August 31, 2007

Mark Trail Likes Squirrels


Cats in Sinks

Cats in Sinks - for all your cat and bathroom needs

Where is MY 2 and 20???

Workin' private equity. - By Michael Kinsley - Slate Magazine

Don't Let's go to the Dogs Tonight

I just finished reading Alexandra Fuller’s book about her childhood in Africa entitled Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight. She was born in 1969, so she really catches only the end of the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean conflict, and she was just a child. But she does an excellent job of evoking the desperation and harshness that the war and its aftermath created.

After Rhodesia lost the war, her family stayed in Zimbabwe for a short while and then moved to Mali, (Malawi), Tanzania, and Zambia. It is a sad trek across a sad continent.

August 30, 2007

Great Map Site

Maps For Us


Last night Doreen and I visited the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see the exhibit which includes the actual fossilized bones of Lucy, the most famous Australopithecus afarensis that exists in the world today.

We arrived a bit early for the 6:00 PM open, and had a plan to get in before the huge crowds that we anticipated. We were both surprised at how few people seemed to be there. We got 6:15 entry times (as with many exhibits these days, you get a ticket for a specific time. This helps to reduce crowds) and settled back to wait.

While waiting, Doreen spotted the special events director for the museum. (Did I mention that the museum is inside Doreen’s park?) We talked about the exhibit and the controversy it has engendered. He said he feels that this exhibit will be twice as big as Body World 3, the plasticized bodies exhibit. It was interesting talking to him.

Here, here, here, here and here are links to article about the exhibit, and the controversy surrounding it.

The doors finally opened and we walked in. As we wanted to spend as much time with the fossil as possible, we skipped the food and went straight to the exhibit. We were the only people to do so. We wandered about the Ethiopian Treasures part of the exhibition for a while, completely alone. But we quickly wandered back to the fossil itself.

It was amazing to see this in real life. It is 3.2 million years old, and quite remarkable. We were alone with the bones themselves (I felt as if I could reach in and take one as a souvenir. I don’t think that Doreen would have approved) But something was wrong. We were just TOO alone.

We stayed in there about a half hour, and as we were starting to leave a couple of folks started wandering in. It just seemed that nobody was really that interested in the exhibit. There were plenty of people eating and drinking in the museum proper, but the exhibition was almost empty. Now, it may have gotten crowded later, but we didn’t stick around to find out.

I really don’t think that this is going to be a blockbuster show. I really wanted to see it (and have been bugging Doreen for months to make sure we got these tickets. She is very patient with me) but I don’t think that it has grabbed the popular appeal that something like Body World did. After all, only 40% of people in the US “believe in” evolution! (I wonder how many of those people “believe in” gravity). So the broad appeal of a fossil like this may not be forthcoming.

I hope I am wrong in this assessment. The museum has put a lot of money and pride into getting this thing going. I am very happy that they did, for my own sake. I just hope others in town will be as moved as I am.

Lunar Eclipse

This last Tuesday morning here in Houston we were in the path of a Total Lunar Eclipse. I love these sorts of astronomical events.

Our alarm went off as usual at 5:00 AM. We usually listen to the news until 5:30, when NPR tells there little funny story of the morning. But that morning, our local weatherman mentioned that the total eclipse was in progress (unlike a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse stays total for quite a while. In this instance, it was total from 4:52 AM to 6:22 AM.).

SO I rousted Doreen out of bed and we were treated to a beautiful red moon as the clouds parted long enough for us to enjoy the sight.

High Tech Cities

How Did Your City Do? - Popular Science

Tell me things like this happen in Milwaukee...

Man Lassos, Ties Another Man To Bush - Local News Story - KPRC Houston

August 22, 2007


Last weekend we had my lovely and talented niece Josienne and her financé Jared (the vegan) visit us. Jared is thinking of applying to the Jones School (the Rice MBA) school for an MBA. We hope he does.

They generously sent us some Rendezvous Ribs today as a thank you for the visit. What a great deal for us! We heated them up on our charcoal grill, warmed up some Rendezvous sauce and had a delightful (and fattening) meal. We accompanied it with some Argentine Malbec that was recommended by a friend of Doreen’s.

It is a wonderful world.

Real movie of a jumbo squid

Hey Matthew!

THIS is for you!


August 18, 2007

LA Times doesn't like Google.

Hard to believe:

Techdirt: LA Times: Publishers Think Google Is Worse Than Terrorists

So much for the free market.

Out of Town Visitors

My niece and her fiancé are visiting from Memphis. He is planning to apply to the Rice MBA program. We have been showing them around Houston.

