Boxing Day

I wrote this last year and decided to re-publish it.

As an ex-pat from England, I will spend tomorrow celebrating the day after Christmas as most British people do and that is to sit back and relax and spend the entire day feasting on left overs, drinking beer and watching game after game of football (with a round ball) on the English Premier League.  I am an ardent Man U fan.

The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day in the UK to most and Saint Stephen’s Day to the religious. Most Brits think of it as another day off to recover from overeating and drinking on Christmas Day and of course, the opportunity to watch football. For those of you that want to know more about this holiday, read the article below from Wikipedia.

The exact etymology of the term “boxing” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.[1] The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to theMiddle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen,[2] which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.[3] This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys‘ diary entry for 19 December 1663.[4] This custom is linked to an older English tradition: Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.


Austin Pond Society August Meeting – 8-19-2013

APS Logo

APS Logo

The third Monday of the month as some of us know, is the Austin Pond Society Monthly meeting night and as usual, the pond enthusiasts gathered at the Zilker Garden Meeting Room to share good food, good company and this month, a presentation by Vance Shultie, Owner of the Tank Hollow Fisheries in Poteet, Texas. Some members of the group had traveled to visit the farm a couple of weeks before.

This weeks food offering by our very own Chef, Sonja, consisted of either Ham or Chicken sandwiches with the fixings and as usual, topped off by a wonderful desert. The members, as the pictures show, really enjoyed the food offered to them. Many thanks to Sonja and her husband for providing such good food.

The usual order of things was changed a little bit at this meeting as Vance and his family traveled more than 100 miles to make their presentation so the APS business part of the meeting was held over until Vance Shultie of Tank Hill Fisheries had finished his presentation.

Austin Pond Society August Meeting 8-19-2013 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo

The entire process is very well documented and I found it quite fascinating especially when breeding time comes around at my house.

As to the presentation itself, I have watched the Koi in my  ponds in their crazy attempts at breeding. It looks more like a rugby scrum or no holds barred wrestling match than the gentle art of lovemaking that humans usually associate with the deed. In my ponds, 2-3 male Koi chase the female around until she drops her eggs and then presumably add their own semen (milt) to seal the deal, so to speak. In the meantime, the rest of the Koi in the pond that are not actually involved in the mating ritual, follow along behind and gobble up all of the fertilized eggs having a field day with all of that protein. If I needed more fish, I might be upset at the banquet provided for the gallery but if the very occasional fish does make it, that’s fine by me. As you can imagine, I was very interested in the way that professional fish breeders perform their work under controlled conditions.

Watching the slides and listening to Dan discuss how he does this was a real eye opener. It is a real science as basically, the fish are drugged with a general anesthetic enough to slow them down so they can be handled (literally) and the eggs are “milked” out of the females into a dish followed by the male semen or milt as it is called, using the same procedure. Each milking produces up to 15,000 eggs many of which will not get fertilized. The eggs then go through a series of very carefully controlled steps until they end up in the large fish tanks where they remain for a couple of weeks after which they are sein netted and very carefully sorted and the culled fish are fed to the Bass that Dan also raises. The “saved” fish are sold depending on their quality either to other breeders or to fish stores, garden centers and the like.

So when this coming Spring rolls around and my Koi are madly dashing all over the ponds, I will have a much better idea of what is going on even though, unlike Vance,  I will have absolutely no control over the process.

Austin Pond Society Business 8-19-2013 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Following the presentation, the Pond Society members turned back to the more mundane things that make our Society tick. Things like looking for a new Newsletter Editor, the position recently vacated by Mary Word and discussions of the upcoming meetings. One part of the meeting is devoted to members questions or “problems” and for this meeting I had a problem that I wanted to discuss and bring to the members attention.

