Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where's Noah? Do you know-a?

First swine flu, and now fjording rivers -- Am I on the Oregon Trail? A massive storm system dumped tons of rain (nearly a foot, in some places) on Houston last night. I knew this would mean trouble, as the roads here flood after 5 minutes of heavy rain. But I was not prepared for what I saw on my morning commute -- or rather, what I couldn't see, as most of the city was underwater. It was more rain than we received during Hurricane Ike, and worse than anything I've seen in Florida.

A drive that normally takes me 15 minutes took about an hour and 45 minutes and had me zig-zagging across town, as every route I took was impassable. Where there was an underpass yesterday, there was a lake today. Once on the highway (the highest ground, I reasoned), I saw dozens of cars pulled to the side of the road with their flashers blinking. I didn't think that many cars could have stalled, but then realized what had happened when I tried to get off at my normal exit -- there was an ocean of water that was coming up the ramp onto the highway. People could not get off the highway!

I was able to find a dry route a few miles down the freeway. Armed with my coffee, my Houston map, and my U-turn skills, I navigated my way to school. The staff who had made it were turning away kids, as there were no teachers! After a "delayed opening," two students (out of 400) showed up. I left after a couple hours. I hope that because I got extra credit for going in today, I won't have to go in tomorrow.

History, in fact, does not repeat itself

Last weekend, Garrett and I loaded up the covered wagon and drove to La Porte to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1836 (in about 18 minutes), the Texans defeated the Mexicans to achieve independence (kinda). Despite having lived in Boston for a number of years, hotbed of the American Revolution, neither of us had ever been to a battle reenactment and were eager to see one.

After fighting our own battle (with traffic, high winds, and "county fair" lunch fare), we made our way toward the field where the "Texan soldiers" and "Mexican soldiers" were camped out. We happened to talk to a park volunteer on the way. He told us that the reenactment had been cancelled due to heavy rains the night before. As Santa Anna himself probably said, "D'oh!"

We stayed for a little while to enjoy the very tall monument (the world's tallest memorial column, according to the Guinness Book), people in costume, and livestock (apparently a recurring theme in our Texan lives).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience was the area around the monument, an eerie, unsettling, and seemingly endless landscape of chemical plants and oil refineries. Every now and then, however, a magnificent mural would brighten the scenery. I think Sam Houston would be pleased.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Creature Features

Garrett recently celebrated the end of his first year of PhD classes. Woohoo! Or should I say, "Hoot hoot!"? For the Statistics Department's end-of-year party, Garrett's friend and officemate Beth made owl cupcakes to honor Rice's mascot.

Giddy with extra time in his schedule, Garrett recently researched in depth the 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart. One theory postulates that she and her companion landed on a deserted island (or, more specifically, atoll) in the South Pacific. The island is home to an amazing and disturbing species called the coconut crab.

It is the largest land-living arthropod in the world! They climb coconut trees to eat coconuts! Imagine poor Amelia, straggling onto an island, only to find monster crabs sipping pina coladas.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Cruciverbalists

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Kristin and Garrett completed their first New York Times Sunday crossword! Woohoo! Maybe it was the fresh spring air or the energy of a long weekend, but we decided to go the distance and tackle a stress-inducing Sunday puzzle instead of a stress-free Monday puzzle.

The title was "The Cruciverbalist," and the long answers were:


After finishing the puzzle, we decided to celebrate with some archery! It's what Orlando Bloom would have done, really.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Happy Couple

This morning while making pancakes and coffee, we discovered that there is another happy couple living in our apartment. What a sweet team! The bride and groom will be honeymooning in our kitchen.