Thursday, September 18, 2014

City Hall scene

Small meteorite?  Wrath of God?  Micro-hurricane come ashore when we were not watching?  Graffiti shroud?  Grand unveiling about to occur?

Yeah, I know, it's most likely to be a roof leak or structural issue.  Given that it's only two years old, I hope it's still under warranty.
The blue roof blues, as seen yesterday evening.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An open letter to City Council candidate Abdul Al-Sahli

Mr. Abdul, as a candidate for League City Council Position 7, I am curious as to why your business chose not to lower its flags to half staff yesterday to commemorate the 13th anniversary of 9/11.
September 11, 2014, approximately 4:00 p.m.

Your exact role at this business is reported variably depending on the source, but it's clear that you have substantial authority there.  The DE website does not mention any owner or controlling entity by name and neither does the corresponding Secretary of State franchise page (officers and directors information is missing), but your own LinkedIn profile describes you as DE Flooring's "President".  I've heard people verbally refer to your relationship to this business in ownership terms (partial vs. full ownership not specified), and when I signed a small services contract with DE Flooring about a year ago, you were explicitly described to me as "the man in charge".  As such, it would appear that you are the authority who would be in the position to make administrative decisions such as flag-lowering.  
Yesterday was a day of national mourning in which American flags were ordered to half staff.
Screengrabbed from this site.  
Of course, not every private business in our area complied with this directive.  For instance, a day care center not far from DE Flooring also had flags at full staff.  The crucial difference is that the day care owner has not claimed a role for himself or herself as a political figure.  He or she is not currently running for an American public office and seeking the public's trust.
All public offices and most local businesses did lower their flags, however.  About three minutes after I took the above photo of DE Flooring, I took this one of ACU of Texas' League City branch, which has established an unfailing local reputation for its tasteful displays of patriotism.  
Even the initial act of declaring political candidacy is a demonstration of leadership, and the very first task of leadership is to identify with the people and confirm a strong connection to the people.  I intentionally looked at your place of business yesterday on my way home from work because I assumed you would be showing this kind of solidarity on a day when such observances are absolutely vital to the American soul.
While DE Flooring's flags were at full staff late yesterday afternoon, this is what was going on a short distance away.

Image courtesy of the City of League City.  
In your case, of course, the participatory issue goes beyond generic political candidacy due to your ethnicity.  I mention this because I personally think it's fair game to discuss that aspect of what you potentially bring to League City's political table (which is currently characterized by a woeful lack of diversity), and because obviously you think this is fair game, too - your campaign website specifically references that element:
Screengrabbed from this campaign page.  
As a Council candidate, it cannot possibly have escaped your attention that League City has spent the last two months embroiled in conflict over a City Council resolution that contained the phrase "radical Islamist terror groups".  While most reasonable people question the motivation behind the injection of this reference (and the resolution itself, for that matter), the unavoidable fact is that the resulting social conversation is well underway, and some of the questions being raised by local residents are arguably valid and deserving of responses (e.g., see the most recent discussion threads on Galveston County Daily News here and here).  Many of those questions boil down to a very simple inquiry:  which is more important to any given individual - their ethnicity and the religious and cultural factors that go with it, or their allegiance to America?  People genuinely want to explore that issue, and I believe that it is healthy for them to do so.

It saddens me that your business did not lower its flags yesterday.  I may be the first to publish this question, but I cannot possibly be the only League City resident who noticed those flags.  By not participating in the national observance of Patriot Day, you will give additional ammunition to those of the more extreme voices in the conversation who are quick to seize upon any perceived negative development to support their fears and distrust of other cultures, especially those that they believe are associated with Islam.  They're going to say things like (paraphrasing), "WTF??  This guy named Abdul Al-Sahli is running for office and he had the nerve not to observe 9/11?  See??  I've been telling you all along that these people are not really with us!"  Even if accidental, this type of outcome hardly seems consistent with your own stated campaign intentions.

I hope you will address this question, not to me, not to this blog post, but to those who deserve your response - the good people of League City, Texas.
On top of everything else we've got going on locally, yesterday was not an "ordinary" 9/11 anniversary - it had a larger sadness component than those in recent memory.  All of America is increasingly anxious because, every single day, there is a new news story documenting the burgeoning power of the group known as Islamic State.  We don't know what will happen, but we know that thousands of people have already died, and thousands more will surely die, with or without the planned American airstrikes.  

I could not get done with work in time for League City's memorial service yesterday, but I did pause to face these half-staff flags in front of another City Hall about 50 miles from here.  I stopped to pay my respects and to say a small prayer for international peace.  I also pray that we can reach a better state on our local level, a state in which we can all understand each other more deeply than we obviously do today.   

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Beware of other critters, too

Please try not to run over that large tortoise who is currently insisting on traveling straight down West Walker Street.

