DIS-MEMBERING TEXAS

June 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Who’s your member of the US Congress? Who represents you (or in no way represents you) in the Texas Legislature? Here’s one almost no Texan can answer: who is your elected member on the State Board of Education – that embarrassment before the nation? Don’t feel unworthy if you don’t know the answers. Texans don’t know and don’t care, and don’t take my word for it. According to a study by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Conference on Citizenship, Texas ranked 51st in voter turnout in 2010 — behind all other states and Washington, D.C. And we care so little about what the winners do after taking office that we were 49th in the number of citizens who even bothered to contact public officials. (In a sad sidelight which has nothing to do with our current conversation, we ranked 43rd in donating and 42nd in volunteering.) Getting back to our non-voting, 61.6 percent of eligible Texans reported being registered to vote in 2010, but just 36.4 percent said they actually voted. UT journalism professor Regina Lawrence, director of the Strauss Institute, said that figure means a “really active one-third” of the voting-eligible population is exerting “outsized influence.” That’s just what I was telling Ted Cruz. Why such a lousy turnout? It’s by design, say the researchers and others who study Texas’s voter turnouts. We have a long history of keeping minorities away from the ballot boxes. Even today the transparent barrier of voter ID is still being pushed, although judges say it unfairly targets minorities. Also, this is such a red state, why bother to vote? Then there’s gerrymandering, which is yet another way of making the election outcomes predictable. We can say these movements are unfair, they are un-American, and fly in the face of our Constitution. Hey, fly face, they work. The GOP in Texas and in other states is winning. Remember that Obama smashed Romney in the popular vote by one and a half million nationwide, and in the Electoral College that Kenyan socialist beat the Suit by 332 votes to 206. (Mitt Romney won Texas by 17 percentage points, a 2-point improvement from John McCain’s 2008 effort.) Nationally, Democratic candidates for the US House beat their Republican opponents by more than 1.4 million votes, but through gerrymandering, the GOP holds 234 seats to 201 for the incompetent, out-maneuvered Dems. The House of Representatives is not what you’d call representative. A prime example of gerrymandering is a ballot box near you. Texas’s non-stop redistricting fight has made a lot of lawyers prosperous, not to mention how many of our tax dollars have been blown. The fight goes up the court steps to a higher bench, then comes back down, then goes etc. Meantime, Gov. Rick Perry called a special (and expensive) extra session of the Legislature to keep his people in power. In all of this, each political party has its own maps, census counts, plans to steal the next election. It’s not just GOPers who like the current lines. In that special session, the Texas State Senate voted unanimously, every single Democrat and Republican, to keep the current senate lines. The measure should be called the Incumbents Career Security Act. It’s crazy. Take that liberal bastion, Travis County, where Obama got 60 per cent of the vote in 2012. The county has long been represented in the US House by Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic thorn in the elephant’s side. The GOP tried everything it could do to get rid of Doggett. Redistricting was the best hope, and today Travis County is in — get this – five different Congressional districts. The GOP holds four, but Doggett doggedly holds on to one of them. The Austin American-Statesman recently determined that various parts of the UT campus fall into three separate districts, which spread from Bryan (irony) to San Antonio. Some of the county’s districts go to Houston’s suburbs, one includes Corpus Christi and another almost touches the Mexican border. Thus Austin, the fourth largest city in Texas, is not dominant in any of the districts, its voters make up less than 35 percent in any of them, their voice in Congress diluted, if not muted, by lines on a map. Clearly gerrymandering is a serious problem in Texas for some. For others, it works just fine. But in case we need to re-draw the lines for our members of Congress and the Legislature so they look more like Texas rather than, say, membership in the River Oaks Country Club, let’s begin with the original premise that a district should include like-minded people who have a single representative or state senator to speak for them, vote on laws covering them, v0te on taxes, etc. I suggest we put all the lawyers in one district, all the ranchers in another, put the professors and students in another. Group all the liberals in their own districts, same with the conservatives. All the moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats are grouped in the endangered species district — a very small district. This redrawing might cause some skillful map work, but have you seen our current Congressional maps? They look like a Rorschach test. A dockworker in Port Arthur has the same Congressman as a corporate lawyer in The Woodlands. One guess as to who donates the most money and has the most influence. District 14 goes from the New Mexico border to Dallas suburbs. District 23 runs from a cozy GOP San Antonio neighborhood to the east side of El Paso. Yep, its Congressman is from that GOP neighborhood. All of these new districts might violate the US Constitution, but that is so 1780s. Who cares? Remember the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that protects us against “unreasonable searches and seizures” has been de-coded by the NSA, which found it actually means, “You can trust us, we’re from the government.” Complain to your member of Congress, whoever that is. Ashby is hiding at ashby2@comcast.net

Element Hotels Guests ‘Seize the Summer’ With Solstice Giveaway

June 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

STAMFORD, Conn. – June 19, 2013 – Element® Hotels is wasting no time getting guests into the summer swing.  No stranger to the summer sun, thanks to a smart hotel design that captures 90 percent of daylight, Starwood’s trailblazing, eco-wise brand, is marking the season’s official start with free aviator shades for all guests. The giveaway will launch an 11-week call for guests to “Seize the Summer,” complete with a weekly chance to win a built-to-order Strada bike.

Summer Solstice Surprise & Delight

One pair of complimentary aviator-style sunglasses will be given at check-in to every guest staying at an Element hotel on Thursday, June 20, or Friday, June 21. The unisex shades will keep guests’ eyes well protected on the longest day of the year and make the official start of summer a stylish one.

