GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDANCE

December 31, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

What a year it was for Houston! We voted down a plan to save the Astrodome, but our County Commissioners, who have let our iconic Eighth  Wonder disintegrate, ignored the voters and — did nothing. Both the Astros and the Texans were the very worst in their respective major league sports. Gary Kubiak got canned. Bo Porter probably wished he was. The Houston Fire Dept. suffered its worst loss in its history when four fire fighters were killed. The snail that ate Houston was an imposter, and James Coney Island became JCI Grill.

So, as we say a good goodbye to 2013, we now know why 13 is an unlucky number. Just take a look: Former hand surgeon and TV star Michael Brown was in a court fight with his fourth wife and also with a flight attendant, then died under suspicious circumstances. The place without a sign, Marfreless, where everyone doesn’t know your name, face or fingerprints, closed.

In sports, it’s hard to know where to start with the Houston Astros. The last several years they have been the worst team in Major League Baseball. This past season they struck out more than any other team in major league history. They had the longest season-ending losing streak in more than a century: 15. (The 1899 Cleveland Spiders dropped their last 16.) The team’s 51-111 won-loss season was a record for defeats since Arizona had the same number in 2004. Alex Rodriguez made more in 2013 than all the Astros combined — a lot more. And he was MIA. The Yankees’ payroll was nearly 10 times the spending of the Astros, who shrunk their payroll to about $25 million. The team averaged a home “paid” attendance of 19,659 —  their lowest since 1995 when they were still in the Astrodome. On Sunday, Sept. 22, the Nielsen Co. found that the Astros’ TV audience was 0.0 — a first in major league baseball history.

In the midst of this disaster, the front office came and went. The franchise dropped support for the Astros Wives Organization’s Black Ties and Baseball Caps Gala which raised money for the Houston Area Women’s Center. To be fair, the Astros did determine that commonly such affairs send 70 percent or better to their charity. Only about half the money raised actually went to the center, the rest for expenses. Then the new owner sued the former owner and some others involved in that fiasco of a TV network which has left 60 percent of the town unable to see either the Astros, which is just as well, or the Rockets. What a mess.

The Texans, who local sports media had hyped as worthy of the Super Bowl, imploded and head coach Kubiak got the axe. The Rockets are doing better. They inked Dwight Howard,. It would only be better if, like the Astros, more of Houston could see them on television.

A Little League game between the League City Americans and the Santa Fe All Stars turned so nasty that the Texas City police were called. Fans of the All Stars, who lost 8-0, suspected that an Americans’ bat had been dishonorably modified. An All Stars coach threw the bat in question on the ground, cracking its barrel. Said bat was sent to Little League national headquarters in Pennsylvania for inspection. The HQ found nothing wrong. After his son’s North Shore High School football team lost to Cy-Fair 9-7, Manuel DeLeon allegedly attacked coach David Aymond for not playing DeLeon’s son more. It took two officers to wrestle the father off the coach. But Owls well that ends well: The Rice Owls won the Conference USA football championship, their first outright championship since 1957.

Guy V. Lewis, UH’s long-time basketball coach and architect of Phi Slama Jama, finally got in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame at age 91. Good Sportsmanship Awards: 13 year old Zach Whitener scored a hole in one at the River Ponte Golf Club in Richmond on the same day his dad, Lonnie, did likewise. It happened on Father’s Day.

Congrats to the students at College Park High School in The Woodlands for winning the FIRST Robotics world championship in St. Louis. The team, Texas Torque, beat out 397 other teams with their robot. But can it run the wishbone offense?

Look at that S car go: Panic broke out among Houston’s snail watchers when word spread that the giant African snail — a voracious mollusk that poses a potential health threat to humans — had come to town. The alarm made the papers and local TV. Turns out the big snail found in a Houston garden is beneficial, not bad. It was a rosy wolf snail, a predator of snails that devour garden plants.

On “The Voice,” Danielle Bradbery, a Cypress teen, was crowned the show’s Season 4 winner after almost three months of competition. At 16 years old, she’s the youngest person to take the title and the only one without a previous record deal. Bradbery received a singing contract and is now making recordings.

Money talks, Skilling walks: Enron honcho Jeff Skilling got10 years chopped off his 24-year prison sentence in return for 42 million of his stolen dollars given back to duped shareholders and employees, and a promise that his high-priced lawyers would quit filling appeals. See if you can cut the same deal.