Yesterday morning we had a behind the scenes tour of the zoo, and it was great fun. We were able to pet and feed the elephants (they have a new baby there – it was able to untie Josienne’s shoes! It LOVED untying her shoes), get licked in the face by an Okapi; get a close up view of a Tawny Frogmouth. They also let us into the Meerkat exhibit. That was a blast, they let us feed them mealworms. Josienne and Jared took some photos and videos. I will link to them once they get the online.

Yesterday afternoon we took a tour of the Jones School. That was quite interesting. I have been to many events at the school, but this is the first time I went on a tour. It made ME want to get an MBA.

The first evening they were here we ate at Dolce Vita, our favorite pizza place in town. Then last night we started out at Max’s Wine Dive for a nice glass of wine and some treats. It was our first time there, and the food was great, the wine was a bargain, but it was VERY loud. I am too old for such a place, but I think that J&J were OK with it.

Tonight we are going to my sister’s for a party. That will be fun.

August 15, 2007

A letter to the Houston Metro

I am contemplating sending the following letter to the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority, the organization that runs our bus and light rail service here in town.

Am I being unreasonable? Should I let this fellow slide? Comments welcome.


I had the unfortunate experience of serving on a jury with one of your drivers. His last name was XXXyyy; I do not recall his first name.

The reason I am writing this letter it to convey to you the extremely negative image that Mr. XXXyyy portrayed to me a citizen of Harris County and an infrequent bus rider. I want to explain in detail three things he said that I found extremely offensive.

The first two relate to his job, the third his attitude towards race.

While in jury duty (Judge ZZZZ’s court – the ABCnd District Court) there is a lot of time to talk. And talk Mr. XXXyyy did.

In the two work incidents he was bragging about how he would “get back at” riders who displeased him for one reason or another. In the first case, he talked about a man who got on the bus brusquely, jostling past two women who were trying to get off the bus. He said he asked this man to just let the ladies off the bus, and the man was somewhat rude to him in his reply. Later, as the man stood up to leave the bus at his stop, he started to light a cigar. Mr. XXXyyy informed him that smoking on the bus is not allowed (rightfully so!). The man snapped something about getting off, and then left the bus.

Mr. XXXyyy said that he then picked up a couple of passengers, and the man with the cigar was walking down the street in the same direction that the bus was heading. He noticed that there was a large puddle on the side of the road, and he made sure that he was driving at full speed as he hit the puddle, subsequently splashing the poor fellow who was walking down the sidewalk. As Mr. XXXyyy put it: “I extinguished his cigar for him!”

The second incident involved a man who got on his bus and was verbally abusive to Mr. XXXyyy. Now, please don’t take from this letter that I believe that people should either smoke cigars on the busses or abuse the drivers. My point is more the actions that Mr. XXXyyy took in reply to these circumstances.

Mr. XXXyyy and this man evidently verbally sparred with each other for some time, with the man in question using especially foul language (which, by the way, Mr. XXXyyy shared sotto vocco with the rest of the jurors). Mr. XXXyyy ultimately ejected this fellow from the bus, (again, rightfully so) and told him that he “Never forgets a face, and payback is hell”.

Two months later, according to Mr. XXXyyy, he was driving the last bus of the evening (I cannot recall which route) and observed this same man burdened with several packages waiting at a bus stop. Mr. XXXyyy said that he slowed his bus, and as he drove by, pointed to his face and shouted to the man “Remember this face? Payback is hell!” and then drove off, leaving the man at the bus stop.

Now, I understand that when some individuals feel that they have a platform from which to expound that they will exaggerate their actions. But my question to you is: Do you want a driver who brags in this way?

The final episode I found especially offensive. The case on which we were jurors involved a young black man accused of theft. As we were discussing the case, Mr. XXXyyy opined that “I work with a lot of black people, and I know how they think. They don’t think like we do (the jury was all white)” He was shouted down by two jurors, myself being one. He persisted in his comments about how “They aren’t like us. I know them” My question to you in this case is: How can a fellow drive a bus in the City of Houston all day long with an Us and Them attitude towards his fellow humans? I found this not only offensive, but almost criminal.

Thank you for letting me speak my mind.


Good website about an interesting rhetorical technique:


August 14, 2007

Jury Duty

I received a jury duty summons about a month ago. The date for my appearance was August 13th – last Monday. I put it on my calendar, and did not really think about it. I have been called to jury duty three times before, and only empanelled once. I did not think that I would get through the voir dire process.

The day of the summons came, and my sweet ever loving volunteered to take me to the Jury Assembly Room, as there is little parking around that building. Also, it has been very hot here in Houston – highs breaking 100 for the past couple of days. This was a generous offer that I accepted happily.