Pledge to Win a Bike

Through Labor Day, Element Hotels will give away a custom Strada bike once a week to guests who pledge on Facebook to seize the summer and savor the sunlight, for a total of 11 winners. Guests can take the pledge at facebook.com/elementhotels and design their built-to-order bike at www.stradacustoms.com. To provide inspiration, each Element hotel will display a one-of-a-kind Strada bike in its lobby throughout the promotion. Element associates will have a chance to win their hotel’s display bike at summer’s end.

‘Relax’ Summer BBQs

June 20 will also mark the first of Element’s summer Relax receptions. The Thursday evening events will give guests a jump on long summer weekends with an outdoor BBQ featuring complimentary appetizers, wine, beer and soft drinks.

 

# # #

South Padre Island

June 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

JENNY MEYER, POP!

June 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

JENNY MEYER, POP!
Painter Jenny Meyer, Native Texan, inaugural solo exhibition

WHERE:
D.M. Allison Art
2709 Colquitt – on Gallery Row
Houston, Texas 77098
832 607 4378

WHEN:
Opening night reception: Saturday July 6, 2013  6 to 8 pm
Exhibition concludes: July 27, 2013

ADMISSION:
FREE and open to the public.

D.M. Allison Art: is pleased to present Jenny Meyer, POP!
Jenny Meyer speaks on her current series of paintings, “With previous bodies of work I have created stories using popular culture as an influence and a means to describe each narrative. In my current painting series, my process has evolved. I now find that I am telling personal stories using popular imagery as a visual language. As such, my work has become a more intimate dialog, lending a new level of conceptual depth to each painting. Cartoons by nature are a pure and innocent form of expression.  Many topics I present or those put forth by pop culture in general can bear a lot of weight and responsibility. Perhaps, when engaging in this dialog through the act of painting, I invert the heaviness and create something lighthearted, simplified and optimistic. In this way I am able to express my own experience, telling my personal story of hope and faith through my illustrative style of creating.”

Though her work has a narrative feel to it, it remains ambiguous enough to contain a level of abstraction. She is by definition, a Pop Artist, a true Colorist, and a rare success story in the arts. In a time when record numbers of art students have been let loose into an already saturated market, Meyer entered the world of visual art and quickly emerged as one of the fastest rising young artists of her genre.

Jenny Meyer (b. 1987) is an artist who currently resides and creates in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Meyer returned to Texas after several years spent pursuing a world-class education in the arts. Her passion and commitment culminated in a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009 with an emphasis in Painting and Drawing through the Advanced Painting Department. Previous to SAIC, Meyer began her artistic voyage in 2005 at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City where she studied Accessories Design.

Accolades have been swift and abundant. In addition to being selected as a finalist for the Hunting Art Prize, Meyer has received multiple awards, including several feature articles in national Publications. National and international exhibitions include: Union Street Gallery – Chicago, IL; Museum of the Southwest – Midland, TX; Woodbury Art Museum – Orem, UT and Mischmasch Gallery – Hong Kong. In addition, through Austin Art Boards, Meyer was selected as one of ten artists to present their own artwork via billboard in the Austin metropolitan area.

HOUSTON RACES FOR THE CURE ON OCTOBER 5

June 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

The 23rd Annual Komen Houston Race for the Cure® in Downtown Houston Expects to Raise $3 Million

 

 The Houston Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® kicks off National Breast Cancer Awareness month by hosting one of the largest foot races in the Bayou City, the 23rd annual Komen Race for the Cure®, Saturday, Oct. 5 in downtown Houston.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® is the largest series of 5K runs/fitness walks in the world. The Komen Houston Race for the Cure® raises funds for the local fight against breast cancer, celebrates breast cancer survivors and honors those who have lost their battle with the disease.

Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised through the annual Race for the Cure® stays in the Houston community to fund innovative breast health and breast cancer research, screening, treatment, education and support programs. The remaining 25 percent goes toward groundbreaking national breast cancer research programs, including vital research being done right here in the Bayou City.

This year’s Race, sponsored by Marathon Oil Company, hopes to raise $3 million to fund research, education, screening and treatment here in the Southeast Texas.

The 2013 Race for the Cure® route is a USATF 5K course with both running and walking events including a 5K timed competitive run; a 5K timed non-competitive run; a 5K walk and family walk. There will be a Family Walk and Kids K, which is about a 1/2 mile, sponsored by National Oilwell Varco.

Participants unable to attend the main Race can opt to register for Sleep In for the Cure® to show their support for the cause without having to wake up early on Race Day.

For more information about the Komen Houston Race for the Cure®, schedule interviews with survivors and co-survivors or need photos, please contact Lisa Bustamante at 713-552-1055 or lisab@loveadv.com.

NEIGHBOR HOODS

June 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

BLIGHT BULLETINS — Published by and for the residents of Running Rats Acres (RRA). Yes, this is the summer edition because we never got around to putting out the spring edition, or the winter one, for that matter. If you can do better, contact Ed DeTroit at 345 Mourning Widows Drive and tell him you’ve got so much idle time on your hands that you can put out this crummy newsletter.

