Weird Weather in Houston?

Weird weather is nothing unusual around here.  If you don’t like the weather in Texas, they say, just wait an hour.  Or drive to the next county.  2011 was the driest year in memory, breaking records decades old, but recently we’ve had enough rain to feel almost normal, although we’re a long way from making up for the drought.  In fact, the meteorologists tell us that may go on for a few more years.

You wouldn’t have believed that yesterday, when the sky opened up and dumped enough water to turn urban streets to rivers.  We knew a storm was coming, but when I left my house about 8:15 the sky was not particularly threatening, and I made it into Houston about 9 with no more than a scatter of rain drops on my windshield.

Fifteen minutes later the rain hit, complete with more thunder and lightning than we’ve experienced in months.  At the Scorekeeper we typically have three computers, a fax machine, a copier, and a printer running.  And a couple of radios, maybe a TV, sometimes a microwave oven.  Sudden power outages are not fun, even with the computers connected to UPS boxes.  Remarkably little gets done around the office when the electricity goes off.

We were lucky Monday.  While the power went off in swaths all over the area, trapping people in elevators and fouling up the traffic lights, we never lost electricity.  But we almost lost the garbage bin.

It rained so hard, and so fast, that the street in front of the Scorekeeper turned into a river in half an hour.  We were keeping a collective eye on the situation, because it’s happened before.  Between the rising water and the idiots driving their SUVs down the street at forty miles an hour and throwing five foot wakes, a small car doesn’t stand much of a chance.  The old Ford I drove when I first came to work for Jo Anne back in 2003 nearly drowned in a sudden, unpredicted street flood (it still ran when I sold it a few months later, but the automatic seat belt never worked again), and my Corolla narrowly escaped another.  When we looked out the window Monday morning and realized that the heavy wheeled trash can was on its side and floating away from the foot of the driveway, we knew we had a problem.

Fortunately we also have Ha Tran, the third member of our office team, a young man who is always willing to take care of us.  He took off his shoes and socks, waded out into the flood to corral the renegade trash can, and moved my car to the safety of the driveway and his own to higher ground across the street.

We were lucky.  We watched the water rise in the street–and the front yard–and recede almost as quickly, from the safety of our offices.  Jo Anne’s sister-in-law spent a couple of hours stranded in a parking lot.  People around the city found themselves swimming away from their stranded cars and shovelling mud out of ground floor apartments.  (Click here for a slideshow of flood photos at the Houston Chronicle.)

This wasn’t the worst flood Houston has seen, not by a long shot.  Today was dry, and twenty degrees cooler.  If you don’t like the weather here, wait a little while.  It’ll change.  It always does.


Odd and Ends and Updates, Oh, My!

Business cards:  The business cards I ordered Saturday morning from were waiting on my doorstep when I got home from work this evening, and they are exactly as ordered.  I’m very pleased.  I only ordered the basic one hundred cards, being cautious, but I certainly won’t hesitate to order more when I need them.

The trip to New York:  My neighbor, LaRue, has kindly offered to feed Nutmeg while I’m gone, so I won’t have to board the cat.  I’m sure she’d rather stay home alone than spend ten days in a cage at the vet’s.  LaRue will turn 82 on Friday, and I only hope I’m that healthy and active when I’m her age.  Heck, I hope I get to be her age.

As for shopping, I think I’ve got just about all the essentials.  Clothes, luggage, business cards, lists of small stuff.  I’m not going to the North Pole.  They have drugstores in New York City.  I can’t believe the RWA conference starts in less than three weeks.  Today I started making arrangements with my bookkeeping clients to be sure they have what they need while we’re gone.  Better make a list there, too.

Kindle shopping:  I’ve been checking out the top hundred free downloads for the Kindle regularly, and I’ve downloaded several novels from publishers offering backlist novels free to interest readers in following up with newer (paid) books by the same authors.  Yesterday I noticed a novel (Cotillion) by Georgette Heyer  on the list.  Regency England is not my period of expertise, not by a long shot, but as a writer of romance, I’m a bit embarassed to say that I’ve never read any of Heyer’s books.  When Sourcebooks plunged into the romance genre a few years ago, they republished some of Heyer’s books, and this is one of their editions.  When I went browsing again today, I found another Heyer novel (The Grand Sophy) for the princely sum of $1.99.  When I one-clicked that onto my Kindle, Amazon suggested I might want Nail Your Novel for $4.99.  The book had racked up 26 five-star reviews, so I risked five bucks on it.

Writing:  No progress whatsoever on the Work In Progress.  Apparently I’m having too much fun blogging, doing this when I should be writing a hundred words a day.  Or at least reading over the forty-one thousand I have, and figuring out which forty thousand more to add.  And in what order.

The weather:  Always a good subject.  Ours has been extreme, even for the Houston area.  105° on Sunday and Monday, an average high of 99° for the first week in June, an all-time record.  What’s it going to be like in August?  It hasn’t been quite that hot where I live, southeast of the city, near Galveston Bay, but it’s hot enough, and we’ve had no rain at all.  What little has fallen in the last few months has landed well to the north–while other parts of the country are under water.  Hardly seems fair.

But then the weather in Texas is seldom fair.  Broiling hot, freezing cold, Sahara-dry, hurricane-wet, but not plain old boring fair.  On Sunday afternoon when I was taking a walk in a blast furnace, a friend was hiding in a bank drive-through to protect his new car from a hail storm.  In the same county.  If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a few minutes.  It’ll change.

Where, oh where has my reading time gone?

I love to read.  I could read before I started school.  I buy books like a junkie.  I know perfectly well I’ll never catch up with my To Be Read shelves, and I buy more books anyway.  There was a time when I read several a week.  That was before I had a full time job with a long commute.  Before I was writing seriously.  These days by the time I get into bed with a book, I’m already half asleep.

In early February we had a Weather Day.  Not the kind we’re used to here on the Texas Coast (Hurricane Ike springs to mind), but sleet, a little snow here and there, and ice on the freeways.  Just another day in, say, Chicago, but no one in the Houston area knows how to drive on icy roads.  I certainly don’t–I was born in Wisconsin, but I learned to drive in South Florida, and I haven’t lived north of Interstate 10 since.  So I called in afraid-to-drive and had an unexpected Friday off.

And I spent most of it reading.  I sat down on the couch with a thick mystery novel (Sue Grafton’s U Is For Undertow) and read the whole thing.  My Weather Day turned into the most relaxing day off I’d had in ages.  No errands, no chores, no waiting for a repairman or a delivery, just a whole day with a book.

Many years ago, I read a book called Where Were You Last Pluterday?, one of those literary European science fiction novels translated and published by DAW Books, back when all their covers were yellow and numbered.  I remember nothing at all about the plot, just the premise:  the elite of society had access to an extra day of the week, Pluterday.  If I could find just a few Pluter-hours here and there, I would spend them reading.

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