Thursday, March 5, 2015

How blinding is too blinding? LED advertising in League City

When are we going to set reasonable limits on the likes of this nonsense?!
LED business advertising sign on Highway 3, looking southbound toward the Walker Street intersection in the background.  The picture is a bit blurry because my telephone could not cope with the over-exposure - it messed up its ability to focus.  And if this sign did that to my high-tech phone, what do you suppose it did to my geriatric eyeballs?  
How many million megawatts of illumination are we going to permit before we start realizing that these new-fangled signs are completely blinding to motorists?  Especially older motorists whose eyes are no longer capable of adjusting quickly?  For an average older adult in good health, I estimate that they would experience a minimum of 10 seconds of visual impairment because of this thing - at least 5 seconds of being blinded during the approach to the sign, and at least 5 more seconds of perceiving abnormal darkness as the age-stiffened pupils slowly re-expanded to a degree appropriate to functioning in ambient night lighting.  During that 10 second period of impaired vision at this location, their car would travel at least 500 feet, during which I believe they would be seeing much less than they rightfully ought to be.  And that is downright dangerous.

I am not in favor of increased government regulation such as sign illumination ordinances (hint, hint) but apparently common sense is not going to prevail on this one (I took this pic while walking my dog last night, but this is by no means the only such sign in League City). And apparently we haven't yet had time for case law to deal with it either.  I'm not an attorney, but if someone blinds me in the roadway such that I run over a pedestrian whom I am prevented from seeing as a result of that blinding, then I would guess that both I and the pedestrian have a claim against the person who inflicted the blinding.  And if we can't act on that claim, I'm guessing that subrogation might get the job done for us.
Google screengrab on the subject of subrogation.
But is it really necessary to let it get that far?  Why can we not, as a society, realize that certain things are just plain stupid and then decline to do those things in the first place?  Instead, apparently we have to escalate into Sign Wars until someone (a City Council maybe?) draws the line and says "when".  Ugh...


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Upcycling scrap Parallam into a bench

Well, it's been just about forever since I've done a DIY post on this blog, mainly because the hubster and I have been customizing an RV that I've got showcased on a separate and unrelated blog.  But I'm going to interject a new DIY post now in part because Centerpointe Section 9 turns five years old this week, and this project is a propos of our original construction, which seems like only yesterday.

Being the proud owner of only the third build site that was sold in this 75-home section of the subdivision, I spent almost two years watching every possible construction scenario unfold here.  I was constantly bothered by the degree of waste that was occurring.  A giant heap of construction debris would form unceremoniously in the front yard of each new house as it was going up, and most of it was actually valuable stuff.  I would go around pilfering the piles, documenting my dealings with cell phone pics in case I ever had to prove that I wasn't "stealing" valuable construction supplies.  Because you really couldn't tell the difference, eh?  If I was discovered trotting happily down Arlington Pointe with a wheelbarrow full of Austin Chalk, who's to say I didn't pull it off the new stone pallets instead of from the dump sites?
I mean recycle - I don't mean five-finger discount.  Oh, waitaminute - I actually mean upcycle.
One of my rescues was of a section of Parallam left over from the construction of our very own four-car garage.
It's a great big sucker, as garages go, and there were several Parallam beams supporting the roof load.  You can see two of them here, at right angles to each other.  The piece I rescued from the trash pile was trimmed from one of those.  
Parallam is freakish-looking stuff - this is a view of the end grain of my scrap piece, post-finishing. 
For five long years, I hoarded that unwieldy piece of Parallam...
...and I'm channeling Christopher Walken as I say that...
...until finally I resolved to complete my originally-conceived mission and make a bench out of it.

Trouble was, my house is already chock full of furniture and I didn't need a bench - at least not a conventional 18-inch high sitting bench.  I needed a squat bench, which could be used for several purposes that I will explain in a moment.  Here is how I constructed it.
My squat bench would have low legs so that it could be placed alternatively under a window sill or in front of the fireplace.  The Parallam scrap was bloody heavy - over forty pounds - and so those legs needed to be robust.  I bought a standard piece of four-inch pine post and with the help of my better half, chopped four legs each about six inches high.  After allowing them a few weeks to dry, I primed them and painted them using the same paint as is on our fireplace. 
This is the bracket that I used to attach the legs to the Parallam slab.  About a buck and a half each at Lowes. 
These structural pieces were not intended for finish carpentry, of course, and I had to cut off these tabbed ends to give the piece a finished look. 
A chick and her power tools... it's a beautiful thing.  Dremel, in this case.
So then the deal is that you need to attach the brackets to the legs first.  I used drywall screws here because I'm sick and tired of buying new hardware for every project that comes along.  The drywall screws stick out a bit, but they are not visible on the finished bench.  
In order to prepare the Parallam scrap itself, I sanded it and gave it about ten coats of polyurethane, also sanding between successive coats.  Parallam is rather splintery and was never intended for furniture construction, but that's just a minor annoyance.  It looks so cool that I wanted to finish it.