Our first business is old business. In our last edition (fall of 2012) we mistakenly wrote that the Fishfins were moving to Tyler to be closer to their oldest son, Mildew, who is located at the Belo Unit temporarily — probably five to 10 years. Mildew is actually at the Walls, so the Fishfins are staying put, but intend to pay compensation for the 21 neighborhood burglaries Mildew was convicted of, of which he was convicted. Whatever. We were incorrect in reporting that Roger Rockslide is studying at Harvard. Actually, he is being studied. We were close. Finally, there has been some grumbling that the day for this year’s Fourth of July parade and frog-fry has not been listed. It will be on July 4th. Speaking of celebrations, there will not be a neighborhood Labor Day picnic and children swapping this year as our attorneys have advised us not all the food poisoning lawsuits have been settled from last year.

A fond farewell to John Smith and his family at 409 Cattle Guard Place. They are moving back in with Mary’s parents in Newark after John’s cover with the Federal Witness Protection Program was blown. These government cutbacks are affecting everyone. We must put an end to the vicious rumors that Vladimir Putin, his ex-wife, Ralph, and their children, Larry, Moe and Curly, are actually Russian spies. Lots of houses have rooftop weather vanes with a radio antenna, barbed wire fences and a getaway ’99 Volga backed into the garage. The Putins assure us they will raise their blinds eventually “as soon as vee moof der dark room to der basement.” Oh, those funny Putins. Vladimir once asked how he could decipher the community’s building code.

A big shout-out to Cindy-Sue Wheatgerm on Pond Scum Circle. She entered her mixed pit-bull-Rottweiler, Rabid Rover, in the Ugly Dog Contest. Not only did Rabid Rover with the blue ribbon but Cindy-Sue was first runner-up. Our sympathies to J.R. and R.J. Mousely over the loss of J.R.’s job at the Boom-Boom Fire Cracker Works. I think we can all agree that “flammable” and “inflammable” mean the same thing but are easily confused. He should be up and around shortly.

The board has received a check from FEMA for “the terrible destruction, seen in photographs, wrought on your community by the E-5 tornado in May.” We weren’t touched by that tornado, but we’re keeping the money. Good news for our swim team, the Racin’ Ratkins. They have finally been re-accepted in the city’s Kids Summer Swimming Conference now that most of their scabs have healed. There are still openings in the 9-12 age bracket since officials noted some of our members wore their college colors.

In other news, as you may know, in this last session of the Texas Legislature a few laws were passed which will effect the Homeowners Associations (HOA) across the state. For example, any flagpole more than 100 feet tall must be topped with a flashing red light to warn approaching Life Flights or, in our case, SWAT team helicopters. All homeowners must allow electric power line rights-of-way through their property. This is important to the RRA HOA since we are expecting electric power any month now. Due to abuse in some cities, the Legislature has followed Gov. Rick Perry’s recommendation and has banned HOAs from confiscating a house if the owner has a funny name, but confiscation is allowed if the owner puts up yard signs endorsing Democrats, the EPA or that commie front, the UN.

In addition to these new state laws, we have some new rules just for RRA. No more than three (3) cars will be allowed up on blocks in the front yard. For some members of our community who like to park their cars on the street, we want you to know about a new invention called a “garage” which can hold a car or even two. If you can’t afford a “garage,” try parking your pickup on what’s called a “driveway.” It’s that concrete slab that goes from the street to the “garage.”

Another new rule: Those highly coveted Yard of the Month signs must be removed after one year. Along these same lines, all outdoor Christmas decorations must be taken down by Easter. Following a few complaints (76), the board has ruled that no one can live full-time in an RV. An un-mowed lawn, after three months, does not qualify as “a wheat field.” Putting a historical plaque on your garage does not exempt it from being painted. Garbage must be put in garbage cans, and “recycling” does not mean you can build a tree house in your front yard with old tires and empty Coors cans.

Our neighborhood constable, Sgt. Terry “Truncheon” Naptime, reminds all sex offenders that they must be registered with him and that a new state law requires they not leave their house unless it’s burning. This especially applies to those who are also pyromaniacs. He apologizes for the 4 a.m. raid on the McSeedy Pawn Shop & Consignment Boutique, but reminds us, “Good neighbors don’t make good fences.” Sgt. Naptime wants everyone to know that the crime rate in our community “is now almost less than that of Juarez.” This year’s Alert Neighborhood Watch program does not include rear windows. He also asks that if anyone has seen his patrol car please advise.

That’s all for now. Just remember our neighborhood’s motto: What happens in Running Rats Acres stays in Running Rats Acres – unless you’re not vaccinated.

 

Ashby is neighborly at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

Erica Rose appears on the Katie Couric Show

June 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Erica Rose, University of Houston Law School graduate and director of the Rose Petals, a division of the Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation, focused on volunteerism to assist the un-insured with cancer of all ages & both genders, by organizing events targeted to teens and young adults will be honored on the Katie Couric Show this coming Monday, June 17th on ABC at 3pm! (Central time) The show is titled “Bachelor Contestants and Controversies.”  During the show, Erica Rose was given a beautiful golden rose award for being “Most Outrageous!”

THE DRUGE REPORT

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE RADIO — “This is Wednesday. Hump day,” says the DJ. His reference has nothing to do with camels or speed bumps, but rather he means that Wednesday is the middle of the work week and now we are moving downhill and closer to getting away from our jobs. We’ve got Thursday, which is called Friday eve, then TGIF and finally the weekend which means time away from work.

The term “hump day” always makes me a bit sad. Is your job so bad, so boring, so unfulfilling that you dread going to work and only look forward to being away from it? That’s not much of a life. But a lot of Americans don’t like their jobs, hate their bosses and want to graze in the greener grass. University business schools and employment agencies, not to mention the U.S. Dept. of Labor, are always doing surveys on the subject, and their findings vary, but they are consistent in showing millions of Americans dislike their jobs.

