Shotgun Tree Trimming

An uncle tried out a new arborist technique, shotgun tree trimming. His story follows:

Hey man, I have the tree under control. I’ve taken several pictures and resized them, but probly won’t attach any tonite. I want to be sure to do them in the right order… (like it matters).

Today I got on the roof with the electric pole chain saw and used some strength that I’ve never had… took off a couple of 3′ sections… then got off the roof, used the same saw to take off a couple more. Tomorrow I’ll crank up the gas saw and take this branch down to the level of the other one. At that point, I’ll stop for now. That’ll take the trunk down to about 6′, at which point I’m not worried that a storm will take it over. It’s more than 6′ from the house.

Yeah, it was a serious pain… but it’s whupped now… as long as I don’t screw up when I take off the next 5′ to 6′. Yeah, I know… that’s a heavy piece, even tho’ it’s dry. I’ll be careful. I’ve survived so far, it’d be a pisser to get hurt now.

Watch for pix tomorrow…

Ah, what the heck… I’ll attach a pic of the “before”… and some “after”.

A long shot:

The dark area along the left side is the ROOF!!!

This you see the gable on the South end… and the TV antenna.

This is shot just about on line with the South end of the house. You can see how the left branch leans seriously over toward the house, and the right branch leans over the chain link fence.

I’m just about to pull down a big branch… notice the effects of the shotgun… you can see where I whittled through the 6″ limb. I had no problem pulling it down. I got off the roof and went to the other side of the fence… and pulled like I meant for the limb to NOT go somewhere I didn’t want it to. No prob. Yeah, I placed my shots so as to make the limb fall away from the house. One of the limbs fell as I placed my last shot. It was great fun. That one was in no danger of hitting house. This one could have, but didn’t even come close.

This is a closeup of the results of the shotgun trimming method. I haven’t had this much fun since the hogs tried to eat my brother!

Here is what I left yesterday.

Different view.


Closer up of the oops. I shouldn’t have let the neighbor lady goad me into hurrying up. I could have set up the ladder to be 16.5′, had [the aunt] stand on the bottom, cut off several higher limbs and a good chunk of the big branch, then sectioned it so as to lessen the overall mass… but NOOOOOOOO!!! I have to go and dive in with my trusty little Homelite XL (very small, but I went through the carb, tuned it up, put a new clutch housing and chain on it… It’s a mean little saw. I love it! Nevermind yanking on the cord until you think your shoulder will fall off… it starts the 2nd pull… and after it’s semi-warm, you can just pop the rope about 3″ and it’s purring like a kitten. AND, you can set it down and it’ll sit there and idle until you switch it off… or it runs out of gas. I love little engines. Okay… I’ve broken my arm patting myself on the back. My Weed Eater does the same thing.

My Old Nova, 1 Year Later

A fellow Nova owner’s brother took pictures of my Nova yesterday. It’s at the Little Valley Auto Ranch in Belton, TX. Seeing this Nova 1 year later is weird. It’s almost as morbid as digging up a coffin.

It’s so weird to see this car’s condition and remember all I did with it.

Front left fender. Rear fender tip was replaced. My dad bashed in the front part of this fender on a basketball pole.

Front right fender. It’s not very usable because of the damage.

Front left fender again:

The rusting hulk. Whose file cabinet drawer is that? Aah, the accumulator of the A/C system sticking off the evaporator housing on the firewall. Eww, who put a whitewall tire on the rear?

Driver’s side door. The only usable door.

That’s the A/C condenser on top of the radiator core support.

You can see the power steering gear rebuilt by Lee Manufacturing.

The bench seat I had recovered in 1998. You can see the right side of the instrument panel console. I couldn’t even bring myself to cut a larger hole in it for a different radio back in ’99, yet here it is broken to pieces. It was not in great shape after the wreck.

Aaack, the left knob got broken off the A/C selector.

This was disturbing: mold and mildew on the seats. (I originally typed “my” seats, forgetting that this isn’t “my” car anymore.) The rear seat and front headrests look the worst, but they are original to the car.

The 4 core brass radiator that solved my engine cooling problems back in ’98.

Aaaaah, the important bumper stickers are still there.

Sheesh, rust is taking over.

Nice exhaust, cheap!

These are the brakes that malfunctioned.

Driving Should Be A Right (and Why Pennsylvania Sucks)

Today I learned about a disturbing story in Pennsylvania: a guy told his doctor he has 6-8 beers a day, then the state suspends his driver’s license.

What happened? Pennsylvania requires doctors to report conditions that dramatically affect a person’s ability to drive. This makes sense for things like blindness or dementia.

But why did this innocent guy get his license suspended? Simply because of the possibility of a DUI, even though his last one was 24 years ago!

This happened because we cast driving as a privilege. This means the state may justify any driving restriction per se, legitimizing arbitrary and capricious rules.

