SLIPPERY SLOPE

December 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                           28 Dec. 2015

THE SHOWER – I wrap a towel around me, then very slowly I grab hold of the shower knob, then the door frame, and stick one small toe onto the rug on the floor outside the stall. Then the entire foot. Whew! Made it so far. Next step, literally, is to move the other foot from the shower stall to … OK, you are no doubt wondering why it is taking me 10 minutes to get out of the shower. Shows what you know. A person could get killed, or at least badly injured, by simply standing in a shower or trying to get out of one. Like me. Zo let me save you a lot grief, pain and outright humiliation.

Last summer my wife and I went to the Hill Country to watch, our granddaughter finish her term at Camp Waldemar. She’s a fourth generation Waldermarite, and by now I know this end-of-camp program is a big deal. Friday night, before the Saturday festivities, which my wife has been looking forward to since last summer, I am in our room at a Kerrville motel taking a shower so I’ll be clean the next day in my tux. Standing as still as a line at a customs counter, I suddenly slip backwards and land on the bottom of the tub – it’s one of those shower-bath combos. Blam! My back left side hits the porcelain hard. So there I am, lying in on the floor of the shower, dressed the way God made me — and a wonderful job he did, I might say — with the water pouring on me, numb, unable to move.

“Is that you? What happened?” my wife asks from the next room. How to reply? “I did a two and a half gainer into the soap dish. Got a perfect 10.” Or: “You won’t believe this. Did you ever see ‘Splash’?” Maybe: “No, it’s Diogenes, looking for an honest presidential candidate.” Better not, because this is no time to smart off. I need help. Since then I have been very careful in the shower. Have you ever slipped while showering, or tripped getting in or out of the tub? Don’t feel alone. Here are some figures which are occasionally overlapping:

  • Unintentional injuries in all places result in an average of 21         million medical visits each year.
    • More than 18,000 individuals in the United States die annually from home-related accidents. That comes to about $220 billion in medical costs.
    • Slips and falls, often in the bathroom, account for about 5.1 million injuries a year, while scalding causes as many as 60,000.
    • According to the Home Safety Council, home accidents cause 20,000 deaths in the United States annually. Compare that with 742 deaths from plane crashes, 0.5 from shark attacks, and 70 from being struck by lightning.

By any count, it is dangerous to live in your house, but if you must, stay away from the bathroom. You may never get out alive. At this point, you could be wondering, as I do, who gathers these stats and how? Does someone from the Home Safety Council (I’m sure it’s a very good agency, but I never heard of it) go to every morgue, with a clipboard and ask, “Did he slip in the shower?” “No, he was in the shower, all right, with the water on high, blow drying his hair.” To compare their causes of death, are the number of shark attacks counted, and exactly whom is interviewed – the sharks or the lifeguards? As for being struck by lightning, I suppose statisticians check with the Lightning Victims Lawyers Association.

The solution: Install a grab bar, or several. on the sides of the shower stall, on the shower head itself, and don’t forget the soap dish. Five bars minimum. There is the easy way to install the kind that just stick to the walls with a suction cup. They can withstand a pull force of up to 10 pounds. I suggest you get the grab bars that require several Molly bolts, a welding torch and two licensed handymen to install.

Notice how I step out of the shower onto a bathmat that doesn’t move. A small but major exercise in safety is to make sure your bathmat stays still when you step on it. Some 13,000 people die every hour by slipping on bathmats. OK, I made that up, but it sounds as good as some of these other statistics. To keep your bathmat from becoming a flying carpet, only use one with a rubber bottom and doesn’t slide. This one is also glued to the floor, then I hammered 5-inch nails in at each corner. This mat hasn’t moved since I installed it three months ago. I guess it could use a wash. Another hint: clean up any water that splashes on floors right away. This can be done by bringing in a starving dog.

Other tips: Wearing a football helmet while showering helps, although the NFL says concussions are an urban legend. You can cut down on instances of slipping by refraining from using soap. Also, there is something to be said for showering only on an annual basis. One more point. Later I asked my son and daughter-in-law, both attorneys, the one medical question anyone askes in such a state: “Can I sue?’ They replied together: “Was there a rubber mat for the shower, the no-slip kind, and if, so, did you use it? If not, no suit.” No million-dollar lawsuit. So always use that dirty rubber bathmat rolled up by the side of the tub.