I picked him up near Cypress Pointe and deposited him in a safer area, but when these guys get a mind to head toward a particular destination, they often can't be redirected, and it sometimes doesn't end well.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Beware of local area snakes right now

My husband and I met some friends for dinner Monday evening at Mamacitas on NASA Road 1.  Sitting in the passenger seat on the way home, I noticed a bit of road debris out of the corner of my eye.  "That's an odd shape for a strip of retread," I thought to myself.  As reality came into sharper focus, I bellowed to my husband, "HOLY SH*T - I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST WATER MOCCASIN EVER!" 

Twenty-four hours later, a similar encounter, only this time on our West Walker Street sidewalk a short distance from the LC police station.
Sitting there like the serpent in our suburban Garden of Eden.  I was walking our dog just after dusk and I didn't have a clear view of this critter while we were out there.  I had to come home and upload the cell phone pic before I could declare what the species was (the picture was taken with a flash, which made the details easier to see).  
You don't really need to declare the species - if you live in these parts, the safe thing to do is treat any snake you see as venomous, every time, regardless of what you can see of it.  Now that I can view the image on the computer, I'd put money on it actually being a nonpoisonous water snake.  Nevertheless, in the dark, it acted much like a moccasin, refusing to yield the right of way.  I was afraid that some hapless soul would come jogging down the sidewalk in the dark and get struck by it, so it had to clear the area.  I was compelled to put a bit of a beatin' on it before it would agree to return to the retention pond.  (He's OK though.  Just a bruised ego.)

So I saw two big snakes in the space of two days - why?  Well, the rains have been good this summer and wildlife is flourishing as a result.  We have quite a robust collection of juvenile hoppy toads (Bufo bufo) and they enjoy cruising on concrete surfaces, which brings out the snakes.
They tend to do a lot of this when environmental conditions are favorable.  And then they get eaten by other things.

Screengrabbed from Wikipedia.  
Mind also that the work crews have now buried at least one section of that new pipeline in the Interurban easement. This work is taking for-ev-er, but as soon as they get that pipe laid, they'll be removing their mile-long segment of board road.  And what I expect is that an entire summer's bumper crop of snakes is going to come boiling out from underneath all that lovely man-made habitat as they pull it up.  Maybe just in time for the grand opening of the adjacent Public Safety Building.
Ah, memes... who thinks of this stuff?!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Questionable Decision: A strange adjunct to the LC immigration resolution

DirecTV subscribers in League City Texas can see a bizarre case of art echoing life on their very own TV sets right now.  Bear with me for a moment while I set the stage for context.

The debate over the League City immigrant resolution rages on, both within City Council meetings and in the press, largely in Galveston County Daily News, where the comment count is now among the highest I've ever seen.
Front of the proposed resolution.  I re-published the original text in this July 2014 post
The resolution's reference to Islam has long since eclipsed the original debate about whether or not to receive Latin American immigrant children in League City.  Some League City Muslims are still actively opposing the reference, but the people who support it have also been vocal.
Based on the current reporting, it doesn't seem like either side exhibits a clear majority at this point.

Screengrab courtesy Galveston County Daily News.  
It's immediately apparent from reading the GCDN comment stack that many of the resolution supporters have taken their positions out of what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) as an abundance of caution.  That stance appears to arise because many people simply don't feel like they have a reliable lens through which to discern what Islam means on a local scale.  This perspective was quoted in a GCDN piece as having been stated in a Council meeting:  “During (the public comments two weeks ago) of the individuals who spoke, representing the Muslim community, never once did I hear an allegiance to this country, to our flag, to our Constitution, to anything about the American way of life,” Russell Fielder said during the public comment portion of council to a round of applause from many on the council.  In a similar vein, one commenter on GCDN noted, "It is long past time that normal, moderate Muslims speak out against radical Islam."

What both of those communications suggest is that residents simply lack a coherent framework for parsing any of this.  What they expect or hope to see doesn't exactly match the reality that has manifested.  Thirteen years after 9/11, this is apparently where we still are socially, for reasons that I'm not sure anyone really understands.

Case in point where such confusion and discrepancy is concerned - the oddness of what's currently offered in juxtaposition on your DirecTV service: two versions of the same classic American movie, but one of these things is no longer like the other.
I'll get to the explanation in a minute.

Screengrabbed from this site.   
Executive Decision has always been one of my all-time favorite movies.  It was made 18 years ago, "back in the day" when suspense films were still built primarily on plot and character development rather than on mindless ADHD-inspired computer graphics.
The film also showcased Kurt Russell's unparalleled work ethic as an actor.

