Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beleaguered logo

Odd that this issue should arise shortly after I did a big post on local art.  GCDN published this piece on League City's new logo. 
Screengrabbed from a PDF published by GCDN.  I particularly don't like that bottom one because when I look at it, all I see is Hurricane Ike's storm surge covering the lowlands north of Coryell.  And I see the next hurricane's storm surge.  Those waves appear to be overtopping each other and coming straight at me. 
Here are just a few of the issues that I see with the adoption of this thing:

(1) Why weren't residents notified via a realistically-accessible means of information transfer that a logo choice was even being considered? As I've observed in other posts and on one or two GCDN comment forums, I'm signed up to receive pretty much every e-mail blast that the City issues.  A google search of my email stack revealed neither the word "logo" nor the word "marketing" mentioned anywhere in approximately the past six months. 

Expounding on that idea...

(2) Why weren't residents consulted on the final choice that was made?  City Council missed a great opporunity to actually make itself available to its own constituents here because potential logo designs could have easily and cheaply been put to an on-line vote.  When Texas put the new license plate design to a vote a few years ago, people were so overjoyed at the chance to participate in the decision-making that they hobbled the state's computer system"We're really excited people want to vote. It tells us we've done the right thing to put it out there," Perkes said. "However, not all of the more than 20 million registered Texans can vote at once. So we've had a few glitches, people have slowed down the system."
The people spoke.  You have to respect the results.  And you have to respect that they were given the opportunity to vote in the first place.

Screengrabbed from this Chron article
(3) Why is a commercial representation seen as being so desirable from a marketing standpoint?  Is "who we are" really defined by a sailboat?  How many League City residents own sailboats anyway?  I'm betting it's a tiny minority.  In fact, I can't even name you a single League City resident known to me who self-identifies with sailing.  And I know a fair number of people here. 

(4) If a commercial design has to be chosen, why does it have to represent such a small minority of our geography and our population?  Take a look at a map of the city limits of League City:
Low-res screengrab from Googlemaps
We're not a waterfront city.  Kemah and Seabrook are waterfront cities well-defined by their waterfront geography.  We, on the other hand, are characterized by only a miniscule frontage of the type that is suitable for the sailboats that are represented in the logo.
It's about a two-mile stretch north of Marina Bay Drive, where a tiny minority of our population lives. 

Screengrab from this Wikipedia entry
(5)  Why does the logo have to be so profoundly formulaic?  OMG, could there possibly be a more "been there, done that" choice than a stylized sailboat?  Do you doubt me on this point?  If so, behold this collection of muncipal logos grabbed from the internet during a sixty-seven-second image search that I just did:

I could go on and on with those, but this is the point:  Is a stylized sailboat really the best we could have done?
NO KIDDING!!!  Sailboat logos are so common that Zazzle sells templates for $12.95
My bottom line:  This new logo represents a lateral move at best.  It's no less unoriginal than our last logo which, by the way, is only four years old - a fact that eludes to League City's ongoing struggle to define itself (with "struggle" being the term used by the city itself in the opening sentence of this document).
We have only had this one for four years now.  Screengrabbed from this Chron site
With a little work and creative iteration, we could do better, folks.  But for that, we'd need the type of participatory opportunities that have yet to be exended by the City of League City

Monday, February 25, 2013

Art that wows

With a nod to yesterday's post in which I explained the intentional cost allocation strategy that underpins the ongoing development of our Centerpointe home, I wanted to talk about a couple of really wonderful local art-buying experiences we've had in the past few weeks.

First, a little background.

Houses have to have stuff in them if they are to look and feel like homes.  That stuff includes furniture, linens, draperies, decor, etc. 
It doesn't have to be a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses ostentatious display, but maybe some window blinds and an end table and a piece of art to hang on the wall here?

Oh, by the way, is that ma-ma-ma-Mayo furniture they're sitting on?