You may be wondering: “Whatever happened to you after the fall?” The next morning, in great agony, my son’s family – they were on their way to the camp closing – loaded me in the car and my wife drove me to a hospital. She never did get to attend the Camp Waldemar closing. Maybe I can sue Diogenes,

Ashby is all wet at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND GOOD RIDDANCE

December 21, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

By Lynn Ashby                               21 Dec. 2016

What a year it was. 2015 lasted 365 days, but it seems longer. Like eons. So now is a good time to look back at the days of whine and losses – the year when Texans shadowed the U.S. Army and just barely prevented a military takeover of Fort Hood. We had leaders and events which were so intelligent and sophisticated that Texas became a punchline for late night comedians. Makes you proud. Here we go, before Texas Monthly steals all our ideas for its annual Bum Steer Awards.

Friday Night Frights: In a football game between John Jay High School of San Antonio and Marble Falls ‍High ‍School, two Jay players intentionally blindsided a referee for allegedly making racial comments. The players were suspended and an assistant coach resigned for his possible role in the incident, which has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube.

Houston voters turned down an equal rights ordinance, HERO, by two-to-one, following opponents’ claims that the law would allow men to legally enter women’s public bathrooms – which is against the law, has been, will be. Houston has a lot of stupid voters.

The KTRU saga gets stranger and stranger. The 44-year-old Rice University radio station was quietly sold to UH for $9.5 million. Then UH changed things around, shut down the station – the city’s only classical music outlet – and put it up for sale. The whole episode stinks. A student at MacArthur High School in Irving, who liked to invent things, thought he had a winner when he brought a self-made machine to school. His teacher called the principal who called the police who slapped the 14-year-old in handcuffs. Ahmed Mohamed could have made a bomb instead of a clock. The lad came out ahead. He was given a full high school and college scholarship by Qatar, then he sued the school for $15 million.

A Toledo, Ohio, man ignored warning signs that there was a dangerous alligator in Burkhart’s Marine by Adams Bayou in Orange – jumped in anyway and was promptly killed by the gator. Driving Tip of the Year: Make sure you use your turn signals in Waller County. Worst Culinary Idea of the Year: (Pray for Whirled Peas Div.) A New York Times food critic recommended freshly shelled peas mashed into an avocado to make guacamole. Even President Barack Obama Twittered his dislike for the idea. And the Jan. 11 issue of the Times Travel Section listed San Antonio as one of the 52 best places to visit in the world in 2015, citing all the city’s attractions – the River Walk, museums, performing arts center, etc. It didn’t mention the Alamo.

Miss You: Dr. Red Duke, Guy V. Lewis.

Jade Helm 15: Gov. Greg Abbott is the official state panderer. Texas has a lot of stupid voters.

Austin is always chock full of funnies. For example, Austin-based American Phoenix Foundation secretly taped Texas legislators, lobbyists and journalists during the legislative session to catch them in everything from bribes to adultery, claiming they opened up the legislature to “transparency.” The foundation refused to say who was bankrolling the project. State Rep. Molly White pasted on her Facebook page that her staff would require visitors to her office to swear allegiance to the United States and renounce Islamic extremism.

Blackboard Bungle: Then we have our think tank of the 14th Century, the State Board of Education. After much work, hearings and debates the SBOE adopted new textbooks, one of which, the 2016 edition World Geography textbook, said the Atlantic slave trade “brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” Workers? The publisher, McGraw-Hill, said it would send the schools stickers to paste over the offending lines.

Hooked By the Horns: Turns out fired UT-Austin President Bill Powers intervened in negative admissions decisions for children of big donors and those with political stroke. To look into this scandal, a committee was appointed made up of, uh, former UT presidents and chancellors.

Could You Make That 39 Acres? Powers’ replacement, Greg Fenves, was offered a base salary of $1 million a year but asked it be reduced to $750,000. Said Fenves, the cool million would have a negative effect “on the ability of the president to work with the Texas Legislature on matters important to the university.” UT athletic director Steve Patterson was fired after only 22 months on the job. The good news (for him) is that he still had four years to go on his contract, so he got a multi-million dollar golden parachute.