Who guards the guards? Burglars broke into the northeast Houston home of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. The burglars got away with one of his personal weapons — a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson revolver. The FBI said two men broke into the Houston home of an FBI agent, stealing government firearms and the agent’s credit cards. The loot included a Remington 870 short-barreled shotgun and a Glock-22 handgun. Sheriff’s deputies recovered the stolen Glock during a traffic stop, and the driver of that vehicle was questioned.  The shotgun was still missing. The theft of government property, as these two weapons are, is a federal felony.

But our grand winner for 2013 is the Topic of Cancer (missionaries to the savages division): New opulent (read extremely and unnecessarily expensive) offices of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers Giulio Draetta and Lynda Chin (who is married to M.D. Anderson President Dr. Ronald DiPinho). While the rest of the cancer center was undergoing major surgery on its budget, Chin successfully requested “variances” from the University of Texas System to fund an office renovation that cost somewhere between $550,000 and $2 million, and included items such as a $7,755 Knoll sofa and a $5,000 lounge chair. Publicly, Draetta offered a bizarre explanation: “Lynda and I were both extremely concerned about moving to Texas, having never lived here and being heavily influenced by the Harvard community.” Privately, in an e-mail obtained by the Cancer Letter, he dismissed the project’s critics, asking senior faculty and administrators to counteract “the message coming from these losers.” Wow, these losers (that’s us) need to learn something from Harvard. Like condescension, arrogance and living well off the taxpayers.

 

Ashby spent the year at ashby2@comcasst.net

 

 

 

YEAR OF THE SNAKE

December 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

Campers, the new year is upon us, and what promises 2014 holds for us all. To get a head start on our upcoming next 365 days, or is it 366? — Leap Years mess me up as much as Daylight Saving Time. Anyway, I now shall predict what will and won’t happen to us in the next 12 months (or is it 13?) Clip this and save.

JANUARY –– 49 bowl games lead to couch failure, alcoholism among unemployed kidney donors and terminal ennui. Congress meets to hear President Obama’s State of the Union speech and immediately adjourns until the Easter recess. Gov. Rick Perry travels to Madrid, Paris and Hong Kong on his “farewell tour.” With so many DPS troopers working as his traveling security detail, the unprotected Governor’s Mansion is again hit by an arsonist. As scheduled by NBC, Jimmy Fallon replaces Jay Leno despite Leno’s constant spot as number one in ratings.

FEBRUARY — UT-Austin names its former president, William Powers, as the next football coach. Rachel Maddow sends Bill O’Reilly a box of valentine candy. O’Reilly’s food taster is rushed to the ER. At the Winter Olympics, the CIA team wins an old event with a new twist: snowboarding. In an emergency session, the Texas Legislature names fracking the official state savior and redistricts Austin to Oklahoma.

            MARCH — NSA warns members of Congress not to put limits on the agency, explaining: “Want to see our files under C?” A new cable network is formed and will open for business sometime between May and August. The Texas Congressional delegation is expelled by the rest of the members for voting to repeal the law of gravity. The Supreme Court of Texas reverses its decision and declares that all beaches in the state are open to the public, but only at high tide during shark season. As Jimmy Fallon’s ratings drop, NBC fires Fallon and brings back Jay Leno.

            APRIL — Enrollees for Obamacare reach two dozen. “We’re right on track,” a White House spokesman brags. Sen. Ted Cruz demands to be admitted as the 51st state “or at least as a Canadian province.” Campaigning for the GOP nomination for governor, Greg Abbott vows to be “the best governor of Texas since Sam Houston.” When it is pointed out that Houston was thrown out of office for opposing secession, Abbott calls it “liberal propaganda.”

            MAY — Local 10 o’clock TV news goes one night without showing yellow police tape. Staff is fired. Sears and Neimans are arrested in the disappearance of their business partners Roebuck and Marcus. Obamacare enrolls its100th participant, who promptly dies. The White House blames the Bush administration.

            JUNE — Harris County Commissioners Court promises to make a final decision on the Astrodome “any millennium now.” Although Jay Leno’s ratings continue to rise, NBC fires Leno and brings back Conan O’Brien. Sarah Palin admits she can’t see Russia from her front porch, but adds excitedly: “I can see my next door neighbor!” The Obamacare computers get a virus which are not covered by any policy.

