Thursday, July 31, 2008

News from The Dude

I came very close to losing my mind last week. It was surreal. I've never felt that way before. I think I have an inkling (just an inkling) of how a parent must feel when they suddenly lose a child. If you had gone through this I bet you would have come close to losing your mind as well.

I believe the issue has been resolved. I hope and pray it has been resolved. I made a promise to myself to never tell anyone about the specifics, and here it ends.

Topic 1. So, The Dude, aka Casey's Nemesis, aka Stanley. (I never got the "Stanley" thing.) He sent me a link to this lovely house in south Houston off 288.

$137,000 and it's yours. And I thought the mania was contained in California. Here's the full gallery. Go ahead and click on the pictures to enlarge.

Update: Should have checked. Swamplot already has this gem covered, with many more details.

Topic 2. Another hot, hellish Houston early evening commute tonight. The good news? They are done pouring concrete on the Katy Freeway. All that's left is striping and moving barriers. 16 lanes of fast-moving bliss await. 20 minutes to the office at 70 mph.

Topic 3. A few months back I wrote about medical insurance. I have to shop around for it now due to circumstances. Catastrophic coverage is still relatively cheap. BC/BS has a plan for $52/mo. I'm pretty healthy. Dr. CVS is around and they charge about $60, not much more than a typical office visit with co-pay. I've used them before for the kids on the weekend when the doc's office was closed and was always satisfied. If I have a heart attack it will cost me five grand, but I won't be bankrupt. Everything else up to five grand I'll pay for out of pocket.

I don't blame the boss, he's never offered medical insurance. It's a tiny speck of a company, and in the current market the very specialized widgets we manufacture (bad cliché alert) are as hard to sell as ice to Eskimos. I talk to customers every day about why they aren't buying and I see the books. Times are tough due to commoditization of certain electronic components.

Some people feel they are owed, even though they aren't paying attention to the Big Picture. Me? I am always grateful to have a job. I don't understand anyone who has a different attitude about work. I remember the .dot bomb era, when the 20-year-old code monkeys complained when my prior employer took away the vibrating leather recliners in the nap room. I am not making that up. The "stress" the poor code monkeys went through! (Most of them made at least 60k and showed up at the office around 10:00 and sneaked out between 3:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. Not bad for a gig when you have no college degree.) The code monkeys lost sight. They didn't pay attention to the financials, which were public and available for all to see.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My life as of July 25, 2008

I have been made aware of something disturbing that relates to Hammer #1. When I say disturbing, let me explain that better. It is highly disturbing. As in "No more sleep for Lou, who feels like he wants to vomit every second he's awake during this surreal time" disturbing.

I am offline for a while. I appreciate you coming by more than you know, but I can't afford to waste time blogging right now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Park 8 Chinatown Project

Swamplot found this grandiose video of the apparently failed Park 8 project in Chinatown (why is it called that when there are far more Vietnamese people in that part of town?) that I've written about before. I have always been skeptical about this project.

The crane was removed weeks ago. I just noticed today that the signs are gone too. All that's left is some gang graffiti on the sheets of plywood that held up the signs.

Funny thing. I can remember the Chron's Nancy Sarnoff writing a gushing story about this project, and now all I can find is this. I think that Nancy should maybe visit some of these major developments when she is handed a press release? I am just an average Joe and I saw problems. I think reporters should report and not reprint press releases.

The granddaddy of all Class A office building manias

Rob was amazed at what he saw in Seattle recently. I can only laugh. As a kid, I saw the greatest Class A office building mania ever witnessed in the US. Within a 3-year period, from about 1979-1982, millions of square feet of prime office space was added to downtown Houston alone. Much more was added in Uptown and the 'burbs, leading to the bizarre sight of 50-story buildings being erected next door to houses. In a blip of time, the skyline was totally transformed.

