OUR YEAR OF TEARS

December 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Houston, we don’t have a problem. Well, some problems. True, 2014 was when we saw big changes in sports, plus a quick about face in City Hall and Finger Furniture went out of business – again. So let’s look at these past 12 months.

For Rice’s Honorarium: Rice President David Leebron received $1.5 million in total compensation, more than the presidents of Harvard, Yale or Princeton, and seventh highest among private universities. Elsewhere, Mayor Annise Parker married her long-time partner, Kathy Hubbard, and, no, Hubbard is not getting same-sex marriage health benefits. However, Daniela Parker, daughter of Kathy Hubbard, had a bit of a problem obtaining a Texas driver’s license. It seems Daniela has two mothers, which threw a curve at the state bureaucrats. On her third try, Daniela got her license.

Mayor Parker tried to subpoena sermons and other writings of Christian conservative pastors who opposed her equal rights ordinance. She quickly backed down, but not before receiving a torrent of criticism. Yet what are pastors with their tax-exempt churches doing trying to influence governments? Does the IRS know about this? The Gus Wortham Golf Course – the oldest in Texas – was saved from being turned into a garden. To the Victor goes the slammer: Precinct 6 Constable Victor Trevino pled guilty to stealing at least $124 thousand in funds from his children’s charity to buy lottery tickets and gamble at Louisiana casinos. “A lot of Hispanic leaders have been calling, upset, because they feel it’s selective prosecution,” said Agustin Pinedo, district director of Houston LULAC.

The Astrodome was added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. This means, when the dome is torn down, it will be replaced by a plaque. Speaking of sports, the Astros made giant strides forward this past season. Instead of finishing in last place as they had the prior two seasons, they finished next to last, behind the Texas Rangers. The Astros were so bad, once again they played a game and, according to the Nielsen Company, nobody in Houston was watching on Comcast SportsNet Houston. Nielsen’s report showed a 0.0 rating for households, adults 25-54 and men 25-54 for the afternoon Angels-Astros game at Minute Maid Park on July 30. The Angels won the game 9-1.

That game was the second time, according to Nielsen, that the Astros have played a game on CSN Houston that no one watched. The first came Sept. 22, 2013, when the Astros had a day game in Cleveland opposite a Texans home game that aired on KHOU (Channel 11). The Nielsen report, of course, doesn’t mean no one with access to CSN Houston was watching the game. Maybe the studio engineers had to watch. Root Sports Southwest finally connected with cable providers throughout the state. The Rockets christened the new network by playing their worst game of the season thus far, a 26-point loss to Memphis.

The lone bright spot for the Lastros was Jose Altuve, who became the only player in major league history to appear in the All-Star Game for both the American and National Leagues while representing the same franchise. Altuve led the American League in both batting average and hits. In fact, he led all of Major League Baseball – not just the AL – in both batting average (.341) and hits (225), and he was second in stolen bases (56).

One Hit, One Error: Former New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was accused of assaulting his wife at their home in Bunker Hill. Court documents allege Knoblauch, a Houston native, struck his wife, Cheri, with his hand then pushed her “unlawfully, intentionally and knowingly causing bodily harm.” The Minnesota Twins said on the club’s website that plans to enter him into its Hall of Fame had been canceled.

Moving to football, UH has a new stadium, the Texas Dow Employees Credit Union, or TDECU Stadium. Catchy, eh? The Coogs also went looking for a new head football coach, and found Tom Herman, an assistant at Ohio State. After three years, Tony Levin was drop-kicked out of a job. Biggest Sports Bust: First overall college draft pick in the entire nation went to the last-place Texans, who chose Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina U. He played in exactly four games, made seven tackles, no sacks and 143 defensive plays. Biggest Sports Bust II: The Texans front office trying to go cheap on quarterbacks. They are still looking.

The Houston Chronicle finally decided to move to the former Houston Post building. Maybe now the Chron will change its name to The Houston Post and no longer be the largest newspaper in the nation to have never won a Pulitzer Prize. (But it hired one.) Houston lost its only 24-hour news station, News 92, due to insufficient audience and commercials. We used to have KTRH for news, which is now devoted to right-wing looneys – the listeners, too. Even KTRH’s on-the-hour news is opinionated: “Noted race-baiter Al Sharpton…” “Obama’s appointee didn’t bother to show up.”

Quote of the Year: “The Bay Area is a tightly regulated city. Houston has no formal zoning code, though, as the city gets more affluent, more rules are being written. The Bay Area is beautiful in the way urbanists like, while Houston is mostly ugly, in the way fast-food chains like.” – David Brooks, New York Times columnist.

According to a former NASA life support system engineer, Donald Rethke, who helped construct space diapers, each astronaut in the Gemini and Apollo programs had to wear a condom-type sheath with a hole at the end for urination inside their suits. These condoms came in only three sizes — small, medium, and large — to accommodate each astronaut’s anatomical size. They had to estimate their size correctly and, of course, every astronaut fancied himself a large. The sizes were changed to large, gigantic, and humongous.

 

Ashby looks forward to 2015 at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE YEAR OF THE RAT

December 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                            22 Dec. 2014

 

 

What a year it was! Military victories, parades, the troops came home, there was peace on earth and prosperity in the land. The year I am speaking of is 1945, of course, because 2014 was a real downer. Here in Texas, we elected or re-elected some strong arguments for Santa Anna’s return. The happy folks among us are those goofballs who won their elections and the Austin press corps, which is going to report on one of the most colorful (i.e. ridiculous, vindictive and insulting to our intelligence) legislative terms in eons.