JULY — Hurricane Horace Timblebrook-Hastings III (NOAA had run out of other names) hits Louisiana destroying houses, towns and crops, and inflicting $2.50 worth of damages. Two million Cajuns flee to Texas. The Fourth of July falls on July 4th. In an effort to boost sagging attendance, the Houston Astros adopt a catchy new slogan: “Remember, at an Astros game you are never more than half an inning away from major league baseball.”

            AUGUST — Hillary Clinton denies any interest in running for President. The  announcement is made by her Presidential campaign spokesman. Texas Democrats meet to nominate their gubernatorial candidate. The vote is 34 to 5. Campaigning for  governor, Wendy Davis vows to be “the best governor of Texas since Sam Houston.” When it is pointed out that Houston was thrown out of office for opposing secession, Davis calls it “right-wing propaganda.”

            SEPTEMBER — The Texas State Board of Education formally adopts the wheel.

Syrians overthrow their dictator, copy the U.S. Constitution as their own and make lasting peace with Israel, crediting the Obama administration. Fox News calls it “nothing new.” GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott shows up to debate Sen. Wendy Davis wearing pink tennis shoes. Not Davis, Abbott. The Longhorn Network logo is put on the sides of milk cartons. Teenaged hackers from Singapore break into the Obamacare computers and fix everything.

         OCTOBER — Noting its equipment needs electricity and running water, FEMA announces it will arrive in Louisiana “when everything is working.” Houston and Dallas install video cameras at major intersections to spot motorists who stop at red lights. The Supreme Court of Texas reverses its reversal and declares that all beaches in the state are open to the public, but due to global warming, high tide is now at Port Waco. The Washington Redskins change their name because “it is demeaning and embarrassing to much of the nation.” Hereafter they are called the Chevy Chase Redskins.

            NOVEMBER — Two million Cajuns refuse to leave Texas and return to Louisiana, reducing Texas’ average IQ but greatly improving its gastronomy. Texas Longhorns go 0-13. As Conan O’Brien’s ratings continue to drop, NBC fires O’Brien and brings back Johnny Carson. In a write-in campaign, Sam Houston is elected governor of Texas. In what is termed “the ultimate putdown,” the Dallas Cowboys play the Houston Texans at noon on Sunday, then play the Chicago Bears that night.

DECEMBER — In an effort to pay for its empty football stadium, UT is renamed Texas A&M University at Austin. U.S. Supreme Court rules Bethlehem, Penn. can keep its name “as long as it doesn’t involve religion.” Carefully cultivating his legacy, President Obama renames the Affordable Care Act, calling it Bidencare.

So there you have it, campers. Now let’s hide till next New  Year’s.

 

                                    Ashby says the sooth at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

TWO CHEERS FOR THE YEAR

December 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

What a year it was, fraught with peril, the most important elections in our nation’s history, rancor in Washington and Austin. I am speaking, of course, about 1860, but we like to think it was 2013 because that makes us feel important. In any event, we need to take a good look at these past 12 months and be happy we can finally view them in our rearview mirror, before Texas Monthly steals our ideas for its Bum Steer Awards.

Let’s start in Austin, which North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and his generals have slated for destruction by long range nuclear missiles. Our own People’s Republic of Austin was seen targeted on a chart labeled “US Mainland Strike Plan” in pictures released by the state-run  newspaper. Hawaii, Washington DC, and Los Angeles are also going to be taken down. Meals on Deals: Lobbyists threw a party for the 15-member House Calendars Committee and friends. Cost: $22,241.03. State troopers searched handbags of spectators at the Capitol before an abortion debate and allegedly seized tampons, bottles of feces, paint and confetti which were going be thrown on the Senate floor, but let handguns with a permit go through. However, when later asked by reporters, the DPS confirmed no such suspicious items were found.

I’m not really a district attorney, I just play one in line-ups: Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge two days after being arrested when a 911 caller reported a vehicle weaving and crossing into oncoming traffic. Video in the jail showed her to be so obnoxious and unruly that she had to be tied to a chair.

Now to Washington where Texans totally embarrassed us. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas retweeted a Reuters article quoting Venezuelan officials blaming “enemies” of their president, Hugo Chavez, for giving him cancer. Stockman then added a joking comment explaining the cause: “Koch cancer-laser satellites.” Chavez had been in ailing health and undergoing cancer treatment before his death. The tweet was deleted only four seconds after publishing, but it was still caught.

