Thursday, August 09, 2007

Email from San Angelo Ex-Pat


I originally sent this to one of your partners in crime, but believe now I should have sent it to you since you as Webmaster solicited input from the huddled masses. Anyway...

I am a San Angelo ex-pat. I was born and raised there, moved away and back a number of times for reasons of no great import now, and currently reside in the DFW Metroplex (or MetroMess, as some describe it). I am retired and working diligently on becoming an obstreperous grizzled old fart, and doing rather well at it (according to those who know me).

Over the years I have had occasion to describe San Angelo to a number of folks, and in summary I deem it to the Largest Small Town In The United States. In terms of population some might consider it to be a city. In terms of attitude, atmosphere, and governance it clearly is not. It is a small town. I see this every time I visit, and when I'm driving there and hit Bronte I say to myself, "Self, remember where you're going. It ain't Dallas. Slow down. Put your gun in the trunk. Be civil. Smile more.".

This is not a bad thing. I have long maintained that God put some of the best people on His Good Green Earth in San Angelo, and I love 'em all... or at least, most of 'em. However,...

I read the Standard-Times Web page every day in a feeble attempt to keep current with the happenings there, and find your site to be a very worthy addition to my sourcing. I must say over time I have been at times amused and at other times distressed.

I have read of the monetary issues regarding the school district and of the deterioration of SACHS, from which I graduated in '65.

I was there when a significant part of the water supply system cratered.

I read statistics related to average pay in the area and wonder how anyone can live even reasonably well on such. If the area counts on burgeoning local job growth that is call center based, it must be acknowledged these are in general not well paying and rather crappy jobs to boot.

I noted in one of your blogs that someone considered nuclear power to be a potential godsend for the area (someone please explain the economics, licensing, waste disposal, cooling, and site location realities to this person. It ain't gonna, nor should it, happen.).

I read about the benefits of corn-based ethanol processing plants in the area when in reality the program is simply a sop for corn growers and processors like ADM. If one looks at the numbers it's a disaster, with both Republicans and Democrats proving themselves to be whores regarding the issue.

I read of water sourcing ills and proposed solutions like energy-intensive desalinization and pipelines to more reliable sources than currently available (like the Mississippi River). Face it, guys, you live in a semi-arid area that is doomed to become ever drier as population grows and farmers continue to draw down the water table with their irrigation. Then there's the issue of long-term projections of rainfall...

And the good Mr. Blaine takes his party somewhere else because of BYOB-phobes. I don't blame him.

Ah, the theatre, large and small, attendant in all this. It is entertaining, and I have touched on only a small portion of it.

Of course, I have no all-consuming answers for the ills of the Pearl On The Concho. I'm smart, but I ain't that smart. I love the place and always will. It's just that at times I find the whole thing amusing, especially when I read of things like ASU's now sucking up to the Texas Tech way of doing things and this being portrayed as being a Big Fat Hairy Deal when the area has infinitely more important issues than a local college's affiliation. I knew Drew Darby a thousand years ago. I'm still looking for him to do something significant, if he's so influential.

But then, what the hell do I know?

Peace, my new friend. Forgive my ranting.

San Angelo Ex-Pat


  1. Ex-Pat, I believe I am probably the "partner-in-crime" referred to. My apologies. I have a fairly good filter, but still receive 3-5 messages a day, address given usually a first name, and topic having nothing to do with the SPAM message. Usually I am being sold either Viagra or an herbal supplement guaranteed to let me live forever, die with an erection, unafflicted by breast cancer or obesity.

    In that I am a healthy male, 145 pounds at 5' 10", I tend to delete such messages. Forgive me if yours were among them.

    Your comments are more than appreciated. This town does have a way of getting one hooked. I was born here, family moved away, and for years I swore it was a nice place to be FROM. Moved back in '83, slowly came to love it

    Yeah, I'm probably the nuke-freak you referenced, be glad to take up that conversation. I worked on concrete crew at one of the last commercial plants built in NC.

    At any rate, we want to assure, we are not an idealogically driven Blog, I for one, learn more from my opponents than from party-line sycophants.

    Interesting self-characterization, I often tell people I am on the trembling verge of old-fartdom. If you read the S-T online, I am barkeep.

    Thanks for the post, hope to hear more from you.

  2. The idea that some business are ok and others are not for a town like San Angelo is what keeps it in a constant state of backwardness and decline. San Angelo is not known east of I35 and we need whatever business will come if for nothing else to lower our taxes. Of course I know most do not agree, most wish San Angelo to stay the way it is or was. This attitude has resulted in the state the town is in now and I do not see the decline reversing. Moving to Dallas may be the answer for some but it will not help San Angelo.

  3. San Angelo Ex-Pat6:08 PM, August 22, 2007

    Mr. Ryan, another new amigo of mine...