That's my husband helping me to determine an optimal leg placement.  
View of the underside, two of four legs attached.  There is no bracket portion showing from the front or side of the finished bench.
Et voila - the finished product in situ.  
Allow me to insert this delightful aside:
Almost two years ago, I published a post titled "Modernizing a traditional home design with color, Part 1: Fireplace make-over" in which I described how one could spend less than two hundred dollars on natural slate tile and paint and achieve a fireplace look that was similar to a two thousand dollar all-stone fireplace.  My version is obviously not quite as grand, but it has analogous visual impact and focal-point weight at only one tenth of the typical cost.  Judging from the blog stats, it was a very popular post and I was probably the first person to do this - but others have since followed suit.  And every time I see someone channeling "my" fireplace on HGTV, I pause the program and take a commemorative pic of the fireplaces side by side, as this example shows.  So, yay design coup on this idea.  I appear to have influenced the course of residential design in America.  Many of the others even appear to be using the same shade of paint (Valspar Ocean Storm).

BTW, speaking of the five year anniversary of Centerpointe Section 9, you can tell that our TV is also five years old - the wide outer border is a dead giveaway of its advanced age (the body is also much thicker than current models).  It was cutting edge technology five years ago but it's obsolete today.  That's fine with me because we don't have to worry about anyone stealing it any more - it's no longer worth anything to speak of!
:-)
OK, back to my Parallam story.
Here is the close-up.  I've become quite the wimp in my old age, and every time we have one of those horrible damp freezing cold Houston winter days, I pull this bench out a bit and plop myself down in front of the open flame, dreaming of July temperatures.  
But it's not just the fireplace that this bench was designed to serve.
It's also an under-window bench.  This is my second bloom cycle for this orchid, which prefers this exact spot at my home office window. Trouble is, it got too big to sit on the window ledge proper, so it needs something else to sit on.  I can move the bench here in warmer times when I don't need it in front of the fireplace to help the warming of my ancient bones.

You can also see my oft-discussed principle of cross-referencing in this photo (what HGTV designers call "repetition").  The legs of the conference table, squat bench, and cabinet are all three different woods and different finishes, but they are all square, so they still look like they go together.  
Not bad for a $15 investment of brackets, polyurethane, and wood for the legs, wouldn't you say?  My only regret is that I wasn't better five years ago at pilfering other peoples' Parallam scraps, because I really could use one or two more of these little benches. I can see that now that I have finally completed this one after five full years of not quite getting around to it.
Because you have to have stuff to support your orchids.  Life would not be complete without orchids. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thanks extended to the "Money Mike" jury

I should have more faith in our local juries.  I should have more faith in our local society, but at times its collective wisdom gets drowned out by distorted national commercial news media rhetoric that seeks to elevate victimhood into something akin to sainthood.

I was afraid that the jury would screw up the "Money Mike" trial process, but in my opinion, they got it right by correctly weighting and apportioning responsibility.  I was pleased to see the verdict  but I was especially pleased to see the corresponding jury recommendation in this high-profile local prostitution / sexual assault case that involved a number of girls from my daughter's high school and thus was of particular interest to our family.

According to local media reports, the defendant was found guilty because the evidence indicated he was guilty, but the jury recommended probation rather than incarceration - a light sentence relative to what was possible under the law.

While it is literally true that a minor cannot legally consent to sex and that the girls in this case appear to have been genuinely assaulted, it is also true that personal responsibility does not spontaneously tumble from the sky in totality on the occasion of a girl's 17th or 18th birthday.  Instead, it is acquired gradually as maturity is developed. And any 16-year-old female (or even a 14-year-old female) being raised in our society should bloody well already understand the fundamentals of right and wrong.