The Howls of Ivy: Prof. Irwin Horwitz, 53, who teaches ethics and business management courses at Texas A&M University-Galveston, citing threats, student-spread rumors damaging his reputation, insults made to his face, rampant cheating and incompetence, gave failing grades to his entire class and quit the course. Finally in academics, sort of, Matthew McConaughey was asked to be the commencement speaker at a UH graduation. To get from a movie shoot in New Orleans, the actor had UH shell out $9,500 for a private jet, plus another $5,000 for a “groomer.” On top of all that, after much foot-dragging, UH revealed McConaughey was paid $135,000. He said he would donate that portion to charity.

In sports, Texan Lance Armstrong apparently had a few too many and sideswiped two parked cars in Aspen, Colo. Armstrong convinced his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, to take the blame, but the story fell apart. Another Texas playboy jock, Johnny Manziel, checked himself into rehab. When he got out, Manziel was caught partying in Austin, and the Cleveland Browns demoted him to third-string quarterback.

But our big winner is Blue Bell Ice Cream. Some of its products were found to contain listeriosis contamination. Three deaths and 10 hospitalizations were linked to the ice cream, while some contend Blue Bell initially hid the problem. We must hope the little creamery in Brenham has a big lawyer in Houston.

 

Ashby wins at ashby2@cincast,net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLAYING THE TRUMP CARD

December 14, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

By Lynn Ashby                                                        14 Dec. 2015

 

PLAYING THE TRUMP CARD

 

What do Donald Trump, the Longhorn Network and Hirohito have in common? No, not silly names, but masters of – drum roll — Unintended Consequences, or UCs. They set out to do one thing and end up causing exactly the opposite. Indeed, all of them would have done better for their cause just to do nothing. We may be witnessing a major UC in the Trump juggernaut. He is blowing away the opposition with his tell-it-like-it-is proclamations. Each time he rants, his ratings climb. But already some pundits are saying that Trump’s shtick is growing old, his Angry Man mantra is getting stale. They may be right. We have a long campaign ahead.

So here’s the UC: Trump is appealing to frustrated voters who want an outsider to set Washington straight. (He may run as an independent. Remember President Ross Perot?) If the Donald gets the Republican presidential nomination, is he too wild, un- electable and full of angst to win the Oval Office? This brings us to the woman he hates the most, except perhaps for a few ex-wives: Hillary Clinton. She is the inevitable favorite to win the Dem nomination, as we were told in 2008. If Trump is, indeed a political disaster, Hillary measures for new drapes in the Oval Office, and orders the Secret Service to keep an eye on her husband. Wait. Considering the Secret Service’s recent record with prostitutes and drunk driving, Bill may fit right in. Trump’s efforts to defeat Hillary could be the one cause for her election. (Speaking of things presidential, Richard Nixon erased tapes, lied and schemed to cover up Watergate. His efforts had a UC.)

Let’s look at a closer example. Steve Patterson was brought in as athletic director for UT-Austin. In short order he turned the operation into a ravenous, heartless business. At $167 million, UT had the largest athletic budget of any university in the nation, by far. Patterson raised ticket prices, parking fees, plastered ads everywhere. He also alienated alumni, faculty and, most importantly, rich donors. San Antonio billionaire Red McCombs, a longtime UT supporter, told ESPN about the eventual ouster of the money-mad Patterson, “It wasn’t working. It was building up from a loud holler to a shouting match that this guy is killing us.” Teasips are longhorns, not cash cows. His drive to raised funds for UT, and along the way, earn a huge salary, had a UC. Patterson was fired.

Then there is UT’s attempt to receive big bucks with its Longhorn Network, or LHN. The school got a big TV contract, but its football games on the network could only be seen in a sport bar in Marfa. For Texas A&M, the LHN was the last straw. The Aggies left the Big 12 for the SEC with its far more lucrative TV contract. Maybe the LHM had a bad case of UC.

The best examples, however, are wars. We can start right here. Gen.  Santa Anna attempted to put down a revolt in his northern province of Texas. He not only lost Texas, but his efforts led to losing everything to the Pacific Ocean. Santa, you should have stayed home. The South thought it would put Lincoln in his place by firing on Fort Sumter, a warning shot, so to speak. That would guarantee Southern independence and protect slavery. But those shots definitely had a major UC. Fast forward: Last summer Dylann Roof killed nine blacks in their Charleston, S.C. church, and cops later found photos of Roof with Confederate battle flags and assorted Rebel paraphernalia. His insane exploits set off a storm of angry sentiments, as Confederates’ statues and graves were moved and names changed. Roof, thanks to you, they ain’t just whistling “Dixie” anymore.