Microsoft clip art.
I really enjoy art.  It profoundly impacts my mood.  Good art represents the highest and best creativity that humanity can muster.  When I see a piece of art that appeals to me, I feel a deep sense of respect for the hard-working artist, and it motivates me to act in kind - to work hard, to enjoy myself in the process, and ultimately to produce something meaningful of my own (the idea being, if those artists can do it, I can do it too).  When I look at a good piece of art, I can tell that the artist cared about the execution and was personally vested in the creative process.  It's a very positive experience to even see a piece of art out of the corner of my eye and have it register subconsciously for what it symbolizes. 
Hopefully this is the same couch couple now engaged in a hunt for some decent art.  I love what she's done with her hair. 

Microsoft clip art. 
So I've always wanted to have a few pieces of art in my home, but like most middle-class people, I spent the earlier decades of life not being able to afford anything original.  So I did what most people do: I bought reproductions, and used those items as decor.  But obviously, twenty dollar facsimilies don't carry the same emotional relevance as a hand-crafted item, so the impact was never there.

These days, I'm on the hunt for modest pieces that I can use to replace, one by one, my original cheap knock-offs.  And here are a few great examples of what I've recently found.
"You don't own the rights to that image," my husband teased as I was photographing this piece of pottery. 

"I'm betting that if I use it promote Richard Eastman's work, he will find it in his heart to forgive me," I replied.

Here is an additional site for Mr. Eastman.  As of the date of this blog post, that page included the piece I photographed above. 

As for what this piece of art is saying, here's what I interpret:  Our fanciful cities with all of their structural grandeur and technological advances are not as central to our most fundamental experiences as they may seem.  At the heart of humanity is something much simpler, much more primal, but no less well-organized and robust. 
The aspect of art that appeals to me most strongly is its potential to wordlessly associate that which is not immediately obvious on a conscious level.  If you're a regular reader of my design posts, you'll know instantly what drew me to this pottery piece shown above.
"Ma-ma-ma-Mayo furniture!!"

It stylistically echoes my recently-made-over couch.  Cross-referencing is king, in art and in life. 
Here's a partial screengrab of the promotional postcard that I received when I purchased that pottery.  What do you notice about it?

 Ah hah!  You spotted it, didn't you?!  Eastman exhibits in our very own Butler Longhorn Museum

(And by the way, if you'd like to write a glowing review about Butler, you're going to have to get in line,  because I did it four weeks ago, Gonzalez did it this past weekend, and Taylor editorialized it this morning with the auspicious tag line This rates a 'wow!')

Anyway, this was a most excellent way to acquire the piece of art which now shakes hands with my couch:  I bought it from Butler Longhorn, the staff of which reported that Eastman is a friend of the museum, a strong advocate who gives a healthy commission to them on the art sales that they originate from his collection.  'Wow' all the way around! 

Ah, but my recent art adventures didn't stop there.  Read on for additional local artistic intrigue. 

The phrase "crawling from the wreckage" came to mind as I wandered the still-barricaded streets of downtown Galveston on the morning of Sunday February 10, 2013.  I was chaperoning two bleary-eyed teenagers who had, in turn, been shepherded by one of their tag-teaming fathers the night before as they watched the Momus Grand Night parade and other Mardi Gras events. 

As we wandered without explicit purpose, we stumbled upon the Rene Wiley Gallery on Postoffice Street.   It looked interesting.  I sent the girls in, instructing them to come hold the dog when they were done, so that I could take a turn looking inside, too. 

Overhearing this, the gracious proprietor invited me to bring the dog inside.  Bring the what into the where?!  Bring my dog into the art gallery - this rates a 'wow!'.  A man after my own heart. 
One of Ms. Wiley's paintings is displayed on the cover of the current Galveston Monthly.   
And so I did bring my (bow) wow dog into the art gallery.  To make a long story-to-be-told-later short, I didn't make any decisions regarding any paintings, but I did buy a Dale Hooks turned bowl.  How could anyone resist the likes of this?!

Mr. Hooks does absolutely stunning work!!  This is pecan wood from an Ike-killed Galveston tree.  Talk about the power of associations - what could be better than something so beautiful arising from such a deadly and horrible event?  It's like a metaphor of the human spirit crawling from the wreckage and rising from the ashes.  I couldn't resist. 

