New Mobile App Helps Travelers Find Their Perfect Beach

July 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Visit South Walton Perfect Beach App Features
Essentials Travelers Need to Plan Their Trip to the Beach

SOUTH WALTON, Fla. (July 30, 2013) – With summer now in full swing, travelers have a newly redesigned mobile tool to help them plan a trip to the beach. Visit South Walton has launched Generation 2.0 of its mobile application, the Visit South Walton Perfect Beach app. The location-aware app, which is now available for Apple iPhone and Android smartphones, gives travelers real-time information, including weather forecasts, ocean conditions and more, for their closest beach anywhere in the United States, while serving as a comprehensive guide to South Walton’s 16 unique beach neighborhoods.

The new, highly visual app is user-friendly and provides an advertisement-free experience to help users find their perfect beach. Information on South Walton accommodations, dining, events, entertainment, shopping and popular activities, as well as beach conditions and weather, are available at your fingertips. The app even boasts a Sunset Calculator feature, a great resource for both amateur and professional photographers and event planners looking to capture that perfect moment between day and night. Nature-lovers and adventure seekers will appreciate the app’s Ecosploring feature, which maps out activities beyond the beach, highlighting the destination’s beautiful state parks and hiking, as well as biking trails.

“Generation 2.0 of our Visit South Walton Perfect Beach app provides users a rich and intuitive experience. Travelers can use the app to explore the many offerings of South Walton’s 16 beautiful beach neighborhoods or to learn more about their closest beach,” said Jon Ervin, director of marketing and communications for Visit South Walton. “It’s great whether you’re planning a trip from a distance or using it as a guide when visiting South Walton.”

When outside South Walton, the U.S. Beach Finder function provides information travelers need to plan their next beach excursion anywhere in the United States by displaying the user’s closest beach. From real-time temperature and sunrise/sunset information to tides and surf advisories, the app provides everything travelers need to plan a safe and enjoyable beach excursion.

iPhone and Android users can now download the free app in the Apple Store and Google Play. For additional information, visit www.VisitSouthWalton.com/South-Walton-To-Go.

About South Walton:
Located along a 26-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Coast, South Walton encompasses an unparalleled strand of 16 distinct beach neighborhoods, each with its own traditions, charm and visual style. South Walton is renowned for natural scenic beauty, turquoise waters and sugar sand beaches, including one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s “Best Beaches on Earth” for families in 2013. An upscale, yet casual place to unwind, South Walton is the place to rejuvenate and build lasting memories. It is here that visitors find their perfect beach. Learn more at VisitSouthWalton.com.

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Corner Table Restaurant Review

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Dining

2013-04-03 14.10.37

Hidden gem in River Oaks satisfies – even if you’re on a diet

By Laurette M. Veres

There is lots of hype around the latest diet de jour: The Paleo Diet. Many claim eating like our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors is the best and healthiest way to lose weight. But can you eat like a caveman at a restaurant?  Usually not.

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Neanderthals are now gathering at the Corner Table where long time Houston chef Bruce Molzan diligently works in the kitchen.  He is cooking up the dishes he’s known for (Ruggles 1980’s-2012) plus new options geared at the Paleo dieters. Corner Table is nestled off of Westheimer in the old Brownstone location.

IMG_0772The staff here is well trained and knows the in’s and out’s of the menu.  With pastas, burgers, filets and chicken offerings, I was surprised to hear diet dishes recommended.  After trying some of the diet dishes I understood. The Turkey Bolognese bursts with flavor. Organic tomato sauce, ground turkey and fresh herbs served over spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The chicken enchiladas surprisingly satisfy Mexican Food cravings with coconut flour tortillas2013-04-03 13.27.39 and vegan cheese.

The Paleo diet has high protein, carbs from fruits and vegetables, high fiber and fat intake dominated by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Low sodium is also important, plus high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Chef Molzan’s diet dishes meet these standards and are fit for a caveman.

For those not on a diet, the ham and cheese Panini is melted perfection.  Wood-fired pizzas are popular as entrIMG_0773ées or shared with friends. You’ll recognize the veggie plate from Ruggles.

 

 

2013-04-03 13.27.042013-04-03 12.47.08An outdoor patio greets guests just past the valet.  This is a great place to meet for drinks if you can take the heat. The inside dining area is open and airy with a great view of the kitchen.  The best vantage point is from the counter bar; perfect for singletons. After your meal, 1919 Wine and Mixology bar (attached) is a great place for after dinner drinks.

 

TOO MUCH ON OUR PLATE

July 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE INTERSECTION — Now that my idiot fellow citizens have voted to remove those video cameras that would take pictures of motorists who like to run red lights and kill the rest of us, I’ll wait till long after the light has changed to green or I’ll get T-boned. Odd. There still seems to be cameras mounted on poles, like they are taking  photos of my license plate.