A Bosnian-Serb, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in an attempt to free Princip’s beloved homeland from the Archduke’s Austro-Hungarian Empire. As we know, Princip’s actions led to World War I, left 38 million people dead, Serbia was devastated and Princip died of TB in prison. Don’t do me no more favors, Gavrilo. Tokyo in 1941: Emperor Hirohito’s military leaders convinced him that if Japan wiped out the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the U.S. would sue for peace and Japan, led by you know who, would rule Asia. This brings us to the Understatement Award of the 20th Century: “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.” – Emperor Hirohito, to his people, upon announcing Japan’s surrender. Lastly, we have George W’s invasion of Iraq to seize all those weapons of mass destruction and bring democracy to the Middle East. Wow, did that work out well.

True, not all UCs are disasters. Columbus was looking for India. Aspirin was only a pain reliever. Then it was discovered that it is also an anticoagulant that can help prevent heart attacks and reduce the severity and damage from strokes. Viagra was developed to lower blood pressure, but clinical trials discovered a side effect. You probably have your own Unintended Consequences – ideas or actions that seemed like a good thing at the time, but didn’t work out. Remember that great weekend in Cancun? And the subsequent rash? You tried to save money by fixing the furnace yourself. Did the insurance cover the fire?

My own attempts included creating the International Society for International Societies. I guess I shouldn’t have called it ISIS. Then there was my plan for the State Department and ICE to fast-track Syrian refugees. I opened the Planned Parenthood franchise for Vatican City. The most telling UC was endured by Pontus Pilate and the Roman Empire. Hey, Ponti, I hear you tried to stamp out that religious movement led by some intenerate preacher from Galilee. How did that go? Getting back to Donald Trump, he is a loose cannon, fully loaded and constantly blasting away. Wonder if, because of him, Hillary will win and his worst nightmare will come true?

 

Ashby is a UC at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

A Double Feature: iPic Theaters and The Tuck Room

December 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Bars & Nightlife, Entertainment, Theater

IpicNestled in the new and luxurious River Oaks Shopping District, iPic Theaters offers a glamorous movie-going experience. The theater creates a unique experience for guests, giving them something beyond sitting shoulder to shoulder with other movie-goers. Houston’s the first to use iPic’s groundbreaking POD seating system with fully reclinable chairs and leg rests. Lounge in comfortable pods for two, swathed in soft blankets and pillows and watch the latest blockbuster hits like The Hunger Games007 Spectre, and Creed. Touted as the “ultimate movie experience,” we’re inclined to agree, making it a perfect date night experience.

While kicking back to watch the silver screen, premium food and drink items can be purchased. Forget the overpriced popcorn and soda—you can get a delicious BBQ Chicken Pizza for what you’d normally pay at any regular theater. iPic offers a membership program for loyal customers to enhance their visits; membership levels allow members to purchase tickets in advance and earn points with each ticket and food and drink purchase.

TuckRoom_Croquettes_0020_mediaWhile we definitely enjoyed the food with the theater experience, we’re singing praises on celebrity and three-time James Beard award-winning chef Sherry Yard’s dining concept, the Tuck Room. She teams up with acclaimed mixologist Adam Seger to deliver mouthwatering treats and cocktails, a perfect prelude to the premium experience that the theater offers. We feasted on amazing ahi tuna appetizers, moist lobster rolls, pulled pork sandwiches that BBQ lovers could love and addictive cheese croquettes. Foodies rejoice!

The cocktails are bespoke and tailored to you. Local ingredients and spirits are the key to some of our favorites like the zesty Handsome Little Devil, a powerful take on a Bloody Mary. The whole emphasis is on social dining, making it a perfect gathering spot for celebrations, even if a movie is not in the plans for the night.

Two thumbs up from H Texas!