A 2009 survey by the Conference Board research group showed only 45 percent of Americans were satisfied with their work. It was  the lowest level ever recorded in the 22 years the board has been studying U.S. workers. Another survey taken last year put job dissatisfaction rate at 70 percent. It’s no wonder Johnny Paycheck’s song, “Take This Job and Shove it (I ain’t working here no more)” was such a hit. Perhaps Paychecks’ slippery grasp of the English language had something to do with his lack of work fulfillment.

A Mayo Clinic study found there is a difference in job dissatisfaction, and it has little to do with income. Lowest on the happy face chart are you people who feel that what you do is just a job. The nature of the work doesn’t interest you, and you’ll probably move on. (The average tenure in a given job is now 4.4 years.) Then comes: It’s a career. In this case you’re more interested in advancement, perks, the corner office, no matter what you do 9 to 5. Finally: It’s a calling. I think three lines of work would fall into this category:  teaching, preaching and journalism. Hey, would we put up  with lousy pay and your constant put-downs if we didn’t love what we do? All three pursuits are out to change the world for the better, but as the anti-Obama crowd likes to say: You can keep the change.

Why do so many people dislike their work? Forbes ran a study and determined many employees first chose their career at the age of 22 when they have no idea what they want to do with their lives. They have a very narrow view of their options. They feel they need to make money, because they are now independent from their parents. Then, after 7-10 or more years, they feel locked in, they don’t know how to change, and they see a risk to switching careers. So, they do the same thing for the rest of their life.

Another survey found that the Number 1 reason for dissatisfaction is their job is boring. Then comes: having a bad boss, no personal time, difficult working environment and in fifth place: low pay. Having a boring job could apply to almost any pursuit. Dentists clean teeth every day, lawyers keep getting the same drunks off DWI charges, after a while all transplanted hearts look the same and Seal Team 6 will never be promoted to Seal Team 7. I was talking to the president of one of the biggest banks in Houston. He made very good money, his expense account covered most of his restaurant meals, his country club membership (golf networking) and other perks like business trips to Hawaii. “So how’s the banking biz?” I asked, trying to sound curious.

“Let’s not talk about banking,” he said. “It’s so boring.” Yes, boring would lead my list. Number 2., bad boss: Do you have a bad boss, or, even worse, are you a bad boss? Psychology Today found six main reasons (we’ve got a lot of lists today): Doesn’t treat employees like human beings. Has completely unrealistic expectations. Fails to see his/her own shortcomings. Punishes first and asks questions later. Is a bully. (This reminds me of the notice put up on a company bulletin board: “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”) Lastly, is dishonest and inauthentic. You might want to cut out this list and anonymously leave it on your boss’s desk.

Next: no personal time. I quibble with this gripe unless your boss says, “Forcipes, quick!” and you are using your iPad. As for the complaint that you slave in a difficult working environment, tell that to pig skinners, landfill inspectors and your co-workers who resent your lunch-time accordion practices. Last was low pay. These days any job and any pay are better than the alternative, but what ever you earn is not enough unless you can bat .335, are a hedge fund manager or are an unindicted drug lord.

What’s the worst job you ever had? No, not as parent of a teenager. Not the time you were an air traffic controller shouting prayers to crashing pilots. Put down your shovel and think. It could be the one you have now. My worst job might have been when I was making $86 a month as an infantry private in the U.S. Marines. No, I’d file that post under “a calling.” My worst job was one summer vacation in high school when my father got me a position with the Texas Highway Dept. Each scalding day I would go out in one of those big trucks to cut grass (manually), paint stripes down the middle of the county or, if lucky, be put on the Dead Dog Patrol. Don’t ask. Forty-four hours a week earning $44. My father said I was over-qualified to be an orange barrel and under-qualified to hold up an orange flag.

 

Ashby’s calling is at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

FREE HOUSTON SYMPHONY CONCERT AT MILLER OUTDOOR THEATER

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Chaiwat-Rodsuwan,-winner-of-2011-OhSnap!-Photo-Contest

Featuring Young Colombian-American Cellist Christine Lamprea and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

On June 22, music lovers can hear another free concert by the 100-year-old Houston Symphony at Miller Outdoor Theatre as part of their ExxonMobil Summer Symphony Nights series at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The concert will feature popular works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Led by associate conductor Robert Franz, the concert will also feature cello soloist Christine Lamprea, a native of San Antonio and winner of the 2013 Sphinx Competition, who will make her debut with the Houston Symphony performing Tchaikovsky’s technically challenging Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra

The second half of the concert will be equally entertaining for outdoor audiences. Scheherazade, one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s most evocative works, illustrates some of the oriental stories spun by Scheherazade in the literary epic, The Arabian Nights. Opening with the themes of the frustrated sultan and the storytelling Scheherazade, the piece weaves through stories of Sinbad and his ship to festivals held in the city of Baghdad. With vast elaborate colors and dazzling, memorable themes that bring about visions of the ancient orient, audiences of all ages are sure to enjoy this performance.

The audience is encouraged to participate in the Symphony’s photo contest, OH SNAP!, in which concert-goers upload their favorite snapshots from any Summer Symphony Nights concert to the Symphony’s Flickr page. The themes upon which the winners will be selected include the following categories: Performance, Family/Friends, Fireworks, Venue, Audience and Miscellaneous. Winners of each photo category will receive a pair of ticket vouchers to a future Houston Symphony concert, and their photo will be featured on the Houston Symphony website, e-news, and blog. Additionally, the grand prize winner will be given $300. Visit www.houstonsymphony.org/ohsnap or more information.