“They are taking photos of you license plate,” says this story from AP. The pictures also contain information on when and where the photos were taken. They can be shot from cameras mounted on poles, police cars, buildings, bridges or just as an app on a cop’s cell phone. Yes, just when we thought there was no more of our privacy to be violated, we discover that police departments, other local law enforcement agencies and probably the George Zimmerman Neighborhood Watch Patrol have been taking pictures of our vehicles on public streets and in public places. Then the agencies share the information with other law enforcement branches, and our federal tax dollars are paying for it.

Minneapolis authorities snapped 4.9 million license plates in eight months last year, including 41 shots of the mayor’s car. And until recently, anyone could ask the Minneapolis police for a list of which particular car plates were taken where. An astute blackmailer could move there and make a fortune. Jersey City, New Jersey, has a population of 250,000 but its police department collected more than 2 million plate shots in a year. Now we have the Spies of Texas: our local cops are doing the same, just in case some authorities may need that information some day, some where, some how. The Mesquite PD has license plate photos going back to 2008. We can only speculate how the DPS files a plate that reads AGGIE or HOOK’EM.

The ACLU, that group of commie bomb-throwers, has filed suit, saying this massive picture taking of license plates belonging to ordinary citizens minding their own business is an intrusion into our privacy. The ACLU, what a bunch of wimps — they are also opposed to torture, need I say more? But this time they may have allies in Americans who think enough is enough. It was Edward Snowden who revealed the National Security Agency, or NSA, has a record of every phone call we’ve made since 1917, including time, date, who called whom, from where to where, length of the call. The spooks assure us they don’t actually listen to, or record, the conversations themselves, if you can really believe that. I don’t, but with all their info they pretty well know what we were talking about anyway.

We also know the NSA has another eavesdropping program called PRISM.  (“Good evening, Mr. Bond.”) It requires Yahoo, Google and the rest of Silicone Valley to regularly turn over to the NSA materials including on-line search history, the contents of emails, file transfers, live chats, our innermost thoughts and dreams. And any letter or parcels you mail is recorded, and be careful of mail carriers who are also stamp collectors.

But to tape our brain waves (are those black helicopters back again?), the public is protected by judicial review, right? I mean, the NSA snoops need a court order to go through our garbage cans. The Fourth Amendment says so. Our roadblock against tyranny is the 11-member secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, which has, in the words of one government official, “quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come.” That’s spooky. FISA rubber stamps (are judges rubber stamp collectors?) any request by the feds for permission to do something otherwise unlawful. Why not? The judges only hear the spooks’ side of the story and not a word from anyone else. It’s like a trial where only the prosecution is allowed to present its case. Guilty, we rule! How often do the judges agree with the feds and approve a surveillance request? 99.98 percent of the time. That’s better than the results of a North Korean election.

Just who comes under suspicion? Known terrorists like relatives of Osama Bin  Laden, or their relatives, friends of their relatives and, obviously, relatives of their friends. Also people with Mid East connections, such as those who smoke Camels, have a children’s sand pile in the backyard, or deal in Saudi oil and gas, which includes most of Texas and all of Houston. Do you hear a strange click on you phone? We can only assume you shop at Burkas R Us. You can own a poodle, pit bull or Rottweiler, but Afghan owners are subject to a body search. Are you one of the million troops who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan? Your life story is on file. Falling under suspicion and therefore automatic surveillance are people with funny names, like Regis Philbin, Lady Gaga and Barack Obama.

Every time you check out at the grocery store using your plastic card that makes you a Preferred Customer which reduces the price of a sack of Fritos by 14 cents, NSA’s top-secret Clean Up on Aisle 5 Dept. gets a copy. Prescriptions filled? The CIA has a copy. Did you actually touch the Touch Tone at the bus station? Your fingerprints are on file. It’s not paranoia. It’s patriotism.

Some say we shouldn’t be worried about the government reading our mail, tapping our phones and hacking our laptops if we don’t have anything to hide. If you feel that way, send me copies of your bank accounts, stock portfolios and a list of what you keep under your mattress. Also, video tapes of your kinky life. What’s that? You say it’s none of my business? Could you speak a little louder?

We all work for the CIA and NSA, but most of us just don’t know it.

 

Ashby spies at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

New wedding venue: Deer Lake Lodge

July 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Just outside of The Woodlands, Deer Lake Lodge invites brides to host their wedding in the woods.

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Host your ceremony just off the pool.

 

 

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The Yoga studio has been transformed into a posh reception site.

