Category Archives: Uncategorized

More adventures in Eastwood: The downside of having a corner lot

The way cars tear around our corner here on Eastwood and Leeland, I knew it was a matter of time before there was some kind of crash that sent a car flying onto the lawn.

We heard a crash this morning and popped our heads out the door to check it out. Apparently, so did everyone else. When this happens in my neighborhood, it’s high entertainment. (I’m guilty of walking a couple of blocks to gawk at an accident, myself.)

After the looky-loos showed, the tow-truck was next, then an ambulance.

Finally enough cops showed that you would have thought it was a triple-homicide. Sadly, it was not. That would have been something to gawk at.

A short illustrated walk around Houston’s Eastwood neighborhood

Eastwood is a neighborhood in Houston just outside of downtown and home to yours truly. My home is 3 minutes from my office, has a skyline view (you can just see the former Enron tower) and there’s a joint a block-and-half away that sells the best Italian po’ boy I’ve ever had.

I was out the other day and realized I need to take my camera out with me a little more often. There’s always something that I stumble across that I find interesting.

When today turned a very comfortable mid-60 degrees, I grabbed the camera and popped out for a quick walk.

Just a few blocks away are the cross streets of Dallas and Eastwood, where the most striking landmark is a stone church with a gothic feel to it. I don’t know much about it other than what it says on the church web site. In addition to the churchy stuff that obviously goes on there, I have seen it used for community activities. There was a recent arts and crafts show there, for example.

The church was dedicated to Archbishop John Sloan in 1954, according to this engraving on the side of the church. I don’t know who he was and some basic digging on Google didn’t reveal much. I’ll need to go knock on the church door and ask at some point.

Now, just to show how diverse Houston is, on Stiles Street — a 10 minute walk from from the Episcopalians  — is a Spanish-language synagogue.

Who knew?

I didn’t until the other day when I bumped into it.

Anyhow, speaking of diversity, these two signs in my neighborhood are within two blocks of each other:

Forget census-form diversity. Brother, in my neighborhood we got real diversity.

A short walk past the synagogue you run into Harrisburg, one of the main roads that passes through Eastwood. And right there is a dollar store that has everything in the frigging planet in it. It’s pretty astonishing how much crap they can stuff in there. You name it, they got it. And it’s packed from floor to ceiling.

That’s not why I like it, though. I like it because in a world of corporate greed and powerful institutions taking advantage of the regular Joe with their slick-talkin’ ways, the owners of this store are downright honest. “Yea, we’re a dollar store. But what you buy might be less. Or more.” Refreshing.

The last stop of the day was  Eastwood Park — also on Harrisburg — where we just missed the mayor (or designated flunky, we’ll have to watch the news tonight) dedicating the just-opened “Boundless Playground.” (And careful, pal, that’s trademarked.)

According to the news release and the sign, the charitable foundation connected with drug store CVS is footing the bill for a big chunk of the building of these kinds of playgrounds, which are designed to accommodate “children of all abilities.”

Good to know. I don’t think I would have guessed CVS’ involvement otherwise.

Seriously, you couldn’t have fit another CVS logo in this park today it was so packed with CVS logos. I mean, you could undergo a CVS version of the Ludovico technique and not had more images of CVS pounded into your skull that you would have at Eastwood Park today.

Oh, what’s that? What’s that other little logo on the sign?

Oh, hey! I helped pay for the playground, too! Who knew?

Actually, I happy I helped pay for the thing, because I now have the right to complain about something tangentially related to it.

I’m all for playgrounds. And I’m all for having playgrounds for “children of all abilities.” (Although I think that’s code for “playground for Johnny with cerebral palsy” rather than “playground for Johnny who keeps getting picked last for kickball,” which would have helped me when I was a kid.)

My complaint centers on the swing set. Just look at it. What’s different about it?

Look at the ground under that swing set. It’s grass. And I felt it. It’s the most luscious, groomed, soft grass you’ve ever seen. River Oaks Country Club doesn’t have grass like this.

I understand the concept of this playground and its mission, and I’m for it. But is this a direction that all playgrounds will soon go? Will meadow-like grass under swing sets and monkey bars soon be standard or mandated on all playgrounds?