Houstonians know how that turned out. Downtown Houston was a forest of vacant see-through office towers for more than 15 years. Nothing was built downtown from 1986-2001.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dogman


I saw Doug in the Katy Best Buy the other day. He's a nice guy, very approachable. In the late 1980s when King's X was sorta big, I used to see him hanging out at the Sound Warehouse store on Westheimer near Voss, wearing his Sgt. Pepper attire.

The amazing thing is he doesn't look like a guy who's approaching 60. A friend of mine who's tight with him told me that Doug didn't want the softer harmonies of some of Kings X's songs, he always wanted the loud bass-heavy crunch.

Germans love Barack Obama

One thing you can say about Germans: They dearly love their propaganda posters.

Am I calling our future president a fascist/Nazi in waiting? No. But the fact that people are afraid to mock him does make me nervous, as does the slavish French-kissing obedience by the news media.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pissed off Camaro

Has any car looked more pissed off and angry than the new Camaro? Sure is taking GM a long time. They had prototypes out for years, even appearing in that stupid Transformers movie last summer.

Yes, I'd like one please.

Update: From the comments on the PM website, "I'm sorry, but this looks like an early 70s Hot Wheels car come to life. In others words, ridiculous and cartoonish."

So why is this a bad thing? I would dearly love to drive a car that looked like an early 70s Hot Wheels car come to life.

Deflation

Why is it a bad thing when housing becomes more affordable? Economists and government officials cheer when other consumer items drop in price. They cheer when food and energy prices are stable or decline, but they worry when gas goes to $4/gallon. Economists and government officials love it when prices decline for consumer goods and commodities because it's good for the Average Joe, allowing them to keep more cash and (theoretically) have a greater ability to save. So why should housing prices be any different? And why does the media call the housing bust a disaster when in fact it is just the opposite? The bust provides a great opportunity for sensible people to purchase affordable real estate.

Casey Serin returns

Excuse me while I throw up. (TinyURL. No Google Juice for Casey!)
A 25-Year-Old Real Estate Investor and Foreclosure Survivor From California Reveals EXACTLY How To Quickly Cash Out Your Equity, Get Payment Relief, Save Your Credit, Avoid Foreclosure, and Sell Your House "As Is" in As Little as 48 HOURS!
Snowflake did none of these things except quickly strip out fake "equity." Disgusting. Nice hairdon't there, Casey. Do you expect desperate people to give you money looking like that?

I give him 5 days before he has second thoughts and yanks the site down.

Update: He yanked the site down today.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wizardry

High school daze. Hours spent on an Apple II playing Wizardry. Oh damn, an Undead Kobold. Reams of graph paper wasted on mapping things out. You know what? It was a lot of fun. Physically mapping out these imaginary worlds, including Zork, wasn't exactly productive. But I can think of many worse activities for teenage boys to engage in.

Cherrypal

You may have heard about the new super-cheap PC called the Cherrypal. It's essentially an ASUSTeK Eee PC, only without the monitor, keyboard or mouse. Very limited storage, just a 4MB flash drive. When you buy a Cherrypal, you also get a 50MB online storage account. Just login and access your files that way. Cloud computing is the future. Right?

The Cherrypal is about $250.00. It only has two USB ports, so if you have a mouse and keyboard hooked in I am not sure how you're supposed to be able to transfer pictures from your camera or hook up your iPod to download tunes. The bigger question is what happens to your free 50MB storage account when Cherrypal goes out of business? Before you say it won't happen, remember that the history of personal computing is riddled with failed companies.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Success 8, Houston 7

Cleaning up my study, getting it ready for a flat generic coat of white semi-gloss for the used house seller. That maroon color looked nice 10 years ago. Taking stuff down off the walls. A memento from my biker daze long ago. Hah!