Image screengrabbed from this site.  
Not only was the film a gutsy depiction of a very difficult subject (that being "radical Islamist terror groups"), it was also noteworthy for having featured a 747 aircraft that actually was bombed by such a group, that being the following:
In 1982, a bomb was detonated on PAN AM Flight 830, resulting in the death of one minor child and the injury of 16 other people.  Despite the resulting damage, the plane was able to make a successful emergency landing in Honolulu.  The aircraft was apparently re-painted for the movie with the fictitious airliner name "Oceanic".  Either that or they just used it for interior shots.

Screengrabbed from Wikipedia.
Executive Decision was a stunning portent of 9/11 five years before it unfolded, and as far as I'm concerned, it's a creative work of national significance.  But prior to being released on Blu Ray, Executive Decision was "edited", or, some would say "censored", for reasons that are not clear.  Furthermore, I can't find a single source on the internet which describes the full extent of what was done to eviscerate the film.  Most references such as this one and user Iceboy's Amazon review primarily cite digital alterations to the imagery, including removal of certain religious references and deleted scenes.  But I believe that the most significant changes actually involved extensive dialog dubbing throughout the movie, dubbing which changes utterly the character of the film and manifests most strongly with this scene.
A suspicious glare indicating a sea change of attitude 1 hour and 24 minutes into the movie:  When the leader of the terrorist group finally reveals his plan to utilize the jet to strike a deadly blow against countless innocent American citizens, his second-in-command revolts, stating, "This has nothing to do with Islam.  This is not [the Deity's] will.  You are blinded by your hatred and I will have nothing to do with your plan."

But the same lines in the censored version are spoken very differently, indeed.

Screengrabbed from my TV set.   
The bizarre part is that, if you so desire, you can currently watch both the censored and the uncensored versions at the same time.  If this situation is of interest to you, it's an opportunity for you to compare and see for yourself what's been done to the film.
The Encore HD version is the Blu Ray version available for instant access.  The Encore Suspense ("ENCSUS") version is the original uncut version.  I recorded both versions within 24 hours of each other this past weekend.

Photo from my DirecTV list with intervening screen space eliminated for clarity.  
The resulting existential questions are as follows:

Why was the movie altered in the first place?  The original version was arguably quite responsible to Islam by forming an explicit distinction between Islam and that which has "nothing to do with Islam" but is instead driven by "[blind] hatred".  This is much the same distinction that the GCDN commenter was seeking in referring to "normal, moderate Muslims" as opposed to "radical Islam".  What benefit to understanding is derived by obscuring this essential distinction in this film or in any other context?  Clearly, we need more of that distinction, not less.

Why are Americans provided primarily with the censored version?  I can understand Warner Brothers / Warner Home Video wanting to change the tone of the movie in certain restricted distributional regions where such actions might be expected, but they only made one Blu Ray, that being the censored version.  In general terms, most Americans are probably going to default to the Blu Ray as their obvious choice (audio and video quality are both superior to the DVD). Given the age of the film, most present-day watchers may not even know that an original version of the movie exists.  In more specific terms, why am I sitting on my flat American butt in my house built on American soil accessing an American content provider streaming an American-made classic movie which has effectively been censored?!  What the hell is up with that?!

The whole thing doesn't sit well with me, and it is an example of what is working against those people who are honestly trying to put Islam into an appropriate social perspective.  "Censorship" is one of the dirtiest words we have in America, provoking immediate defensiveness and hostility in those who sense that they have encountered it.  What's been done to Executive Decision is just going to raise even more suspicions and questions and confusion about perspectives and allegiances where Islam is concerned, both locally and elsewhere.
At least the "editors" had the guts to admit what they had done.

Screengrabbed and annotated from this site.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

League City newspaper, Part 2

Where's Woolsey?

Search hint:  Even without red and white stripes, publisher Leonard Woolsey does bear a bit of resemblance to Waldo, especially in the glasses.  
That's the large-format portion of the pile of "mail" that I excavated from my box late yesterday afternoon, viewed as it was tossed unceremoniously onto my home office conference table.  Knowing that the League City - Kemah Connection newspaper was supposed to have been launched yesterday (paywalled), I was initially disappointed - I thought my address had been passed over (not an uncommon occurrence given the young age of our subdivision section).  I almost threw the entire stack into the recycle bin, but then I spotted it.
It looks like this.  Don't throw it away without first looking at it.  
I was a bit disappointed at the mode of presentation.  I'm afraid that people really are going to have trouble distinguishing this from the constant onslaught of junk mail with which we all must deal, and I fear that a lot of folks are going to toss it without even realizing what it is (particularly true because its launch was not well advertised, so many local residents are not expecting it and did not know in advance what it was going to look like).