    First, regarding the nature of the Spam I receive, I find it doubly demeaning to receive some ads implying my "performance" may not be adequate, along with others implying my "proportions" are also deficient. What's a 6-1, 200 pound physically healthy (mentally is another issue entirely) male to do?

    If you inadvertently el flusho'ed my note to you, I think I can deal with it. My ego is NOT fragile.


    I too was once in the nuke business, albeit on the military side. I have stood and watched as reactor components were fabricated, and I must say it was a fascinating job. With that said, I still have concerns about teeny things like waste handling, cooling issues, neutron capture and chemical corrosion causing metal properties deterioration, and the like. What we need is new reactor technology (like pebble bed, possibly).

    I remain amused by the bleatings I read in the S-T. Shall we elect or appoint the Chief of Police (cripes, that battle has been fought since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor)? How shall we deal with the curse of graffiti? How many dogs can I own? Why doesn't my water bill tell me anything meaningful? What does it mean when the school board says it's peachy keen when so many others think it sucks pond water? Do the mayor and his troops deserve raises? And, when all else fails, trust in your God of Choice and all problems will be solved even at the micro level... the things one should solve for oneself using common sense.

    Heck, this is so much fun I may move back there. And, since I am retired, I will have plenty of time to be annoying as hell to people. I rather enjoy that.

    I still love the place. And its people.

  4. Ex-Pat, I'll take this opp to talk nuclear. I was working the weekend shift (40hrs in three days) when the Three Mile Island meltdown happened. Worst possible timing, and the news coverage was horrible.

    Comparisons of TMI and Chernobyl are beyond rationality. Chernobyl was a jumped-up version of Fermi's Chicago graphite pile, no containment at all. The incident served to remind that courage and self-sacrifice existed in the old USSR, hundreds, maybe thousands of men went in to pour water on the fire and concrete on the site, knowing they were dead men walking.

    Had I lived in Harrisburg when TMI vented over-pressured gas, I'd have watched the news intently until some actual values of radiation release were put out; then rolled over and gone back to sleep. Anyone who evacuated to stay with Uncle Ed in Denver doubled their radiation exposure due to elevation.

    I am a big fan, though no expert on pebble bed. It not only operates coolant free, it is scalable at much less cost than building a whole new unit. Liqiud sodium frankly scares hell out of me; pipes burst, and I don't want to be on the crew fighting a 700 degree sodium release

    Waste problems would be simpler if we forgot our peanut farmer's prohibition on recycling. That was aimed at limiting nuclear weapons proliferation, and we've seen how well that worked. The plant I worked had spent rod storage 150% of anticipated life, anticipating a day when sanity came back and we realized if it was hot enough to be hazardous, it was a better source than any ore found in nature.

    Of couse neutron capture is a real concern. One genuine worry I have is that existing plants will have their licenses extended beyond the design age of the reactor vessel because there simply is no alternative source for an area's power. Best I have, about 40 years out, that high tech steel essentially turns into cast iron strength-wise, then one has the concrete holding things together. I was there the Sunday they took the forms off the pipe entry section of primary containment at Shearon Harris #1. All the Daniels high hats were there, and there were no smiley faces.

    They really should have hammered it all down, done it over, instead they patched the gaps with 6000# handwork.

    If this sounds ambivalent, it is. Nuclear is too valuable to be ignored, but only an idiot handles it without extreme caution. It is one of the few areas (lingere aside, forget wine, Texas can beat them there) where the French do better than we do. Mind you that is only as to their civilian power generation and spent fuel recycling. They have one nuke aircraft carrier, the Charles Degaulle, which by all accounts best serves safety by staying in port.

  5. san_angelo_ex_pat5:35 PM, August 25, 2007

    Brother Ryan:

    I would never compare Chernobyl technology to that applied here in the U.S. The Sovs, in their self-assessed infinite wisdom, blithely assumed nothing would go wrong; hence no need for containment.

    Wrong. And may God bless the souls of those workers you mentioned.

    TMI did suffer partial core meltdown, and that scared the living hell out of me. With that said, containment functioned as intended, and the state of Pennsylvania was spared the burden of glowing in the dark.

    The technology still ain't perfect. And I live downwind of the Glen Rose nukes. Every time I fly back from Mexico I fly right over the site and admire the containment domes.

    You have a problem with using one of the most chemically active elements around, sodium, heated to 700 degrees F, as a coolant? Understandable. Hell, why not try to use chlorine or flourine gas? Along those lines, whatever happened to research in using helium gas (under VERY significant volumes of gas flow) as a coolant? It's inert, after all.

    You're right, of course: the potential benefits of power generation from this source are enormous, if we can just keep all the genies in the bottle. The potential for harm is also enormous.

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