It looks like the Alamo Challenge (Houston to San Antonio) is no more. When I rode it the ride was very disorganized (they didn't even have lunch set up), and I didn't much care for sleeping on the floor of the gym at the Gonzales High School. It's kind of a shame. The first day on that ride was about 130 miles, and it was mostly on Highway 90. Nice country, pretty little South Texas towns like Shiner and Hallettsville. A very fast ride, gently-rolling hills, wide shoulders and very few automobiles. The Alamo Challenge should have been a great fall bookend to the MS150.

The Katy Flatland is still around. The only time I have ever experienced symptoms of genuine heat stroke was one year on this ride. For those not familiar with the area, Katy is as flat as a pancake. West of the city are rice farms. You're talking 20 and 30-mile stretches of perfectly straight, perfectly flat roads with no trees to provide shade, and in July it's common for the temps to be between 95 and 100, with high humidity to boot. This one year I remember getting into Katy proper and collapsing at a rest stop. The people there had to pour water on me.

The Sealy Crossroad Classic appears to be no more. That was a great ride. Nice rolling hills, beautiful countryside. I still want to live in Cat Spring. The Hotter 'N Hell ride up in Wichita Falls is still around, and it is still big. It was one year at the HnH (1993?) that made me quit this hobby/obsession and pick up mountain biking. I remember the exact moment. I was about 50 miles into the ride, somewhere near Burkburnett, just miles from the Oklahoma border. Four years in a row I had driven almost 400 miles from Houston to Wichita Falls for this ride, camping at the high school stadium the night before. I was approaching Burkburnett, admiring the hideous Martian landscape and enjoying the 105 degree temperature, when it suddenly dawned on me: Why the hell am I doing this?

Something else I took down off the wall. I don't remember when I bought this. I do remember that the guy who sold it to me at some street fair in Montrose said it was taken in Missouri.
In case you are wondering, yes, I am replacing the carpeting. A large (sadly deceased) black dog and two kids tend to be rough on light gray carpets.

Hello, Dolly!

So was I first? Surely the headline writers are busy right now creating that groaner. If she heads up the Texas coast, I guarantee you we'll see even more groaners, like "Houston has a problem."

I've mentioned before that this is the first time in many years that Accuweather Guesscaster Joe Bastardi hasn't predicted a major hurricane slamming the upper Texas coast. This is not a good sign for us, and there are still 3 months to go in the season.

Pew Research quiz

LGF linked to this. I would be very surprised if anyone who reads my tiny blog would miss a single question. I got 12 out of 12, and you will too. But it's still fun to take such a quiz.

Ron Jeremy blows the trumpet

I've posted this before.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy the early-1970s Stevie Wonder. I loved it as a child. As a middle-aged guy I still love it. Genuine talented musicians, jamming to funky tunes. Maybe Your Baby is so so cool. (Every single voice is Stevie. Featuring Ray Parker doing the wicked guitar solo!)

Stevie's problem since the "Ebony and Ivory" disaster I think started because he quit playing real drums and started programming drum machines and started using lousy-ass samples. I also think it was the time he started to take the "Stevie Wonder is a musical genius" message too seriously.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My life as of July 19, 2008

Bad anxiety attacks today. I had a lull for about a week. I was less anxious, no panic attacks. I was able to sleep 4-5 hours a night. Then something happened yesterday evening that really shook me. Holding up my hands right now... they are shaking. I feel like a very dark cloud of doom is about to wash over me. Sorry for being such a downer, it's just the way things are.

Different note. I've written about this house many times before. It was the house with the small, nasty-ass pool. I even did some short video clips about it that amazingly received close to 50,000 views on YouTube.

I was pedaling by and I noticed the house sold 3 weeks ago! An older Hispanic woman was moving in. A bunch of cars in the driveway all had Florida plates. I assume they were relatives, and they were busy repainting the exterior and doing new landscaping.