Quoth the Chron report, "A female juror who refused to give her name said, "We felt [the defendant who paid for underage sex] did have some involvement, but at the same time we felt like the girls were responsible."" She's damned right they were. And if this trial had gone the wrong way and the commercial news media had gotten traction sufficient to sensationalize this incident into yet another boilerplate case of hapless females getting victimized through zero fault of their own, it would only have served to further infantilize young women at a time in our social evolution where the process of victimhood-claiming is embraced with an almost religious fervor. This jury has sent a strong message to all of our local young and middle teens that they will be held appropriately responsible for their behavior and their decisions, and I'm very thankful for that. Because if they aren't taught to accept personal responsibility now, they sure as hell won't be demonstrating it a few years from now when they enter early adulthood.

I personally thank the jury for its service.  A job well done.
But the flip side of that coin is that real girls don't sell themselves, particularly when they are old enough to know better, and particularly when they are financially secure enough not to need to resort to that kind of activity.   

Sunday, January 18, 2015

League City Public Safety Building grand opening

I was surprised this morning to find no press coverage of yesterday's League City Public Safety Building grand opening.  It was well-publicized in advance.  From the portion that I saw, the event was well-done and well-attended.
I was out and about doing chores yesterday, but I stopped to see the doggies.  
The K-9 demonstrations, in other words.  
Go, doggie, go!!  And I thought MY dog could run fast - this girl had some amazing physical capacity.  I learned a few things about how K-9's are trained and utilized.  Wish I'd brought my better camera.  
Anyway, the dearth of coverage is a bit perplexing to me at a time when all of America has been fixated on the relationship between law enforcement and the public, with the recent internationally-reported incidents in Ferguson Missouri, New York City, and other locations.  Locally, we have also experienced analogous incidents, including the officer-involved shootings in Texas City and Freeport, the latter of which has taken some perplexing turns as the victim is now apparently attempting to recant her initial strong and consistent statements.

So then what happens??  LCPD actually takes the time to do some interesting and positive public outreach, and I don't see a peep about it in the press.  If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead?  
Cartoon screengrabbed from this other Blogspot site but presumably copyrighted by the original maker.  My public commentary is non-monetized so I believe this is fair use.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rats on the rise

Happy New Year, and may your resolutions include a solemn vow never to leave pet food outdoors (if you are a regular reader, you've heard me say this before, here and here and here).  We continue to have what I interpret to be a growing rat problem in the subdivision.  They seem to be growing in audacity now, instead of just in numbers.
Bear in mind that the rat he found was probably dead because it was poisoned.  So now the dog is chewing the poison.  
Not only can poisoned rat carcasses pose a risk to pets, but rats that have lost their fear of humans pose a risk of disease and injury to humans (especially children who may be curious about them and who may not have developed the sense to stay away from them).  And when found in abundance in subdivisions, they can also attract poisonous snakes such as water moccasins into peoples' back yards.

We recently encountered one on our patio that was so bold that we had to kill it manually, which is not pleasant (they put up quite a fight and if you are not careful, they can attack you in retaliation for your raticidal efforts - it's their end strategy, and they can go for your face and neck with their razor sharp teeth).  I was simply trying to BBQ on our patio and the thing just would not leave me alone, so I had to call my husband for a coordinated kill.

If you've ever been to Central Park in New York City, you probably know just how bold these critters can become (watch this YouTube video called "Rat Attack" if you have any doubts).  Here is the Centerpointe rendition of that video.  Look how close I got to him with my cell phone (see the shadow of it).  I could have reached out and touched him, ugh.

Link:  Bold Rat in League City Suburb
Embed:


Friday, December 12, 2014

League City run-off election thoughts

No, I haven't been on vacation.  I write several blogs and I've spent the last interval of time racking up about 30 posts on one of the others.
I am unless I have activities planned, because vacations have the potential to bore me, indeed.  I'm not a fan of passive entertainment.  
Despite the unrelated blog-writing frenzy, I've been keeping one eye on League City's run-off election (municipal site here) and the usual propaganda and posturing involved with such a thing.  I was not impressed with the glossy that was mailed out in which every other LC Councilman endorsed Keith Gross (election URL apparently expired as of this writing).  Do you, the voters, really want a Council comprised of nothing but dittoheads??

I'm sorry for the term which I did not originate, and I don't find name-calling to be appropriate in most situations, but I have heard so many people refer to Council as "a bunch of conservative dittoheads" that by this time, the phrase is almost de rigueur.