Driving should be considered a right. It’s alright for driving to be a limited right with age restrictions. The right should be taken away or amended if there is just cause. But state must have the burden of proving the restriction’s need, not the other way around.

It immensely bothers me that an innocent citizen’s license was taken away. If the doctor reported this observation, and the patient was caught with a DUI after this report, then the doctor’s report may justify more severe consequences. But it’s asinine to remove an innocent person’s license just because he was sharing important information with his doctor. It’s like being hauled in for wife beating just because someone came to a doctor with a wrist injury that is suggestive of the injured person having hit something–anything.

See the Orwellian overtones?

Free societies are special because of a respect for individual liberties and rights. This means you need a valid reason to curtail rights. This means you don’t execute people just for toeing a line. This means you don’t treat people like robots, whose whole life’s purpose is to exactingly meet every rule. In free societies, you cannot expect perfection, and you must tolerate, if not explicitly permit, imperfect behavior. That’s why speed laws require “reasonable and prudent” speeds, not “perfect and guaranteed risk-free” speeds.

The line between “imperfect” and “dangerous or malicious” is open for debate. But this guy wasn’t even given a chance to nudge that line.

You ever see the movie Minority Report? The movie’s premise is:

In the future, criminals are caught before [they even commit a crime], but one of the officers in the special unit is accused of one such crime and sets out to prove his innocence. (IMDB)

I thought this was a dystopian future.

I was wrong.

Today I am proud that I am an ignorant Texas Republican redneck. I would be ashamed to be a Pennsylvanian.

Illegal Speed Limits on Future North Texas Tollways

September 15, 2005

Allan Rutter, Executive Director
North Texas Tollway Authority
5900 West Plano Parkway, Ste 100
Plano, Texas 75093

Mr. Rutter,

I read with interest a Sept. 15, 2005 Dallas Morning News article by Tony Hartzel titled “Area toll roads to get pricier.” Part of that article detailed NTTA board discussions about speed limits. I am writing to alert you that the board may be considering illegal speed limits.

Here are key quotes from the article:

One option calls for the new toll roads to have the same rates as other roads. Under another scenario, the higher-cost toll roads could have higher tolls. Those tolls also could be based upon lower speed limits or cost, such as community requests for extra amenities. Consultants say that lower speed limits reduce the number of toll road users, thereby reducing revenue potential.

Board members expressed a desire to find a compromise, with most toll roads having the same rate but leaving the option open for higher tolls on certain projects. That most likely would apply to Southwest Parkway and the proposed Trinity Parkway in downtown Dallas, where city leaders have asked for lower speed limits.

(Emphasis added.)

It appears that the NTTA board is considering choosing arbitrary speed limits to satisfy a financial goal. Texas law does not permit the NTTA to choose speed limits in this fashion.

Per section 545.354 of the Texas Transportation Code, Texas Statutes, titled “Authority Of Regional Tollway Authorities To Alter Speed Limits On Turnpike Projects”:

The authority, in conducting the engineering and traffic investigation specified by Subsection (a), shall follow the procedure for establishing speed zones adopted by the Texas Department of Transportation.

This procedure is defined in the Texas Administrative Code Title 43 (Transportation), Part 1 (Texas Department of Transportation), Chapter 25 (Traffic Operations), Subchapter B (Procedures for Establishing Speed Zones). Specifically, rule §25.23 of this procedure requires the speed limit to be set at the 5 MPH increment closest to the 85th percentile speed of passenger vehicles, and variances are only allowed for unusual circumstances such as an above average crash rate, pedestrian traffic, or a lack of shoulders. It is unlawful for the NTTA to establish a speed limit lower than the 85th percentile speed for any other reason, including but not limited to a financial goal, the “design speed” of the roadway, or a desire to placate the whim of a city council.

Simply put, Texas law requires that the posted speed limit be a reflection of the maximum speed used by reasonable drivers.

This policy is further backed up by section 2B.11 of the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. “Substantial compliance” to this manual is a condition for Texas to receive federal highway dollars. This manual is strict in its requirement for the use of the 85th percentile speed, and it clearly requires that no other considerations are to be allowed besides physical characteristics of the roadway or crash records.

As a side point, no new miles of roadway established after 2002 are eligible for Environmental Speed Limits. Per section 545.353, Transportation Code (Authority Of Texas Transportation Commission To Alter Speed Limits), “the commission may not determine or declare, or agree to determine or declare, a prima facie speed limit for environmental purposes on a part of the highway system.” Since the NTTA is bound by statute to use the same speed zoning rules as the Texas Department of Transportation, the NTTA may not enact environmental speed limits on any roadway that did not already have an environmental speed limit before Sept. 1, 2003. (This is due to the effective date of the bill adding this clause to section 545.353. Please see the NCTCOG’s environmental speed limit web site at for further clarification.) This means that the 5 MPH environmental speed limit reduction currently in effect on the George Bush Turnpike between I-35E and Garland may not be used on the new section of the turnpike between I-35E and I-635. Furthermore, this 5 MPH speed limit reduction may not be part of the speed zoning process on the Dallas North Tollway north of TX 121 or south of Frankford Rd. The 5 MPH speed reduction only applies to roadway segments which had the 5 MPH speed limit reduction before Sept. 1, 2003.