So let’s honor those who made 2014 what it was, whatever that is. Our famed The ER to Avoid Trophy goes to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas which sent an ailing Eric Duncan home with aspirin to take for his illness. Turns out Duncan had Ebola and died soon afterwards. The mistake cost the City of Dallas $155,000 including $27,000 to quarantine and observe the dog of a nurse who became infected. In addition, the hospital said it lost $1.8 million in revenue. Moving on, police in Lufkin arrested 37-year-old Evelyn Hamilton after she called them to complain about the quality of the marijuana she had purchased from a dealer. Mind Your Pees and Qs: Robert Durst, the eccentric millionaire who beat a grisly Galveston murder trial, was charged with urinating on a cash register and candy display at a Houston drug store.

A Twitter, briefly sent out by ultra-conservative state Sen. (and soon to be our Lite Guv) Dan Patrick, read: “MARRIAGE = ONE MAN & ONE MAN.” All in caps. Choice Words Dept.: Texas governor and potential presidential candidate Rick Perry said people could decide whether or not they wanted to be homosexual just as “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that.”

Biggest Bomb: Battleground Texas, an attempt to sign up voters for Democratic candidates. Some 34,000 volunteers blanketed the state, but the GOP swept everything. “I feel like road kill,” said one Battleground leader. “Nothing worked.” Nothing worked for most of the Texas Democratic Party, either. Wendy Davis & Co. got clobbered, so the GOP wins our coveted Elephant in the Room (and House and Senate) Trophy. After a lengthy review, members of the Republican National Committee narrowed the field for their 2016 national convention to two finalists. Dallas was beaten out by – ready? — Cleveland.

Just your luggage was lost? Dallas-based Southwest Airlines pilots landed at the wrong airport in Missouri. They told investigators they were confused by the small airport’s runway lights, believing it to be a larger airport in nearby Branson which is 7 miles away. Charif Souki, CEO of Houston-based Cheniere, received $142 million in cash and stocks, more than any other CEO in America. His company lost $507 million last year and has never made a profit. Omar J. Gonzalez of Copperas Cove broke into the White House, causing havoc in the ranks of the Secret Service and cost its head her job.

Most Missed Teasips: Harley Clark, UT head cheerleader credited with inventing the Hook ‘Em Horns sign, although I used to get constant letters from some guy in Beaumont who claimed it was his idea. Actor Eli Wallach died at age 99. Although from New York, he attended UT-Austin “because the tuition was $30 a year.” While in Texas, Wallach learned to ride horses which served him well in movies such as “The Magnificent Seven.” In his first Curtain Club role when he was a UT student, Wallach played a corpse. The part of the doctor was played by Walter Cronkite. Gray Matters: UT-Austin thought it had lost its minds. About 100 human brains kept in jars were missing. Later the school said the brains had been destroyed years ago, but not everyone believes that.

What’s Down, Doc? Baylor College of Medicine was placed on probation for 14 “areas of concern” by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The Susan G. Komen Race for Cure Houston, named for Susan G. Komen who was Jewish, scheduled its annual race fund-raiser for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Didn’t go over very well with the rabbis. Just Barge Right In: 168,000 gallons of thick oil spilled into Galveston Bay after a barge collided with a ship.

Now let’s look at sports. For the first time in 76 years (1937) UT-Austin did not have a single player picked in the NFL draft. Central Florida, ranked 15th, was a 17-point underdog against the 8th-ranked Baylor Bears in the Fiesta Bowl. The Bears were humiliated 52-42. It gets worse. Baylor along with TCU were snubbed from the first College Football Playoff. Happy gays are here again: Hitchcock native and Missouri standout football player Michael Sam announced before the NFL draft that he is gay. Nevertheless, he was taken by the St. Louis Rams – briefly.

In our Unsportsmanlike Conduct Category, NFL and Vikings superstar Adrian Peterson, now living in The Woodlands, was convicted of child abuse. J.J. Watts, the $100 million man, must feel lonely among his mediocre teammates. For the third straight season the Houston Astros had a dismal year, finishing next to the bottom it their division, 28 games out of first place. Only the Texas Rangers were worse – 31 games out. Nevertheless, manager Bo Porter was fired. The Rangers manager was also fired.

On a clear day you can see your feet: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality toxicologist Michael Honeycutt came out against tougher smog restrictions because “most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors.” Therefore, they are “rarely exposed to significant levels of ozone.” Cleaning up the air, the TCEQ official wrote, would cause natural gas and electricity prices to rise.

That about wraps it up for the year. Texas Monthly, feel free to steal from our list for your Bum Steer Awards — again.

 

Ashby is a year older at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

OUT IN THE COLD

December 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE KITCHEN – Here it is, my new refrigerator. You probably have such an appliance in your home, most people do. If you are in the market for a new refrigerator, and if you are not in the market you will be eventually, cut this out and stick on – where else? – your refrigerator (or “fridge” as we Freon engineers call it). Do you want a French door model (doors that open from the center outwards)? They are good for holding wine, cheese, foie gras and a cold shoulder for Americans. Or maybe a top-refrigerator/bottom-freezer style. How about a top freezer, bottom refrigerator? Or perhaps – never mind.