EXXONMOBIL SUMMER SYMPHONY NIGHTS SERIES

Miller Outdoor Theatre
6000 Hermann Park Drive
Houston, TX 77030
Saturday, June 22, 2013, 8:30 PM

Mozart and Scheherazade

Robert Franz, conductor

Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D Major
Tchaikovsky: Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

FREE ADMISSION

Admission is free for these concerts, but tickets are required for the seated area. Tickets are available the day of the performance from the Miller Theatre Box Office between 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM. Any remaining tickets are released one hour before the performance time. Visit www.milleroutdoortheatre.com <http://www.milleroutdoortheatre.com/> for more information.

About Robert Franz

In his seventh season as Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony, Robert Franz leads the Symphony in a broad range of creative educational and family concerts. His concerts have reached over 72,000 audience members of all ages as he travels to various venues throughout the state of Texas.

When not in Houston, he is also the Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic, and in 2012, Franz began his tenure as Music Director of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Opera and Orchestra. Franz is also the newly appointed Music Director of the Windsor Symphony in Ontario. Recent and upcoming guest conducting highlights include his debut with the Baltimore Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Under his direction, both the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (2008) and the Louisville Orchestra (2001) were awarded ASCAP’s Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming. The Louisville Orchestra’s award led to the creation of an education program for Kentucky Educational Television entitled, Creating Music and Stories. Winner of the 2008 BPO/ECMEA Music Educators Award for Excellence, Franz has created arts education programs for the Carolina Chamber Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra, West End Chamber Ensemble and the Winston-Salem Piedmont Triad Symphony, including that organization’s innovative Bolton Research Project.

A recognized leader in the arts, the Idaho Education Committee invited him to address the Idaho Legislature on the importance of music in education. Franz has also authored his first children’s book with a CD entitled, Stella’s Magical Musical Tour of America. It introduces children to classical music by incorporating various musical excerpts intertwined throughout the story of a girl’s journey in a hot air balloon.

In addition to his current posts, Franz served as the Music Director of the Mansfield Symphony in Ohio (2003-10), Resident Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic (2005-09) and Associate Conductor of the Louisville Orchestra (1997-06). He continues to serve as Music Director Emeritus of the Carolina Chamber Symphony, an orchestra that he founded, and provides educational programming workshops at the National Repertory Orchestra during the summer.

Franz received his Master of Music degree in conducting from the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1992 and his Bachelor of Music degree in oboe performance in 1990 from that same institution.

About Christine Lamprea

Colombian-American Cellist Christine Lamprea is the Senior Division First Place Laureate of the 2013 Annual Sphinx Competition presented by the DTE Energy Foundation. She performs as part of the Sphinx Soloist Program sponsored by the GM Foundation. Noted for her “charm” and “supreme panache,” Lamprea is a multi-faceted young soloist and chamber musician. Her Sphinx Competition win has earned her a spot on the roster of the Sphinx Soloists Program, where she will be a featured soloist with major orchestras worldwide.

Lamprea has received awards from the National Foundation of the Advancement of the Arts, the Young Texas Artists’ Competition and most recently won First Prize in the 2013 Schadt National String Competition. An experienced chamber musician, Lamprea has performed in the United States, Canada and Europe alongside musicians such as Itzhak Perlman, Roger Tapping and Carol Wincenc. Most recently, she was a member of a small ensemble working with Anthony Coleman on avant garde composer John Zorn’s game piece Cobra for musical improvisers and prompter.

Lamprea strives to expand her musicianship by exploring less familiar venues of performance and teaching. She has worked with members of the Baroque ensemble Les Arts Florissants and studied sonatas with fortepiano with Audrey Axinn. In addition to this performance in Houston, she will be a guest artist at the Silicon Valley Music Festival in June 2013.

A passionate teacher, Lamprea worked with Ecuadorian youth in Quito and Guayaquil as part of a residency between The Juilliard School and “Sinfonia Por La Vida,” a social inclusion program based on Venezuela’s El Sistema. She continued her outreach as a Gluck Community Service Fellow at Juilliard, performing in hospitals and nursing homes in and around New York City as part of a mixed ensemble of dancers, actors and musicians. After completing her undergraduate studies  with Bonnie Hampton at Juilliard, Lamprea began her Master’s studies at New England Conservatory with Natasha Brofsky in 2011.

Lamprea plays on a 1711 David Tecchler cello, generously loaned to her by the New England Conservatory.

 

 Houston Symphony LogoAbout the Houston Symphony
During the 2013-14 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its 100th year as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. The Houston Symphony is one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas whose inaugural performance was held at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Continuing a long standing tradition of performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Symphony held its first concert at Miller Memorial Theater on August 21, 1940 and has been entertaining outdoor audiences with free concerts every summer since. Today, with an annual operating budget of $28.7 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians is the largest performing arts organization in Houston, presenting more than 280 concerts for 280,000 people, including 84,000 children, annually. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org  or call 713-224-7575.

Non-Stop Flight on United from Houston to Vail this Summer

June 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

EGE Air Alliance Secures New, Non-Stop Flight on United from Houston to

Vail’s Eagle County Regional Airport this Summer

Inaugural Summer Flight Scheduled for June 27

Vail, Colo. – March 15, 2013 – Mike Brown, chairman of the EGE Air Alliance, today announced that the organization secured new summer service on United Airlines from Houston (IAH) to Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE) five days a week beginning June 27, 2013. The non-stop flight will operate from Houston to EGE Thursday through Monday beginning Thursday, June 27, with southbound service from EGE to Houston Friday through Tuesday starting Friday, June 28. The service will operate through August.