Texans-on-the-Potomac Quotes of 2013: (Courtesy of the New Yorker  — we’ve gone national!) During his 21-hour non-filibuster, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas acknowledged his resemblance to Sen. Joe McCarthy. Despite polls showing overwhelming disapproval of the government shutdown and Cruz’s support of  it, Cruz said: “Once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.” “What is it like to be the most hated man in America?” — Foxy Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly to Cruz. Finally, he renounced  his Canadian citizenship, leaving the Birthers trying to figure out why Canada is different from Kenya.

Tasteless Tirade: “Let’s roll.” —  U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas compared GOP efforts to kill Obamacare to the efforts of passengers on Flight 93 to thwart the 9/11 hijackers. “Isn’t that impressive?” — U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas (naturally) asking reporters about a group of House Republicans’ ability to sing three verses of “Amazing Grace.” U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer was caught on TV berating a Park Ranger for keeping tourists out of the National World War II Memorial because of the government shutdown which Neugebauer had voted for. The ranger was working without pay. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said that Sen. John McCain “supported Al Qaeda.” Gohmert, of Tyler, warned the world that “radical Islamists” are being trained to “act like Hispanic[s]” to get into the U.S. from Mexico. Photo Finished: When the class photo of the Women Democrats in the new 2012 U.S. House was taken, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, along with three others, was absent. No problem, they were doctored in.

Houston, you’ve got a problem: Macy’s closed its downtown store and the place was demolished. “You don’t die from the flu.” – Houston City Councilman Jack Christie. The hapless Houston Texans installed two massive new video screens in an effort to lure the 2017 Super Bowl to Reliant Stadium. Cowboys Stadium, aka AT&T, in Arlington had the biggest screens, and Houston’s is about 30 percent larger than those. James A. Baker III, honorary chairman of Houston’s Super Bowl Committee, was told by the NFL he couldn’t participate in the city’s presentation to the owners because he’s a “celebrity.” So he worked behind the scenes and, maybe it was his efforts or maybe it was the scoreboards, but Houston got the Super Bowl. However, the Texans lost almost all their games and lost head coach Gary Kubiak, while three former — and also much beloved — head coaches, Bum Phillips, Jack Pardee and Darrell Royal, all went to that great fifth quarter in the sky. Bud Adams also departed.

From the birthplace of Dr Pepper: The Balcones Distillery in Waco bested nine others, including storied Scottish names, in a blind panel of British spirits experts. It was the first time an American whiskey won the Best in Glass, a five-year-old competition to find the best whiskey released in a given year.

One Minute Warning: Craig James, of Houston’s Stratford High, SMU, NFL, ESPN, ABC and CBS, was fired after one day on Fox Sports Southwest. From the banks of the Brazos: The largest volcano on Earth has been named for Texas A&M. Aggie Prof William Sager named the volcano, as big as New Mexico, Tamu Massif. Unfortunately, it’s at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and no one has ever seen it. Johnny Football, one-time Heisman winner Johnny Manzile, got paid for selling his autographs and was severely punished: he had to sit out the first half of a football game.  The Texas Aggies are building the state’s largest stadium with seats for 102,500, which is exactly 2,381seats more than UT’s Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

What kind of year was 2013? It was when the rest of the nation discovered there is a comma between West and Texas. Now on to 2014.To quote a Texas congressman: Let’s roll!

Ashby is Man of the Year (1860) at ashby2@comcast.net

 

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THOUGHT FOR FOOD

December 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE RESTAURANT — One of the joys of this booming economy is being able to go out to eat more often. Eh? You say the economy is still in the pits? Then what are all these people doing in this eatery? The place is so packed that I’m making dinner reservations for Easter. Before eating, let’s all say grace and give thanks for fracking.

Texans love to eat out, especially in our larger cities. Indeed, a Zagat Survey restaurant guide, which is the bible for us gourmets (pronounced gore-METS), says Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other American city: 4 times a week, Dallas is close behind with 3.6 per week, Los Angeles comes in at 3.4 times per week and New York City at 3.0.

It used not to be this way. Growing up in Texas, the best cooking was at home because there weren’t many restaurants in the Lone Starve State and even fewer good ones. All that changed when BYOB was replaced with liquor-by-the-drink. In quick order restaurants put in bars, their profits went up, more places opened and eventually we have what we have today: A lot of really good places to eat. Here, for example, is Le Choke & Puke, a fine restaurant with good  food, fine service and, uh, would you please speak louder? I can’t hear a word you’re saying.