Most fridges have shelves which can easily be adjusted at the factory. After that, those suckers can’t be pried out of their sockets with the Jaws of Life. Different models have varying interior designs. Some can hold 13 pounds of kale. Others have slots for cold drinks. One holds a keg. Another holds the last four fruitcakes you got for Christmas. A transparent box for cheese and butter is nice. That way you can tell when the mold is ready for serving. And here is the mullion.

There are drawers for vegetables, fruits and all those other healthy stuff we’re supposed to eat. I use the drawers to hold red meat and leftover lasagna. Do you want shelves in your doors so that when you open them to go for the your of wine everything in the doors falls on the floor, and it’s 3 a.m.? My model has door racks for pickles, olives, teriyaki sauce and chocolate mousse, but maybe I should put the mousse in a container. Here’s the freezer. This baby sports a slide-out drawer, two bins, a shelf and apparently a place for a toaster. The freezer is big which means it’s deep. Each time I lean down to get a frozen margarita, I need a forklift to stand up straight again.

“Grand Dad, what’s an ice tray?” This brings us to the icemaker, an invention which ranks right up there with the automatic garage door opener, ChapStick and the Texas Aggie Band. This gizmo is so much better than ice trays. The fridge also has dials and knobs in abundance to set the temperatures. The owner’s manual says I should keep the cooler at 37 degrees and the freezer at zero. That seems awfully cold to me, so I set them at room temperature.

Quick history: Until Fort Sumter, Texans got their ice from the north. After that, desperate Texans shipped an ice machine through the Union blockade into Mexico and eventually to Texas. Once refrigerated rail cars came along, the cattle could be slaughtered in Texas and the meat sent north. By 1900 there were 766 ice plants in the U.S., and Texas, with 77, had more than any other state. In 1950 close to 90 percent of Texas families had some type of refrigeration. Wonder if they could change the shelves?

 

.                                         Ashby is cold at ashby2@comcast.net

AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES ANNOUNCES 2017 VOYAGES

December 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

 

AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES ANNOUNCES 2017 VOYAGES


Boutique Cruise Line Will Sail to Four New Ports in New Zealand,

Seychelles, Mexico & Grand Cayman

 

MIAMI, FL (December 10, 2014) – Azamara Club Cruises®, the boutique cruise line known for its premier destination-immersive voyages, today unveiled its 2017 itineraries.  In 2017, Azamara will offer 65 voyages to 203 ports in 68 countries, including the addition of four new ports; Kaikoura, New Zealand; Mahe, Seychelles; Yucatan, Mexico and George Town, Grand Cayman.

 

Azamara will introduce new voyages including  Australia to Asia, Southern California to South Beach and Pearls Along the Indian Ocean, and also revisit travelers favorites such as the Monaco Grand Prix or take A Look Back in History, which cruises through Normandy, Holland, and Germany.

 

The leading line to offer longer stays in port overnight and night touring, travelers have the opportunity to experience true destination immersion taking in the sights, sounds and flavors of local cultures in every port through Azamara’s exclusive Land Discoveries® program.  Azamara provides exclusive tours and excursions via their Insider AccessSM and Nights and Cool PlacesSM programs, which offer curated local experiences for guests, such as a guided walk around illuminated landmarks at night, an after-hours museum visit, or access to live performances, to complement daytime explorations.  In 2015, Azamara will launch its highly-anticipated Cruise Global, Eat Local program, providing guests with the opportunity to dine at local restaurants serving authentic fare in each port.

 

“We are excited to debut our 2017 portfolio of voyages that will take our guests across the globe and provide them with even more opportunities to experience authentic culture and happenings without the hassle of researching and planning themselves.  Our programs are tailored to discovery-driven travelers and we think we’ve got some exciting new offerings that will appeal to new cruisers as well as excite our loyal guests,” said Larry Pimentel, president and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises.  “We strive to offer intellectually curious global citizens with authentic and memorable travel experiences and the new 2017 voyages further showcase our continued commitment to destination immersion.”


Winter/Spring 2017 Voyages

 

In winter and spring 2017, Azamara Quest will sail the West Indies, Panama Canal and Central America, making stops at exotic locales, including Cartagena – a historic city in Colombia, the Panama Canal – one of the seven wonders of the modern world and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – a popular resort town surrounded by the Sierra Madre Mountains.  Voyage highlights include:

–          West Indies Hideaway Voyage: On this tropical 11-night voyage, guests will embark from Miami for a cruise from island to island in the West Indies, making stops at the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nevis, St. Barts and more, while experiencing adventurous activities such as snorkeling or zip-lining in rainforests.

–          Baja California, Sea of Cortez & Copper Canyon Voyage: Embarking from San Diego for 12 nights, travelers will follow the Spaniards’ search for treasure through small Sierra Madre foothill towns in Mexico, experience a train ride through the magnificent Copper Canyon, and visit a pearl farm in Guaymas.  Guests will also have the opportunity to swim with sea lions, take a horseback ride in the dessert, go whale-watching, and visit a Spanish mission near Loreto.

 

During the same time, Azamara Journey will sail through the exotic waters of Asia, the Pacific Ocean and through the Australia and New Zealand regions during winter and spring 2017.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          Discovering Thailand & Vietnam Voyage: On this 13-night journey, guests will cruise from Singapore for a journey through Thailand, Vietnam and China, offering travelers the opportunity to experience Southeast Asia at its finest, by both land and water.  Guests will sink their toes into a white tropical beach one day and visit a remarkable World Heritage Site the next.  From small-group tours to night markets, countryside bike rides, elegant French Vietnamese dining a quintessential night out in Bangkok, travelers will experience the vibrant cultures of Asia.