 

 

 www.DeerLakeLodge.com

Swoopes premieres on ESPN July 30th at 8PM ET

July 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs

Press information on

SWOOPES

Sheryl Swoopes has famously been labeled the female Michael Jordan.  But that’s only part of the story.On the court, she was nearly as dominant as Jordan, winning a national championship with Texas Tech, three Olympic gold medals, three MVP awards and four consecutive championships with the Houston Comets of the WNBA, the league she helped start. She even had a Nike shoe named after her, the Air Swoopes. Off the court, she has had a life full of transitions.   She gave birth to her son, Jordan, during the inaugural season of the WNBA.  Later, she divorced her high school sweetheart and became the highest-profile athlete in her sport to declare she was gay.  She has struggled with love, money and personal identity, but she has never lost her spirit. In this portrait, you will meet someone who is not your everyday superstar, a woman who has defied a multitude of labels.

SWOOPES will premiere on ESPN July 30th at 8PM ET

Strut Your Mutt Houston — Saturday, September 21st, 2013

July 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Time to Strut for Homeless Pets!
Get ready, get set, get your pooch warmed up. It’s time for Best Friends Animal Society’s Strut Your Mutt in Houston. Join in a relaxing walk to help homeless pets, and then celebrate afterwards at TC Jester at the ultimate doggie festival. The Houston Strut Your Mutt is one of 11 events being staged between Aug. 31 and Sept. 28 across the country by Best Friends Animal Society®.

Who: Animal lovers in the Houston area raising money for homeless pets, and having a great time with their dogs.

What: Leisurely group dog walks followed by a dog-themed celebration festival that includes booths, contests, demonstrations, entertainment, refreshments and more.

Where: TC Jester Park, Houston

When: Saturday, September 21st, 2013. Registration begins at 7:00am; walk begins at 8:30 am. Festival ends at noon.

Why: To raise money for participating local animal rescue groups (Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network Partners) and Best Friends Animal Society, with the goal of bringing about a time when there are No More Homeless Pets®. Last year, nearly $1.3 million was raised for homeless pets and the 180 animal welfare groups who serve them, saving the lives of shelter pets through adoption programs and spay/neuter services. This year’s goal is $1.5 million in 2013.

National sponsors: Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Food®, PetfinderTM, BarkBox

The donations raised through Strut Your Mutt will be used to fund lifesaving adoption programs and spay/neuter services, to ultimately impact the number of pets entering and leaving the shelters. Every day more than 9,000 pets are unnecessarily killed in America’s shelters simply because they don’t have a home. Each one an individual. Each one a valued life worth saving. 9,000. That number should be zero. And it can be. Best Friends Animal Society and its No More Homeless Pets® Network Partners, through events like Strut Your Mutt, are joining together to bring that number to zero.

More information is available at www.strutyourmutt.org/Houston

NOW WHAT DO I DO?

July 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

            Rick Perry, who has served as Texas governor longer than anyone, says he’s stepping down after this term. At that time he’ll still able to jog, shoot menacing coyotes, and text while driving through school crossings, but what else will Perry do? There are plenty of examples, because the former Aggie yell leader is the 47th governor of Texas, and all but one had an afterlife upon leaving the Governor’s Mansion (which Perry is leaving a far a different house than when he first moved in). So let’s take a look at what happened to our ex-guvs.

We begin with Henry Smith, Texas’ ineffective provisional governor for three months in 1836. He later went to California with his sons as a 49er, and died in his tent without striking it rich. David G. Burnet was our interim president. He ran for the official presidency against Sam Houston, and lost. He died penniless. The Republic of Texas’ constitution prevented Houston from running for re-election (now there’s a new idea), but he later became president again, then was kicked out of office and moved to Huntsville, where he died. .

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar — put that on a bumper sticker — left office, wrote a book of poetry and died penniless. Our last president was Anson Jones. After leaving office, he farmed a bit and then shot himself. After annexation, Texas had governors, the first being J. Pinckney Henderson, who stepped aside to lead a Texas regiment in the Mexican-American War, then resumed his post. He later became a U.S. senator. George T. Wood left office and built a huge house which was uncompleted when he died. Peter Bell resigned as governor to take a seat in the U.S. Congress. Later he became — one guess — destitute. A grateful Texas Legislature awarded him the first governor’s pension: $100 a year. (Incidentally, a gold mine for this is June Welch’s “The Texas Governor.”)

We can skip James Wilson Henderson. Elisha Marshall Pease had a speech  impediment and was our first governor to live in the Mansion. Hardin Runnels is best remembered as the only person ever to defeat Houston in an election. Runnels died on Christmas day, another first. O.M. Roberts was defeated for re-election and served in the Confederate Army. Francis Lubbock did not seek re-election, joined Jefferson Davis’ staff and spent two years in a Union prison. He later became Texas state treasurer. Gov. Pendleton Murrah presided over the fall of the Texas Confederacy, fled to Mexico (all the other Dixie governors had been jailed) and died in Monterrey.

