In Touch

Been compiling all of my contacts from various address books, phone books, and contact lists into one central place. It’s strange, the gaps and the old information. Missing phone number here. 10-year-old instant messaging contact name there. 5 year old email address with a service that’s no longer in vogue. Makes me realize the importance of constant contact. Each fresh relationship, each updated connection, that is the sum total of our worth. Human capital. You are who you know as well as who you keep in touch with. It is not enough to aggregate relationships; you must maintain them. I must do that if I am to maintain my net worth above social poverty level.


It’s sick that I have to call my mother to wish her a happy Father’s Day. No child should have to do that. But there it is. She attempted to serve double-duty as my father for my entire life; she could only give me half the story, but she kept trying nonetheless. I applaud her efforts.

As far as my opinion of my absentee father, I’ve written about this before.

Own up to your past, folks.

Coming in on RADAR

GRK in full bloom

I have a passing fascination with the machinery of this country’s infrastructure. Being the son of an Air Force mother, I had the fortune of seeing the technology that powers the defense and commerce of this country first-hand, and it gave me an understanding that this network of beacons, RADAR installations, weather stations, radio towers, VOR stations, GPS anchors, etc., is a lot bigger than any one of us, and its presence, on the Federal dime, was (and remains to be) for the benefit of everyone. It filled my young mind with a sense of civic duty, that I’m a part of this large body politic, and that in some way I had a part to play in my little area of this large landscape.

For as long as a few years, I’ve wanted to go check out the nearby NOAA/NWS RADAR station GRK located 500 yards from the shore of Granger Lake near Granger, TX. Today, having a completely open afternoon and a strong need to get out of town for at least a few hours, I plotted my route, hopped in my car, and headed up Highway 95 from Elgin, through Taylor, then Granger. The skies were mostly cloudy, air warm and humid, wind strong from the South blowing in the moist Gulf air for what may be an interesting evening of storms Monday. Seemed like a perfect time for a drive to see this station.

The installation’s tower stands approximately 5 stories tall from the ground to the lightning rod mounted on top of the dome, and is fronted by three portable box buildings holding the RADAR telemetry equipment, radios, servers, batteries, generators, and anything the NWS would need to operate and debug this instrument from remote. The entire installation is caged by three-strand barbed wire, chain-link fencing, and some of the prettiest “No Trespassing – Private Property” land on the map.

The surrounding landscape is rather flat and this installation is on the top of a very long hill, so it commands a perfectly unobstructed view of the sky in all directions. From that location, I’m sure I could’ve seen the tops of the clouds as far south as San Antonio and as far north as Waco, if not farther. I can only imagine the view from the top of the tower, and can imagine the dish inside the dome making its slow sweep across the landscape, just above the horizon, stacking invisible cones of varying slopes as it shoots out its microwave beam of slow light, observing the brightness and distance of the reflections and how much the movement of water and wind shift the color of those reflections (which is generally how Doppler RADAR works). I look out across the Granger Lake basin, and it’s a big, busy sky.

Passing miles of soybean crops, I'm coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.
Passing miles of soybean crops, I’m coming up eastbound to GRK on FM 971.
Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is
Coming up closer to GRK on FM 971. This installation is actually taller than it looks.
GRK from the Southwest.
GRK from the Southwest.
GRK from the graveled parking area directly across the highway from the gate.
GRK from the graveled parking area directly south across the highway from the gate. Note the signage actually reads “GRL02”, which I’m sure is short for “GRanger Lake”.
GRK from the Southeast.
GRK from the Southeast. I believe the building on the right to be the generator and battery facility.
Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it's made of.
Close up of the GRK RADAR dome. I wonder what sort of radio-transparent material it’s made of.
The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.
The view from the hill down into the Granger Lake basin. This is all downhill from here.
From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance.
From the dam at Granger Lake, you can see the GRK dome towering above the landscape in the distance near the center of the frame.

It’s just a little installation, nothing major, but it is a symbol and a functional part of something much larger than all of us. We benefit from the data this instrument and the federal agency that operates it provides. When you are looking for your local TV meteorologists to give you the news about how wet your shoes are about to be, this instrument is where they are getting their data. Regardless of how they trump up their weather technology advantage over their televised competition, they don’t actually have their own Doppler RADAR equipment – the National Weather Service does. Without this stream of data, your good-haired meteorologist has no job and you have no warning about the F4 tornado heading your way. For this service alone, I am willing to pay my taxes. For this alone, I am proud to be a citizen of this land.


On a non-emo note, today’s major accomplishment comes with much embarrassment.

When I purchased my Samsung SCH-R261 Chrono phone from Cricket (yes, it’s a dumb-phone — quiet, you), I learned that I could use Bluetooth to retrieve a backup of the Personal Information Management file from the phone (*.pim, a holdover from Palm Pilot and Outlook Express), but for some nefarious reason I could not send the same file back to my phone, which meant that I couldn’t create my own .pim file and update my phone’s contacts without having to hand-enter every damned contact into my phone. With middle fingers raised, I bought Cricket’s “MyBackup” service for $5/mo just so I could push contacts to my phone, an operation I do once every two months or so.

In March, Cricket canceled the MyBackup service, probably because of low adoption, likely because they ended their service agreement with the supplier of the service, or most likely because it conflicted with another service their smartphones provided automatically. This left me without a single option to download, organize, modify, and push contacts to my phone.

Today, i went to the main Cricket store here in Austin to get them to unlock my damned phone just so I could push a *.pim file to it. After minutes of digging around in the support tools, the customer service agent could not find a fix. I tiredly shrugged and left.

Earlier tonight, I learned that I could send and receive vCard files between the phone and my Bluetooth-enabled Windows 7 laptop, and that the contacts pushed to my phone went into the appropriate spot in its Contacts book. Shamefully, this allows me to export selected contacts from my Thunderbird address book to *.vcf vCard files and upload them via Bluetooth to my phone. I feel like a fuckin’ chump.

vCard: making smart but ignorant people feel stupid since 1996.


The question was posed to me earlier tonight: “So, Shawn, what do you do to restore your soul?”

I shrugged my tired shrug and had no answer. “Nothing, I guess.”

“Are you still trying to adjust to the new job or something?”

“No, sweetheart, this has been going on for 14 years. Sorry.”

Almost 14 years ago I moved here. It’s a great place, don’t get me wrong. It’s not totally this town’s fault that I’m in the shape I’m in. I’m humbled, humiliated as it were, that in this place of opportunity and serendipity, 14 years hence, I still find myself stumbling along in a navel-gazing stupor, sleepwalking between the fruit trees in a forest of uncaring people. I can enjoy life and feel revived if I don’t think about it, but the moment someone asks, I give my tired excuses as ablative shielding and stop doing what I was doing. If they ask deeper questions about the why and how, the peer-level social situation becomes doctor-patient talk therapy. I really don’t want that. Nobody wants to help a man who refuses to help himself.

I have a lot of internal struggles. Everyone does, really, but mine keep me out of a lot of things that might actually be beneficial if I’d just let myself commit to them and admit that I did them. Eventually I’ll exorcise those cruel demons, right? Right?