–          Australia and New Zealand Voyage: For travelers looking to dive into the outback, Azamara is featuring a 15-night voyage through Australia and New Zealand.  Embarking from Sydney, Australia the ship will make stops in Melbourne and then Tasmania, where travelers will visit Port Arthur and Hobart. Next stop on the cruise is New Zealand – a new port for Azamara – where travelers will visit a number of small villages including Dunedin, Akaroa, Napier, Tauranga, and finally the urban city of Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city.  Guests will experience local culture with many touring choices, from coastal hiking and marine excursions to exploring art deco towns and kiwi farms, a visit to Port Arthur’s infamous penal colony, and the Maori community of Rotorua.

 

Summer – Fall 2017 Voyages

 

Throughout summer and fall 2017, Azamara Quest will sail across the idyllic Mediterranean and Black Sea region, combining historic lands of great antiquity, the sunny Greek isles with whitewashed villages cascading down hillsides, the popular Amalfi Coast, and the Riviera, glittering and glamorous.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          Amalfi Coast and Sicily Voyage: For travelers looking to explore Italy’s iconic Amalfi coast, Croatia and Greece, this 10-night cruise from Rome is a great way to experience the spectacular scenery, delectable food and wine, charming towns, monumental cities and beautiful beaches and bays. While in Italy, guests will travel to the coastal sea town of Sorrento and Amalfi then head to Sicily, the largest and most southern point in Italy.  Following a trip to the historic island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, travelers will head to Greece, followed by Montenegro, Croatia and finally completing at Italy’s romantic and beautiful city of Venice.

Meanwhile, Azamara Journey will cruise Northern and Western Europe in the summer and fall seasons, while also offering select voyages to the Mediterranean and Black Sea.  Cruises will embark to ports in classic and beloved European destinations such as St. Petersburg, London, Paris, Norway, Iceland and Scotland, among others.  Voyage highlights include:

 

–          British Open Voyage: For travelers with an affinity for culture and sports, this 13-night cruise offers golf fans the opportunity to attend the British Open Finals at Royal Birkdale, one of many star attractions through the Irish Sea.  Highlights of the trip include a visit to Cork, a quaint seaside town in Ireland, and a trip to Glasgow, a vibrant cosmopolitan city in Scotland. Guests will have the opportunity to hike along the spectacular Snowdonia National Park and enjoy England’s Lake District, search for Nessie at Loch Ness, visit the iconic cities of Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh, and shop for hand loomed wool goods, Waterford crystal, and single malt Scotch whisky.

 

–          Tapas and Wine Voyage: For culinary and wine aficionados, Azamara is offering an indulgent week-long cruise along the Iberian Peninsula.  During the cruise, travelers will experience local tapas and wines in Menorca, Spain visit Gibraltar, in the United Kingdom, a strait which separates continental Europe from North Africa and complete the cruise in Lisbon, Portugal, one of the oldest cities in the world.

 

On board the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, guests receive exceptional and personal service and enjoy fine cuisine and boutique wines from around the world, as well as more inclusive amenities, such as included gratuities; complimentary bottled water, sodas, specialty coffee, and teas, as well as complimentary boutique wines, international beers and select standard spirits in the ships’ bars, lounges and restaurants when open; complimentary self-service laundry; English Butler service for suite guests; and shuttle transportation to city centers in ports, where available.

 

For a full list of 2017 Azamara Voyages, visit www.azamaraclubcruises.com.

###

 

Redneck Country Club Fall Concert Schedule

December 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Events

FallLineup2014Web

ANGEL FIRE RESORT IS SET TO OPEN THIS WEEKEND

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

AFTER SIGNIFICANT EARLY SEASON SNOWFALL
Resort to Open Trails This Friday

ANGEL FIRE, NM – (December 10, 2014) – Winter made a welcomed return dropping nearly 50 inches of fresh snow and very cold temperatures since October at Angel Fire Resort, located in the Southern Rockies of New Mexico. The resort has been taking advantage of the colder temperatures throughout the past six weeks making snow in anticipation of this year’s opening, set for this Friday, December 12.  The additional natural and man-made snow has allowed the resort to open more trails.

“We’ve been able to keep the systems running throughout the night since early November and our crews are working consistently to get as much out of the cold temperatures as possible,” Jamie Seifert, mountain operations manager, Angel Fire Resort. “Clearly the more natural snow we can add in is great, but in the meantime, it’s our job to get the mountain ready, so we are focusing our efforts on snowmaking and getting our mountain ready for this season.”

Beginner skiing/snowboarding trails, the bunny hill and the Angel Fire Ski School will all be open starting December 12, creating a great landscape for those just learning the sport.

MORE TERRAIN PARKS:
The Railyard, a new terrain park will open this winter off the side of the popular green trail Headin’ Home and will feature boxes, rails and jumps geared towards those new to skiing and boarding. This dedicated space will allow beginners a safe place to try out their tricks before attempting the more advanced terrain parks.

The resort is also moving the nighttime terrain park Night Rider to Exhibition. This new location is on the front side of the mountain, which will allow the park to take advantage of the best snow on the mountain. Night Rider will be open both day and night and will offer the best lighted terrain for those who wish to stay after dark. (Available on weekends and holiday peak periods.)