After the Civil War our leaders were appointed Unionists, then old Confederates came back in power. One was Richard Hubbard who weighed 300 pounds. After leaving office he became the U.S. minister to Japan. Oran Milo Roberts created the University of Texas and later became a law professor there. His son became the law school’s night watchman. Sul Ross was one of our most fascinating governors — Indian fighter (he helped find Cynthia Ann Parker), Texas Ranger, Confederate general. He became president of Texas A&M. After leaving the governorship, Pat Neff turned down presidency of UT to become president of Baylor. Silly choice. When Jim Hogg left office, Miss Ima Hogg once told me, “We were so poor, Daddy had to borrow money to move out of the Governor’s Mansion.” He invested in Spindletop and real estate, and died extremely wealthy. Finally a rich ex-guv!

Gov. Charles Culberson went on to serve 24 years in the U.S. Senate. Next came Joseph Draper Sayers who practiced law in San Antonio and Austin. Willis Tucker Lanham, our last Confederate to become governor, spent $20 on his campaign. Thomas Campbell later ran for other offices and was defeated. He died of leukemia in Galveston. O.B. Colquitt didn’t do much. James Ferguson tried to run the University of Texas, was impeached and resigned. That’ll teach him. But he remained a political power. Lt. Gov. William Hobby, a newspaperman — there goes the neighborhood — took over after Ferguson was bounced. Later Hobby bought the Beaumont Enterprise and the Houston Post.

Ferguson’s wife, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, was elected to two non-consecutive terms, but was finally defeated, then ran again, with no luck.  The governor’s job paid $4,000 a year, but Dan Moody was so broke he didn’t seek re-election. He stayed active in politics. Ross Sterling was a rich oilman when he took office, lost it all while serving, then made it back again before dying. Jimmy Allred became a federal judge. Gov. W. Lee O’Daniel later served an “undistinguished” term as a U.S. senator. Coke Stevenson carried all 254 counties running for guv, but later ran for senator and lost to Lyndon Johnson by 87 magical votes.

Beauford Jester is our only governor to die in office — aboard a Pullman on the way to Galveston. Lt. Gov. Allan Shivers took over and served three terms. He later was on bank boards and handled his wife’s inheritance. Price Daniel ran for a fourth term but was defeated by John Connally. Daniel became a judge on the Texas Supreme Court. Connally ran for president, was acquitted on a bribery charge, went into business with Ben Barnes and ended up bankrupt. Then prospects started to improve. Dolph Briscoe retired to his ranch as one of the largest landowners in Texas. Mark White joined a Houston law firm. Bill Clements went back to his squillion dollar oil biz. Ann Richards did well in private business. George W. Bush is rich from his days with the Texas Rangers.

So, Rick Perry has predecessors to follow. Or he may wish to do nothing. As guv he makes $150,000 a year and already receives another $92,376 annually in state pensions. He has at least $1.4 million in assets. Not bad for someone who has been a state employee all his adult life.

Ashby governs at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Lynn Ashby                                                         22 July 2013

 

NOW WHAT DO I DO?

 

Rick Perry, who has served as Texas governor longer than any person, says he’s stepping down after this term. At that time he’ll still able to jog, shoot menacing coyotes, and text while driving through school crossings. But what else will Perry do? There are plenty of examples to examine, because the former Aggie yell leader is the 47th governor of Texas, and all but one had an afterlife upon leaving the Governor’s Mansion (which Perry is leaving a far a different house than when he first moved in). So let’s take a look at what happened to our ex-guvs.

We begin with Henry Smith, Texas’ ineffective provisional governor for three months in 1836. He later went to California with his sons as a 49er, and died in his tent without striking it rich. David G. Burnet was our interim president. He ran for the official presidency against Sam Houston (Burnet had challenged Houston to a duel) and lost. He died penniless. The Republic of Texas’ constitution prevented Houston from running for re-election (now there’s a new idea), but he later became president again, then was kicked out of office and moved to Huntsville, where he died. .

Houston’s nemesis, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar — put that on a bumper sticker — left office, wrote a book of poetry and died penniless. Our last president was Anson Jones. After leaving office, he farmed a bit and then shot himself. Hey, Rick, try to change this pattern, OK? After annexation, Texas had governors, the first being J. Pinckney Henderson, who stepped aside to lead a Texas regiment in the Mexican-American War, then resumed his post. He later became a U.S. senator. George T. Wood left office and built a huge house which was uncompleted when he died. Peter Bell resigned as governor to take a seat in the U.S. Congress. Later he became — one guess — destitute. A grateful Texas Legislature awarded him the first governor’s pension: $100 a year. (Incidentally, a gold mine for this is June Welch’s “The Texas Governor.”)