 

 

A PLOY NAMED SUE

December 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

EAST OF AUSTIN – State Highway 71 along here is bumpy, but is far better than some of our state roads. Speaking of which, look at that car zooming along, weaving through traffic. We need more state troopers, but we can’t afford any more. Then there are our underfunded schools with their underpaid teachers, our mental homes that need some state inspectors, and so on. If only the State of Texas had money towards helping fix our problems.              Actually, we do have some money, millions, that would help, only they’re being wasted on lawyers handling useless cases, and losing many of them, just to pander to a fringe. Who’s responsible for this expensive debacle? If you voted for Gov. Greg Abbott or Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton, you are responsible, and the rest of us want our money back. How much money? A cool $13 million – $5 million suing and $8 million defending. The meter is still running.

You see, the State of Texas (that’s us) keeps suing the federal government (that’s also us — we’re paying both sides) to change the laws and legal opinions over matters such as voter ID, pollution and gerrymandering. This tilting at windmills began when Abbott was our attorney general (may we refer to the man and the office as AG?) who described his years in that post as: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and then I go home.” I’m not sure that’s what we paid him for, but those are his exact words. He did such a good job as AG that we promoted him to governor. His successor is Paxton, who apparently believes in the same job deception.

Between the two, they have sued the Obama administration 39 times. Their favorite target has been the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has the silly notion that Texans don’t want themselves or their children breathing polluted air – Texas has some of the worst in the nation. People along the Houston Ship Channel say they don’t want to breathe anything they can’t see. Their children have a saying: “I shot an arrow into the air. It stuck.” Of those 39 lawsuits, 21 have been against the EPA. The state already has spent more than $82,000 in one month fighting the EPA’s plan to cut carbon emissions. And, as noted, the meter is still running.

Another target is one that always tops Texans’ greatest worries: same-sex marriages. Many the night I have stayed awake — and no doubt you have, too — worrying about that. Paxton was so eager to pursue this evil that he waited only two months in office before suing the Obama administration over spousal benefits to married same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on this. Maybe we should chip in and give Paxton some change to buy a newspaper. It would be a lot cheaper. Nearly $1 million was spent to get the feds to sign off on our gerrymandering of the state’s 2011 redistricting maps for congressional and legislative seats. The state’s plan, the work of Tom DeLay, dices Travis County (Austin) into five – yes, five – different Congressional districts. One runs from Houston to Austin. That case became moot when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act.

Texans face another peril: Voter ID. The AG seems to think that hordes of undocumented aliens are sneaking into our voting booths to cast ballots for Poncho Villa. I have looked and cannot find a single instance of this happening, but you can’t be too careful. Although I do wonder why we have bi- and even tri-lingual ballots. If you can’t speak and read English, how do you know where the candidates are lying? (It’s easy – just see if their lips are moving.) Texas has spent $1.6 million trying to force the feds to accept our voter ID law. A panel of federal appeals judges in August called the law discriminatory. The state has appealed. If Paxton loses, he will appeal the appeal. Incidentally, we don’t have any of the on-going costs of the AG’s attempt to close all Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas, but they may be more than all the other legal posturing put together.

So how are we doing in court? According to the Houston Chronicle, which dug out these costs, the AG has won seven and lost eight. The other cases are either split decisions or still being fought. Paxton has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars in six new legal challenges since taking office in January. Thus we have more than $5 million in taxpayer money spent suing the feds. The AG’s office has umpteen lawyers already on our payroll, so these additional costs must be for outside legal help, plus travel, interviews, bar bills and probably a million or two under “miscellaneous.” Meantime, the state also has other legal problems such as lawsuits dealing with conditions in our prisons, UT’s unending battle over affirmative action and

Rick Perry. Why are they wasting their time and our tax dollars on these fruitless follies? It’s all a matter of priorities – political priorities.

Wait. It gets better, or worse. That $5 million tab, so far, is only money spent suing Washington. But Texas has been sued by the feds and has to defend itself. Paxton and Abbott have spent more than $8 million defending voter ID and redistricting. That’s $13 million, for nothing. One last bit of irony, and you couldn’t make this up: Paxton faces three felony charges for fraud. No, all Texans don’t have to pay for his case, but Collin County, that’s McKinney where the trial will be held, has budgeted $100,000 for Paxton prosecution.

Perhaps the priorities of Abbott and Paxton are not ours, and we could well spend those millions otherwise. Theyy are simply pandering to a small but vocal minority. Maybe we should change the official state animal to the panda.

 

Ashby is taxed at ashby2@concast.net