It may, in fact, be the case that GCDN arranged for delivery on days when typical advertising flyers were not scheduled to be avalanching.  But here's the issue with that:  Most of us no longer check our mailboxes every day.  What's the point??  Particularly for those of us who receive all of our important correspondence, bills, bank statements, etc. electronically, plus we have the security of a USPS-issued clusterbox, checking the mail is something we often do only on trash or recycling days, and only for disposal purposes.
This postal worker hit the nail on the head with this response.  If not for eBay and Amazon, I would not traipse to my mailbox at all.  I would attempt to close it and not accept hard-copy mail delivery, period (which would be the Final Solution for the junk mail that I haven't been able to control even though I paid for a service to have it stopped).  Perhaps when Google gets its delivery drones airborne, we'll be able to take that logical next step and be done with residential USPS delivery once and for all.

Screengrabbed from this "Ask a Mailman" site
But there's good news in all of this, too.  My initial fear that this newspaper would be a simple post-shelf-life content recycling mechanism was apparently unfounded.  The articles are largely original.  Furthermore, they are picking up on the types of issues I've been hoping to seed on this blog (good news given that I don't reach 30,000 homes).  Cover story?  Five Corners, for which I commenced a post category earlier this year.  Additional content?  Information on the fact that there's a $200 million TxDOT project to improve SH 146 in Kemah and Seabrook, which I also screamed bloody murder about.
Perspective such as this is intended to wake up our local politicians, who arguably are not doing their jobs in getting our practical issues resolved.  The Five Corners fiasco has been lingering for far too many years now.  Screengrabbed from this April 2014 post
So there's the potential for the transmission of issues and ideas with this thing.  Write to the editor and publisher of this new newspaper if you have local concerns (;  Write to me ( -at- gmail) if you think that bellowing needs to be done on a particular issue.

And incidentally, for those of you who engage in only periodic USPS mailbox excavation mostly for disposal purposes, I found a really neat product that might be of assistance to you.
It's the Barnes and Noble felt tote.  It's a very heavy but small bag.  And oh, the style is divine.  Very modern, just the way I like it.  Comes in three colors.  I like the gray.  They are available at the Clear Lake (Baybrook) Barnes and Noble on Bay Area Blvd. (at least they were as of August 29, 2014).
I think it was designed to be a "book bag" of sorts, but the size almost exactly matches the size of my USPS mail clusterbox.  Typically when I do excavations, I'm struggling with an armload of miscellaneous paper and at least one of the pieces will need to be chased madly down the street as it escapes my control and gets blown by the wind.  With this thing, I just scoop all the junk mail into the bag, which stays open by virtue of the stiffness of the thick polyester felt.  Much easier than trying to use one of those floppy re-usable canvas grocery sacks for the same purpose.  And given that this bag stands upright of its own accord, it is an excellent small receptacle for in-house paper recycling, too.  Nice stylish convenience for ten bucks.

As always, this is a noncommercial blog presenting personal opinions only.  I accept no compensation for recommending any particular product or service.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New League City newspaper

Actually it is touted as a League City - Kemah newspaper (paywalled), but given that LC's population is forty-seven times that of Kemah (2012 Census per Google), I'm betting (hoping?) that it will be weighted in favor of LC despite Kemah's outsized local economic impact.
For this one, apparently you won't have to subscribe - the first issue is scheduled to be delivered into mailboxes (? an interesting approach unlike those that currently prevail) on August 29, 2014.  The paper will be a project of Galveston County Daily News.    
I have long wailed about the abysmal state of local reporting; in fact, I have a blog post category devoted to that subject.
This dearth of coverage is not a local phenomenon but rather reflects the overall decline in conventional newspapers as a social institution.  This is the latest version of Dr. Mark J. Perry's famous newspaper free-fall chart, courtesy of this Carpe Diem post.  It's worth reading his analysis if you have any interest in what's happening with the industry.  And also this HuffPost article with an embedded slide show titled "Top 10 Dying Industries".

Update:  Amusingly, seven days after I posted this diagram, GCDN ran a story titled "Newspapers are still here and still making money" (paywalled money).     
I have no idea how the new paper will be structured and what degree of quality will characterize it.  When I read that it will be published only once a month, I immediately became concerned that it will largely amount to a content-recycling effort.   In other words, a vehicle by which paying subscribers will receive paywalled content in real time via GCDN, and non-paying subscribers will later receive that same content for free after its shelf life has effectively expired.  But do you know what??  Even that much would be a darned sight better than what we've got right now, where the majority of our population doesn't have good opportunities to receive local news at all.

I am a bit perplexed, however, at GCDN's initial positioning statements, which include the following:  "While not always sexy, keeping residents informed about taxes, property values and the decisions by locally elected officials is critical to a healthy community."  Geez, guys, be careful not to fall all over yourselves with your marketing exuberance!  With promotional representations like that, who needs enemies?!

Anyway, stay tuned for more analysis on this one.
It remains to be seen what that is.