While I enjoy the North Texas Tollway Authority roads, I have observed that currently posted speed limits are almost certainly posted 5-10 MPH below the maximum safe speed that would be determined with a proper speed study. I am alarmed to read the apparent recommendation of even lower speed limits. I hope the Authority refrains from using illegal, arbitrarily low speed limits on future roadways, and I hope the NTTA will consider rechecking speed limits on existing roadways. Every arbitrarily low speed limit on NTTA roads only encourages a dangerous mindset that traffic regulations don’t matter.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need clarification of this letter.


Aren Cambre

Bush Not Responsible For Katrina SNAFUs

The Katrina response is full of SNAFUs—inadequate flood protection, poor preparedness, poor communications, and slow response. You can’t pin this on one person, and nobody should resign over this.

The problem is systemic.

Disaster response procedures do not come with each elected official official. They are refined over decades. They are the legacy of many mayorships, governorships, and presidencies. Pointing fingers will delegitimize those with the most experience.

The problem is also scale. No amount of preparedness exercises can guarantee flawless execution in the largest natural disaster to ever hit the US.

Yes, the response was bad. New Orleans, Louisiana, and FEMA must improve. New Orleans and Louisiana should have more planning than just “corral the poor and wait for the feds.” The feds should have reacted more quickly.

On a side node, some buffoons, apparently fueled by sites like Daily Kos, are even going so far as to cite recent federal budget cuts as the direct cause of the flooding. (This nutty viewpoint has even infected Wikipedia.)

One of their “facts” against the Bush administration is that work on the Hammond Highway Bridge over the 17th St. Canal caused the breach. Of course, they disregard the fact that this project was initiated in prior president’s administration. Plus, look at the picture to the right. It shows that completed bridge at the top. Further down, several houses south of the bridge, is the levee break. The link is at best vague.

All of you Daily Kos-reading “let’s-not-let-facts-get-in-the-way-of-our-anti-Bush-crusade” types, give me a break! Your silly arguments completely dissolve in the face of intractable questions like:

  • Is levee protection of a specific locality a proper federal issue?
  • Why is Louisiana apparently a beggar for critical projects, unable to act on its own? If the state cannot be economically viable and safe on its own, does it deserve to be rewarded with pork barrel projects like free levees?
  • Louisiana couldn’t have made up any of the recent annual shortfalls, which at its worst was $16.1 million in 2005, for a “critical” project?
  • Even if the money was paid in full, would the levees have been completed today?
  • When has any local authority, especially in the 3nd most corrupt state in the United States, ever been honest with true needs? Just because only x% of the requested money was spent, does that mean that only a similar percent of the truly needed projects were able to be completed?
  • Why solely blame the president when Congress is who creates and passes budgets? With the loss of the short-lived line item veto, the only legal authority the president has in the budgetary process is signing the budget bills.

The New Orleans levee system has been underfunded and incomplete for decades. It was supposed to be finished in 1975 (search for 1965). It is just coincidental that the consequences of the underfunding hit during the Bush administration. (Check out this funny weirdo who believes that Katrina was directly manipulated by something called the Woodpecker Grid. This nitwit is the weather anchor for a Idaho TV station. Is Idaho really that desperate?)

So far I have found nothing convincing to suggest that the current levee system could have been reasonably completed by August 2005 without an unprecedented and unusual windfall from the feds. But even if the current levee system was fully completed, it was not designed to withstand a storm like Katrina. The current levee system was inadequate for any hurricane over category 3.

It is true that there has been talk of upgrading to a levee system that can withstand category 5 storms. However, estimates say this will cost $2.5 billion (I probably should have said “at least”; when do big federal projects every stay within budget?) and would have taken decades to complete. (another link) It is silly to blame the lack of a category 5 buffer on any recent budget actions.

Another charge is that wetlands destruction caused this flooding. There’s a grain of truth in this. Every 2.7 miles of wetlands absorb about 1 foot of storm surge (link). And the cheery-eyed optimists, citing that wetlands are quickly rejuvenated (true), also use this to blame the Bush Administration.


Let’s not forget some important things:

Furthermore, the official plan to restore Louisiana wetlands is called Coast 2050. Hmm, “2050”: does that imply a project that will take a while to complete? As in you can’t pin wetlands loss on Bush?

Don’t summarily blame individuals for this crisis. The response procedures were created and refined over many presidential administrations. I don’t think it’s reasonable to criticize any of these individuals simply because they didn’t effect profound, revolutionary changes before this event. However, they know better now. We need to hold their asses to the grindstone until radical improvements come out.

And you liberal weenies, quit selfishly using this tragedy to further your own agenda. That’s just nauseating.