Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Feliz Navidad

You always hear in the news that "Merry Christmas" has been banned but it Feliz Navidad is a gonner too. At my friend's work, they hung a big banner saying Feliz Navidad for the customers. The first week of the holiday season hasn't even passed but the store has already received three complaints about the sign and been forced to take it down. I asked my friend if it was the holiday theme or the fact that it was Spanish but she said it was most definitely the holiday theme. The manager also announced to the employees that there will be no office decorating this year and the store might have to take down the Christmas tree that is on display for the customers.

To all my friends, Feliz Navidad. And to all those who complained, FELIZ NAVIDAD, cause you sure need it more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Back to the Drawing Chalk Board

A court in Texas ruled today that the current funding cap for school district taxes is unconstitutional. Personally, I just don't get it. I re-read the article twice and couldn't find anything I thought unconstitutional at all. I'll have to ask around for some more clarity from my lawyer friends tomorrow.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The high court held 7-1 that the $1.50 per $100 valuation cap on local school maintenance taxes amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax because many school districts are at or near the limit.

In the majority opinion, Justice Nathan Hecht noted that the Supreme Court, in a previous school finance case, ruled that an "ad valorem (property) tax is a state tax ...when the state so completely controls the levy, assessment and disbursement of revenue, either directly or indirectly, that the authority employed (by local districts) is without meaningful discretion."

If I take the article at face value, I get a muddled train of thought:

1. The legislature sets a tax cap that all school districts must obey.

2. The school districts can't raise taxes as high as they want. They start to reach their peak and are forced to make budget cuts.

3. The school districts complain that the tax cap is excessive control of their tax domain and a judge agrees with them. Pretty much the districts went to court and complained about every single problem in their districts and blamed the lack of solution on their inability to spend more money. (See quote above.) The judge somehow declares that it is now really a state tax, that is, a tax in the power of the state and not in the power of the school districts.

4. Once that train of thought is begun, the judges later declare this kind of tax unconstitutional.

5. Therefore, we're back at square one again.

I promise to find out more info about this strange logic tomorrow.

Self-defense again

I read an article today about a case of self-defense in Houston and thought I'd email it over to Clayton Clamer's blog but he already had it linked. In fact, he had FOUR articles already posted just from today's newspapers. If you view his blog, you'll see that there is rarely a day that goes by when a case of self-defense is not reported in the papers.

No hard-core statistics exists to show how many people use their guns in self-defense. Only a few of the self-defense cases where the intruder dies are actually reported in the newspaper. There are rarely newpaper articles concerning the use of force to defend against animals or the use of force to defend yourself when the intruder does not die. It is this glaring lack of statistics that has caused many people to start tracking self-defense on a personal scale. Without hard stats to back of their case, gun owners cannot fight the courts and stigma of gun ownership that currently exists in pockets in our country.

One day I hope to see an article that says, "Honest citizens used a weapon X times this year to defend themselves and their family. Because of their actions, X people are still alive today."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Texas Aggie Bonfire Standing Tall

Okay fans, there's been a lot of Bonfire news building in the past couple days.

First, the location that Bonfire has been held at the past couple years, Hot Rod Hill, is scheduled to close. The courts are shutting them down due to noise voilations. Hot Rod Hill is just outside town and was a great location for the burn. Bonfire may be searching for a new home next year. I can recommend a good field on campus.

Bonfire ran into a funny technical problem this year. The burn ban in the county is in effect due to drought-like conditions in the area. A local lawyer, Kyle A. Davis, helped get Bonfire listed as a "ceremonial burn" and therefore exempt from the burn ban. This ruling came down less than 100 hours before Bonfire was ready to burn. I think Kyle A. Davis works in the office I work in.

The Student Government was all ready to vote on a bill recognizing the off-campus Bonfire as an official student organization but the bill failed to be voted on. The Battalion completely failed to mention some important information in its article the day of the vote. The Student Body President was out of town and therefore the recognition bill could only be voted on as an emergency bill. There were not enough votes to recommend an emergency vote override.

But not that it matters much at this point and time. All the work had already been done on this year's Bonfire by the time the bill would have been passed. Even without the support of the student government and university officials, the norms of Bonfire have slowly been returning. Groups are organized by their dorm names, Corp members are participating against regulations, and some football players will be showing up anyway. There are reports that some professors are starting to help with questions even though that too is against regulations. To be a representative of the university without permission of the unversity, is illegal. By passing this bill and recognizing the off-campus Bonfire, it will eventually open up Bonfire to all campus organizations and leadership.

Yesterday, John Lopez had a really great article on Bonfire in the Houston Chronicle:

That nearly 12,000 fans took buses or car pools to the rural
site, parking in grass and dirt fields, walking up to a mile to attend the
event, indicates that more Aggies view the off-campus event like the
originators. That is, it has become as much a tribute to those who died six
years ago as the memorial on campus.

Yet the university does not recognize anything about the off-campus bonfire. Neither has any administrator condemned the idea.

It's as if the Aggie administration wants to ignore it until it goes away, even though they know it never will. Participation, support and certainly the stack grows every year.

This year's bonfire was the most ambitious structure yet and was something of an engineering marvel, designed by former students who created various templates and computer images from which the student crew worked.

I think he might have pre-written his article and didn't really see Bonfire burn all night. Or maybe he just had to get the article to press and couldn't wait until Bonfire fell. It may be a good thing he didn't wait until Bonfire fell since BONFIRE IS STILL STANDING RIGHT NOW!

From The Batt:

The off-campus bonfire that was lit Saturday is still standing, which could mean Texas A&M will beat the University of Texas (UT) at football on Friday, or that structural changes are needed in the stack itself.

Jack Shallock, a junior forestry science major and grey pot Aggie Student Bonfire leader, said there is a legend saying that if the bonfire stays standing after midnight, then A&M will beat UT.
Picture from The Eagle:

The Aggie Student Bonfire remained standing Sunday after the 45-foot log stack
lit Saturday night at Hot Rod Hill failed to burn completely.

Chance Robinson, a junior at Texas A&M University and a member of Aggie Student
Bonfire, said organizers plan to meet with Brazos County officials to discuss burning the stack at a later date.

Organizers said they plan to meet with Brazos County officials Monday to discuss when - or if - the structure will burn. Most of it remained intact hours after repeated attempts to light it.

Chance Robinson, a Texas A&M University junior and a member of Aggie Student Bonfire, said safety issues are a concern because some of the core logs did burn. It initially caught fire but died out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Not Guilty

And I thought she was so PROUD of herself for getting arrested. I saw the pictures of her being carried away by policemen and she had a smirky I'm-gonna-do-this-anyway look on her face.

From the Houston Chronicle:
War protester Cindy Sheehan and several others pleaded not guilty today to charges of demonstrating without a permit outside the White House.

The protesters, who face fines and not jail time, were being tried this afternoon by U.S. Magistrate Alan Kay after several hours of talks with court officials about how quickly their trial could be wrapped up.

Before the trial began, Sheehan announced plans to revive her protest near President Bush's Texas ranch during Thanksgiving week, despite new county ordinances banning roadside camping

Student Bonfire May Get Recognition

"Aggies didn't build Bonfire, Bonfire built Aggies" ~famous quote from somebody

This is great news for Aggies who have been fighting hard to keep the tradition of bonfire alive. Off-campus bonfire has been held for the past couple of years and been supported by many alumni, students, and people from the Aggieland community. President Gates, in his first public speech, endorsed the idea of bringing back Bonfire to campus but promptly dropped the idea on Day 2.

Exerpt from The Battalion:

Wednesday night, the Texas A&M Student Senate will vote on a bill to endorse Off-Campus Bonfire. If passed, A&M's Student Government Association (SGA) will recognize Off-Campus Bonfire as an official student organization.

Student Senate Speaker Will Hailey said Off-Campus Bonfire deserves SGA's full support whether or not all students support the rganization.

"Bonfire deserves special support because the guys and girls of Aggie Bonfire are keeping alive the Aggie tradition that connects all of A&M - past, present and future," Hailey said.

The bill has 32 co-authors, while the average bill in student senate has two or three. The larger number of co-authors is an effort to have the bill accepted before the legislation reaches the senate floor, Hailey said.

To pass, half the senators present at the meeting must approve the bill. [Texas] A&M has 63 student senators and the bill has nearly 32 co-authors, meaning the bill has enough support to pass.

Patrick Dugan, a leader in the fight to restore Bonfire, encouraged students to email administrators this week in a show of solidarity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Four and more to go

Last week my youngest child had her FOURTH near death miss. Though it can be a little heart wrenching for me, they do make great family reunion tales.

This most recent attempt on her life happened in the library parking lot. I parked the van next to an empty spot and the girls started to get out of the van. A small pick-up truck pulled past and suddenly started backing up into the space beside me. Really, the whole incident only lasted approximately 4 seconds. Sonia, my oldest, and I noticed the truck backing up right away. I took two steps forward and started wildly waving my arms, thinking he would surely notice this large jumping adult. Sonia yelped as she jumped out of the way, behind the van, into safety. But Whitney hadn't moved yet but turned towards her sister as she moved away.

But the dang truck didn't stop. He wasn't seeing me waving! This strange feeling of helplessness suddenly went through my whole self. My options were very limited as the truck was almost there and 3 seconds had gone by. I could keep waving and hope that it would be effective. I could make some wild effort to jump, grab Whitney, and get out of the way but I dismissed that as useless. I could get to her but I wouldn't be able to get out of the way with her, making it so both of us were in the way of the wheels. Calling her name would make her turn towards me, exactly what I didn't want. I think I just yelled "MOVE" at her but I didn't think it would be helpful. I was panicing.

And the truck stopped.

Four feet away from Whitney.

The driver of the truck pulled forward and parked in a spot on the other row. He was extremely nonchalant about the whole issue, never understanding how stressed I was. Apparently he never saw me. Nope, not at all. He changed his mind when he saw Sonia's bobbing head as she leapt out of the way. She's just barely tall enough that her head stood above the top of his tailgate. This is the first year she's not the shortest in her class.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Hey Grandma! (Hint Hint)

Did y'all know my Grandma regularly reads my blog. It really makes me feel great that she enjoys my writing.

From CNN:
Forget shuffleboard, needlepoint, and bingo.

Web logs, more often the domain of alienated adolescents and middle-aged pundits,
are gaining a foothold as a new leisure-time option for senior citizens.

There's Dad's Tomato Garden Journal, Dogwalk Musings, and, of course, the Oldest Living Blogger.

"It's too easy to sit in your own cave and let the world go by, eh?" said Ray Sutton, the 73-year-old Oldest Living Blogger and a retired electrician who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. "It keeps the old head working a little bit so you're not just sitting there gawking at TV."

Web logs, or blogs, are online journals where people write about anything and everything that interests them. Blogs tend to be topical, and typically offer links to other Web sites, photos and opportunities for readers to comment.

Bloggers say their hobby keeps them up on current events, lets them befriend strangers around the globe and gives them a voice in a society often deaf to the wisdom of the elderly.

Same Story, Second Round

The Pakistan earthquake last month was devestating and killed 80,000 people. The records are showing that half of those were children. Statistics show that 10,000 schools collapsed during the shaking, taking down with them the promise of the next generation. If you think 10,000 collapsed schools is a ridiculously high number, then I agree with you.

From the Christian Science Moniter:

Some 8,000 schools collapsed in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and 2,000 in Pakistan's less-populous Kashmir region. All the schools collapsed in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, reports the Associated Press.