“Houston is a natural extension of our summer flight market,” said Brown. “There is a large second homeowner base in South Texas and we believe the times of the flight will provide easy connections for our guests from Mexico and Latin America. We are excited to partner with United on this opportunity, which we believe is a great addition to the existing, year-round service they provide from Denver to EGE.”

The northbound flight will depart Houston at approximately 5:50 p.m. with an arrival at EGE at 7:20 p.m. The flight to Houston will depart EGE at approximately 7:20 a.m. with an arrival at 10:40 a.m. The flight times make it ideal for connecting to other major cities such as New York, Newark, Tampa, Washington D.C, Austin, San Antonio, New Orleans and international destinations such as Mexico City and Guadalajara.

Travelers will be flying on a Boeing 737-700 with 118 seats – 106 in coach and 12 in first class.

The EGE Air Alliance was able to secure this flight due to community support from more than 50 businesses; an historic level of support. The Eagle Air Alliance is a 501c6 not-for-profit entity dedicated to creating a vibrant flight service program at the Eagle County Regional Airport. The Eagle Air Alliance is a public-private partnership with participants including local municipalities and private business stakeholders.

For reservations, please visit www.united.com or call (800) 864-8331. For more information on year-round service into EGE, please visit www.FlyVail.com.

 

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RED LIGHT DISTRICT

June 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

THE INTERESECTION — I’m waiting for the traffic light to turn green while listening to some knuckle-dragger on the radio explain that global warming is due to Daylight Saving Time “because we now have an extra hour of sunshine.” The traffic light changes, but every Texas motorist knows not to spring out into the intersection unless you first notify your next-of-kin. I slowly ease out into the crossroads which are more like crosshairs and… GOOD GRIEF!  A pickup comes barreling across my bow doing about 70, clearly running the red light. It’s a good thing we’ve got video cameras up there on poles which will snap a photo and….

Wait. We don’t anymore. They were mounted at the most wreck-prone intersections, but the good voters in my community cancelled the system. Clearly, a majority of motorists around here likes to be splattered like Jell-O, or maybe they like to splatter others. Either way, not only am I in danger every time I venture on to the roads,  my car insurance rates keep going up. Your rates, too.

In case you just moved here from Chad, such cameras are timed to photograph the license plates of cars going through red lights. The cameras can also shoot pictures of the drivers. The photos show the date, time, location and length of time the light had been red when the vehicle sailed through. Later, the motorist receives a letter containing a traffic ticket and a copy of the incriminating photograph.

There are many questions in life which defy answers. Why would anyone who makes more than $500,000 a year vote Democratic and why would anyone who makes less than $500,000 vote Republican? How did Davy die? Why do fools fall in love? To quote JFK, why does Rice play Texas? And why would anyone be opposed to video cameras taping the lunatics who run through red traffic lights threatening to kill us?  Maybe they like my splattered Jell-O theory.

We have seen those shots on TV of wrecks caused by vehicles running red lights. Usually they T-bone the other vehicle — hitting the side door, the most vulnerable part of the machine. And, again, we are all paying hard money for it, unless you are among the millions of Texas drivers who don’t have car insurance. More than 100,000 crashes and 1,000 fatalities are caused by motorists running red lights each year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Studies show a sharp drop in the number of traffic accidents where the red-light cameras are used, but we shall not let facts get in the way of cherry-picking the laws we wish to obey and those which are simply an ingnored nuisance.

Opponents say the cameras are intrusion into their lives. If so, to be consistent they must avoid all banks, especially ATMs, which cover customers 360 degrees 24/7. Next time you go into a convenience store smile, because you are on Candid Camera. Local TV news shows love to run those grainy shots of some guy entering a Stop-N-Rob wearing a ski mask, gimme cap and dark glasses, waving a gun while the TV anchor intones, “If you recognize this person, call 1-800 HANDS UP.” Recognize him? That could be my brother and I wouldn’t know it. We live in a recorded world, as Tamerlan Tsarnaev told his own brother, Dzhokar.

London is supposedly the camera capital of the world, with the devices located on virtually every street corner. If you don’t want them taking your picture, don’t wear a London Fog. Also, don’t go into any liquor store, police station, airport terminal and most elevators. Casinos are full of cash, customer crooks and sticky-fingered employees. Stay away from them, plus hospitals and office building lobbies. Don’t use toll roads.  They are lousy with cameras. Actually, it seems hypocritical for opponents of the red light cameras, citing video intrusion of their privacy, to leave their house.

“It’s merely a way for the city to get more money,” we are told. Then we can assume these people don’t frequent parking meters, or pay their water bill. They avoid pro sports events because tax dollars paid for most of the stadiums and arenas. It is argued that the owner of the car may or may not be the actual driver. Tell that to the owners of vehicles receiving parking tickets.

There is the objection that the camera systems are supplied and operated by private companies, thereby usurping the duties of the government. Are these the same critics who are constantly clamoring for privatization, smaller government and run it like a business? Indeed, a private company picks up my garbage, although some days they deliver. The main, and unspoken, reason for opposing the cameras is simply that the whiners want to break the law and don’t want to get caught or pay the consequences (a fine), or even be inconvenienced. These arguments for opposing a common-sense device that could save lives and clear up a lot of lawsuits are totally transparent. But they are winning. Estimates are that at one point nearly 700 cities in the nation used cameras. Now it’s 530. Currently 21 states and Washington, D.C., use automated cameras at traffic intersections to catch violations. Opponents have one more way to break the law untouched: They can buy clear, plastic shields that blot out their license plate from cameras. The shields are rather like ski masks for cars.