If so, we are doomed as a nation.

When I was a boy, our park swing sets were set atop dirt — if we were lucky. Sometimes it was gravel. Other times, black top. And it was a bonus if the swing set legs were actually secured in the ground. And by Jove, that’s what made our nation what it is today: generations of youth falling from a swing or jungle gym onto cement, like it was meant to be.

Sigh.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll try to venture out again soon.

Oh boy. I’m sure there is no way this can go horribly wrong.

Today’s main story in my city’s paper:

The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Although Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals, detractors say the experiment is reminiscent of the Vietnam War-era Agent Orange chemical program and raises questions about long-term effects.

Excuse me while I jump off a building.

A government bailout for journalism?

Via Poynter, here is a Boston Globe column written by David Scharfenberg:

…there are ways to keep young journalists employed and, more importantly, to preserve the sort of journalism that keeps our democracy afloat.

Some have suggested changes in tax law that would make it easier for philanthropies to buy major news outlets, others favor a National Endowment for Journalism that newspapers could tap to pay for the investigative and international reporting now getting short-shrift.

But we need something bigger. Congress, intent on jump-starting the economy, should set aside $100 million – well under 1 percent of the stimulus approved by the House of Representatives and pending in the Senate – for a national journalism fund.

Ugh. This sounds like the worst idea in the world. How can journalists keep their integrity in reporting on Congress and the White House if they’re taking a buyout from the very people they should be covering?

In a slow economy, in a dying industry, what is the answer for journalism? Filling out TPS reports, of course!

File this in the “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” category.

Here is what some editor of The South Bend (Indiana) Tribune came up with to improve journalism at the paper: A daily productivity check list! On his journalism news site, Jim Romenesko’s posted the memo passed out at the paper that announced this Pulitzer-worthy innovation.

Warning! Do NOT read the memo in its entirety. Your head will explode worse than if you were a Nazi peering into the Ark. We clip a bit for you here that details what the paper’s assistant managing editor said should go into each “daily productivity e-mail:”

These e-mails would go not only to your most immediate editor but to at least five editors, including me. This daily e-mail would lay out specifically what you accomplished that day, what you need to finish or follow up on the next day, and what you plan to do that next day. We mean everything, from the most mundane county council advance to the beginning interview in the most ambitious investigation that may or may not see the light of day (or publication). It also would allow you to bring up any other communication you need to share. From there, yes, your editor will be able to tell how busy you were, but more importantly, he or she will know your accomplishments and your struggles. From that, our morning planning meetings can be even more efficient.

Here are some examples of what such notes should look like:

Checked e-mail; Checked logs at Mishawaka, county and South Bend; Responded to accident at Ironwood and bypass; Called Mishawaka Detective Bureau about child neglect case (records would not provide narrative since it is under investigation by CPS); Called Mishawaka woman struck Monday by hit-and-run driver while she was getting into her car; Wrote story on woman struck by hit-and-run driver; Placed call to Trent about two rape cases that were on log (he was not in this morning); left message. Called Humane Society of St. Joseph County to see if any animals were taken out of home in Mishawaka where elderly lady was livign in filth surrounded by several full litter boxes; was told someone would be in contact. Updated productivity report; Spoke briefly with Trent about rape cases on log – appears to be teenage girl covering up for sexual escapades; Spoke with John Pavlekovich about concerns regard retirement story – presumably ironed everything out; Pow-wowed with Dave about year-end crime stories – I get homicides! — start working on lead smelter reporting, call health dept. again, talk to lead director, no idea what I’m talking about; — call IDEM local office, am transferred to regional office, leave message for public relations people; — am asked to work on Goshen beating story; — call Goshen PIO, discuss YouTube video beating; — try to find number for YouTube mom, search phone books, internet; — do web update; — call Goshen schools superindendent, leave message; — go to video bootcamp lunch; — research YouTube beating posted by teens, leave message for national anti-Internet abuse lady; — reach other woman affilated with anti-Internet abuse, talk to about story; — call super Intendant again, leave second message; — go to 2 p.m. interview with judge Scopelitis, wait forever in rotunda because he’s in hearing, finally leave and reschedule; — call back superindendant, finally reach for story; — find address for YouTube mom; — write YouTube video story, file story; — give graph to john stump for lead smelter story; — Drive out to Goshen to try and find YouTube mom, get lost, turn around, find trailer park, can’t find address, finally find address, family no longer lives there, drive back. Planning to come in around 9 tomorrow.