This KHOU article is worth reading.  It describes Mr. Hooks' journey into artistry and our area's post-Ike art efforts. 
I see my life flashing before my eyes in the detail of this ancient pecan.  I see trees breaking and buildings tearing in the intense gale of Hurricane Ike.  I can still hear the relentless, awful noise, and I remember myself wishing that the eye would hurry the hell up and pass over us, just so that we could have twenty minutes of peace in which to rest our ears and draw our breaths.  Just twenty damned minutes of quiet was all I hoped for in the wee hours of September 13, 2008 - just a temporary respite from all that terrifying noise.  But we were holed up inside The Loop and the eye remained over Galveston Bay, so that peace never came for us.  Part of me is still waiting for it, even now. 
So Mr. Hooks of Texas City now shares a spot on our TV console alongside Mr. Eastman of Houston.  And I'll have more to say about our local art scene at a later date, because I ain't nearly done exploring it. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A word on that tag line

I swear, I do more with my spare time than buy new stuff.  If one reads only this blog without any context on my intentions, one might think that I'm every cash register's best friend and every credit card's worst nightmare.  That I'm a one-woman Borg of buying (resistance is futile).  Gardens, landscaping, fences, light fixtures, unconventional furniture, unconventional wall art - you name it, it's in here. 

I can offer some perspective on that.

It was always our explicit intention to develop a suburban work of art that illustrates the following principle which is very simple, but which nonetheless appears to be totally lost on many greater Houston homeowners: You can buy a smaller house and customize it for less money than you'd pay for a larger generic house in the same neighborhood
Some folks downsize their houses in order to save money.  We downsized so that we would have more financial freedom to customize.  In coming to Centerpointe, we were actually move-up buyers who decided to slim down, at least on the size of the structure. 

Motif screengrabbed from this CBC quiz on downsizing
Houses in Houston (and elsewhere) are largely still priced (and taxed!!) on that one antiquated metric: square footage.  But the square footage doesn't say anything about how well a house "works" for its owners because the functionality is more a derivative of design than absolute size. 

Screengrab from this WaPo piece succinctly titled "Price per square foot can obscure a home's real value".
Our house is intentionally almost seven hundred square feet smaller (wow!) than the Centerpointe median.  We paid a correspondingly smaller base price on the front end, but it was always our intention to put some of the corresponding savings onto the back end - and invest it into forms that are both value-added and non-taxable.  That's the reason why I do things like develop a room with multi-functionality that derives from its fixtures rather than its footprint, and why I shoe-horn wildly productive (and largely portable) vegetable gardens into a postage-stamp-sized back yard. 

Anyway, my point in saying this is not to be defensive, but just to note that I'm conscious of the fact that some of my posts, if viewed in the absence of this perspective, almost appear antithetical to the tag line I chose for this blog (i.e., the pair of sentences at the bottom of its hit-counter-changing frontispiece). 
THAT tag line.  Pretty cool recursion trick, eh?
My original point in choosing that subtext was to elude to the fact that life in an American suburb can be much deeper intellectually, creatively, and socially than the superficial anonymous exercise in mindless consumerism that stereotypical representations often make it out to be.  With that in mind, my ongoing buy-a-thon is not an exercise in mindless acquisition of cheap crap from China.  It's all part of a master functionality plan that is still in the process of executing three years after we built this house. 

In taking this approach, we put the "fun" back into "functional" for ourselves.  Between my husband and myself, our Centerpointe home is the sixth suburban house that we've owned.  Sooner or later, one gets to the point of tract-home boredom where quality-of-life concerns start giving purely-resale concerns a run for their proverbial money.  That's where we are in our respective lives, and why this little work-of-art suburban dream continues.
A trippy commentary on cookie-cutter-ism screengrabbed from this rather avant garde site

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ship the light fantastic, Part II

Running a blog with a local theme and at least a bit of local readership, I sometimes experience a curious phenomenon: People will respond to some of the things I've written in personNot by blog comment, not by email, not by text message, not by any of the other social messenger services.  It's really wild!  You'd think we were all human or something, actually communicating face-to-face! 

Anyway, with that in mind, I got a bit of feedback on my pendant light obsession, which I described in a December 2, 2012 post titled "Ship the light fantastic".  In that post, I described the difficulty I had locating an over-the-dining-table light fixture that did not incinerate my eyeballs.