SPECIAL PASS – The Powder Alliance:
Angel Fire Resort is a member of the Powder Alliance – now with your season pass to Angel Fire you get 3 days of free lift tickets at 12 other ski resorts including: Crested Butte, CO, Snowbasin Resort, UT, Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA, Stevens Pass, WA, Timberline, OR, Schweitzer, ID, Bridger Bowl, MT, China Peak, CA, Mountain High, CA, Arizona Snowbowl, AZ and Mt. Hood Skibowl, OR and Silver Star, BC. The value is over $2500 per pass holder.  For more information, including details about the new Wild West Powder Quest Sweepstakes go to www.powderalliance.com.

ANA, Japan’s leading airline, to launch services to Houston

December 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

New route will expand network between Asia and the Americas

Summer schedule will also see more flights to Singapore and Bangkok

TOKYO, December 11, 2014 – ANA, Japan’s leading airline, is to launch a new route from Narita to Houston, the capital of the US oil and energy industry, from June next year as part of an expansion of its network between the Americas and the growing Asian market.

The new ANA summer schedule will also see an increase in flights from Tokyo to Singapore and Bangkok, making it easier for transfer passengers to connect between its Asian and American networks.

Houston not only enjoys significant demand for flights to Asia, but is also one the biggest hub airports for ANA’s joint venture partner United Airlines. This will enable ANA to improve access for its passengers to Central and South America via Houston. The airport has a wealth of domestic and international connections making it easier for passengers from Asian countries to fly through to various US destinations and other countries with growing business demand such as Mexico and Brazil.

ANA will increase the number of flights from Tokyo to Singapore and Bangkok by introducing twice daily services from Narita to these two cities in addition to the existing double daily service from Haneda airport. Flights from Singapore and Bangkok arriving in Narita early morning will increase the number of North American cities that can be connected and will, together with the evening flight, greatly increase the convenience of Asia-North America connections at Narita.

Osamu Shinobe, President and CEO of ANA said, “We are very pleased to be launching a new international service from Tokyo to Houston. Houston will be our tenth destination in North America and will provide a great gateway to Central and South America from Japan and many other Asian countries. Together with our joint venture partner United, we are confident that passenger demand will be high and that our expanding network will provide customers with greater choice.”​​

Christmas

December 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Events, Parents' Place

Here are just a few things to do around town this holiday season! We are sure these will get you into the Christmas spirit!

Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo

zoo

TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights is back and more spectacular than ever this year – now with more than 2 million lights! There are new and exciting additions around every corner at this year’s most anticipated holiday tradition. From a completely lit-up African Forest with larger-than-life, glowing, rotating ornaments to a walk-in snow globe, TXU Energy Presents Zoo Lights will be sure to delight the entire family. Bring your camera to capture all the special moments!

When: Friday, November 21, 2014 to Sunday, January 4, 2015. Closed December 24 and 25.
Time: 6pm to 10pm daily; last entry at 9pm
Where: Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, TX ‎77003
Admission: Prices range from $10.95 to $14.95
Parking: Parking is very limited at the Houston Zoo.
Website: www.houstonzoo.org/zoolights/

Houston Ballet Presents: The Nutcracker

nut

Journey with Clara as she dances on the arm of the Nutcracker Prince to the stunning Land of Snow and the delectable Kingdom of Sweets. There are so many reasons to delight in The Nutcracker: the giant Christmas tree, the dancing dolls, Mother Ginger and her adorable clowns, the lavish sets and the iconic Tchaikovsky score. Ben Stevenson’s production of The Nutcracker has entertained children and their grown-ups for more than 25 years.

When: Friday, November 28 through Sunday, December 28, 2014
Times: 2pm and 7:30pm performances on various nights. Click here to check exact times by date.
Where: Wortham Theater Center, 500 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002
Parking: Paid garage and surface lots are available to the East and South of the theater
Admission: Tickets start at $55, but you may find cheaper or better tickets on TicketNetwork’s resale site.
Click here for full price tickets.

 

A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas

Alley Carol_3_web

Houston’s seasonal favorite is described by the Houston Press as having “Spectacular London sets … the inimitable Dickens’ tale – spiced with the usual fog and an unusual twist on the ghosts past, present and future.” A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmasreturns this year with a re-telling of Charles Dickens’ classic story, which follows Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey with the three ghostly spirits that visit him on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol instills a powerful message about redemption and the spirit of the holiday season.

When: Friday, November 21 to Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Times: Tuesdays through Fridays 7:30pm; Saturdays and Sundays 2:30pm, 7:30pm
Where: Alley Theatre @UH, Wortham Theatre, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, 4116 Elgin Street, Houston, TX 77004
Parking: Click here for parking details at University of Houston.
Admission: Tickets range from $25 to $55.

Field of Lights at Discovery Green

lights

Discovery Green is proud to host Field of Light, a dazzling art installation by internationally-acclaimed artist Bruce Munro. The vivid, temporary, site specific installation is now on display along the Brown Promenade through Feb. 8, 2015 and it is illuminated from 3 to 11 p.m. daily. The prime viewing hours of the exhibit are after dusk.

When: Saturday, November 22, 2014 through Sunday, February 8, 2015
Times: Dusk to 11pm
Where: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney, Houston, TX 77010
Parking: Street, surface lot and garage parking are available.
Admission: Free

Frozen Bikini Bottom in Galveston

spongebob

A skilled team of 31 internationally-acclaimed professional ice carvers from Harbin, China will dive into 900 tons of ice and transform them into majestic marvels featuring holiday scenes with the beloved Bikini Bottom inhabitants from Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants. Chilled and held at a temperature of 9 degrees, you can witness these works of art as Galveston makes its holiday transformation into a Winter Wonder Island.