Here in Texas, roughly 60 cities have the camera programs. Montgomery County and League City are dropping systems already in place. If you go there, avoid all intersections. Houston had a video system from September 2006 until voters banned them in November 2010. Good, because Houston has no traffic accidents to speak of. This decline in collision cameras means the T-bone terrorists have won. They are also correct in saying that we don’t need seat-belt laws, mandatory helmets for motorcyclists and child-proof medicine bottles. And, yes, Daylight Savings Time causes global warming.

 

Ashby sees red at ashby2@comcant.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RED LIGHT DISTRICT

June 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE INTERESECTION — I’m waiting for the traffic light to turn green while listening to some knuckle-dragger on the radio explain that global warming is due to Daylight Saving Time “because we now have an extra hour of sunshine.” The traffic light changes, but every Texas motorist knows not to spring out into the intersection unless you first notify your next-of-kin. I slowly ease out into the crossroads which are more like crosshairs and… GOOD GRIEF!  A pickup comes barreling across my bow doing about 70, clearly running the red light. It’s a good thing we’ve got video cameras up there on poles which will snap a photo and….

Wait. We don’t anymore. They were mounted at the most wreck-prone intersections, but the good voters in my community cancelled the system. Clearly, a majority of motorists around here likes to be splattered like Jell-O, or maybe they like to splatter others. Either way, not only am I in danger every time I venture on to the roads,  my car insurance rates keep going up. Your rates, too.

In case you just moved here from Chad, such cameras are timed to photograph the license plates of cars going through red lights. The cameras can also shoot pictures of the drivers. The photos show the date, time, location and length of time the light had been red when the vehicle sailed through. Later, the motorist receives a letter containing a traffic ticket and a copy of the incriminating photograph.

There are many questions in life which defy answers. Why would anyone who makes more than $500,000 a year vote Democratic and why would anyone who makes less than $500,000 vote Republican? How did Davy die? Why do fools fall in love? To quote JFK, why does Rice play Texas? And why would anyone be opposed to video cameras taping the lunatics who run through red traffic lights threatening to kill us?  Maybe they like my splattered Jell-O theory.

We have seen those shots on TV of wrecks caused by vehicles running red lights. Usually they T-bone the other vehicle — hitting the side door, the most vulnerable part of the machine. And, again, we are all paying hard money for it, unless you are among the millions of Texas drivers who don’t have car insurance. More than 100,000 crashes and 1,000 fatalities are caused by motorists running red lights each year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Studies show a sharp drop in the number of traffic accidents where the red-light cameras are used, but we shall not let facts get in the way of cherry-picking the laws we wish to obey and those which are simply an ingnored nuisance.

Opponents say the cameras are intrusion into their lives. If so, to be consistent they must avoid all banks, especially ATMs, which cover customers 360 degrees 24/7. Next time you go into a convenience store smile, because you are on Candid Camera. Local TV news shows love to run those grainy shots of some guy entering a Stop-N-Rob wearing a ski mask, gimme cap and dark glasses, waving a gun while the TV anchor intones, “If you recognize this person, call 1-800 HANDS UP.” Recognize him? That could be my brother and I wouldn’t know it. We live in a recorded world, as Tamerlan Tsarnaev told his own brother, Dzhokar.

London is supposedly the camera capital of the world, with the devices located on virtually every street corner. If you don’t want them taking your picture, don’t wear a London Fog. Also, don’t go into any liquor store, police station, airport terminal and most elevators. Casinos are full of cash, customer crooks and sticky-fingered employees. Stay away from them, plus hospitals and office building lobbies. Don’t use toll roads.  They are lousy with cameras. Actually, it seems hypocritical for opponents of the red light cameras, citing video intrusion of their privacy, to leave their house.

“It’s merely a way for the city to get more money,” we are told. Then we can assume these people don’t frequent parking meters, or pay their water bill. They avoid pro sports events because tax dollars paid for most of the stadiums and arenas. It is argued that the owner of the car may or may not be the actual driver. Tell that to the owners of vehicles receiving parking tickets.

There is the objection that the camera systems are supplied and operated by private companies, thereby usurping the duties of the government. Are these the same critics who are constantly clamoring for privatization, smaller government and run it like a business? Indeed, a private company picks up my garbage, although some days they deliver. The main, and unspoken, reason for opposing the cameras is simply that the whiners want to break the law and don’t want to get caught or pay the consequences (a fine), or even be inconvenienced. These arguments for opposing a common-sense device that could save lives and clear up a lot of lawsuits are totally transparent. But they are winning. Estimates are that at one point nearly 700 cities in the nation used cameras. Now it’s 530. Currently 21 states and Washington, D.C., use automated cameras at traffic intersections to catch violations. Opponents have one more way to break the law untouched: They can buy clear, plastic shields that blot out their license plate from cameras. The shields are rather like ski masks for cars.

Here in Texas, roughly 60 cities have the camera programs. Montgomery County and League City are dropping systems already in place. If you go there, avoid all intersections. Houston had a video system from September 2006 until voters banned them in November 2010. Good, because Houston has no traffic accidents to speak of. This decline in collision cameras means the T-bone terrorists have won. They are also correct in saying that we don’t need seat-belt laws, mandatory helmets for motorcyclists and child-proof medicine bottles. And, yes, Daylight Savings Time causes global warming.

