No Such Agency

Most people think the NSA is located in Ft. Meade, Maryland – and indeed, part of it is there. But according to rumors — and mind you, these are just rumors! — another NSA complex is located in San Antonio.

Of course, San Antonio is HOT – it actually broke global heat records in 2023 for the most continous days above 40C/100F. So as you can imagine, IF the rumors are true — and if the NSA were located in San Antonio — and I have no way of knowing if those rumors are true — and IF the NSA operated a huge datacenter — then it would be quite reasonable to expect a LOT of air conditioning.

Well, rumors aside, right next to a Walmart I spotted a HUGE field of massive air conditioning units – with no buildings in sight! To give a sense of scale, these air conditioning units easily cover a size of 10 footballs fields! So it does make one think: what exactly is being cooled, where, and for what reason?

Run on water

Texans can be crazy. After the world’s hottest and longest summer with 100+ continuous days of temperatures higher than 40C / 100F, San Antonio had a cold spell where the temperatures dropped below zero.

Because this never happens, the Texans of San Antonio panicked. The television stations broadcasted instructors about the 3P’s: Pets, Plants, Pipes. And there was a “run” on bottled water, since the Texans thought the world might actually end:

The German heritage of Texas

Huge numbers of Germans migrated to Texas in the mid 1800s – so much so, that even today you’ll find German villages in Texas, and a number of Americans who have been born here but speak German — not English — as their first language!

You can still see this German heritage everywhere around San Antonio, such as shown in this snap here:

Parking place for police in San Antonio

As far as I can tell, countries like Switzerland treat their police just like everyone else. Not so in the US, where companies do their best to encourage police to shop at their stores and eat at their restaurants.

This snap from San Antonio, Texas, shows a parking place reserved for police officers at the local grocery store – just to make it a bit easier for them to come in and do some shopping.

Refinery weeds

I took this snap in the southeast Texas seaside town of Corpus Christi, just a few months before the Covid pandemic erupted. It shows a dead weed in front of one of the zillions and zillions of refineries you’ll find in South Texas:

Note added on 05.05.2021: My Dad just informed me, this weed is the dead remains of a so-called sawtooth cactus. According to him – and my parents lived for many years in Corpus – the neighborhoods around the refineries are increasingly becoming devoid of vegetation. There are the laws that regulate the nature of the refinery pollution – but then there is reality, which often differs considerable.

Padre Island National Seashore

Looking south on a cool summer’s day:

A beach is a beach is a beach? Not so. Padre Island National Seashore is the largest undeveloped, untouched barrier island, not just in the United States but in the world!  It’s long enough and isolated enough that, after even a modest drive, you are truly on your own: no mobile telephone services, and indeed no other human beings for 30+ miles in any direction.

Mixed feelings in Texas

I have very much mixed feelings about this blog post.  Sadly, Texas is the state where the largest proportion of residents have diabetes – at least count, over 60% of all Texas have diabetes. This leads to mobility problems and, ultimately for many suffers, huge numbers of people with amputated feet.

But in contrast to other countries or even other states, Texas stores do their best to enable their customers who are mobility limited.

This is no unusual sight at the entrance of any store in Texas, be it do-it-yourself store or supermarket or any other large store: a fleet of battery operated buggies:

And this is no unusual sight in any supermarket:

So you can see: it is a real tragedy that so much of the population suffer from health problems – but it is a real blessing that commercial enterprises have done their best to enable their mobility limited customers.

Stay in your vehicle in Texas

I can’t think of any other state than Texas that offers so many commercial opportunities via the drive-thru channel.

Here is a drive thru bank. You stay in your car, and real people (called bank tellers) pass money to you via pneumatic tubes:

America is highly segregated into areas that reflect the financial class of the residents. So here is a similar shot at a much fancier bank in a much more affluent neighborhood:

Need to hand in your cowboy boots for a good cleaning or a bit of repair, handy if you can stay in your three-axel, 6 wheel, 300 HP pickup truck to do it:

And last but not least, it does make a lot of sense that – particularly if you are sick – you stay in your automobile while you get your medication from the pharmacy:

Sadly, I don‘t have a snap to show, but some states have quite impressive drive thru liquor and beer stores. In Pennsylvania it was illegal to buy individual cans of beer – a case or 24 cans or bottles was the minimum size you could buy – so you‘d drive your car into what looked like a garage, where someone would load the beer into your car. Never seen one of these in Texas, however.

Keeping your hands clean in Texas

Not just in Texas, but this is increasingly a common sight in many places in the United States:

In Texas we might say something like: This ain’t worth a hill of beans.  The overwhelming majority of easily transmissible infections are URI’s, or upper respiratory infections – and the overwhelming majority of them are caused by viruses, not bacteria, that are not affected by topical alcohol.