I've pointed out the explosion of foreclosures in this part of town before, but a real estate agent told me that it's slowly crawling back. Houses are ridiculously cheap here, and in fact we never saw the price mania. Just a slow appreciation of between 3-5% a year until 2001, when it stalled out. The reason? A flood of cheap cookie-cutter houses in Katy neighborhoods. Why buy a used house when you can drive another 10 miles up the road and get a new one for the same price? Those new neighborhoods are now Foreclosure Central. Worse, they are 10 miles from the nearest freeway and traffic on the local roads really sucks. I think these older, more established neighborhoods with larger houses that have convenient access to the freeways will come back sooner than places like Lakeville, where owners have no yards and prices for tiny 1200 square foot houses are still $100k.

Ohio residents go hungry

The Nunez family near Toledo were profiled by NPR.
The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it's more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don't buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.
I am going through some tough times as well. I have never liked to denigrate struggling people. Even if you don't believe in the idea of karma, it can bite you in the ass. That's my personal rule. With that said, you can still eat a healthy diet on a tiny budget, even today. There are yolk-free noodles with no fat and fewer calories, and there is nothing inherently wrong with potatoes. In fact, potatoes are very healthy things to eat. Chicken is still cheap. I can buy a whole chicken for about 4 bucks.

It's when the food is processed and pre-prepared. That's when it gets more expensive. I suspect that "they eat a lot of starches like potatoes" really means that they like to eat a lot of potato chips and McDonald's french fries.

Friday, July 18, 2008

John Culberson takes a dump on NASA

Congressman John Culberson blasted NASA for wasting money. The Chronicle blasted back, quoting local Democrats and NASA officials.
"It's outrageous to suggest that the agency that put a man on the moon has somehow failed us," said Culberson's Democratic challenger, Michael Skelly. "I will always be a strong supporter of NASA."

Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, whose congressional district includes NASA's Johnson Space Center, declared that "now is not the time to take away the tools NASA will use to continue to carry out their mission."

"Johnson Space Center is a jewel of Texas," said Lampson. "It's times like these when I'm relieved — and I know my constituents are relieved — that I'm the representative of JSC."
First of all, Culberson wasn't being critical of the Apollo program. Second, I think there's more than a little truth to what Culberson said. We have frittered away hundreds of billions of dollars on a launch system that is too dangerous, too complex and too expensive to maintain. I am all for spending tax dollars on manned space flight, but I happen to think Culberson is correct.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What the hell is the UN "World Court"?

Some assholes at the "World Court," whatever the hell that is, demanded that the State of Texas spare some scumbag murderers. Meanwhile, look at what happened in Iran today.

Not a peep from the UN. Nary a protest from the "World Court". I am forced to conclude that the UN World "Court" believes that it's cool to brutally execute homosexuals because of their sexual desires, but it is wrong to execute lowlifes who savagely rape and then murder 14 year old girls if they happen to be American. What other conclusion is there?

El Scorcho

When Pinkerton came out 12 years ago I hated it. Now this is my favorite Weezer CD.

The answer my friend,

Drudge linked to this. T. Boone Pickens is pimping a plan, but what he doesn't say is he's planning to make a poohload of money via subsidies that rate payers like me have to cough up the dough for.

If wind energy is cost effective, cool. But I think we should be concentrating our efforts on standardized cookie-cutter nuke plants instead. I think it's stupid to build a 600 mile transmission line from West Texas for a sporadic power source when we could build steady, reliable power sources down in Bay City.

Oil prices are down again

This can only mean one thing: It's time for the Evil Dwarf to fire off some missiles, and for Melonhead to say something provocative and stupid. The Evil Dwarf may even fire off some Kowsar's at tankers. I don't think it will work anymore, though. Oil's heading for $60 and below. It's no different than any other stupid bubble.

Credit Cards

Credit cards have destroyed many thousands of families. These companies send them out like candy to people who aren't savvy enough to understand the risk, then lobby Washington to make the bankruptcy laws tighter when people can no longer pay. I despise these companies, and I despise this "industry" with every fiber of my being.