Jason Long has some questionable history - I get that.  It's been well-expounded in the press.  Normally I would not even remotely endorse a candidate with his record.  But when I look at the big picture alternatives, I don't like what I see.  So, the rest of Council doesn't like J. Long, as they made clear with their mailer.  Is that really so bad in this context?  Who is going to be the counterweight, the whistle-blower, the check-and-balance, if the rest of them are all buddy-buddy?

Are you a conservative?  Good for you.  Now, engage your should-be-truly-conservative brain and remember that this is government we are talking about here.  I don't care what kind of label people are wearing - if they are uniformly buddy-buddy, the net result is frequently baddy-baddy.  Don't be the fool to assume that just because every candidate happens to be wearing your favorite label, that this has no potential to occur.  History doesn't prove it out.

As usual, the choices would seem to be less than ideal.  Maybe I should stick to that other blog I've been working on.
This is an oversimplification because it assumes there are good choices, but we should keep voting regardless, just to remain within the bounds of civic duty. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 League City election picks for City Council

Early voting for the City Council races in League City (plus many other muni, county, state, and federal positions) began yesterday but I withheld publishing my picks until today out of a desire for fairness and balance.  I wanted to incorporate the primary alternate editorial source, which is the recommendations put forth by Galveston County Daily News (paywalled), and also see some of those forum comments, so that you could compare and contrast both sets of picks in the process of doing your own evaluation and arriving at your own voting choices.

I note again for the record that this is a non-commercial, non-politically-affiliated blog that presents personal opinions only.  This blog is not associated in any way with Centerpointe POA; we just happen to live in the same named place.
Here we go... the early vote is now on!  Signs at the corner of SH 3 and League City Parkway.  
For those of you who are not familiar with my local involvement, I gathered the information that underpins my picks from the following sources:

  1. Daily reading of our local newspapers (GCDN and Chron; I am a paying subscriber to both, ca-ching!).
  2. Daily participation in local online discussion forums, some behind paywalls, and also email discussion threads.
  3. Daily general attention to League City goings-on for the past 5 years of my residency here.
  4. A little bit of attendance at a few historical City Council meetings and watching of additional meeting videos on the internet
  5. Attendance at the City Council candidates forum held on October 8, 2014 (you can see a full video of that forum here - not paywalled - with corresponding GCDN link here). 
  6. My own October 9, 2014 public appeal for historical context and additional "back-story" information on all candidates in competing races.  

Cutting to the chase, here are my picks, and I will describe my rationale for these choices in sections to follow this graphic.

POSITION 1:  BECKER vs. EWEND

My choice is either Becker (if you can stand him) or a no-vote in this ballot position (which is called undervoting) if you cannot stand him.  GCDN picked Ewend because they obviously cannot stand Becker, but I find that their rationale for doing so was weak and didn't take all relevant decision factors into proper account.  Becker is well-known for his obvious intelligence and League City managerial experience, but GCDN essentially argues that he's too much of a hot-head to deserve a vote.  My response to this is YES, he certainly is a hot-head, and furthermore, he does not seem to be improving himself in that regard.  But the example that GCDN gave was that of the fist-fight with fellow Council member Okeeffe, which I argued was mostly a cosmetic issue that, if anything, suggests that both men are probably honest at the core.  I don't pick my political candidates based on the cosmetics of their behavior or sensationalized news accounts of same.  Far more consequential in this analysis is Becker's Achilles heel:  Despite his higher IQ, he sucks out loud when it comes to risk assessment and decisional priority weightings.  I could provide you with specific, pointed examples but I'm afraid it would make this post too long, and so I will reserve that for later.

In my opinion, voting for Ewend would simply make a questionable Council seat much, much worse.  Ewend has not represented himself well during this election cycle.  Jim Guidry's local news service, which almost never crosses my radar, explained exactly how in an op-ed titled "The circus left Houston last week - a missed calling".  The writer described Ewend as "our town jester" and I agree with that evaluation.  Ewend seems to be intentionally making a mockery of the American democratic process and he has already cost the LC taxpayers unnecessary time and money with his absolute failure (or refusal?) to comprehend Ethics 101 (sorry - paywalled; can't find an open info source on that one).

In absolutely no scenario that I can imagine would Ewend be an improvement over Becker, as imperfect as Becker is.  Becker is the clear lesser of evils, as I see it.