Basically, I have 4 ponds, 2 of which are joined by a weir and share the same water. The other two are totally separate, the oldest of which is about 5000 and the new one completed about 3 months ago is even bigger at about 6000 gallons. The joined ponds  are 2500 gallons and 1300  gallons respectively. I first noticed that the fish in the 2500 gallon pond were all huddled together quite literally one on top of the other, under cover in the deepest part of the pond. I immediately assumed that the Heron had started coming around again as the fish that have had a Heron scare, can take up to a couple of weeks before acting normally. Then I noticed that the goldfish in the lower pond were dying so quickly figured that it was not a heron problem and had to be something else. In the next couple of days, two of the very large Koi were floating on the top and I noticed one more that was upside down on the bottom. These Koi were probably 24 inches long and over 10 pounds each and I hate to lose fish that big. I checked the water and all of the readings  were in the normal range but I decided to do a water change in both the upper and lower ponds as that sometimes cures a lot of fish problems. A bit like turning the computer off and then back on to get it to work right.  It’s no simple task to do water changes as first you need to pump out a large quantity of water and find a place for it to run and then conversely, to fill the ponds making sure to add dechlorinator as the ponds fill. The whole process takes several hours.

While all of this was going on, the fish in the first pond, the 5000 gallons pond, were all showing the same symptoms but none had died so once more I did a water change of about 3000 gallons, again, no mean feat. Then, the fish in the new pond, started to do the same thing. The water in this pond is only about 3 months old so I decided to hold off on the water change and see what develops. In the meantime, I added sea salt to all of the ponds and it did seem to help as the fish began to perk up. All of this happened over about a months time period. To date, things appear to be back to normal. The fish are acting as they normally do just lazily swimming around unless I walk by with fish food then they all go nuts as they look to feed. I am still not sure what the problem may have been and whether it was a one time thing or whether there is a chance of it reoccurring. Needless to say, I am keeping a very close eye on things.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to the drawing and final announcements one of which by Glen regarding the upcoming APS Calendar and the need to get in pictures, Jeanne talked about a trip to San Antonio and the Ragan’s discussed holding a members only get together at their house on September 21. Details will be posted in “Ripples”. Stay tuned.

The next meeting will be on September 15 at the same time and place.

TSSAS 2013 Annual Meeting – Dedicated to Carlos Rodriguez and my last as Administrator

Carlos Rodriguez - 2006

Carlos Rodriguez, taken in 2006

I attended the TSSAS Annual Meeting held in Houston, this past weekend, August 9/10. I was not to know this at the time but it turns out it was my very last meeting as TSSAS Administrator following the interviews on Saturday. After ten years in the job, the Board, in all of its wisdom, chose to appoint a new Administrator. I have many fond and happy memories of the times spent working and talking to my friends and soccer cohorts over the twenty or so years that I have been attending. Most are gone either having retired or some have passed on to that soccer field in the sky where all soccer players eventually end up. I would like to have continued on but it is not to be.

This once a year meeting holds special memories for me personally as it was one year ago on August 8 on my way down to San Antonio that I had the misfortune to somehow get a blood clot in my right calf (Deep Leg Thrombosis) necessitating me having to quickly return to Austin and the following day, to the Emergency room. Incidentally, that drive home was an experience all by itself and took an hour longer than normal due to frequent stops, not to mention the pain involved.

This turned out to be a bit of a life changer as I had to give up coaching the little kids and with it ended my physical involvement with the beautiful game. Sadly, all things come to an end but I guess it was time. After all, I am now 77 and soccer is considered to be a young man’s game. Tell that to my many 50-60 year old friends who are still playing.

This time, I allowed extra time and stopped several times on the way to Houston to get out and stretch my legs and arrived safe and sound.

As is usual, Friday evening was the Board of Directors business meeting followed by dinner at an Italian restaurant called Ciro’s. The food was excellent and the company was very amusing. All in all, a  good evening. It took all of my willpower to not indulge in one of the very fancy desserts that the rest of the table was sharing.

The following morning, after a very restless evening at the Hotel, probably due to not having the four dogs to keep me company, I was up at 6:00 am which I never do. Under normal circumstances, I am an 8:00 am person unless there are some other reasons like a doctor’s appointment to warrant an earlier rising. Luckily, the hotel also has its own Starbucks making me one very happy fellow. Armed with a non fat latte, I was ready to face the knowledgeable group of Registrars and other League officers as I lectured them on the finer points of running a league from the Registrars perspective.