We can skip James Wilson Henderson. Elisha Marshall Pease had a speech  impediment and was our first governor to live in the Mansion. Hardin Runnels is best remembered as the only person ever to defeat Houston in an election. Runnels died on Christmas day, another first. O.M. Roberts was defeated for re-election and served in the Confederate Army. Francis Lubbock did not seek re-election, joined Jefferson Davis’ staff and spent two years in a Union prison. He later became Texas state treasurer. Gov. Pendleton Murrah presided over the fall of the Texas Confederacy, fled to Mexico (all the other Dixie governors had been jailed) and died in Monterrey.

After the Civil War our leaders were appointed Unionists, then old Confederates came back in power. One was Richard Hubbard who weighed 300 pounds. After leaving office he became the U.S. minister to Japan. Oran Milo Roberts created the University of Texas and later became a law professor there. His son became the law school’s night watchman. Sul Ross was one of our most fascinating governors — Indian fighter (he helped find Cynthia Ann Parker), Texas Ranger, Confederate general. He became president of Texas A&M. After leaving the governorship, Pat Neff turned down presidency of UT to become president of Baylor. Silly choice. When Jim Hogg left office, Miss Ima Hogg once told me, “We were so poor Daddy had to borrow money to move out of the Governor’s Mansion.” He invested in Spindletop and died extremely wealthy. Finally a rich ex-guv!

Gov. Charles Culberson went on to serve 24 years in the U.S. Senate. Next came Joseph Draper Sayers who practiced law in San Antonio and Austin. Willis Tucker Lanham, our last Confederate to become governor, spent $20 on his campaign. Thomas Campbell later ran for other offices and was defeated. He died of leukemia in Galveston. O.B. Colquitt didn’t do much. James Ferguson tried to run the University of Texas, was impeached and resigned. That’ll teach him. But he remained a political power. Lt. Gov. William Hobby, a newspaperman — there goes the neighborhood — took over after Ferguson was bounced. Later Hobby bought the Beaumont Enterprise and the Houston Post.

Ferguson’s wife, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, was elected to two non-consecutive terms, but was finally defeated, then ran again, with no luck.  The governor’s job paid $4,000 a year. However, Dan Moody was so broke he didn’t seek re-election, but he stayed active in politics. Ross Sterling was a rich oilman when he took office, lost it all while serving, then made it back again before dying. Jimmy Allred became a federal judge. Gov. W. Lee O’Daniel later served an “undistinguished” term as a U.S. senator. Coke Stevenson carried all 254 counties running for guv, but later ran for senator and lost to Lyndon Johnson by 87 magical votes.

Beauford Jester is our only governor to die in office — aboard a Pullman on the way to Galveston. Lt. Gov. Allan Shivers took over and served three terms. He later was on bank boards and handled his wife’s inheritance. Price Daniel ran for a fourth term but was defeated by John Connally. Daniel became a judge on the Texas Supreme Court. Connally ran for president, was acquitted on a bribery charge, went into business with Ben Barnes and went bankrupt. Then prospects started to look up. Dolph Briscoe retired to his ranch as one of the largest landowners in Texas. Mark White joined a Houston law firm. Bill Clements went back to his squillion dollar oil biz. Ann Richards did well in private business. George W. Bush is rich from his days with the Texas Rangers.

So, Rick Perry has a lot of predecessors to follow. Or he may wish to do nothing. As guv he makes $150,000 a year and already receives another $92,376 annually in state pensions. He has $1.4 million in assets. Not bad for someone who has been a state employee all his adult life.

Ashby governs at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Those That Protect Us Benefitting Houston Texas Fire Fighters

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

On May 31st, 2013, the great city of Houston lost 4 Fire Fighters, who gave their lives in order to protect us and those we love. 3 Fire Fighters were severely injured and 1 still remains hospitalized.

In the spirit of compassion and community, please join us on July 18th, 2013 from 6:00pm – 10:00pm for a benefit to honor our severely injured fire fighters whose lives have been forever impacted

Date: Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Time: 6:00pm-10:00pm

Location: Smith & Wollensky’s Highland Village – 4007 Westheimer Houston, TX 77027

Requested Donation: $40

*There will be complimentary heavy appetizers consisting of pasta, seafood, flatbreads and a dessert station along with 2 complimentary drinks per person. (Wine & Beer)

Silent Auction items ranging from: Painting’s from Local Artisans’, Ceramic from Local Artisan, Gift Certificates dinner, Cigar Packages, fine jewelry, furniture, golf packages, paintings, and sports memorabilia.

Music Provided and Donated by Wasi Townsend

All proceeds will be donated to the survivors of the fire on May 31st, 2013 unless otherwise denoted on your donation checks. (*see account numbers below)

Benefit Accounts have been established at the Houston Texas FF Federal Credit Union for the following injured members who still remain in the hospital.

·         Capt. William (Bill) Dowling #236018

·         E/O Anthony (Tony) Livesay #236023

·         FF Robert Yarbrough #236024

Cash donations will be accepted and/or checks made payable to:

·         Houston Texas Fire Fighters Federal Credit Union Address, PO Box 7009 Houston, TX 77270 Phone :( 713) 864-0959

NOTE: Badged members of our community do not pay an admittance fee or donation.