This leads to my first suggestion to restaurateurs: Keep it quite, not library or funeral home quite, but silent enough so guests can communicate without having to shout or pass notes written on napkins. One Saturday night I made the mistake of going to dinner with some friends at a close and splendid restaurant. I finally had to go outside — no kidding — to rest my ears. When you have to point to items on the menu because the waiter can’t hear you, that’s loud. Remember Rule Number One around here is don’t complain about a problem unless you have a solution. No, wait. That’s Rule Number Two. Rule Number One is what’s in it for us? Back to Number Two. So here’s my solution. Just as there are state and local health standards for eateries, each one should be required to have a decibel register available on-line. Before making dinner plans, go on-line and check the location, prices, roach ratio and the current or average decibel level. That would save you a lot of shouting.

In addition, the establishment should have on its web site the current or average temperature. Have you ever reached for a glass of water and it sticks to your hand? That’s cold. As we have discussed before, the cooks in the kitchen and the racing, overworked waiters and the busboys who use the same wet rag to wipe off every table in the room, it is they who set the thermostat at 35 degrees. They’re hot and sweaty while the customers are getting frostbit. Solution: see above about the web site. Check the temperature.

It is very European to bring pet dogs into restaurants. This ain’t Paris. You can tell because our waiters aren’t surly. Some restaurants are now allowing dogs into their establishments. Solution: Some restaurants don’t get my business. Of course, seeing-eye dogs have long been allowed almost everywhere, but I have a question: These businesses have a sign by the front door: “No dogs allowed except seeing-eye dogs.” Exactly who is that sign for?

Few restaurants in Texas allow smoking inside, so that is a moot point. The change was gradual. In olden days virtually every eatery allowed smoking. Go back far enough and they had spittoons. But slowly the health police moved in to prohibit smoking in the dining room while allowing it in the adjacent bar. Then someone pointed out that having smoking and non-smoking sections was like having a swimming pool with peeing and non-peeing sections. Today most dining establishments won’t even allow guests to smoke within 20 feet of the front door. That’s the solution.

At this point you are asking why we should care about our eating establishments. Well, as noted earlier, Texans eat out a lot. According to the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA), in 2011 there were 39,296 eating and drinking places in Texas. This year the TRA projects they will have $40.8 billion in sales and account for 828,500 direct jobs, add wholesalers, bouncers, etc., it comes to 1,074,200 jobs — 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

One final suggestion. Wait. Three kids are having a food fight at the next table. Now they are running through the restaurant shouting, “I found a rusty nail in my escargot! Get my lawyer!” A nice segue. Eli Gau and Lillian Maliti were at an Applebee’s in Katy dining with their sons ages 3 and 1. The manager warned Gau, and finally called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office because, he said, the children were “overly active,” which probably means they were loud brats. Gau admitted to a local TV reporter that the two children were high-energy, probably no more than your average Visigoth. It gets better. Gau then called the police to say he felt threatened. A deputy arrived and only gave the family a citizen’s information card, whatever that is. I would arrest the parents.

None of this would have happened if, instead, the family had gone to La Fisheria in Houston because they couldn’t get in. Kids under nine are banned after 7 p.m. The move landed on ABC News. At McDaina’s in Monroeville, Penn., kids under six are not allowed. A new sushi restaurant in Del Ray, Va., rules “no patrons under 18,” and the manager says business is booming. Luigi in Hicksville, New York, has been banning kids under 14 since it opened almost 20 years ago. You see the solution to this problem.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Waiter, what’s shark’s bladder salad? Huh? Sorry, I can’t hear you.

 