Whether single or multi-bulb, conventional pendant lights glared into my eyes and made me feel like I was about to have my appendix surgically removed, when all I really wanted to do was eat a relaxing meal.  This is a view of our original fixture, taken as I was lying on the operating dining table, staring up at the ceiling. 

I ended up acquiring this fascinating contraption, which my husband now refers to as The Death Star.  It fulfilled my criteria of looking really cool and contemporary while not shining light directly into my eyes, but it was ridiculously expensive and I didn't think that its construction was very robust.   
Anyway, as is often the case in life, additional options were brought to my attention, some via face-to-face interaction, only after I had resolved my initial predicament.  But I thought these additional options were interesting enough to comment on anyway, even though my primary purchase has already been made.
As it turns out, IKEA Houston does sell pendant fixtures that are specifically designed so that the hottest part of the bulb is prevented from shining directly into your eyes.  This very inexpensive example has a shield-type thing below the bulb. 
Same idea, bigger fixture, at one-tenth the price I paid for the Death Star.  But even with the shield, there's some side glare, as you can see (squint, squint). 

So why didn't I discover an option such as this in my original search?  Well, if you search the IKEA web pages for pendant lights, they only show the light fixtures straight-on sideways, perpendicular to the cord.  You don't get to see the undersides, and that's where the magic happens (or doesn't). 
View looking almost straight up from underneath (I didn't want to completely sprawl out on the table in IKEA when I took this).  The effect is not as much like an operating table, but it still reminds me a bit of a dentist's chair.  Gulp. 
Given that we were newly-educated on the whole headspace of pendant light shopping by virtue of having acquired the Death Star, we finally got around to replacing the builder-grade fixture in our daughter's room about two weeks ago.
Ah, the proverbial "secondary bedroom" light fixture installed by the builder.  My husband and I were in a big box hardware store one day, and we spied this same fixture offered for about six whole dollars.  Ever since that day, we've been systematically ripping what we call "the six-dollar fixtures" out of our house and replacing them. 

A thing like this, as tiny as it is, throws very poor light when flush-mounted way up on a ten-foot ceiling.  It's just over one foot in diameter but a full ten feet off the ground.  The rooms were depressingly dark with these installed, in my opinion.   They had to go. 
Our daughter was born in Houston and tends not to mind heat and humidity when she's sleeping.  We could not convince her to accept a ceiling fan fixture in lieu of this flush-mount foolishness.  She wanted a light fixture, not a fan.  This is what we finally found as a compromise between a fan and a crummy builder-grade fixture:
Portfolio 17-in W Chrome Pendant Light
We picked one up at Lowes for about a hundred bucks. 
This is what it looks like installed.  The bottom panel is frosted glass, not plastic, so it's a reasonably good diffuser of light.  And by dropping it down about eighteen inches from the ceiling, it becomes an up-light as well as a down-light, which illuminates the whole room very nicely. 

Design-wise, note the all-important stylistic cross-referencing here:
(1) The pendant chain is the same as the chains I used to string up this room divider curtain that conceals the bed from a direct line-of-sight down the hallway (this is a teenager's room).
(2) All metal parts are brushed nickel, except for the two white skyhooks holding the curtain, which I need to touch up with nickel-looking paint.
(3) The circle-with-dot-in-center motif appears both in the light fixture and in the pattern of the curtain.

Note also how the wall color is added to superior surfaces while the inferior surfaces are white.  I made this point in at least one other post.  If your builder has bequeathed you with ten-foot ceilings on eight-foot stud walls such that you end up with a vault at every exterior surface, there is no "ceiling" per se.  There's no "ceiling" to paint in a conventional sense.  It makes more sense to run one cohesive color up the exterior wall, across the vault, and continue it across the ceiling, with white side-caps for contrast.  This makes for a very contemporary or modern look, but there's really no way to make a drywall configuration like this look traditional, because it's very un-traditional. 
Same fixture as seen from below.  I'm not sure I'd want to hang it above my dining table, but with that diffuser, it's better than many of the eyeball-frying alternatives.  And the price was certainly right. 

OK, I saved the piece de resistance for last.