The meeting went well and I was ably assisted by Neal Backes, the TSSAS Webmaster on the laptop and the overhead, showing the different slides of the documents required. Even though we started on time and that I was allowed an additional fifteen minutes, I was still hard pressed to finish on time. Guess I like to hear the sound of my own voice too much.

At 10:15 am, the training session ended and the members broke out to attend their sessions of interest, men, women and coed as each of these groups have their own commissioner and are run by their own specialty rules for things like the State Cup. For many years, Carlos Rodriguez, San Antonio Soccer Association, was the men’s commissioner but with his passing, the division was left without a commissioner. But, all was not lost as Gloria Rodriguez, Carlos wife,volunteered to step in and fill the role. It is a well know fact that behind every good man there is usually a good woman and Carlos and Gloria were no exceptions to this rule. Gloria has gone one step further and has volunteered her services to visit the Valley and talk to the leagues down there to see what TSSAS can do to help them. We have long recognized the fact that the Valley, both by location and by its very large Hispanic community, has not received the attention it deserves. Hopefully, Gloria will help to change that. Thank you Gloria for both stepping up to be the Men’s Commissioner and for taking on this additional role.

At noon time, we adjourned to the dining room for a luncheon that was held to commemorate the many years of service that Carlos Rodriguez had been involved with soccer and for his many roles with both USASA and TSSAS. Pascal gave a very nice speech to commemorate the occasion with Gloria giving the response. Again, I outdid myself and chose an apple over the scrumptious looking deserts that were offered and had to put up with a some harassment all in good fun, from Neil. I think I made him feel guilty as I noticed he was chowing down on a piece of pie.

The meeting itself went very smoothly with discussions mostly on the revised Constitution and Bye-Laws and of course the Budget took up some time. Funny how money can make the quietest person sit up and take note. We did not have any earth shattering things to decide. Pascal was re-elected as the President and he made it very clear that this was going to be his last two years in the job and he warned the members to start looking for his replacement. After the final Budget discussion, the meeting was adjourned.

Coming down, I traveled on Highway 71 from Austin until it intersected with Highway 10 and once I got past Bergstrom Airport, the speed limit changed to 75 all the way into Katy just outside of Houston. it was wonderful to legally drive so fast and the drive down, even with the three stops that I made, was very quick.

I was planning on stopping and taking rest breaks on the way back to Austin just to be on the safe side and so I decided to take an alternate way back home as I hadn’t driven Highway 290 for a very long time and wanted to see what might have changed. The speed limit was posted as 70 for most of the way and as everyone, including me, were driving a bit more than that, it didn’t take long to reach Austin. I have to say that compared to the other route that I took on Friday, things have not changed very much along Highway 290.

I arrived home around 6:00 pm to be welcomed by 4 very happy puppies. It’s so great to have that sort of welcome committee. Almost makes it worthwhile to be away although I was not “out of touch” with them as I have a surveillance system set up that allows me to watch them on live video on my iPhone. It’s pretty cool and it is very re-assuring to me to see they are OK as they go about their daily business, which incidentally, comprises of the occasional bark at something outside and then back to “napping”. Must be a great life to be so worry free as to sleep anytime you feel like it.

And they call it a “dog’s life”. We should be so lucky…

Goodbye to my friends as I fade away.

Fade Away

Fade Away

It can wait until tomorrow.

DSC_0994I promised myself that today is  the day
when I braved the heat and went outside, not to play
but to do some work cleaning up the yard
moving dirt and stones to a different space
into the two bins I just built-in place
which was not hard for me to do as I used
landscape lumber, you know the kind
I measured and cut and stacked them up
and drilled holes through them to make them secure
for in those holes are pieces of steel
hammered into the ground for an even keel.

Now they are finished awaiting the dirt
that I plan to move into the bin
as currently, a pile by itself stands
as I moved it there when building a pond
until a better place I could find
knowing that all along
I planned to construct a place for the dirt.