I’m guessing the editors at The South Bend Tribune haven’t seen the movie ‘Office Space.’

Zombies ahead!

From FOXNews:

Transportation officials in Texas are scrambling to prevent hackers from changing messages on digital road signs after one sign in Austin was altered to read, “Zombies Ahead.”

Chris Lippincott, director of media relations for the Texas Department of Transportation, confirmed that a portable traffic sign at Lamar Boulevard and West 15th Street, near the University of Texas at Austin, was hacked into during the early hours of Jan. 19.

“It was clever, kind of cute, but not what it was intended for,” said Lippincott, who saw the sign during his morning commute. “Those signs are deployed for a reason – to improve traffic conditions, let folks know there’s a road closure.”

That’s just what the government wants you to believe: It’s just a hacker’s prank, folks. No zombies to see here. Move along.

Me? I’m headed out to buy some heavy ordinance.

They slipped the surly bonds of earth… to touch the face of God

Today marks the anniversary of my generation’s “Kennedy moment.”

Every American of my parents generation remembers exactly where they were the moment they heard that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Every American of my generation remembers where they were on January 28, 1986 — the day of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

I was in the 10th grade, reading in the library at Schalick High. Mr. Pierangeli — who I remember as being quick on his feet and funny — strolled by with a throwaway quip: “I’m sure glad I didn’t get picked to be Teacher in Space.”

Challenger’s breakup killed seven astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, the first member of NASA’s Teacher in Space project.

I rushed to a television where students and teachers were gathering to watch the footage, which was being played over and over by CNN, a new, 24-hour news network.

That night,  President Ronald Reagan spoke to the nation and showed why he became known as the great communicator. His speech closed with this:

There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, “He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.” Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved good-bye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”

Run Rabbit… and Godspeed

Some sad news today.

Novelist John Updike is dead.

From the obituary in The New York Times:

Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for ”Rabbit Is Rich” and ”Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Updike was 76 and died of lung cancer.

Me? I’m going out before cancer can get me.

Drinking is bad for your health? That all depends now, doesn’t it?

In this case, whiskey saved a life.

From the London Metro:

A pensioner who got trapped under his own sofa survived for two and a half days by drinking a conveniently-placed bottle of whisky.

Joe Galliott first became ensnared by his sofa when he tripped over a phone cord during a power cut, sending him tumbling onto the sofa. This made the sofa flip over, landing on top of him and trapping him underneath.

While he was unable to get out from under the furniture, and had no food or water, Galliott was fortunate enough to have knocked a bottle of whisky within reach of his sofa-prison as he fell.

In other drinking/London-related news, I’ll have to get over my Amy Winehouse crush. She’s apparently fallen for a fitness instructor at a Caribbean villa. Sigh.

Traveling with baby

A public service announcement:

If you’re going to carry your infant in a suitcase, please, pleaseremember to poke some air holes in the luggage.

From the Associated Press via The Houston Chronicle:

A woman whose newborn daughter was found dead and stuffed in a suitcase has pleaded guilty to a charge of injury to a child.

Jacqueline Reich, 24, of Laguna Vista, entered the guilty plea Friday in the September 2005 death of her newborn, named Ava.

Reich will remain in jail pending a Feb. 12 sentencing hearing, according to Friday’s online edition of The (McAllen) Monitor.

Reich’s family discovered the newborn’s body in a suitcase in the bathroom and alerted police.

I do a lot of traveling on commercial airlines and have experienced more than my share of infants screaming bloody hell and toddlers who have yet to discover the wonderful world of volume control — so I’m very supportive of traveling with small children in luggage rather than having them in the plane itself.

Just remember to poke a few air holes in the luggage. (Helpful hint: do this before you put the baby in.)

Now you know.

And knowing is half the battle.