Someone emailed me pictures of this fixture which reportedly is hanging in the stairwell of a federal building here in Houston. 
WOW.  These things are PERFECT.
Actually, I'm told that there are three of them in the stairwell of this federal building, and this is them.
Not over a dining table or a conference table - in a STAIRWELL.
But what is that non-glaring mystery fixture?!

Apparently it is this fixture, designed by artist Poul Henningsen in 1924.  The description indicates how this design was meticulously crafted not to fry a person's eyeballs (emphasis mine):  "PH Snowball is a 360-degree glare-free luminaire. The geometry of the PH Snowball is designed to ensure that all the illuminated surfaces of the shades are struck by the rays of light at the same angle, creating even illumination. The tops of the shades are glossy, creating sparkling light. The undersides are matte, avoiding reflections."
Screengrab and narrative excerpt from this site
Do you see the price quoted on that screengrab above?  Excuse my French (actually Danish), but HOLY SH*T!!!  TWENTY-FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?!  DO YOU WANT A LIGHT FIXTURE, OR DO YOU WANT A VACATION THIS YEAR?!

Ahem.  Pardon me.  So I said to my source, "Surely some federal bean-counter did NOT spend seventy-five hundred taxpayer dollars to hang these three extraordinary fixtures in a public stairwell, did they??  Surely these ones you photographed for me were actually cheap knock-offs?"

"They didn't look like knock-offs," source replied.  "They look like they are made of metal, like the real things."

I checked the internet.  There are indeed PH Snowball knock-offs out there, but you can pretty much tell from the posted pics which ones are fake.  The federal finery shown above appears to be the real deal.

Sigh.  And here I was worried about splurging on the Death Star.  Leave it to Uncle Sam to raise the bar of sheer extravagance to a level five times higher than my wildest dreams.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

World's narrowest sidewalk?

I've had plenty to say in this blog about our sidewalks - the way ignorant homeowners treat them, what people do to push back, the price we Centerpointers collectively paid for the rare and locally-popular segment of sidewalk along West Walker Street, which I refer to as the Bridge to Nowhere because it doesn't currently connect to much else, the consequences of our society's general lack of sidewalks, the specific growth impediments caused by League City's lack thereof, and impacts of threatened future failures to include sidewalks

Today, for a new twist on an old theme, we have this gentleman to ponder.
Out for a stroll during rush hour - but that's a narrow curb he's balanced on, not a sidewalk.  Because there are no sidewalks here, either.   
League City Parkway westbound before West Walker. 
Being a student of human nature, I watched this gentleman tightrope all the way down League City Parkway to his destination which was apparently the Gas Dude, and then all the way back eastward to an unknown location - never leaving the curb, the flat top of which must be all of about six inches wide.  No shoulder to the road and cars rushing by at about 50 miles an hour within about three feet of him.  As he walked with an apparent beverage raised in his right hand. 

In terms of self-preservation, this strikes me as an exceptionally poor strategy, but he seemed to come through it OK.  This time, at least.  I still think that my pic of those young people walking in the traffic lanes across FM 270's Clear Creek bridge with their backs to oncoming vehicles is the most hazardous non-sidewalk scenario I've photographed to date, but this one is perhaps a close second. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Beware of "The Bowl"

If you're a regular reader, the phrase "beware of the bowl" probably causes you to assume that I'm referring to these bowls, but the one I'm going to talk about now is far more dangerous, in my opinion.

But first, we must have our standard disclaimers.  Do you remember back in August 2012 when I noted for the record that I'm not a traffic engineer, mobility expert, or any such related professional?  At that time, I was describing what in my opinion was the conspiracy of dangerous circumstances that existed at the corner of West Walker Street and League City Parkway.  To my relief, that intersection got revised lickety-split after I published those diagrams - the flashing yellow left-turn light sequence was deleted, as I personally feel it should have been.  I don't know if that revision was in any way related to the alarm I sounded in my post, but it got done. 

So I'm not a traffic engineer or anything remotely resembling it.  (BTW, I apologize for my frequent disclaimer-packing of posts, but in this age of rampant SLAPP suits and other insidious curtails on the First Amendment, a blogger can't be too careful.)  But I like to offer my opinions, just in case there proves to be any merit to them. 

"The Bowl" whose existence I am postulating today is the one found on IH-10 just southwest of Taylor Bayou.  If you've ever driven between Houston and Beaumont on IH-10, you've driven through what I call "The Bowl". 
Low-res screengrab courtesy of KTRK. 
"The Bowl" is reportedly the location where Debbie and Vincent Leggio were killed this past Thanksgiving, and where about one hundred and fifty vehicles (!!) were ensnarled in a pile-up of inconceivable magnitude.
The scope of this event absolutely boggled the imagination.  KTRK's headline read "Two killed, dozens injured in massive I-10 pile-up".
Video screengrab courtesy of KTRK-TV. 
There was no shortage of commercial news coverage of that event.  Here is a piece by KHOU.  CNN published a blurb which thousands of people linked through to Facebook.  The story was widely re-broadcast by overseas sources, including at least one in Pakistan

KHOU (and probably other news services) made what I consider to be a very telling statement during their reporting on this incident:  "Early last year there was a similar smash-up on that same stretch of roadway."  If memory serves me correctly, there was also an inconceivably-high number of vehicles involved in that previous incident - but I can't find web references to it now because it has been submerged by the avalanche of reporting on the subsequent Thanksgiving 2012 event. 

Beaumont Enterprise went on to recount the sequential mechanics that resulted in the tragic deaths of the Leggios. Here's the thing, though: I can't locate any source which examines the potential for contributing factors originating with the environment.  It is possible that the dearth of information on the web is simply an artifact of reporting bias: most news outlets focused on the details of the accident itself.  Any investigative reporter who also focused more closely on prevailing roadway conditions may have simply gotten lost in the crowd. 

So in the absence of that perspective, let me tell you what I've personally observed about the area of the crash, which I have been driving through at least several times per year for about twenty years now.  Again, I'm not an expert and I can't pass judgment on these things.  If anything, I'd hope that a strictly-personal account such as the one below would raise enough questions in some investigator's mind such that a formal analysis would then be done (if it hasn't been already) to confirm or deny the existence of unusual conditions in the area of question.

"The Bowl" is roughly centered on Mile Marker 835 on IH-10. 

Here is a close-up of a Leggio highway memorial that has been erected near the foot of this Mile Marker.  May they rest in peace.

Sorry for the blurry photo - in this previous post, I explained how I do a lot of pic-taking simply by shooting photo frames without looking, because I can't take my eyes off the road. I took the photos in this post on or about January 29, 2013.
A lot of pavement scarring is visible in this area, suggesting that accidents have taken place here.

But here's the main thing to notice in this photo, which was taken from the "eastbound" (really the northeastbound) lanes: this area is extremely flat, but bordered by this line of tall forest you see in the background.  The effect of this is that the IH-10 lanes are at the bottom of a shallow "bowl".
Here's a view to the north / northwest, looking across the westbound lanes and showing the ring of trees being mostly unbroken.
Still eastbound, here is a view of where the freeway is vaulted over Taylor Bayou.  If you are eastbound on this section, this is where you drive back out of "The Bowl" as I perceive it. 

Do you see how these features seem to work together?  Not only do the trees form a ringing enclosure around this section of roadway, the freeway itself may be helping to furnish the final piece of an almost-continuous elevational barrier that helps to restrict air movement at this location.   

And furthermore, what exists at the bottom of "The Bowl"?  Mostly agricultural fields which tend to retain and transpire large quantities of moisture.  So to my non-expert perception, there seems to be both a moisture source and a confining source here, perhaps moreso than in other areas. 

All this is just pure speculation on my part, but these are the photos I took in conjunction with that speculation.
Driving up over the rim of "The Bowl" at Taylor Bayou.  Up, and out. 
Here's the view in the opposite direction, heading southwest toward Houston, driving down the slope from the Taylor Bayou bridge.  Do you see how a confining line of trees is present on the opposite side of "The Bowl" as well?  They appear to form one almost-continuous coherent ring around these ag fields and this section of freeway. 
In the twenty years I've been driving this freeway, I have experienced instances when I have been absolutely dumbfounded at the atmospheric conditions that manifest in "The Bowl" - conditions that didn't appear to exist as intensely on either side of it.  I'll be driving along merrily and then all of a sudden - WHAM - I'll descend the Taylor Bayou embankment and instantly, I'm thrust into an ethereal mess the likes of which I haven't even got words to describe.  There have been times where I've seen this roadway slow to a crawl, with some drivers pulling onto the shoulder out of apparent fear.  I've watched drivers eyeballing each other, staring open-mouthed, with the same expression written across their faces:  "Is this for real?!"  Regarding the Thanksgiving 2012 crash, the authorities were widely quoted as noting the extremity of the atmospheric conditions here: "the fog was so thick that deputies did not immediately realize they were dealing with multiple accidents".  Yyyyup.  Been there, done that. 