Ashby dishes it out at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

December 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE LIVING ROOM — Notice this beautiful place, with a long dining table, eight straight-backed chairs, good lighting, drawers for the silver. What’s that? It doesn’t look any living room you’ve seen? Oh, you are so 1950s. Do you still like Ike, Cadillac fins and 45 RPMs? I can see you need an update: For the first millennia people lived in houses with bedrooms, kitchens, dens, living rooms and, in more recent times, bathrooms. If that particular room didn’t actually contain a bath, it was called a “half bath” where one could only bathe half way down or up.
The floor plan of the average American home changed with the arrival of the television set in the early 1950s. By 1954 some 55.7 percent of U.S. homes had television (or “TV” as we cutting-edge types call it), and the box soon took over their lives. Plans were made and abandoned when “Your Show of Shows” scheduled Elvis. Quiz programs stopped traffic as those who didn’t have a12-inch Admiral paused before store windows to gape. People would watch a test pattern for up to an hour. Soon families discovered the wonder of TV trays to put around the room at show time so children didn’t have to talk to their parents. Social scientists cite the invention of the TV tray as the first step towards the disintegration of the American family, an escalating divorce rate and teenage adolescence.
Technology kept changing how we watched “Gunsmoke” and “I Love Lucy.” First we had rabbit ears, stylishly yet awkwardly pointing to the water stains on the ceiling. Next came a gizmo on the rooftop called an antenna. Then a major scientific breakthrough arrived with the invention of the cable. With ugly black wires streaming through neighborhoods and into our homes, no wind nor rain nor nuclear blast could keep us from “Third Rock From the Sun.” A few years ago someone came along with an instrumenton the rooftop called a dish which could easily be mistaken for an antenna except that dishes fail to deliver in wind, rain and nuclear blasts. Next, no doubt, will come the newest trend: rabbit ears.
But it was our indoors that saw the greatest changes. That first TV arrived with a question: where to put it? Only one set per household was allowed by the FCC. No one had a special TV room. No bedroom could do the job, because the entire family wanted to sit behind their trays eating frozen TV dinners — three-month-old fried chicken with some unrecognizable veggies — at the same time. So the TV set was put in the living room, accompanied either by those rabbit ears, or later, black wires running across the floor. True, the big stand-alone box with its fake wooden sides and that flickering black-and-white screen didn’t add much to the decor. Actually, it looked awful, but every American family had one.
Eventually the box was moved to the den which was more informal. Over the years the TV screens became bigger but thinner, book shelves were removed, (books? who needs books, we’ve got TV!) and replaced by the Sony — sorry Admiral. Invention of the remote control allowed us to completely do away with any remaining exercise. Today in all American homes worth their underwater mortgages the den is where the action is. In my case the den is where I’ve got the fireplace, couch, wet bar, dry bar, damp bar, 120-inch TV with surround sound, DVR, DVD, CD, am-fm radio and, of course, my 45 RPMs. The den is where I plunk down in the morning to watch the news, where I listen to music later that day and where, from 5:30 p.m. till 1:30 a.m., I get my exercise — sometimes changing the programs requires pushing several buttons. All I need now is a remote with a cup holder.
Ah, but what about the living room, that unneeded appendix in my happy house? It remained the same with an occasional new upholstering, paint job, dusting. But it was never used by anyone in the family. Even friends who would drop by would walk in the front door, through the hallway and into the den, never even casting a glance at the living room. I could keep an exaltation of larks or a chine of polecats in there and no one would notice.
After a few years of the room’s non-use if not abandonment, the Texas Workforce Commission decided that if I was to continue receiving unemployment checks I needed an office. But where? Offices cost money, rent, a secretary and an hour-long commute. Each way. The solution: In came the Salvation Army, out went the living room furniture. That newly emptied space became our dining room and the former dining room became — ta-da! — my office. It has all worked out splendidly: I can commute to work in a matter of minutes, the fridge with its beer and cheese is exactly five steps away, and the rent is reasonable.
Do you have a living room? Why? Do you ever do any living in it? I thought not. Get rid of it. Ladies, wouldn’t you like your own walk-in closet to hold every piece of clothing you ever wore which you refuse to part with because poodle skirts may come back in style? Men, are your kids annoyed when you bowl down the hallway? Does your wife complain, “Do you have to do your taxidermy in the kitchen?”? Turn that unused living room into a Man Cave. Put in a wet bar, seven giant TV sets, decorate with old football helmets, team banners and have a humidor to hold your dollar cigars, then invite over 15 buddies for the game. (This is not the same as converting your garage into a Man Cave and parking all your cars in front of your neighbor’s house.) On the other hand, if you do that, your next bedroom may be at the local Y.

Ashby is living at ashby2@comcast.net

BORED OF EDUCATION

December 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Howdy, Texas student. A brief word from your beloved State Board of Education or SBOE. You are about to take yet another test which you have been studying for since the first day of the fall semester (is that the same as autume?). This schedule don’t allow you to do much else except play football, of course, but we at the SBOE know bestest.  Since your last test from we, the makeup of the board has moved left with the election of several more liberal members. So both sides have had a hand in drawing up these questions, but you can’t tell the difference.

