the last 8 years, they are seriously mistaken.

And those of you with other internet service providers are not safe either. Comcast is just cutting people off after one warning if they go over some undefined limit of usage. AT&T is also studying how to implement this type of billing. I guarantee that if Time Warner is able to do it and be successful with it, then every other major internet provider will attempt to do the same.

We need to contact our leaders at all levels (city, county, state and federal) and make them aware of this unfair situation. Something needs to be done and somebody needs to keep these companies in line. Especially since there is so little competition in so many markets, meaning that some people will have no choice but to put up with it.

04/03/2009 Posted by | General | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments