READING, RITING AND RESTING

November 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE SCHOOL YARD – Is this a holiday? The reason I am asking is that the local school yard is empty. No teachers’ Lamborghinis in the parking lot, no Harleys in the bike rack and no trash blowing about that didn’t make into the dumpsters for recycling. So it must a school holiday. Maybe it’s Justin Breiber’s birthday or the school district simply ran out of money or it’s Take Your Teacher on a Tryst Day. I’ve got it. The French class has taken over the school, and that might help Texas.

Background: ‍French elementary students go to ‍school four days a week — no classes on Wednesdays. They have about two hours each day for lunch, and they have more vacation time than their counterparts almost anywhere in the First World. This is typical in a nation where the students’ parents work 35 hours per week and get six weeks vacation as dictated by law. But the school week may become longer because France’s new president, Francois Hollande, wants to change what the French call their “scholastic rhythms.” He proposes ending the Wednesdays off while shortening the hours the kids are in class. “France has the shortest ‍school year and the longest day,” Hollande said.

He has quite a battle on his hands as French primary ‍students have had Wednesdays off since the 19th century. It was a government concession to the Catholic Church, which wanted children to study the catechism on their weekday off. That’s gone by the wayside and in today’s secular France. Wednesdays are for sports, music, sipping wine and making “Yankee Go Home” banners.

The story gets a little more complicated since, despite those long summer vacations and short school weeks, ‍French elementary ‍school students actually spend more hours per year in ‍school than average – 847 hours a year compared with 774 among other industrialized nations. The ‍French elementary ‍school day begins around 8:30 and ends at 4:30 p.m. even for the youngest.

Our story now switches to Washington where U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently told a Congressional hearing: “Our students today are competing against children in India and China. Those students are going to school 25 to 30 percent longer than we are. Our students, I think, are at a competitive disadvantage. I think we’re doing them a disservice.” Duncan didn’t mention the French because their students rank below most of their European neighbors and the U.S. in results on international tests.

Is the Education Secretary right? Probably not, but his gloom gets our attention. At least two studies by international educational groups found that Indian and Chinese students spend about the same time in class as do U.S. students, in some cases, even less. We have 50 states each with its own school schedules which also vary according to the grades. So it is tough to generalize. However, time requirements typically do not vary dramatically among the states. Most require between 175 and 180 days of school and/or between 900 and 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, again, depending on the grade level.

But we can compare some stats. Texas, which consistently ranks at or near the very bottom among the states in everything from SAT scores to teachers’ pay (we are first, however, in high school football), requires school districts to provide at least 180 days of instruction with 1,260 hours. However, some districts have a waiver from the Commissioner of Education allowing them to substitute a few of those days for teacher professional development days. (Both my mother and wife were school teachers, and found those days mostly a waste of time.) Today teachers spend their development days developing resumes since they are about to be laid off.

During the school year we have spring breaks and fall breaks. Many districts now take off all of Thanksgiving week but return to class in time for the Christmas/holiday vacation that extends past the New Year’s break. The growing number of charter schools, voucher programs and home schooling explains some of our dreadful rankings. Then we have the added benefit of Texas’ State Board of Education, which thinks global warming is a round microwave and condominiums should not be given to teenagers. That board can take credit for much of our sterling reputation among the nation’s educators. The board picks textbooks and sets policy for our 4,329,841 public school students in 8,317 schools, most of which are older than Texas’ taxpayer-sponsored billion dollar professional sports stadiums – the schools, not the students.

Unlike in some cities, our 1,265 districts are independent of municipal governments – the mayor doesn’t hire and fire the teachers, just the coach. Being independent school districts, they are called just that, shortened to ISD. They can, and often do, cross city limits and county lines. They raise their own taxes and can use eminent domain. The lone exception to these ISDs is the Stafford Municipal School District, just southwest of Houston. It serves all of the city of Stafford, hence the “municipal.”

The state’s largest school district, with 279 schools, is the Houston ISD teaching (we hope) 203,066 students. The smallest is the Divide ISD in western Kerr County, which consists of one lone elementary school with 26 students. The facility is one of the few remaining one-room school houses which once dotted America. But that ISD must be on to something – it is considered one of the best districts in Texas and is rated “exemplary” by the Texas Education Agency.

This brings us to our question of whether Texas should adopt the French or the Chinese and Indian educational schedules. I say we don’t change anything. It ain’t broke. Just look at how well our star students are performing – winning all sorts of academic prizes, blowing out the tests, chalking up the honors. Of course, most of those star students are Chinese or Indian kids. There is also the question of why this school is closed. Oh, it’s Saturday.

Ashby teaches at ashby2@comcast.net
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Chef Jimmy Mitchell Joins Adair Kitchen

November 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining

 

November 15, 2012. Houston. Siblings Katie Barnhart and Nick Adair, owners of Adair Kitchen, 5161 San Felipe at Sage, has enticed Houstonian Jimmy Mitchell out of his garden and into their kitchen. “He is the perfect fit for our concept,” stated Barnhart. “He understands what we are trying to do. After all, he was green before it was cool.” Mitchell has created a fresh, seasonal dinner menu that compliments the breakfast and lunch menus created by Barnhart and Adair. “The menu was fun to create,” stated Mitchell, “and it’s a little different too.” For more information, please visit www.adairkitchen.com, or call 713-623-6100. Photos of the dinner menu items are posted at www.Flickr.com/photos/AdairKitchen

 

 

During his entire career as a chef, at most of the restaurants where he worked, Mitchell built gardens where he composted all of his food waste, and grew heirloom varieties of herbs and vegetables for the restaurant. “I love fresh herbs and vegetables. When I could step outside my kitchen and pick the most perfectly ripe tomato, or fennel, it was the most amazing thing,” stated Mitchell. “My customers were always so appreciative of the extra efforts I went through in order to serve them the very best. I want to help all my chef colleagues do the same thing.”

 

Mitchell is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and holds a certification in Master Gardening from Texas A&M University through the Harris County Agriculture Extension Agency.

 

Chef Mitchell fulfilled his culinary externship at The Valley Oaks Food and Wine Center at Fetzer Winery under the direction of John Ash in Hopland, California. The hands-on training included a 5-acre organic garden with more than 1,000 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers. His time there inspired his focus on sustainability.

 

Throughout his culinary career Mitchell has received several awards for his culinary creations, and was named one of “The Great Chefs in Houston” by Media Inc. Mitchell has been the Executive Chef at such prestigious restaurants as The Rainbow Lodge, Vallone’s Steak House in Houston, Gaido’s in Galveston and Riversong Lodge in Alaska.

 

In 1997, while executive chef at The Rainbow Lodge in Houston, Mitchell was presented an Award from the Houston Corporate Recycling Council for Environmental Excellence to recognize his “Efforts to protect and enhance the Texas Environment by promoting the Development of Recycling Industries in the State.”

 

In 1999, the State of Texas and its Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission saluted Mitchell for “Taking care of Texas through outstanding efforts in Environmental Protection and Pollution Prevention.”

 

Mitchell has served as a member of the Urban Harvest Board of Directors in Houston, Texas from 1998 to 2000. As a member of the Chef’s Collaborative 2000, Mitchell served on the national committee to address the recycling and waste issues for its members and along with Tim Keating and Monica Pope, they helped found farmer’s markets in the city.

 

In 2009, Mitchell started Restaurant Recyclers to help restaurants in Austin, Houston and San Antonio go Green. Mitchell’s dream to start Restaurant Recyclers came many years ago when he noticed just how much waste one restaurant generated, and realized that it all ended up in landfills. Not only was his goal to help restaurants recycle their cardboard, tin, glass and food waste, he helped turn that food waste into compost from which he grew heirloom varieties of herbs and vegetables on his five-acre farm to sell back to the restaurant. “From the Earth to the Table and back to the Earth,” stated Mitchell. “It’s just the cycle of life.”

 

Mitchell received the “Green Business” award from the Austin Business Journal in recognition for his pioneering efforts.     

 

The Adair Kitchen is owned by The Adair Family, which also owns Los Tios Mexican Restaurants and Skeeter’s Mesquite Grill.

 

Adair Kitchen is located at 5161 San Felipe, Suite 390, (at Sage) Houston, Texas 77056. Hours: Monday through Friday: 7 am – 10 pm; Saturday: 8 am – 10 pm; Sunday: 8 am – 9 pm. For more information, please visit our website at www.adairkitchen.com, or call 713-623-6100.

UPTOWN HOUSTON HOLIDAY LIGHTING

November 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

PARKING ADVISORY & ROAD CLOSURE

HOUSTON (Nov. 2012). . .  On Thanksgiving night Houstonians and visitors will come together to kick-off the holiday season at the 27th Annual Uptown Houston Holiday Lighting celebrationFestivities will begin at 4:00 p.m. with holiday music and concessions followed by Santa lighting up a half-million lights on 80 trees and an incredible fireworks extravaganza. The FREE event attracts an audience approaching 250,000 people on Post Oak Boulevard between Westheimer and San Felipe Roads.

ROAD CLOSURES & PARKING INFORMATION

Road Closure Information:

      Beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday, November 22, Post Oak Boulevard will be closed from Ambassador         Way to Guilford.

♦      Beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday, November 22, Post Oak Boulevard will be closed from Westheimer to

San Felipe.

♦      Post Oak Boulevard will reopen at 10 p.m. Thursday, November 22, except the block between

       Ambassador Way and Guilford.

♦      Post Oak Boulevard will completely reopen by 7 a.m. Friday, November 23.

Parking Information:

♦      Public Parking – Free public parking is available at the following locations:

Centre @ Post Oak • Dillard’s Garage • Four Oaks Place • The Galleria •

Post Oak Central • Post Oak Plaza • Williams Tower

 

www.uptown-houston.com

 

STUFF AND NONSENSE

November 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE ATTIC – It is time to put up the Easter decorations and get down the Christmas ornaments. True, the mall merchants beat me by several months – Santa’s elves were wearing thongs – but I still should get started. Here are the holiday boxes, and I notice that every summer someone sneaks into my attic and tangles up the Christmas tree lights. Next, I need to climb over this mountain of piles. This is a stack of suitcases, ice chests, a box full of something I’m afraid to open, a writing desk and chair that my daughter refuses to take to her house. Why are parents still stuck with their children’s things when the kids are joining AARP?

No doubt your attic is also full of odds and ends too bad to keep and too good to throw away. It has a name: stuff. The late comedian George Carlin had a whole routine about stuff. Maybe we should label these items “garbage-can challenged,” “Dumpster-worthy” or just “things” (in Texas we say “thangs”). By any name, they enter the unwanted-yet-still-here category in various ways. Some of my stuff was good at one time but simply became obsolete through no fault of its own. Here’s my eight-track tape player next to the TV rabbit ears, my trusty electric typewriter and VCR player along with a pile of movies on tape. Recently I went to the local Goodwill to do my Christmas shopping and saw stacks of dusty VCRs. They couldn’t even give them away.

Take another look at that ice chest, the one sporting the Houston Oilers logo. That box is long past its prime, sort of beat up and chipped. The smell of three-day-old shrimp is almost gone. But that ice chest still does its job like it did the day I stole it at a tailgate party. What ever I put in the box stays that way. Remember the guy who asked, “What’s that?” He was told it’s a Thermos bottle. You put a liquid in hot and it stays hot. You put liquid in cold and it stays cold. The guy thought for a minute, then asked, “How does it know which to do?” I don’t need to keep this ice chest since I’ve got new ones, like this Styrofoam box marked, “Southwest Conference Champs.” But why throw away a perfectly good ice chest? Maybe I should go door to door in my neighborhood, Running Rats Acres, asking, “Would you like a beat-up but still perfectly good ice chest?”

In my bedroom is a wooden picture frame sitting on the floor, about 3 feet by 2 feet. No picture, photo or pelt within, just the frame. It belonged to my late mother-in-law and held a painting by some guy named Manet or Monet, I get them mixed up. I traded the painting to a fellow called Dude at a flea market for $50 and a nine-iron. Hey, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. Dude didn’t want the frame, so it just sits here. Every noon when I get up, there’s that empty picture holder looking back at me. Maybe Manet-Monet would like it back.

Look in your closet. Maybe you still have T-shirts reading, “Shock & Awe” and “Quayle in ‘92.” You probably still have matching spats. (I’m sounding like Andy Rooney.) These narrow ties are coming back. Don’t you watch “Mad Men”? Here are my Marine dress blues. There is an expression, “Once a Marine always a Marine” Who knows, the Corps may call up my old regiment, but I couldn’t fit into this uniform using axel grease and instant liposuction. However, the tri-corn hat still fits.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “Stuff happens.” It happens? Is there a stuff factory which daily churns out things we don’t need but can’t toss? Like this hoola-hoop and that inner-tube. Do they even make inner-tubes these days? Same for the ice trays. You may be the type of person who saves old magazines and can’t stand throwing them away without a second read. My own magazine collection seems to be growing, so I must start reading and pitching. Maybe I’ll begin with Look and the Saturday Evening Post. Terrible about Pearl Harbor, don’t you think?

Then there are the collectibles, which are stuff with one thing in common: no sane person would collect all that junk. How many different Czech beer cans do you need? Why 12 shelves of mousetraps? But don’t touch my albums of Mao quotes. Collectibles are not to be tossed — until after your estate sale. One solution to this heap of stuff is the consignment shop, where tassel loafers and bell-bottoms go to die. If you can’t find that special Christmas gift at Goodwill, try consignment shops.

You really need to take a fresh look at your garage. Old paint cans are ubiquitous. Every garage has some, but as soon as you toss them, the new painter will say, “I can match the colors in your stables and Jacuzzi if you have the old paint cans.” To quote our governor for life, “Oops.” Many garages in Texas contain snow shovels and tire chains, left over from the previous resident who moved here from Ohio and was dispatched to Bengazi last June. “I won’t be needing these,” he explained. “The boss says it’s a beach town with lots of sun.” Garages hold all kinds of stuff. Some of my neighbors even keep their cars there.

How many old eyeglasses do you have? Probably all of them because no one has ever, ever, thrown away their old glasses. I even have my early monocles. You heard about the fellow who bought a new boomerang but went crazy trying to throw away the old one. Have you ever tried to get rid of a carrier pigeon? They keep coming back. Finally, I want to thank you for allowing me to use the word, ubiquitous. I always thought that was a Roman general.

Ashby is framed at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECTS EDUCATION

November 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

  • THE CHURCH – Every time I kneel, they stand. I stand, they sit. Everyone is kneeling and I, alone, am standing. This is because I am attending a Catholic mass with my wife and kids, who are Catholic, and I am a Presbyterian. We Presbyterians – Church of Scotland, John Knox, bagpipes and booze – don’t kneel except to pick up coins and cash dropped by errant Salvation Army donors, speaking of denominations.But I have a bigger problem than this out-of-step maneuvering, and you may too, if you are a Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist or member of any other group which defies the papist takeover of America. You see, for the first time in our nation’s history, Protestants are a minority. An extensive new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that only 48 percent of Americans now consider themselves Protestants. (The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey puts it at 51 percent.)This figure is down from what it was at the beginning of this country –110 percent. Indeed, we Protestants founded America, first by killing off most of the heathen Indians and burning at the stake those of other faiths. Every one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was a Protestant except for Charles Carroll of Maryland, the token Catholic, and Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin who were Deists. They worshiped elm trees. Today Deists worship the trombone section of the Coast Guard Band.

    For decades it was an official requirement that all U.S. presidents were Protestant, at least that’s what we told everyone. Then came John F. Kennedy, a Catholic. In the 2012 election, for the first time in our nation’s history a major political party fielded a presidential running team with no Protestant on the ticket. The GOP had a Mormon, Mitt Romney, and a Catholic, Paul Ryan. The Republicans could not find even one Protestant as a sop to we 48 percent, apparently because we made up Romney’s bottom 47 percent. Also, for the first time in our history, there is not a single Protestant on the U.S. Supreme Court (or military veteran). We’ve got six Catholics and three Jews deciding Roe v. Wade, both of whom were Protestant.

    Why this drop in our numbers? Actually, the Pew (that’s the official and long-standing title of an organization that surveys everything, but don’t you love such a name for this religious survey?) study found that Americans of all faiths are moving to “none of the above.” Today, one-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent). It is not clear where the Deists fit in. I’ll ask the Coast Guard Band. Many of those polled said they were religious and believe in God, but didn’t cotton to any organized religion. Others said they just didn’t like being labeled.

    Here in Texas we have the largest church, in members, of any religious facility in the U.S.: the Lakewood Church in Houston, the Rev. John Osteen presiding, with 40,000 parishioners and a nationwide TV audience. The church meets in the former Houston Rockets arena, and has no formal ties with any denomination. Lakewood Church closes for Christmas so the Osteens can go skiing in Aspen. Honest.

    Texans have always been religious; it’s a tradition along with guns, guts and intolerance for bigots. Back in the early days, in order to receive the generous land grants given by the Mexican government, Anglo-American immigrants had to sign a paper saying that they followed the Catholic religion and didn’t own slaves, but both sides sort of went wink-wing, nudge-nudge about the agreement. And throughout our history Texas has always tolerated all sorts of cults and odd groups. We have the Aggies, Cowboy fans and people who eat boudain.

    The Branch Davidians looked everywhere to find a place where they would feel at home. They chose Texas — a spot just outside Waco — so they could watch Baylor students dance and drink. Members of Yearning for Zion also explored many different places until they finally selected a ranch near Eldorado which would allow the church elders to marry dozens of 12-year-old girls. However, the leaders were arrested, much to the satisfaction of 12-year-old boys.

    As we might expect, geographically Texas tends to be heavily Protestant in the north and east and Catholic in the south and southwest. Catholics are the largest single denomination in the Lone Star State. Among Protestants, Southern Baptists lead in membership (notice that the largest building in any small Texas town is the First Baptist Church), followed by the United Methodist Church, Churches of Christ, Assemblies of God, the Presbyterian Church USA and the Episcopal Church. Why the “USA” at the end of the Presbyterian Church? In 1861 the denomination split over slavery. The North wanted to keep it, the South was for abolition, or maybe it was the other way around. The two churches didn’t rejoin until 1958 — we Presbys hold a grudge.

    A 2010 census found that Texas ranks first among the 50 states in the number of Evangelical Protestants and the number that belong to “non-denominational” Evangelical Protestant churches. Texas is second in Hindus, third in Buddhists and fifth in the number of Mormons. Bet you didn’t know that Texas has more Muslims than any other state: 421,972. (In Houston, Muslims outnumber Episcopalians, Jews, Presbyterians, Church of Christians and Lutherans.) Why so many Muslins? One hint: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia has had thirteen wives, and has fathered at least 35 children.

    Meantime, I am standing, sitting, ignoring the glares of my family. The church printed a program so that non-Catholics would know what to do and when, but it was in Latin. We need to burn a few more heretics.

    Ashby kneels at ashby2@comcast.net

     

     

     

Updates & More Information

November 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Radio 1110 AM Updates & More Information

Heard something on our show and need more information? Check here for more details!

November 9, 2012

11th Annual Rocket’s Run
Click here!

17th Annual Children’s Festival
Click here!

Buffalo Bayou Partnership Kayak Trip
Click here!