It is widely recognized that, because of crumbling schools like this, children suffered the greatest blow from the October quake. The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that children account for about half the 80,000 killed in the quake. Uncertainty clouds the future of many of those who survived.


The problem with government schools is that there is so much corruption with construction that many materials are not used," says Sameen Mehmood Jan, an opposition member of the NWFP provincial assembly.

Experts estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of funds for government buildings, including schools, are siphoned off by corrupt officials. Contractors squeezed by such kickbacks have less to spend on materials, experts explain, resulting in poor quality buildings.

"This was a common practice throughout Pakistan, but particularly in NWFP. We've been tolerating this kind of corruption in Pakistan for years," says Ms. Gohar.

Observers say corruption in Pakistan has picked up in the past few decades, particularly since the 1970s, when banks and industries were nationalized, and when international aid pouring into the country, following another large-scale earthquake, was allegedly pocketed by corrupt officials.

Of course, there's no plans right now to prevent this second set of earthquake funds from being eaten up by corruption.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Cure for Bird Flu

And I don't even like cabbage!

From the Honolulu Star Bulletin:

...and on kim chee?
Cabbage: Recent research has caused a fervor, as people start to stock up

Midwesterners are stocking up on kim chee and sauerkraut, but not for parties, hot dogs or Reuben sandwiches.

They're storing it in case there's a bird flu pandemic.

The sour-cabbage craze was triggered by news reports that SeoulNational University scientists in Korea used "kim chee sauerkraut" successfully to treat chickens infected with avian flu. The researchers fed a kim chee extract containing a high level of lactic acid bacteria to 13 infected birds and 11 were still alive the next week, Chris Smith, marketing vice president for Frank's Sauerkraut, said in a telephone interview. The Franks brand is produced by the Fremont Co. in Fremont, Ohio.

Smith said the Seoul report was picked up by BBC, then CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis. The week after the story hit Minneapolis, overall sales of Frank's Sauerkraut climbed an average of 77 percent over the same week last year at 54 Midwest retail stores surveyed, he said.

Although the company had no promotions or commercials, nine stores reported a sales increase of more than 150 percent and one reported an 850 percent jump, he said.

"People are stocking up on sauerkraut like bottled water before a hurricane hits," Smith said.

Texas Passes Constitutional Admendment

Did you really expect anything less? I was kinda hoping we would get in the 80th percentile range but oh well.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Texas became the 19th state to approve a constitutional ban of gay marriage as voters decided nine proposed amendments today.

Like every other state except Massachusetts, Texas didn't permit same-sex marriages, but the constitutional amendment was touted as an extra guard against future court rulings.

With more than 700,000 votes counted, 77 percent favored the ban and 23 percent opposed it.

Hubby and I went to the voting area and I had to help two eldery people work the electronic machines. You have to put a code into the machine before you start your voting and I showed them how to work it as they entered their codes. It would be helpful it they had a practice booth set up. I wonder if people nowadays feel the same about the electronic voting machines as they did when the hole punch machines were introduced? Were there huge debates about the effectiveness or ease of fraud? Did the men hold up their voting card into the light and distrustingly count the votes before slipping it into the box?

We saw a couple with triplet infants walking to the voting area. Hubby helped a man find an easier entrance to the school for his handicapped mother who wanted to vote. It was also really neat to see so many young couples without kids driving up to the voting area. Voting seems to bring out the "community spirit" in so many people.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Rest of the Story

A tragedy happened yesterday in College Station. A couple of middle school students, two boys and a girl, tried to cross the freeway from the carnival to the movie theater. The girl was hit and killed after she hesitated while the boys made it safely across. There is an underpass on the freeway between the carnival and theater, making the incident even sadder. I'm working at one of the middle schools in town today and some of the students here knew her.