GROUNDS FOR A SUIT

July 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

McDONALD’S — We are here to see if we can turn a quick buck, maybe 100,000 of them or even 2.7 million. I can tell that you need filling in, so here goes: Helen Julian of Galveston County is suing the parent company of Sonic Drive-In Restaurants for damages after, she claims, the lid of a cup of scalding coffee popped off, spilling the contents onto her inner thighs, causing second and third degree burns. According to her lawsuit, the restaurant chain is negligent due to the employee’s wrong placement of the lid and “lack of due care” when serving the beverage, and because of management’s improper training of employees. The lawyer wants an award of “at least” $100,000 but will leave the total up to the jury.

Helen Julian, meet Stella Leibeck. Leibeck is the famous, or infamous, woman who was awarded $2.7 million from McDonald’s after a cup of hot coffee spilled on her lap. ABC News called her case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.” There was even a website called the “Stella Awards” for people who filed “outrageous and frivolous lawsuits.” The settlement was trotted out as Example A as the need for tort reform.

But hold on there, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Do you want to hear the rest of the story (thank you, the late Paul Harvey)? On Feb. 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck (the “poster child” was 79 years old) was a passenger in a car driven by her grandson. At a McDonald’s in Albuquerque she bought a cup of coffee to go. When the car stopped nearby, she attempted to hold the cup between her knees and remove the lid. The coffee spilled on her, she was burned and sued, seeking to settle her claim for $20,000. McDonald’s offered $800, so Liebeck got a lawyer, Reed Morgan of Houston. Morgan offered to settle for $90,000, then $300,000. Big Mac refused.

That was a bad decision, because in the trial Liebeck’s treating physician testified Liebeck had third degree burns over 6 percent of her body. The surgeon also testified it was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen. (She was in the hospital for eight days and lost 20 pounds.) A professor from UT-Austin, a burn expert, testified the risk involved was unacceptable. Jurors learned that McDonald’s, according to corporate rules, sold its coffee at 180-190 degrees. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.

This was not the first suit over McDonald’s hot coffee — the company’s own records showed that from 1982 to 1992 it had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald’s coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000. Still, a McDonald’s expert witness testified the number of burn victims was statistically “trivial.” McDonald’s quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 degrees posed a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to warn about.

The jury found for Liebeck and awarded her $2.86 million. Why that specific amount of money? This point is most important: the judge didn’t award those millions, the lawyers didn’t do it. The amount was set by the jurors. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 for compensatory damages, reduced by 20 percent for her own negligence to $160,000. McDonald’s sells 1 billion cups of coffee a year. It generates $1.3 million a day for the company. So the jury fined McDonald’s two days’ coffee sales, or $2.7 million in punitive damages. It all came to about $2.86 million, minus $50,000 in expenses not counting legal fees.

Hold that outrage. The judge cut the $2.7 million punitive award to $480,000 or three times compensatory damages. When the dust had cleared, that $2.86 million wound up as $640,000. The judge said the amount was appropriate for McDonald’s “willful, wanton, reckless and what the court finds was callous” behavior. The jurors said the company’s stance and attitude were appalling. Both McDonald’s and Liebeck appealed the decision, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000. So take from that her medical and legal bills, cost of going to Houston time and again, pain and suffering, and that undisclosed amount may not have amounted to much.

Companies constantly have to defend themselves against phony nail-in-my-doughnut and beak-in-my-omelet charges. In 1994 an elderly couple in Tacoma, Wash., claimed that they found a syringe in a can of Pepsi. Soon everyone was finding syringes in cans of  Pepsi. They found horseshoes in their popcorn, hair in their hotdogs, John Deere tractors in their butter. All of a sudden, our food was contaminated by bed springs, toxic waste and embalmed rodents. But most proved to be total falsehoods and were found out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that after the so-called Pepsi scare, at least 23 people were convicted of state and federal charges related to soda cans and false tampering reports. Liebeck’s accusation was pretty straightforward, but in many similar hot-coffee cases since then, judges have thrown out the charges. So Helen Julian in Galveston County and her lawyer may have to settle for 100 percent of nothing. As for us, let’s cool our indignity over “the 2.7 million dollar cup of coffee.” Never happened. It’s a red herring, an urban legend.

I notice on the rim of this cup of coffee I just purchased at the McDonald’s drive-thru, it reads: “Caution I’m hot.” Same thing in Spanish. The indented, small letters are black on black. I’ll just take a sip and….oops!

 

Ashby scalds at ashby2@comcast.net

 

Korrectshun: A few weeks ago I wrote: “Obama smashed Romney in the popular vote by one and a half million nationwide.” Actually, the margin was almost 5 million votes (4,980,387). Close enough for government work.