Highland Village Ferrari Festival to benefit Texas Children’s Cancer Center
WHO: Highland Village is hosting the 7th Annual Ferrari Festival, benefitting
Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the largest pediatric cancer center in the nation, ranked #1 in Texas by U.S.News & World Report. Guests will enjoy complimentary bites from Up, Smith & Wollensky’s, Sprinkles and more as they check out some of the world’s most exotic and unique Ferraris.

WHAT: The 7th Annual Ferrari Festival will feature more than 50 exotic cars competing
in five different categories for a crystal horse trophy, handcrafted in Italy and custom made for the event. Among the unique cars there that day will be Michael Schumacher’s 2009 Championship Formula 1 car; a $1.5 million Ferrari FXS, of which only 17 were ever made; the Valobra race car that finished third at Daytona and the Ferrari FXX.

WHEN: Sunday, November 11, 2012
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

WHERE: Highland Village Houston
4078 Westheimer Rd.

WHY: Proceeds from the 7th annual Ferrari Festival benefit Texas
Children’s Cancer Center, an international leader in pediatric cancer research and treatment. Texas Children’s Cancer Center is dedicated to providing novel therapies and family-centered care to children from infancy through young adulthood with cancer and blood disorders – from the most common to rare. U.S.News & World Report ranked the Center #1 outside the northeast United States, as well as #1 in Texas. Texas Children’s Cancer Center treats more childhood cancer patients than any other program in the U.S., with patients coming from 35 states and 26 countries around the world. Learn more at www.txch.org.

COST: This event is free to the public. Guests can make donations at the event
or visit www.txch.org to make a donation.

Page Parkes takes over Texas with a new location in Austin

November 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

October 16, 2012 – Page Parkes Corporation, the largest model and talent group in the Southerwestern United States, is pleased to announce the newest training center in Austin, Texas. Evaluations and registration for training will begin late October.
The Page Parkes Corporation keeps a home office in the galleria area of Houston, Texas which opened in 1981. The powerhouse corporation presently includes Page 713, Page Parkes Center of Modeling & Acting, Page Parkes Management, Page Parkes Center of Modeling & Acting-Dallas, Page Parkes Center of Modeling & Acting-Northwest Houston and has now landed in Austin, Texas with Page Parkes Center of Modeling & Acting-Austin.
Page Parkes Center of Modeling & Acting-Austin will serve as a training center for actors ages 5 and up through adult ages in the Austin and surrounding areas. The new Austin location is scheduled to open late October 2012 and will be located at 7020 Easy Wind suite 120- Austin, TX 78752.
Page Parkes is one of the most respected model and talent agents in the United States and since the opening of her first office in 1981 has discovered, developed, and/or represented household names such as: Alexis Bledel, Angelina Jolie, Channing Tatum, Eric Balfour, Jason Lewis, Brooke Burns, Hillary Duff, Tyson Beckford, Rebecca Romijn, Shantel VanSanten, just to name a few.
Page Parkes has been featured in the reality television show “Scouted” on the E! Entertainment Television network, where Page guides her models careers’ from the beginning and presents the models to top clients and agents in New York.
Page Parkes along with her staff are passionate about what they do and strive to continue to be at the top of the model and talent industry.
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PEST CONTROL

November 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE DINNER TABLE – Just as I am explaining to my family why the gold flow affects the NFL playoffs which determine the price of ethanol, the phone rings. It must be someone answering my ad for pit bull bait or perhaps it’s about that missed meeting with my parole officer. “Hello, this is Rachel from Cardholder Services. This is our final call.”

Rachel is one of a growing number of recorded phone messages, called robocalls, I receive. Maybe you, too, are getting an increasing number of such pests, and always at the worse possible time. Didn’t we sign up to keep these annoying interruptions away? Apparently that didn’t work, but now the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, has a plan,  simple and relatively cheap – compared to, say, the Louisiana Purchase — to end these calls. If the scheme succeeds, let’s put that federal agency in charge of solving other problems such as the national debt, Oklahoma and Donald Trump.