Why, you say do you need the dirt
to start new plants out in the yard
to give them a chance to grow big and tall
before re-planting them along with the rest
I also have small river rocks and stones
that are used in the top of the pots for the ponds
to stop the Koi from washing them out
as destructive of all of the things that I plant
out of boredom or maybe its just their way
and they are just having their say
in shaping things or maybe they play
by destroying the plants that I put in their way.

For two mornings now things have come up
to stop me from completing this work
yesterday I had to go to the store
to purchase some parts that I needed more
than shovelling dirt and when I was through
it was way too hot to start work outside
so inside I stayed where I did hide
writing in my blog stories like this
bad poetry is how my words come out
about stories that I like to tell
written as I do not speak well
not for money as no one will buy
but to satisfy my urge to write
is why I try.

Today, I was all set to move outside
when the phone rang to let me know
that Harvey, my AC man
was ready to come and fix the drain
from the AC unit in the house
that was blocked and making a terrible mess
with water all over the hallway floor
so I stayed inside to open the door.

Two hours later he had finished the job
by then off to Time Warner I went
to change out the DVR that I had
as it didn’t work for it was bad
I came home with the new one expecting the best
and plugged it in and you can guess the rest
it did not work either so back to the store
to ask them to give me just one more

Back home did I go with my new box in a bag
and plugged it in and to my dismay
this one does not work either and will not load
so on the phone to Time Warner I called
and now have to wait for them to send
a repair man tomorrow the problem to mend.

It rained overnight for that I am glad
but it means that the dirt will be too wet to move
so another couple of days will be gone
before I can go outside to perform
the simple job of stacking the dirt
into the bin that I have just built.

The moral of this story be told
that even the simplest of task can become
more complicated than first thought of
and the best laid plans of mice and men
are subject to changes now and then.

Fear not for the work will get done
as I plan to do it in a couple of days time
when the dirt has dried out and the TV is fixed
and the AC is working to cool the inside
I will get up early to beat the heat
and will work hard to finish the feat
that is unless the phone rings again
to tell me of something else to plan.

Wait, Wait I have something new
I went outside to look at and view
the work that needed to be done
it was early and the heat and the sun
had not yet risen to uncomfortable heights
I picked up the shovel and went to town
moved all of the dirt and then I found
that I could move the stone and still not content
tidied the area shoveling dirt on high
on top of the compost which reaches the sky
moved the bins and their contents keeping them intact
and the trailer and cart all stacked in a row
I still need to sort out the pots in their place
as Richie disturbs any semblance of shape
as he searches for rats and mice in his quest
to be the head ratter and to chase down the pests.

Thank goodness the work is finally done
the last of the projects the rest will be fun
as weeding and mulching and watering too
all are things that I need to work on its true
but I have all summer to do these things
which will also give me time to work out at the gym
something I have neglected for a while
time to change that and my lifestyle too.

When I look at you, what do you see?

Dahlia Preference

Dahlia Preference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you look at a person what do you see
beyond their obvious physical tone
do you see beauty where there is none
or does the person have to meet
strict standards that only you alone
dare to impose as the proper one.

While it is true what appeals to others
may not always appeal to you
if slim and shapely be your choice
as opposed to someone more rounded in size
or maybe its the other way around
and your preference of large can be found.
If you judge solely by his or her looks
and to you this must be met
aren’t you missing out in other ways
like personality and caring, loving and grace
and if you never give the other a chance
you will never find out for yourself
just how kind and good because to you
none of these things come shining through.

I fear if you set your standards so high
or if so judgemental you may be
what right do you others to judge
when you may be no real catch
and love you will never match.

If you read this and it strikes a bell
and if you are looking for a mate
you must broaden your vision and be free
with more honesty and less desire
to find that perfect mate for you
because in truth you may not be
much of a catch yourself to view.

But then again if you search
for perfection and it can’t be found
not for you a happy mate
but instead the lonely sound
of you crying yourself to sleep
alone in this world no partner to keep.