 

 

 

 

ENGLISH WITH A DASH OF SALSA

July 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

A requirement in the latest “comprehensive immigration reform bill” (some call it Amnesty International) is that illegal immigrants who qualify to stay here legally must be “proficient in English.” I think being able to spell proficient is qualification enough. But there is another word that doesn’t seem to be part of any immigration requirement. It is assimilation. This is tricky. We are told constantly assimilation takes time, that previous waves of immigrants gradually learned English, played baseball, cheated on their taxes, eventually gave up their old ways from Warsaw or Hong Kong and became immersed in Americana. Our new immigrants from south of the border don’t have to assimilate. (They think Roe versus Wade is a debate over how best to cross the Rio.) You go to East Houston or parts of any other Texas city and you’d think you are in Matamoros. You will see Spanish language magazines and newspapers and Spanish editions of English-language newspapers. I can receive 39 Spanish language TV channels and four more carrying Latino music. Does your car radio speak Spanish? We have bi-lingual voting ballots and legal documents, broadcasts of sporting events in two languages. How many times have you called a business or government office and heard a recording in English, or press 2 for not in English? In 1999, in the town of El Cenizo, a dusty village without a single paved street on the Texas side of the Rio Grande down near Laredo, the mayor and two commissioners voted to make Spanish the town’s official language. We must assume they took this action in Spanish since the mayor spoke no English. Then there are the street marches of a thousand youths demanding U.S. citizenship while waving the Mexican flag. Been to a U.S.-Mexico soccer match here? There is no reason for any Spanish-speaker to assimilate, not in Texas. There is also the proximity factor. Those earlier immigrants couldn’t take the bus for a weekend in Hamburg. Our later newcomers couldn’t easily pop over to Saigon for Christmas. They had to cut close ties with their former homelands, although some still held on to a few remnants. Several years ago I was in a Hill Country newspaper office talking to the editor when a woman came in and wanted to place an ad. They spoke in German. I noticed a photo on the editor’s office wall showing the crew of a WW II bomber. You know the usual shot: a dozens or so smiling young men in their heavy leather bomber jackets kneeling and standing in front of their warplane. “That was my older brother,” said the editor. “He was shot down and killed by the Germans over Holland.” Now that’s assimilation. As late as the 1940s some 150,000 Texans spoke what is called Texas German, a unique language spoken no where else on earth. What happened was that in the mid-1800s immigrants from all over the Germanic states came to Texas and mingled their various dialects to create their own special blend. (Ich bin ein Longhorn?) Today only about 8,000 people still speak Texas German, but they are old and dying out. Linguists, who are busily recording everybody in the biergartens, say the language will be completely gone in 30 years. My wife has Czech cousins all over central Texas. They make great sausages and kolochies. Over in Louisiana, for a long time the state tried to keep Cajuns from speaking their version of French. Same thing with Native Americans, aka Indians, in their schools. Another consideration: The new “comprehensive immigration reform bill” sends thousands more border guards to the ramparts, but of the estimated 11 million undocumented aliens that our crack immigration officials say are here — without telling us just how they came up with that number, it could be 22 million — they believe 4.4 million arrived perfectly legally, then disappeared. So we have those who came on student visas, business visas or told our customs agents they were seeking asylum or were just touring and plan to spend lots of money at Yellowstone, then they simply disappear. We don’t know who they are, where they are or anything else. More border guards won’t help that problem. Meantime we’re losing ground on this English thing: Today 51 percent of our foreign born residents say they do not know English “very well” while 8.1 percent of them say they can speak no English at all. In 1980 that figure was 1 percent. So what to do? I guess we could pass an English only law, but that would rob us of some beautiful languages, dialects and obscenities. Check out the Institute of Texan Cultures which is part of the UT System and is located near the base of San Antonio’s space needle. That collection of Texas’s varying backgrounds, differences and similarities is enough to give multi-culturalism a good name. So, no, we don’t want our beloved Texas to be one blob of lock-stepped lookalikes. “Texan” is a title, not a color. I like the various ethnic restaurants we have in Texas. Have you ever seen an Anglo try to cook crawfish etouffee, soy miso steak with sichuan pickles or even good cheese enchiladas? Disastrous. We’re not a melting pot, we’re a cafeteria. What would the San Antonio Spurs be without their lineup straight from the UN Security Council? But if we don’t assimilate we’ll end up like so many other lands where warring tribes spend most of their time killing one another. When in Rome, watch your purse. When in America, speak English. Otherwise, you’re doomed to mow our yards and wash our dishes. I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. Once, when flying back from Paris to Houston, our plane went right over Montreal. I turned to a Frenchman sitting next to me and said, “Do you know that Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world?” He nodded and replied, “Yes, and isn’t it a shame.” Ashby is monolingual at ashby2@comcast.net

THE CABLE CABAL

July 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE FRONT DOOR — “Hi,” says a smiling face standing in my doorway. “I’m Billy Tom from your favorite cable company, come to fix your problems. You know our motto, Disable Cable is often available.” I let him  in and he wanders into the den, looks at my TV and sadly shakes his head. They all do that. Billy Tom is only the latest of a parade of cable repairmen who have come to fix my problems, only they don’t.