When: Saturday, November 15, 2014 through Sunday, January 4, 2015
Times: Noon to 10pm
Where: Moody Gardens, 1 Hope Blvd, Galveston, TX 77554
Parking:  Free in designated lots
Admission: $26.95; $21.95 seniors; $15.95 children
CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

Other Events

  • Sand Mandala at the Menil | FREE | Thursday through Saturday – Observe Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang monastery in South India create an intricate sand mandala in the Menil foyer.
  • Alley Theatre presents A Christmas Carol at UH | Daily – Follow the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by ghosts of the past, present and future in the Alley Theatre presentation of A Christmas Carol. Tickets range from $25 to $55. 7:30pm Thursday and Friday; 2:30pm and 7:30pm Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Radio City Christmas Spectacular at the Hobby Center | Daily – Experience the Rockettes high kicks as New York City’s holiday special comes at the Hobby Center this holiday season. Tickets start at $40, but you may find cheaper or better tickets on TicketNetwork’s resale site. 7:30pm Thursday; 8pm Friday; 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm Saturday; noon, 3:30pm and 7:30pm Sunday.
  • Campfire Christmas at George Ranch | Friday and Saturday – Escape the hustle and bustle of a modern Christmas and go on a festive journey into Christmases past at the George Ranch Historical Park’s annual Campfire Christmas. $50; $45 for ages 15 and under, seniors and groups of ten or more. 6pm to 10pm both nights.
  • Tomball German Christmas Market | Friday to Sunday | FREE – Celebrate the holidays the way the Germans do – with beer! Enjoy street vendors, biergartens, Gluhwein and Dutch Santa during this family friendly market. 6pm to 10pm Friday; 10am to 10pm Saturday; 10am to 6pm Sunday.
  • Houston Symphony presents A Very Merry Pops at Jones Hall | Friday to Sunday – Enjoy a yuletide evening of traditional standards like “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “O Holy Night. $25 to $135. 8pm Friday and Saturday; 2:30pm and 7:30pm Sunday.
  • Houston Ballet presents The Nutcracker at Wortham Theater Center | Friday to Sunday – For more than 25 years, the Houston Ballet has been telling the story of Clara and the Nutcracker Prince as they fight the Mouse King, travel to the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. Tickets start at $55, but you may find cheaper or better tickets on TicketNetwork’s resale site. 7:30pm Friday; 2pm and 7:30pm Saturday and Sunday.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Kaleidoscope Theater | Friday to Sunday – Relive the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special with Snoopy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally, Lucy and, of course, Charlie Brown himself. $30; $20 ages 10 and under. 8pm Friday; 2pm and 8pm Saturday; 2pm Sunday.
  • Holiday Market at San Jacinto Mall | Saturday and Sunday | FREE to attend – Pick up some stocking stuffers at the Holiday Market booths near Santa’s Workshop at San Jacinto Mall. 10am to 9pm Saturday; 10am to 8pm Sunday.
  • Rice Village Flea | FREE – Find a unique treasure at the Rice Village Flea Holiday Market. 11am to 6pm.
  • Family Activities inside the Loop from BigKidSmallCity | Daily – Find events, recommendations and family-friendly activities from our favorite Houston mom-in-the-know Jill Jarvis of BigKidSmallCity.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lone Pint Brewery

December 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Tap Into Houston

Recently, I had the good fortune to visit the Lone Pint brewery on a day they were brewing a double batch of their soon-to-be-world-famous Yellow Rose IPA.  I showed up just after they were done sparging the first batch (see the vocab lesson, below, about all the funny words I am about to use).  Since the mash tun had yet to be cleaned and the boil was still a while from starting, Blake Niederhofer (co-founder, co-owner, and the day’s brewmaster) was able to take some time out of an otherwise very busy day to show me around the brewery and tell me a little about what goes on there.

Tap Wall, Dylan, Brandon

Even though one can find Lone Pint beers in many venues and stores around and outside of the greater Houston area, it still is a very small operation.   Founded in 2013 by Trevor Brown, Heather Bolla, and Niederhofer, the three got the operation underway while still keeping their day jobs and brewing only on the weekends.  After a recent expansion, one can now find folks brewing on weekdays, cranking out 60-90 barrels (1860-2790 US gallons) per week.  Even when Lone Pint is not brewing, everyone there stays quite busy kegging, bottling, cleaning, conducting their Saturday tours, and taking care of the other approximately 9.7 million jobs involved in running a brewery.  With further expansion planned, the work and Lone Pint’s availability only will grow.

Blake at Command

For those that do have never visited an operating commercial brewery, it is not like some club house where a bunch of guys smile, laugh, and toast numerous pints over the course of a day.  It is real work, hard work, something like running a commercial kitchen but with a lot of heavy lifting.  Put best by a former brewer from Fuller’s I once met, “there is no work harder than brewery work.”  While I am certain some other professions may legitimately argue that assertion, no one can deny how hard any floor brewer works.  The folks at Lone Pint are no exception.  They have the passion required to make the sort of beer that so many are praising so highly. The owners and employees are not the only one passionate about Lone Pint, either.  Many fans go out of their way to visit the small, Magnolia brewery every Saturday.  A local dentist, who visits often, even hard-carved many of the taps used to serve the beer straight from the cold room (that once served as the paint room for the body shop that used to occupy the premises).  Some of the gents working were even volunteering on their day off from their regular jobs.  It is a passionate person who wants to clean out a mash tub on his day off.