Stephen F. Austin Middle School student Raven Marae Bordieri - known to her family as Rae - was described Sunday as an outgoing 13-year-old who loved to dance, listen to music and hang out with friends.

Raven died Saturday night after she was hit by several cars while trying to run across Earl Rudder Freeway South near the Cinemark movie theater. At least two other teenagers were crossing the highway with Raven but were not injured, police said.

Passers-by pulled over to help, but some of the vehicles involved in the 9:45 p.m. accident did not stop, officials said. Officers shut down the northbound lanes of the highway at Harvey Road and worked into the night Saturday clearing the scene.

Raven lived with her Grandpa instead of her parents. Sadly, her Grandpa suffered two strokes when he was told the news and is now in the hospital. Her older sister is not handling the news very well and is throwing things and tearing up the house. Her mother is on crack and doesn't even know she's dead yet.

Correction: After speaking with a relative and close friend of mine, I've learned that the Grandpa's medical history is past medical history, not something that happened this past weekend. I spoke to one of Raven's friends who told me about this weekend and she mentioned the strokes. It was my error to not understand she meant those in the past. However, I did not confirm with my friend what the details of his medical history are.

Update: I'm very sorry that I've hurt so many people's feeling and caused a lot of anger. The things I said were too emotional for the moment for you. However, I don't believe that I ever personally insulted Raven. My point in writing the above paragraph was to contrast the love and anguish felt by her family but strangly not felt by her mother, the one you'd expect to be in the most pain.

The points I listed about Raven's family were also because I found them to parallel my life so well. My sister died when she was 19, five years ago now. My parents let her out of the house and tried to safeguard her life but to no avail. You could say that my sister OD'd on her drug of choice: M&Ms. Her real mom (she was my step-sister but in formalities only) was in jail at the time. She has so many convictions (drugs, prostitution, arson) that they didn't even let her out escorted to go to the funeral. Her Granny (maternal) was in the hospital at the time. Nobody would tell her that my sister died. She would constantly ask, "Why isn't she coming to see me?" and "When is she going to be back?" It was a couple of months before somebody finally told her and she passed away two weeks later. I hope you can see how my sister's mom and my sister's grandma paralled Raven's mom and Raven's grandpa. I'll let you figure out on your own why I listed the third family member.

I hope each one of you can find the comfort that I did when my sister passed away. It was simply because I knew where she was; I know that I will see her again. Thank you Jesus!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Airbags for Motorcycles

At first glance, I found this quite hilarious but Honda was very serious when they considered and tested an airbag on a motorcycle. They found that half of motorcycle accidents happen when the biker crashes headfirst into another vehicle. By putting an airbag in the way, the rider's velocity slows down and there's less impact into the other vehicle. Riders should continue to wear gear.

Airbags come to motorcycles with the 2006 Gold Wing. The airbag just slows the rider, it does not prevent his ejection.

After years of experimentation and research, Honda has released the first airbag installed on a production motorcycle. The airbag system will be available on the premium version of 2006 GL1800 Gold Wing, which goes on sale next spring.

If you don't have a Honda Gold Wing, you can still get the protection of an airbag with the Motorcycle Airbag Jacket!

Friday Math Jokes

Ahh, this little thing about blogging.... They should re-write the rules of blogging. The new first rule would be "Kick your husband off the computer."


Q: How does a mathematician induce good behavior in her children?
A: `I've told you n times, I've told you n+1 times...'

A math professor, a native Texan, was asked by one of his students: "What is mathematics good for?" He replied: "This question makes me sick! If you show someone the Grand Canyon for the first time, and he asks you `What's it good for?' What would you do? Well, you kick that guy off the cliff!"

Q: What do you get if you divide the cirucmference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter? A: Pumpkin Pi!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sick again


I'm still sick with this nasty bug and can't seem to kick it. Sorry but I'm heading to the couch for the rest of the day. Good thing I made it to the video store yesterday!