 

Ashby sees red at ashby2@comcant.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCAM ALOT

June 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

“Hi. Grandma. It’s me, (unintelligible). I know I don’t sound normal. I’m sick and in jail. The jail doctor says if I don’t get out quick and get to a real hospital soon …cough, cough. I need two thousand five hundred dollars to cover all my costs. Could you wire me….?” So a couple, good friends of mine, did just that. You might be surprised to learn that there was no sick grandchild, no jail, no doctor and, shortly thereafter, no sign of the money. This sad story raises questions. First, how could anyone be so dumb? Or naive, clueless? These two victims are well educated, made good livings until they retired, and are still active — they don’t drool oatmeal on their bibs in the nursing home. They sent the money because they were concerned grandparents who wanted to help. But how did the caller know they were grandparents with trouble-prone grandchildren who well might have made such a call? Beats me. How did the alleged perpetrators pick up the cash? There were probably more than one person and they figured out the pickup long before the call. Many people would spot such a scam and hang up, so why do the scammers keep doing it? Obviously, because it works enough times to make it worth their while. There are other less complicated calls. It is well known that each year before the holidays we get appeals from the “Texas State Troopers Association” or the “State Troopers Alliance” seeking donations. Don’t. We still have the You Are a Winner! calls. To secure your five-day vacation cruise, just etc. etc. The I’m-sick-and-jailed phone call ploy is a twist on an e-mail sting that was making the rounds two years ago: “Hi, I need your help. I made a stealth trip for a short vacation in London, UK. Unfortunately for me, I got mugged at GUN POINT in the park of the hotel where I stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off me but luckily I still have my passports.” The urgent e-mail says the writer’s flight leaves in a few hours, “but am having problems settling the hotel bills. The hotel manager won’t let me leave until I settle the bills. I really need your urgent assistance. Ed.” Everyone knows someone named Ed. The advent of e-mails unleashed a torrent of ways to con. I believe the first major one was the infamous Nigerian prince. Probably every American who ever went on-line received that message. We can only wonder, on the receiving end, how much money was eventually raised. Over the years I have been sent e-mails from exiled generals, lawyers for lottery winners and on-the-run businessmen, all in need of my help. (I have been especially selected.) Often they have $40 million in a London bank and can’t get to it, so I can be the bag man to avoid taxes, and get some of the swag for my efforts. Well, today we know better than to fall for such a ploy. Then yesterday, honest, I received this: “communication, i am james ivory from united kingdom a lawyer i have a good business transaction for you get back with your contact details for more information” (no period) Several times I have received an e-mail from Comcast, which I pay dearly for, saying that my account has been hacked and I need to re-supply Comcast with my passwords, codes and time of the day I shall be away from the house. I got roughly the same message from Bank of America, which also wanted my ATM code, checking account number and location of the key to my safety deposit box (please give number of said box). I almost sent the needed information until I realized I don’t have an account with Bank of America. Beside the phone call from a sick prisoner plying on our sympathy or the gullibility of giving out secret information, there is a major basis for scams: Play to victims’ own greed. They think they are the sly fellows, the insiders, and are pulling a quick one on the bank or government or big corporation. In order to avoid paying taxes on that $40 million, or to make off with the inheritance before the evil twin finds out, all I need to do is wire $10,000 to show my sincerity. Remember in “The Sting” Doyle Lonnegan played by Robert Shaw thought HE was Cool Hand Loot. This brings us to one of my favorite scams, the Cases of the Errant E-Mail. Out of nowhere I get this one: “Hey, Mac, as you know, I’ve been dating this gal who’s a veep at Big Bux Bullion, and she told me they’ve just landed a $3 BILLION contract with Homeland Security and the stock is going to go through the roof. Keep this to yourself, but buy Big Bux now! All you can get. See you at the bachelor party for Jon Frank. Later, Bob Bruce.” By shear luck, I have stumbled onto a Wall Street insider’s bonanza, and shall make a fortune at the expense of the other suckers. No, I am not blinded by greed, just salivating over my cleverness. A few year ago when Wall Street was going south, I talked to an Austin couple about the market and bemoaned my losses. “Oh, we got out a while back,” they said, somewhat smugly. They put everything into a friend’s investment firm. Long story, short ending: They lost everything. He’s in jail. That’s not exactly a scam. More of a white-collar con. One humbling part of all these calls is: where did they get my name and why do they think I am so stupid as to fall for their transparently simple schemes? Is there an Idiot’s List — in addition to the Texas Legislature roll call? As for the aforementioned couple who sent that $2,500 to somebody somewhere, the wife had a clue at the very beginning. “They never call me Grandma.” Ashby scams at ashby2@comcast.net

Kenwood Inn & Spa

June 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Stay and Dine

KenwoodInn_spa2Kenwood Inn & Spa
10400 Sonoma Highway 12, Kenwood
707-833-1293
www.kenwoodinn.com

In the heart of Sonoma County, set amidst the stunning hills of the Sonoma Valley, the Kenwood Inn and Spa is the premier destination for visitors seeking gracious treatment, lush surroundings, and luxurious accommodations.

Designed with hand-crafted artistry, the Inn has the allure of a Mediterranean villa enticing guests along walkways that meander from courtyard to terrace, from patio to spa to create the ultimate escape. A favorite among sybarites, the Kenwood Inn and Spa is routinely listed as one of the best spas in the United States.