Porky Pig Swears

I must be the last person on the intertubes who hasn't seen this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Will the last one left in California please turn off the lights?

The Census Bureau has a breakdown of population trends for US cities with populations of over 100,000 (.xls file). 74 of these cities saw a decline in population from June 2006-June 2007. Of those 74 cities, 21 are in California, 8 are in Florida, 4 are in Michigan. Rounding out the bottom is Columbus, Georgia.

The city with the greatest percentage gain was New Orleans, which isn't surprising since people are returning to the Crescent City after Katrina. The city with the greatest real increase in population was Houston. And based on other census data, Harris County alone has seen an additional 250,000 people over the past 3 years.

I keep telling ya, it's like 1980 all over. The energy bubble is gonna pop, Houston's gonna get hammered within 2-3 years. I don't believe the "It's different this time, really!" hype any more than I bought the Nasdaq or "real estate can only go up" hype. The only difference between now and 1980 is they aren't throwing up quite as many skyscrapers downtown. There are no plans for super-tall buildings. Otherwise, things are the same. Gross overbuilding of office warehouse complexes, way too many strip shopping centers (many of which are vacant), too many cookie cutter houses.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wes Anderson, come back home.

Wes Anderson's movies get worse the farther he travels from Houston. Come back home. You know about these people, so write your scripts about them. There are plenty of interesting stories here.



Omar Khadr is an asshole

I am sorry for being vulgar, but it's true. Omar Khadr is an asshole who murdered an American medic (oooh, how brave) and is now trying to weasel out of it. There was no legitimate reason for him being in Afghanistan. None. He doesn't belong in Guantanamo? Fine. Send him to a US or Canadian prison. 'Cry of a desperate young man' my ass. If he's capable of traveling halfway around the world to take up arms against US and allied soldiers (including Canadians), he is capable of rotting away in prison for a long time.

Some things I'll never understand

Yesterday really sucked. I'll tell you about it sometime. Meanwhile, here are some things I'll never understand.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The solution to California's problems

The answer is high-speed rail. This is a pretty slick presentation. It almost makes me wish we didn't cancel the Texas Triangle project.

Californians could solve global warming, make California a world leader again, create 450,000 jobs and eliminate sprawl. High speed rail is Sierra Club ApprovedTM, and it costs less than half the price of staying up to date with the freeways and airports. Visualize Fresno to downtown LA in 90 minutes! This is sure to be a high-volume route.

Arnie should increase taxes to pay for this. You Californians who whine about taxes, quit being selfish. Pay your fair share, build high speed rail, save the world.

Summer Camp

A reader pointed out in a different thread that kids still get to practice shooting .22 rifles at YMCA summer camp. There is still some sanity left in our world.

Me? Summer camp was the absolute best time of my life as a kid. Each July, Mom would drive two hours to drop me off at Camp Hazen, and I spent either 2 or 4 weeks in contented bliss. The cabins were un-airconditioned and broiling at times, but it didn't matter. The food was even pretty good, with the exception of the oatmeal which everyone called "Hazen paste." I never understood the handful of kids who moped around being homesick. The only thing I didn't like about YMCA summer camp was the ride home.

I am looking forward to sending my son to Camp Cullen next summer. I can't wait to hear how much he enjoyed it.

Now, Meatballs. Was there anything remotely funny about that movie? Other than leaving Morty asleep in the middle of the road or on a raft in the lake.

Sugar

Can't sleep. Have some Sugar.



Speaking of Hüsker Dü, here's an ancient video that should appeal to James Lileks and Mary Tyler Moore fans. It's Minneapolis!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My life as of July 12, 2008

Sorry if this bores you. I guess I am doing this for myself. I promise that one day I'll write about Hammer 1 and Hammer 2.