The assembly process is pretty slow. But at about 10:30 (I arrived at 8:15) we were shuffled off to the courtroom. We were told to wait in the hall (with 130 other potential jurors outside the courtroom. There are exactly 24 chairs on that floor (the 15th floor of the Harris County Criminal Court Building).

We got called in for voir dire at about 11:30. There were 65 people in the room, and they had to select 12 jurors and an alternate. Again, even though I was juror number 16, I did not think that I would be picked. The defense attorney even called me out to ask what it was my company did.

But yeah, howdy, when they called off the juror numbers, mine was amongst them. I shuffled into the jury box as the rest of the people were dismissed.

It was another couple of hours (they bought us pizza) before the trial started.

The trial was the alleged theft of 760 cartons of cigarettes (worth $21,568.05) from a Grocer’s Supply truck. Well, sort of. It was not really all that simple.

Here are the basic facts of the case:

A Semi-truck with the cigarettes and other grocery supplies was parked in a motel’s parking lot. Sometime during the night, someone (unknown. Not this defendant) broke into the truck and stole the cigarettes. Somehow these cigarettes got from this secured, monitored parking lot to a street behind a 12’ security fence in a residential neighborhood.

That evening, our defendant (Charlie Smith, Jr) was driving down that street behind the parking lot for the motel, and spotted the cigarettes. He and his buddy (to whom he had loaned the truck that day) got out a started collecting the boxes of cigarettes. A roller (police cruiser) happened by and spotted them loading the truck.

The policeman stopped, told them to get on the road (at gunpoint, according to the cop, no gun, according to Charlie) on their bellies. They complied, and some moments later two more rollers showed up. The suspects were cuffed, questioned, and ultimately released.

They were arrested a couple of days later for the crime.

That is really pretty much it.

We, the Jury, decided that the prosecuting attorney did not prove Mr. Smith’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That process took about two hours. (the first vote was 7 to 5 to acquit) It took a lot of jawboning to get the numbers switched to 12-0.

Did I mention that Mr. Smith had been in the Big House several times before for theft? That did not really matter to the jury – it barely came up.

Did I mention that Charlie’s friend plead out? We didn’t know that until we rendered our verdict.

Justice was done, and I am proud of my part in it.

August 9, 2007

This is our 'hood

The Houstonist is a pretty good local blog:

Houstonist: Urbanist: Lower Westheimer

After reading that story, go and read about the Duck Dumping in Hermann Park (Doreen's Park)

Public Images

Google Map has extended their Street View option to Houston. Here is the Street View of the corner of Montrose and Westheimer. I call it the Metaphorical Heart of Houston. Our street is not visible with Street View. The rumor is that they may roll their little cameracars around more of the city, but Houston is pretty big.

Microsoft, however, has a picture of our house on their Live View. Click on the “Bird’s Eye View” and then zoom in (you can’t zoom in TOO far)

August 6, 2007

Mine Disaster

I hate reading about coal mine disasters. Having worked underground, I can identify with the emotions of the people involved. When you work in a mine, you are trained and trained and trained for safety. But there is no way you can anticipate some of the problems that will occur. You can’t predict an earthquake. You can’t anticipate an unrecorded oil well location (which is what flooded that mine in West Virginia a couple of years ago). You never have a great idea of the integrity of the rock you are digging into. A friend of mine worked in a gold mine in Durango, CO where they “glory holed” (punch through) into a lake. Needless to say, the lake flooded the mine.

But reading about this mine made me wonder what are the most dangerous occupations. As with everything these days, it seems as if the Internet is your friend. A quick Google gave me this link, with this table:

The 10 most dangerous jobs by fatality rate are:




Total Deaths


Logging workers




Aircraft pilots




Fishers and fishing workers




Structural iron and steel workers




Refuse and recyclable material collectors




Farmers and ranchers








Electrical power line installers/repairers




Driver/sales workers and truck drivers




Taxi drivers and chauffeurs



Taxi drivers? Who knew. I guess it is because the US 42,636 people were killed in vehicle accidents in 2004 (

The other interesting conclusion that I drew from this chart is that there are not really many more pilots in this country than loggers (91,991 loggers vs 117,965 pilots)

And here is a little tidbit from the report I linked to above:

“Fatal injuries from being struck by objects jumped 12 percent...that is now the third most common fatal event, surpassing homicide on the job, which dropped 9 percent to 551. That continued a steep decline from a peak of 1,080 on-the-job murders in 1994.”

“on-the-job murders”???

I guess I am glad that I worked underground afterall.