A Well Deserved Break

Fortunately, Blake and two volunteers (Dylan and Brandon) were able to take a little time and show me around the beers they currently had on offer.  The Yellow Rose that everyone raves about is a crisp, hoppy SMaSH (“Single Malt and Single Hop”) brewed with Weyermann Pilsner malt and ample late addition mosaic hops (currently a darling in the craft and home brewing worlds).  Zeno’s Pale Ale is a similarly hoppy American Pale Ale with a lightly softer and rounder malt character.  667 Neighbor of the Beast is a full-fledged American IPA with a strong and complex (but not overwhelming) malt backbone to support and compliment the powerful hop aroma and flavor it delivers.  Gentleman’s Relish is an English Brown Ale that is a maltier, nutty departure from the hoppy, hoppy beers and absolutely delicious.  Lily & Seamus departs in a different direction with a healthy dose of wheat and a sour mash to shape a more refreshing beer, and one of the beers I have ever tasted that successfully blends hoppy and sour notes.

Mash Tun after Sparging
The unusual offerings on tap that day were from Lone Pint’s “Zythophile” line, a series of beers that are limited batches with new, rare, or experimental hops.  I was lucky enough to try both the Rakau (from New Zealand) and Belma.  The Rakau was complex and rich with fresh stone fruit (peach and apricot), accented with a touch of piney resin and herbal notes (we talked about rosemary and sage).  The Belma was more tropical and purely fruity (we were kicking around words like “strawberry,” “fruit salad,” and “melon.”  Upon a return trip, I was treated to the Po-Cha-Na-Quar-Hip braggot, a combination of mead (honey wine) and beer—something nearly impossible to find from commercial breweries.  The annual release, named for a Texas Comanche War Chief is made with traditional American malted barley, local honey, and just enough hops to balance the sweetness.

Hand-Carved Taps

If you are interested in visiting the brewery, you’ll find them open from noon-4:00 PM on Saturdays, with a tour at 1:30PM (and later, if needed).  For $10, you get a pint glass and three tastings.  Food is available for free (donations welcome).  Seating is limited, but you are welcome to bring your own chairs.  You can find them on the web at: www.lonepint.com

 

I hope to see you out there, sometime!

Doak

 

A NOTION OF IMMIGRANTS

December 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

One night I was having dinner in an eatery when the owner came over and said, “Mee-stur HASH-bee, you have a phone call.” Huh? The café was in an unknown village in the Netherlands, and few if any people knew I was there, or cared. The call was from an American friend, Phil, who worked at the Guardian newspaper in Britain. He had an idea for a story, so he called my paper in Houston and tracked me down to my hotel here, where the manager told him the name of the café he had recommended for supper. The café owner probably spotted me as an American by my Stetson and spurs. According to Dutch law, the manager had also called in my passport name and number to the local police. Thus both Phil and the Netherlands government knew where I was and probably which fork I used.

America has 11.1 million illegal immigrants – wild guess – and haven’t a clue where they are. We can’t agree on what to do with them, if anything, who to let in and who to toss out. We can’t even agree what to call them. What term do you use? Illegal alien, undocumented worker, cheap hired help, busboy or yardman? What exactly is your idea of “comprehensive immigration reform?” What does that meaningless term mean to you? Open borders or landmines?

But they are not all illiterate, unskilled workers sneaking across the Rio. An estimated one-third of our (whichever term you like) arrive here quite legally with student visas, tourist visas, temporary work permits and professional experts on something. My sister-in-law is an immigration lawyer. Her clients are the Texas Medical Center, energy companies and universities – all desperately trying to keep some highly trained engineers or medical researchers here, rather than deporting them back to India. It is an irony that we receive a brain drain of students who come to be educated and want to stay – wouldn’t you? – and we toss them out.

On the other hand, this country has the most generous immigration policies in the world, we have no apologies to make, and I’m tired of being told how guilty and hard-heated we are.
Last year 779,929 people became naturalized U.S. citizens. From 2004 through last New Year’s Day we let immigrants with legal refugee status from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe — including 164 from countries “unknown”– stay here. They totaled 69,909. Couldn’t the feds have let in 91 more to make it an even 70,000? Incidentally, some 75,000 refugees have arrived in Houston in the last 35 years. Houston has been the Number 1 city for refugees in the past two years. Texas is also Numero Uno in receiving refugees the past two years.

We also have lawful permanent residents (LPR) or “green card” recipients. Last year, 990,553 persons became LPRs. The majority of these (54 percent) already lived in the U.S. The leading countries of birth of new LPRs were Mexico (14 percent), China (7.2 percent), and India (6.9 percent). In fiscal year 2014, an estimated 77,200 children are expected to get apprehended at the border — including 59,000 children from Central America, and now we are allowing 4 to 5 million illegal parents of legal children to stay. Is there anyone left down there? Over the last decade, the number of immigrants – legal and otherwise — in the U.S. has steadily grown. The number reached a record 40.4 million in 2011. This includes illegal immigrants whose number rose from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.1 million in 2011. The U.S. is by far the world’s leader in immigrants. (Oddly enough, far, far back in second place is Russia with 12.3 million.)