POSITION 2:  CONES vs. MORRIS

I pick Morris because I think he's strong enough to deserve a chance to prove himself.  He's an attorney, so we get that proverbial "free attorney" on Council which is something we desperately need (and this is particularly important because I do NOT pick attorney Gross; explanation given in the next section).

GCDN picked Cones and argued their choice on the basis that nobody knows LC better than Cones does, but that's not necessarily a good thing unless Cones can also behave in a functional manner with respect to City business and relationships.  During my public appeal, every single piece of feedback I received on Cones was strongly negative, and every email was backed up with objective information that the commenters used to justify their thumbs-down (so it wasn't  just subjective ranting on their parts).  Whatever the hell Cones did during his previous Council tenure, he made a lot of enemies.  And we don't need enemy-makers on Council when we have a potentially better choice available in Morris.

POSITION 6:  GROSS vs. J. LONG vs. DAWSON

I pick Dawson for much the same reason that GCDN also picks her - because there is no other voice on Council who has proven themselves to be the least bit concerned about quality-of-life issues.  We desperately need a canary in our Council coal mine, and Dawson, as limited as she appears to be in certain functional respects (explanation omitted for brevity), has proven herself capable of filling that specialized role.  Dawson will be the whistle-blower when the rest of the WASPy conservative clones on Council step too far out of line.  And we really, really need that for counterpoint perspective if nothing else.

As further support for this pick, I note that Jason Long is not a good choice by virtue of his criminal record (paywalled) which calls his temperament into question if nothing else, and the fact that he does not represent himself well in debate (see the forum video for evidence).

As further evidence for this pick, I note that Gross is a litigator, an adversarial character whose mannerisms struck me as way, way too far toward a slash-and-burn mentality.  Watch the forum video and I think you'll see what I mean.  He does not appear to come to the table with a cooperative demeanor - rather it's a short-sighted, over-the-top attitude of (paraphrased), "You people are all screwing up spending money on moving oak trees and thank goodness I'm swooping in to save the good people of League City from your wild incompetence and dastardly influences."  We do not need that kind of attitude on Council given the personalities that we've already got.  He may be an attorney and he may have some professional strengths as a result of that, but that's not enough.

POSITION 7:  N. LONG vs. AL-SAHLI

Agreeing with GCDN on this one as well, I pick Nick Long for the simple reason that he's an extremely strong candidate, so strong that if he ran against any one of those others, he'd still be a shoe-in (danged pity that he did not choose to run against Becker).  In the candidates forum, Al-Sahli proved himself to be no slouch, and if he were running against a weaker opponent, I think he would be both electable and desirable as a Council member.  He seems to be a buoyantly positive, laid back kind of guy (in some instances, probably a bit too laid back for his own self-preservational good).  I sense that Mr. Abdul has a latent potential to become a Great Dispeller of Bullsh*t, if only he were given a chance.  I hope that decides to run again in the future if he loses his current bid.

There are my opinions for you to do with as you see fit in formulating your own.  With respect to voting resources, here are a few useful links.  Following the closing meme below, I will also reproduce GCDN's contrasting election picks with their own rationales presented in full for your consideration.



But not until the skinny lady sings.  Good luck at the polls.  
***
In the contested races for city council in League City, The Daily News recommends:
• Council Position 1: Jay Ewend. This is a case of addition by subtraction. The incumbent, Dan Becker, was arguably the most knowledgeable candidate at a recent forum. He provided informed answers on questions about debt and infrastructure. But League City got national attention when two council members got into a fistfight in the city manager’s office. Voters shouldn’t have to worry about things like that.
• Council Position 2: Tommy Cones. Cones had a colorful run during his previous tenure on council — and he could work on decorum. Nevertheless, few people know League City better.
• Council Position 6: Joanna Sharp Dawson. Attorney Keith Gross is an articulate candidate and would be a good choice, but Dawson deserves another term. She has been a voice of decency on a council that is sometimes bitterly divided. She’s also been an advocate for parks and historic preservation — interests that ought to warrant at least one spokesman in one position on council.
• Council Position 7: Nick Long. Long, a financial consultant, gave the most detailed view on how the city should balance debt with the need to build infrastructure to accommodate growth. While Long gets the endorsement, it’s hard to argue against the experience in operating small businesses offered by his opponent, Abdul Al-Sahli.