Ready? Do you really need Algebra II? Do you even need Algebra I or any other foreign language? If a train leaves Dallas at 1 p.m. heading south and another train on the same track leaves Houston at 1 p.m. heading north, why do we need to subsidize Amtrak? Global warming is: 1. A farce thought up by scientists who need a grant to study it. 2. A scientific sertainty. 3. Just a phase the earth is going through which has already ended by the next phase, called “winter.” Textbooks for Texas’ public schools: 1. Cost too much, 2. Really don’t need covers. 3. Nesessary for the education of our youths, 4. Outdated because all the students have an iPad, Kindle or any of those black boxes that seem glued to their hands, and if they don’t have such a toy they can easily find one in an open locker.

Now we turn to government and current affairs. Circle the korrect answers: President Barack Obama is: a Muslim, a socialist, a closet Kenyan (or is it Canyon?), all of the above. President Obama is our greatest President since George W. Bush. President Obama stole the election from Mitt Romney by deliberately hanging chads in Florida.

Mitt Romney is a member of the clueless oligarchy and the top 1 percent which looks down on the bottom 47 percent. Mitt Romney is a successful businessman whose health coverage plan for Massachusetts bears no resemblance to that train wreck Obamacare the present administration is trying to foist upon the American people. What’s an oligarchy? (Several different answers may be korrect for this last question. We can’t agree.)

As co-governors of Arkansas, Hillary and Bill coined the word Hillbilly.

The Texas Legislature is made up of 150 representative and 31 senators. How many does that make? How many are on the make? How many are on the take? Wendy Davis is: 1. A state senator who wants to be governor. 2. A governor who wants to be a state senator. 3. Hasn’t a chance. 4. Has delusions of mediocrity. 5. Wears funny shoes. None of the above. Ted Cruz is: 1. A brilliant and principled U.S. senator from Texas, 2. A rogue senator who is so shunned by his colleagues he couldn’t pass a kidney stone, 3. Has counted 2,188 times headline writers have used “Cruz Control.”

Which is korrect? 1. The Affordable Care Act is a savior for the poor, down-trodden Americans who suffer needlessly in the richest country on earth. 2. Obamacare is a communistic plot to let the bloodsuckers among us continue to live. Trying to sign up for Obamacare is like: 1. A root canal without an anesthetic, 2. Listening to Joe Biden for an hour, 3. Playing a department store Santa, 3. Listening to Joe Biden undergo a root canal without an anesthetic. How do you spell NRA? If guns don’t kill people and only people kill people, why don’t people kill guns? Should all babies born in Texas be issued an AK-47s or should they have to wait till kindergarten? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck was a union member? Who is your elected member on the SBOE? (Extra credit if you include a campaign contribution with this sheet.)

Texas student, we hear at the SBOE hopes you are doing good so far. Now turn to history. Which came first, the Civil War or the War Between the States? Yes, there was a back door at the Alamo: 1. But it was blocked by Santa Anna’s sister, Polly Anna, 2. It was just painted on the wall by that prankster Davy Crockett, 3. That’s why there’s an Oklahoma. True or false? The Mexican-American War was fought solely by Mexican-Americans. Finish this sentence: Benjamin Franklin was President of the United _______. What was Lee Harvey Oswald’s middle name?

It’s time to take a brake. You may doze at your desk, talk on you cell phone while playing games, reading your email or figuring out just who is your member of the State Board of Education. Return in 30 minutes or half an hour, which ever comes first.

Back already? Now for social studies: Is smog a necessary byproduct of money or are you one of those tree-hugging hippies out to destroy America as we know it today? Is money necessary or are you one of those fat cat Wall Street typhoons out to destroy the little man? Charles Darwin was: 1. A brilliant scientist who came up with the theory of evolution, 2. A mad scientist who hatched a crazy theory, 3. Descended from an orangutan. Religion should be taught in our public schools: 1. Only by a licensed preacher, 2. By any religious leader, 3. Only by a good Christian. True or false: If God did not want Texans to feel superior, he wouldn’t have created the Aggie Band, the Hill Country and Tex-Mex. Which of these statements is NOT true? Austin is the capital of Texas. Austin is filled with a bunch of leftist traitors bent on gay rights, pot, booze but are having a great time. Austin is the intellectual capital of Travis County.

Well, that duz it. This test was brought to you by your State Board of Education. Just remember our motto: We work for the childs of Texas.

Ashby is testy at ashby2@comcast.net