With Congress absolutely frozen handling this hot tamale, President Obama has taken the extraordinary step of finally doing something, and a lot of Americans don’t like this, including Republicans, of course. (Let’s start a rumor: Dan Patrick is an illegal Ebola-carrying Marylander.) Those in favor of looser immigration rules could do their cause some good if, for example, during protest demonstrations demanding for U.S. citizenship, the protestors wouldn’t march down the street flying Mexican flags. No kidding. They stopped that. But the GOP does have a point: When word of this latest easing of our immigration laws gets to Honduras, does that touch off yet another “y’all come” stampede?

How often do we see an immigrant who’s been here 20 years being interviewed on TV and they have to use an interpreter? If I lived in, say, Helsinki for that long I should probably have learned some Finnian. Then there’s Akmed who has also been here 20 years illegally and claims that’s too long to be deported just because he’s a lawbreaker. Using this argument, if I hold up one bank, I’m deported. But if I’ve been holding up banks for 20 years, shouldn’t I be allowed to stay? Is the longer you break a law make you less guilty?

What about those who are trying to obey our laws? In many parts of the world I have seen wannabe Americans standing in line outside our consulates in all sorts of rotten weather, clutching tattered documents in their hands. “Sorry, folks, but the first law in America is that you don’t have to obey our laws.” We should also examine those “leaders” and “spokesmen” who claim to speak for all Hispanics on immigration. Here’s why: An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll just out shows that 38 percent of Americans surveyed agreed with Obama’s executive action. This breaks down to 63 percent Democrats, 37 percent independents and 11 percent Republicans. No big surprises there. But only 43 percent of Latinos approved. Listening to all those “leaders” and “spokesmen,” wouldn’t you think it would be 110 percent? Look, newcomers, my ancestors worked very hard to build this country, and so did their slaves. As for that call from Phil, it was about a little Dutch boy plugging the dike in our border fences.

 

Ashby is legal at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

Global aviation leader increases capacity on its Houston-Dubai nonstop service to meet demand

December 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

 

Alexander Houston

Emirates Regional Sales Director Central USA, Alexander Houston, right, tours the A380 with Emirates’ Cabin Crew at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Houston. (Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images for Emirates)

Emirates, a global connector of people, places and economies, landed its first A380 at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, with the introduction of its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft to the route. Houston is Emirates’ fifth U.S. gateway serviced by an A380.

Emirates launched its Houston-Dubai service in 2007 and the route has generated strong and sustained passenger demand since its inception. The airline has transported over 1.2 million passengers between the two cities to date. The A380 up-gauge provides 137 more seats on every flight – a 38 percent increase in overall capacity and one which has been driven by consumer demand. In addition to increasing connectivity with Dubai – Emirates’ home, the up-gauge will enable more Houston-based travelers to access Emirates’ global network including 10 passenger destinations in India, 20 points in Africa and 16 in the Far East.
“Commencing A380 service to Houston will enable Emirates to grow alongside the city, which is experiencing strong economic development and the highest employment growth rate in the country,” said Hubert Frach, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Commercial Operations West – Americas, Africa, Europe and Russian Federation. “The Houston Airport System and the University of Houston have calculated that the current contribution to the Houston economy of Emirates’ operations is $257 million. This increase in capacity will help support an even stronger contribution.”

Cargo is also an important contributor, and in the past 12 months Emirates SkyCargo has transported 10,878 US tons (9,868 metric tons) of cargo from Houston. Exports on the route include: Oil Field Equipment and Parts, Cell Phones, Drilling Mud, Air Conditioner Parts, Steel Pipes, Helicopter Blades and Chemicals.

“The City of Houston welcomes this upgrade in service from our partners at Emirates,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. “It’s important for the ‘Energy Capital of the World’ to enjoy a strong level of connectivity with Dubai, and the presence of this Texas-sized aircraft ensures that Houston is well positioned in that regard.”

“The arrival of this aircraft is a testament to the strength of Emirates’ route between Houston and Dubai,” said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz. “Travel between Houston and the Middle East has more than doubled within the past five years alone, and Emirates has placed itself in excellent position to capitalize on this dynamic area of growth.”

The Emirates A380 is a wide-bodied, double-decker aircraft seating 491 passengers, including 14 First Class Private Suites, 76 Business Class lie-flat beds and 401 spacious Economy Class seats. While aboard the 15-hour-and-40-minute flight from Houston to Dubai, Emirates passengers in all cabin classes will enjoy renowned service provided by a multilingual crew representing more than 130 nationalities, savor regionally inspired gourmet cuisine, stay connected via on-board Wi-Fi, and immerse themselves in the award-winning in-flight entertainment system – ice Digital Widescreen – that offers more than 1,800 channels of movies, TV programs, music and podcasts.

Emirates’ First and Business Class cabins have earned some of the most prestigious recognitions in the aviation industry for service quality and unique amenities – including Saveur Magazine’s Culinary Travel Award for Best In-Flight Dining: First Class & Business Class in 2013 and 2014. First Class passengers travel in Private Suites and can refresh in Emirates’ unique Shower Spas while in flight. First Class and Business Class passengers can also access the Emirates signature Onboard Lounge and socialize over fine wines, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres prepared by five-star chefs; travel to and from the airport via Emirates complimentary Chauffeur-drive; and relax in 37 exclusive airport lounges worldwide.

Emirates’ daily flight EK211 to Houston departs Dubai at 9:30 a.m. and arrives at 4:05 p.m. The return flight, EK212, takes off from George Bush Intercontinental Airport at 6:25 p.m. and lands in Dubai at 7:05 p.m. the next day.

(courtesy Emirates)