Growing Old

Growing Old

Growing Old

As we grow older things start to change
some are obvious to one and all
hair that was so thick and long
has fallen out as time moves on
leaving a head so shiny and bald
or just with hair around the ears
that we so carefully comb
and do our best to make us feel
our shiny head is hair so real.

Hair is not the only thing
that we have lost along the way
where muscles once were fit and tight
are now just loose folds of skin
in our mind we still are strong
but when it comes time prove us wrong
no strength have we to do the task
that in our mind the question asks.

When we were young we ran and jumped
and played as hard as we thought we could
Knocks and bruises were part of the game
and we always lived, always the same
pushing our bodies as hard as we could
in the hope of being good
at whatever we were doing that day
all a part of how we played.

As we grow old that same body now
creaks and groans with every move
has aches and pains in places where
we never knew we had muscles there
and screams and cries each step we take
if we push ourselves too hard
with feet that hardly clear the ground
and trips and falls are all around
and landing can make a painful sound.

In our own way we compensate
and no chances do we take
and then the mind starts to play tricks
and says, you can do it you just got to try
when you were younger you never thought why
you just went out and played your part
I’ll bet if you think very hard
you can still do the things just like before.

What I have not mentioned here
is how my mind that once so clear
remembering things from the past
and people’s names both first and last
is now a shadow of how it used to be
and try as I might remember them
all of those people close to me
but I can remember my childhood friends
and even name them one by one
and yet I cannot recall
the breakfast I ate an hour ago.

Who am I trying to kid
that even though my mind still works
my body is starting to let me down
and I am not who I used to be
this is a different me inside
and there is no way to hide
the fact that we all grow old
and even though we struggle so
we cannot change the march of time.

Austin Pond Society – July Meeting 2013

Austin Pond Society Logo

Austin Pond Society Logo

The Austin Pond Society held it’s monthly meeting on the third Monday of the month at Zilker Gardens as is our usual custom. Attendance was down a little from the previous meeting which is hardly surprising, all things considered. It is hard to follow such a big event as the Pond Tour when the owners as well as the members all attend.

For those of us who were there, we were well fed by Sonja as is her usual custom. This week, we had Sloppy Joe’s and she whispered to me , very apologetically, that she had gone over her budget with last months meal and had to economise this month. Hence the Sloppy Joes. Even so, the dinner had that special taste that as is customary, Sonja brings to her  food. We had water melon for desert which for me, always hits the spot.

Check out the Gallery.

The first video is in two parts with the first part dealing with APS business and discussion of the upcoming trip to Tank Hollow Fisheries in Poteet, Texas. For you guys out there, it is important that you follow directions and not rely on your GPS system as apparently, GPS leads you to the wrong place. Ladies, if you are driving, you can ignore the above comment as we all know you will get it right or at the very least, will ask for directions…

The second part if this video is the closing out of the meeting and the check presentation to Down Home Ranch.

Down Home Ranch and APS Meeting Combined Final from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The second video is the introduction of Judy and Jerry Horton, the founders of the Down Home Ranch. They talk about the background behind the Ranch and why they founded it and have a very nice video for us to watch. Again, the quality is not very good as it was captured off an overhead projector screen.

Down Home Ranch-Introduction from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The third video is of the actual work performed by about fourteen of our membership that volunteered their time and effort to clean out and rebuild the two ponds already present on the Ranch. There was a large amount of work involved and I am very surprised that they were able to accomplish so much in the short time they were out there.. Looking at the video, the quality of which does not show off the ponds to their best for the same reasons as outlined above. Even so,  it is easy to see the difference in the ponds from the before and after shots. Maybe you can all get together and build the pond for the lady who will exchange your efforts for pearls…

Thank you guys for a job well done.

Down Home Ranch-Pond Repairs from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

The next meeting will be held on August 19 at the same place, Zilker Gardens starting at 6:30 pm. The speaker will be Vance Schultze the owner of Tank  Hollow Fisheries in Poteet, Texas.

Hope to see you there. Oh yeah, bring a friend (or two). If anyone is interested, one of our members has a pond for sale that also comes with a house, in Manor…