Specifically, the FTC is offering a bounty on the heads of the offenders: a $50,000 prize for the best technical solution to block illegal commercial robocalls. What’s more, says the FTC, you’ll be a “national hero.” Before you blow that 50K, a bit of background.  The Do-Not-Call Law was supposed to go into effect in 2003 but lawsuits (what else?) set it back to 2004. It has been labeled “one of the most popular laws ever enacted by Congress.” Today more than 217 million phone numbers are registered. The shield doesn’t cover every caller, as we have noticed in these past campaigns. Politicians can call, so can pollsters, firms you do business with, not-for-profits and bill collectors. Also, the law only applies to residences, not businesses. Originally, we had to sign up again every five years, but so popular was the law that it was re-written in 2007 and the signups were made permanent.

Still, there has never been a law that some creeps haven’t found a way to circumvent. Last year the FTC received 2-million complaints from Americans who had to get up from the dinner table to hear Rachel or some other harasser make a sales pitch. Not only are the calls cheap for the lawbreakers to make, they are hard to trace. The latest scam is – get this – a call from the “Do-Not-Call Registry.” Only it ain’t. (One of these recordings said, “Press 1 to talk to a representative,” So I pressed 1 and got some human and let him have it about Don’t Call. After my second sentence he hung up.)

Right-wing talk radio hosts and late night comics like to insult and humiliate our federal government workers, but occasionally the feds get things right. How about putting a man on the moon? And remember our bumper sticker: “The Alamo was defended by government employees.” Showing similar ingenuity, the gang at the FTC decided to “tap into the genius and technical expertise among the public” that can turn their talents, time and simple animal cunning to solve any problem. But only for money.

This rewards idea has become a tradition in Washington. The Pentagon is offering a $2 million prize to anyone who can dramatically advance robotics. More sophisticated robots are needed to defuse explosives or clean up nuclear waste. The Rewards for Justice Program at the State Department has paid more than $100 million to more than 60 people with information that “prevented international terrorist attacks or helped bring to justice those involved in prior acts,” its website says. Most of the money has been paid since 9/11. We probably will never know if anyone collected the $25 million bounty on Osama Bin Laden.

Now the feds want our help in solving this robocall problem. Rules: The “robocall challenge” began on Oct. 25 and will close next Jan. 17. The winner will be announced in April. The money will be awarded to the person, team or small company (it must have fewer than 10 employees) that develops the best solution. Updates, examples of recent calls and other info will be provided to any “solvers” who ask. The FTC says a successful entry must work, be easy to use, and be easy to implement and operate. Just remember KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Look, some national hero is going to walk away with a $50,000 check and it might as well be us. So let’s brainstorm. I recommend we simply execute by firing squad the first five robocallers we catch. That would set an example. OK, maybe too tough. We get their phone numbers and call them night and day until we hear them sob, “Stop! I can’t stand it anymore.” Maybe we track down Rachel from Cardholder Services and put her on “Dancing With the Stars” opposite Gov. Chris Christie on snowshoes. A voice recognizer, that’s the ticket. It’s programmed so that any voice that says, “This is not a solicitation, but is your life insurance.…” is answered by checking the caller ID number, a return call and 30 minutes of bagpipe marches. Or just turn the phone over to Joe Biden. Some of these calls are made from off-shore, like the Cayman Islands, which makes it harder for the FTC to track them down. The answer is simple: we get Mitt Romney to buy these operations, lay off the workers and walk away with a million. He knows how to do it.

You techies out there who can actually operate the new Apple iPad mini are no doubt already on the case. Just two rubber bands, a stick of Wrigley’s Doublemint, a corkscrew and – wallah! — as they say in Odessa. Nerds, $50,000 will buy you new faded jeans, Nike sneakers and a month’s supply of Starbuck’s latte. No matter who you are, as you read these very words, someone is in the garage inventing the perfect antidote to this national deluge of junk phone mail. Just remember, Mister or Missus Winner, I get a 15 percent finder’s fee. I’ll be calling – about super time.