Of course, by the time a human being actually shows up at my house, I have gone through the drill, which we all know so well. My TV goes out for no reason. I get the picture but no sound. I call the cable company which opens with, “All of our representative are busy with other customers, but your call is very important to us. So please stay on the line. There may be a wait due to an exceptionally heavy volume of calls.” (I could call at 3.a.m on Christmas morning and hear that same “due to an exceptionally heavy volume.” It means they have a whole lot of angry customers besides me). That puts me on a waiting list. “Your call will be handled in (long pause) 30 minutes, give or take an hour.”

Then I get Akmed in India who tells me to push this button on the remote, then that button, pull out that plug, stand on my left foot, roll over, play dead. I spend 45 minutes talking to some guy who couldn’t fix the problem. In desperation, after all else has failed, the company grudgingly sends out a technician. He’ll arrive sometime between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. either Monday or Tuesday or maybe Wednesday.

Is any other industry or pursuit this incompetent? We may have issues with our gas company or phone firm, even gone one on one with our grocer, but nothing compares with the frustrations of our pay-for-TV operator. You may have cable or a 10-foot-wide dish on your roof or you have simply spliced on to your neighbor’s wires in the dead of night, but whatever the method, we are customers. More than 90 percent of American households pay for TV, according to Nielsen.

We pay well for the service. the current average monthly rate is $86. (I pay $186.12, but that includes cable TV, long distance phone, two computers and the opportunity to wait 30 minutes to speak to Akmed.) Cable companies raise their fees to us by an average of 6 percent a year. A recent study suggested monthly pay-TV rates could reach $200 by 2020. This may explain why in 2011, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts was paid $28.1 million. His colleague at AT&T, Randall L. Stephenson, received $20.2 million. The winner: Viacom’s Philippe P. Dauman: $84.5 million.

How many channels do you get? More than you want, I’ll bet. Scanning over my list I see the usual channels I watch: the regulars for news and Fox for unintended comedy. We all say we watch PBS and National Geographic but never mention Playboy or the Norwegian Food Network. Most of us could prune our selection down to a dozen or so channels, and that includes only those in English. The unwanted and expensive result is called “bundling,” whereby if you want, say, ESPN you also have to receive, and pay for, the Archery Network, the Scottish Curling Channel and Dwarf Bowling. None of this explains the Longhorn Network which is available only in Marfa after midnight — on Thursdays. Congress occasionally holds hearings to listen to the American consumer explain why he is getting ripped off this way, then listens to the American cable industry lobbyist who has a checkbook.

There is a cloud on the test pattern, however. By the end of this year, an estimated 4.7 million American households that previously paid for TV will have “cut the cord,” as the expression goes. That’s about 4.7 percent of all subscribers, up from about 3.74 million in 2012, according to a report by the Convergence Consulting Group. By cutting the cord, they are still watching TV, only doing so through Internet-connected options — a computer, mobile device or just the TV itself.

All of this technology is a bit much for me. I like rabbit ears on the top of my 6 by 6 inch black-and-white DuMont. Nevertheless, there is huge news that will change your watching habits. My happy household has been selected to contribute to the Arbitron ratings. I will represent my community so that when I turn on the radio or TV set, I alone speak for most Texans. Network executives and advertisers will carefully inspect my choices to determine what shows are greenlighted (I already speak Mad Avenue-ese) and what shows go on TNT to die.

I only listen to the radio in my car, so Arbitron will learn that half of Texas listens strictly to Willie Nelson CDs. As for my TV tastes, so long the Quilting Network, Nancy Grace and most sporting events that have Roman numerals at the end. Tens of thousands of Texans (me) don’t watch shows about harpoons, Lock Up or any program that allows Newt Gingrich to speak. You’re history and I don’t mean from 9 to 10 p.m. on the History Channel. But you can watch 60 Minutes, Colbert, re-runs of Fawlty Towers and any show with Don Rickles as long as you wish. I’ll watch Downton Abbey if they can insert English subtitles. It’s my civic duty to watch the local news, but Arbitron should know I change channels the moment they show that ever-present yellow police tape around a crime scene.

Oh, good. Billy Tom from Disable Cable says my problem of only getting the picture and no sound is solved. I thank him profusely and he leaves. That night I turn on my TV. I get a great sound — and no picture.

 

Ashby tries to watch TV at ashby2@comcast.net