Today I cleaned. I did what Casey made Galina do. Then I spend an hour scrubbing the kids' shower down. It wasn't dirty per se, but the water here is very hard and leaves thick lime deposits. It was a major pain in the ass. I must say it looks pretty good now. Then I cleaned the windows, inside and out. I got on the extension ladder and removed screens that haven't come down in 3 years. I mowed the lawn, then went swimming for an hour. Then I made myself a tamale. It's the first solid food I've had in some time, and I must say it was pretty good.

Oh yeah, one other thing I did today. You may find this interesting. I went to Washington Mutual to close out one of my CD's. It matured today and I needed the money. For some reason they don't allow customers to do this online, so I went to my local branch. I handed the teller the "your CD is maturing" letter and told her I wanted the money transferred to my checking account. Her fingers zipped away for a few minutes, then she told me there would be a penalty. Huh? I showed her the letter. She went to her manager. Then she came back and told me to have a seat because "this has happened a few times today." The manager eventually came around and lead me to his kiosk. I sat there for 15 minutes while he typed away, got up and walked to a different room, then came back. He told me there would be a penalty. I got pissed. I told him that I think there's something strange going on at WaMu. I showed him the letter again. He got up and came back 10 minutes later, apologizing for the error. The fact that the manager of this WaMu branch was about 21 and had a greasy soul patch and gelled hair didn't instill confidence.

The past couple of nights I've been waking up around 2:00 with massive, stabbing cramps shooting up both of my calves. Serious painage. I take multivitamins, but there must be some nutrient deficiency going on. I've never had these types of cramps before, but it is a common problem. Based on what I've read, I think my inability to eat the past few weeks has reduced the level of sodium and potassium in my bloodstream.

RIP Dr. Michael DeBakey

Dr. Michael DeBakey died today at 99. There are very few people I would consider to be giants when it comes to their accomplishments. Dr. DeBakey was certainly one of those few. He was a great man.

It's interesting that the feud between DeBakey and Dr. Denton Cooley continued until last year.

Side note. Ernest DeBakey, one of Dr. DeBakey's sons, was a Houston attorney. He was very active in the local BBS community in the early 1990s. Ernest was headstrong and he didn't like me because I insisted upon calling him "Ernie." I was saddened to learn that he passed away a few years ago.

Dr. DeBakey outlived two of his sons, and his brother also lived to a ripe old age. Genetics are strange and mysterious.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Slow Death of Scouting

The number of boys participating in Scouting has been dropping for years. It was a major struggle this past year for my pack. I don't think it's a great mystery why this is happening. I chalk it up to three reason:
  • Due to the official BSA policy of refusing membership to homosexuals and atheists, many (all?) public schools now prohibit Scouts from recruiting on campus. When I was a kid, mimeographed leaflets were handed out to let the boys know about pack meetings. Rallies were held in the gym. No more. The BSA has lost their best recruiting tool.
  • Too many parents don't have (or won't make) the time to participate. Scouting is not short-term day care where you can drop your kid off for an hour or two while you go shopping. When your son becomes a Scout, you are also committing yourself. Many parents don't realize this, and after a while they get tired of it. (I'll wager that most of them don't really have more important things to do, Scouting just interferes with their TV time.)
  • It's intimidating for volunteers. Say you're a dad who wants to help out. Your son belongs to the pack. You still have to go through a background check, you must provide character references, and then you must pass a series of tests and finally take a class, just to prove you aren't a danger. This goes for all volunteers.
So BSA membership has been declining for years. Yet look at what the Houston area council recently built:

While the few remaining parents who are active with their sons in Scouting struggle with an endless series of popcorn sales and other fund raising drives, those at the top work in a nice new office building filled with paid staffers (PDF file). Nice salaries for an organization with declining membership, too. The packs provide their own funding for all of their activities, so why the palace on the North Loop? And what do these people do? I never saw one of the top leaders come out to us in the 3 years my son and I have been in Scouting. When it came to recruiting we were told, "You're on your own." But we still had to send in our dues.