 

Ashby interrupts at ashby2@comcast.net

The St. Regis Houston 2012 Holiday Events

November 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Signature Afternoon Tea

Nov. 23—Dec. 30
Wed.—Sun., Seating at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.


Warm up this holiday with Afternoon Tea at The St. Regis Houston where tea service is a time-honored tradition. Our legendary Tea Butlers attend each guest with charm and ease allowing them to choose from an array of artisan blends while presenting a seductive menu of tea sandwiches, petits fours, and our own blackcurrant British scones with Devonshire cream. A harpist performs daily while guests savor the St. Regis Special Blend, just one of a large selection of premium loose-leaf teas offered. Cost is $45 for traditional service. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2631.

St. Regis Teddy Bear Tea

Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, and 22
Seating starting at 2 p.m.; activities until 4 p.m.
Make Afternoon Tea a family tradition with the St. Regis Teddy Bear Tea. The family-friendly event includes a ‘Twas the night before Christmas marionette show, t-shirt and cookie decoration, face painting, balloon animal artist, Ice Princess story hour and more. Every child will receive a complimentary Teddy Bear photo keepsake. Guests are welcome to bring a new teddy bear that will be donated to the Houston Area Women’s Center. Cost is $58 per guest. Children under the age of 2 are complimentary. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2624.

Christmas Eve Dinner

Mon., Dec, 24
Seating between 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, time to celebrate the joyous evening and relish a Prix Fixe Dinner in The Remington Restaurant. The delectable three-course dinner will includes an amuse bouche and sorbet and be accompanied with live music for your entertainment pleasure. Cost is $65 per person. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2631.

Christmas Day – Legendary St. Regis Brunch Buffet

Tues., Dec. 25
Seating: 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., and 1:30 p.m.
The merriment of Christmas is captured in a festive St. Regis brunch buffet. Underneath the glistening crystals of The St. Regis Houston’s chandelier, the refined atmosphere of The Astor Ballroom provides the perfect setting to appreciate family, friends and the peak of the holiday season. The brunch will include live entertainment and activities for children. Cost for adults is $75 (includes sparkling wine), children $35 (ages 5 – 12) and children under the age of 5 are complimentary. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2631.

Christmas Day–Á la Carte Dinner

Tues., Dec. 25
Seating between 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Christmas is not complete without a divine dinner surrounded by warm hearts in The Remington Restaurant. The special holiday menu will include an amuse bouche, as well as a delectable selection certain to treat the palate. Reservations are essential, please call 713-403-263.

Home for the Holidays
Entire month of December
The holidays are about timeless moments shared and celebrated among family and friends. Come home to Houston for the holidays with special room rates starting at $189. It is our gift to you.
For more information, please call 1-888-627-8194.

New Year’s Eve – Early Dinner in The Remington Restaurant

Mon., Dec. 31
Seating before 6:30 p.m.

Before you celebrate the night away, enjoy a four-course dinner with an amuse bouche, sorbet and mignardises at The Remington Restaurant. All early dinner guests will receive complimentary entrance to The Remington Bar for the St. Regis Bash. Cost is $95 per person. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2631.

New Year’s Eve – Midnight Celebration Dinner in The Remington Restaurant

Mon., Dec. 31
Seating starting at 9 p.m.
Enjoy an elegant four-course dinner with an amuse bouche, sorbet and mignardises as you count down the New Year in the mystique setting of The Remington Restaurant. Dinner guests will receive luxe party favors as they revel in live entertainment throughout the evening. Cost is $130 per person. Reservations essential, please call 713-403-2631.

New Year’s Eve – St. Regis Bash in The Remington Bar

Monday, December 31st
Ring in the New Year inside the distinctive setting of The Remington Bar. Socialize in custom elegance as live music entertains throughout the night into the New Year. Guests will receive luxe party favors and a Midnight sparkling toast. Cost is $25 per person. Space is limited.