If I had been in charge, I would have leased space in a cheap office warehouse somewhere to run the basic necessary operations. The BSA is supposed to be about helping our sons, it's not about nice offices. With the money saved I would have started a permanent fund so that the local BSA could run advertising campaigns to recruit members before the start of each school year. We need more effective membership drives and fewer United Way begathons. When was the last time your son saw an ad promoting the BSA on Saturday morning TV?

Obama's nuts

OK, am I the only person considering the idea that Jesse Jackson's foul rant was a bit of orchestrated theater?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Insomnia

I wonder why it is that some people literally shut down during periods of stress and are capable of sleeping 10-12 hours, plus take naps. This is amazing to me. I am almost envious. Is wheat grass the secret missing ingredient?

Get that physical exam done

I had to get a complete physical the other day to qualify for life insurance. I haven't had a physical since college. I think the majority of my readers are about my age, +/- about 5 years. I bet a lot of you have been putting it off too. It's not that bad, and it's not like the doctor enjoys it. So get it done.

Me? No problems. Normal blood pressure, no bad stuff detected. I've never had high blood pressure, unlike just about everyone else in my family. I told the doc about my dad having a massive aortic dissection a few years ago and I was worried about it being hereditary. The doc said the leading cause is high blood pressure. That's good, because the men on my side of the family tend to kick off early.
  • Grandfather 1: Ate a normal 1940ish diet, namely red meat and butter. Light smoker, loved his drink. Died at 72 from cancer and Alzheimer's.
  • Grandfather 2: Ate a normal 1940ish diet, namely red meat and butter and sometimes bacon grease to flavor the bread. Heavy smoker, didn't drink much. Died at 74 of emphysema.
  • Dad: Ate a normal 1960ish diet, namely red meat and margarine. Heavy smoker, then quit around 45. Heavy beer drinker turned moderate drinker. Very high blood pressure. Would have died at 61 except the EMT recognized the symptoms as being far more serious than a heart attack.
I hope I break the chain. I want to live to be a bitter and cranky old man who annoys people in whatever will become of the Internet.

Harris County grand juries and the race issue

Couldn't sleep at all. Not real sleep. I need a solid 8 hour stretch of REM time. Instead I just lie there. So I gave up and went downstairs to watch the news.

They are still talking about the Joe Horn case. Quanell X says,
"Where were the African Americans on that jury? Where were the Hispanics on that jury?" he said. "Grand juries are not reflective of the racial makeup of Harris County. There is no way under the sun in Harris County that a black man could have done the same thing that Joe Horn did under the exact same set of circumstances and not be placed in the jail."
I won't get into the decision, but I will say that Harris County juries do not reflect the makeup of the community. I know this because I see it. I get called to jury duty every two years on average, and the overwhelming number of people sitting in that massive jury assembly room are late middle-aged and older, primarily white. There are very few black or Hispanic people under 40. The blacks and Hispanics who do appear are mostly older people who look like they are of retirement age.

Unlike Quannel X I do not chalk this up to inherent racism in the justice system. I blame it on the absurdity of paying a measly $6/day for jury duty. Harris County sends out thousands of jury summons every day to all of Houston's communities, but only a portion of those who receive them actually show up. Those who don't show up I'll bet cannot afford to lose a day's pay - primarily minorities working low-wage jobs. Professionals, those on salary, retired people, those are the people who show up for jury duty. The people working at Walmart or working construction jobs for $8/hr, they simply cannot afford to appear. The $6 pay is a joke, and on top of that they make you pay for parking at the courthouse. It's a tremendous waste of time for 90% of the people who show up. They wind up sitting in a big room for 4 hours doing nothing, then walking to another courthouse building and standing around for another 2 hours, then being released.

The Harris County PTB could solve the racial imbalance and greatly reduce the number of people they send jury summons to. Instead of mailing out 5,000 or 10,000 summons every day, increase the pay to at least $50/day and only send out 2,000 or so. This will encourage those who don't participate in the jury system, and those who always show up for their civic duty won't be called in so often.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My life as of July 8, 2008

Got home from work tonight kinda early. I was going to hop on my mountain bike for the first time in weeks but I noticed that my front tire is punctured. I didn't want to deal with repairing it so I went for a long swim instead.

No point in moping around feeling sorry for myself right now, so maybe I'll pick up doing what I have always enjoyed doing for the past 13 years. They didn't call them "blogs" in the mid-90s, they were just "homepages." Blogging with pre-built templates is so much easier, but I sorta miss cranking out my handmade atrocities. I shut down the old site and parked it the other day. There were a couple of pages there that were bandwidth hogs and right now I have other priorities for my money besides hosting fees.

Random Observation 1: I saw a Smart Car on the West Sam this morning. I have heard that they aren't very fast, but this jackass was pushing 80 and weaving through the traffic. So it's a fallacy that the Smart Car can't perform in heavy freeway traffic. You won't catch me in one, though. I think it's an overpriced, overhyped hunk of crap unless you live in a dense city with narrow streets.

Random Observation 2: I heard Dwight Silverman on TWiT today. It's his second time on the show and he blended right in with the rest. I wish Dvorak was on. I would have liked to hear Dvorak get cranky about Dwight's opinions on the death of the daily newspaper.

I still think that it's a premature call. Free but truly audited circulation would greatly enlarge the subscriber base and bring in a rush of new ad revenue. Ads already cover 80% of the cost of your daily newspaper. Until they make the switch, the printed daily will continue to bleed subscribers and relevance to the community. The business model needs to be ripped up. There are so many things the dailies could do but don't. Example: Why not micro-target the editorial and reporting? They already do that to a certain extent with advertising. Instead of being all things to all people, the PTB should face reality and gear the content towards the marketplace. Inner Loop/Montrose skews left, have the reporters concentrate on muckraking and reporting on things that are important to them. The folks up on the northwest side skew right, gear the editorial to them. Instead of hiding the inherent biases of the reporters and editors, use these biases to attract readers. Everyone is biased one way or another, and it's absurd to claim otherwise.

Random Observation 3: Last year I wrote that I was skeptical about the Park 8 condo project. The construction crane went up and then nothing happened for months.

Last week a contractor went to the site and removed the crane. I guess the Park 8 project is no more.

Random Observation 4: Anxiety attacks really suck. I tried some Tylenol PM the other night. All that happened was I still tossed and turned, not able to sleep. But instead of reading a book like I normally do when I can't sleep all I could do was lay still and be all groggy. I like a nice glass of red wine at night, but I am not so sure that wine would ease the anxiety. For me anyway, booze makes anxiety even worse. I am not a militant teetotaler (if you enjoy your drink, Prost!), I just no longer have any desire for my nightly glass of the red juice. I think what works best for anxiety is exercise. I felt better after swimming tonight. Knock on a cheap computer desk that I can catch some solid Z's.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My life as of July 7, 2008

I am going through some very tough times right now. The worst of my life. I rarely sleep. All I can choke down is can of that chocolate power diet drink stuff (Slimfast or Ensure or whatever it's called) in the morning and a can of V8 Juice at night. I'm never hungry. I've lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks on Lou's Miracle Diet!

I did receive ya'lls e-mails, and I was very surprised and gratified to see that I had steady readers. I want you to know that I very much appreciate you reading my stuff. Some day I may pick it up again, but that was in a different life. Does that make sense?

A few people asked if I was sued by a net kook or if Ron Paul got me. No, it has nothing to do with anything online. It's strictly a personal family matter. Two family matters, actually. Both hammers just happened to fall together at the same time. They are two very big hammers.

If you're a religious person, do me a favor? Say a prayer for me and my kids. For my sister as well. The past two weeks have really been a low point for me, and I am not so sure that things will be getting better in the near future.