And there's yet another potentially-conspiring factor to keep in mind regarding this location:
A short distance before entering "The Bowl" from the west side of it, one crosses the Jeff County line, where the speed limit increases accordingly.  This speeding up occurs very close to the location where drivers should arguably be slowing down at those times when visibility becomes significantly reduced. 

Here is my personal advice:  If you're eastbound and you see any fog at the point where you pass this pair of signs, Be Very Afraid, because driving conditions might get much worse very quickly from there. 
Anyway, there are my personal observations and opinions on this phenomenon.  I drove through "The Bowl" two more times again yesterday, to and from a business meeting in Beaumont.  The sun was shining and the air was crystal clear, but as always, I kept my eyes open to see if any new signage has been added.  I did not see any.  I don't know if a formal study has ever been done on this area, but I keep hoping that maybe someone will do one, and decide that warning signs are indeed warranted.  Maybe just a simple advisory that dense fog is possible, something along those lines.  Because if you aren't made aware that this quirky little bowl-like place exists, it could take you by terrible surprise.
Is something like this warranted?  Has anyone done a study to confirm or deny whether an advisory should be posted?

Sign screengrabbed from this site.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Faithful Friends, fantastic force

A force for good, that is.  I'd like to piggyback on an announcement that appeared in several of Bay Area Printing's Community Newsletters this month.  These are the manila-colored mail circulars that get distributed each month to different communities all through Clear Lake.

They look generally like this, and they show up unsolicited in your mailbox.  And unlike 99% of the junk mail we each receive, these publications are actually very useful. The publishers go to considerable lengths to assemble value-added local community information within them. 

Screengrab courtesy of Bay Area Printing
Here is the Faithful Friends Animal Assisted Therapy volunteer announcement in this month's newsletter:
Screengrab courtesy of Bay Area Printing.
I can't say enough good things about this organization.  I literally searched for several years before I found a volunteer opportunity that was a good fit for our family.  The problem I kept having is that no organization of interest would permit the participation of my teenager, no matter how closely I agreed to supervise her and accept all legal responsibility for her.  "Can't do it because of liability issues", they all would claim.  How are we supposed to raise our children to be responsible community-minded individuals while simultaneously they are shut out of so much participation because neurotic lawyers fear that someone somehow might conceivably get sued?!?  How exactly is the likes of that supposed to function as a model for humanity?? 

I spend my work hours segregated from my child.  There was no way I was also going to allow my volunteer hours to cut me off from her as well.  Faithful Friends encouraged her to go through the same training I did, and allows her to volunteer alongside me (with appropriate restrictions that I won't describe in this post).  This organization has been as much of a godsend to us personally as it has been to our local community. 
A young girl, a dog rescued from the Galveston County Animal Shelter, and an opportunity to contribute to our community. 
What it says in the announcement above regarding the sponsor University Baptist Church is quite true.  Most of the other Faithful Friends volunteers whom I've gotten to know are not UBC members - we mostly belong to a variety of other churches.  This is not an organization in which a congregational objective is shoved down any volunteer's throat.  We see so much of that kind of thing in America today - lots of people shouting and screaming that their religious path is the only correct path, lots of warring factions whose main objective is simply to goad others into their personal world views.  Such individuals don't really show any concern for the needs others - they just want religious converts to play their numbers game. 

In sharp contrast to all of that, there are those rare organizations like Faithful Friends, which demonstrates what I call true Christian principles:  they manifest their values and their faith through their actions without shooting off their mouths or endeavoring to tread upon the spiritual identities of others.  Those actions stand with great dignity on their own merits.  They speak for themselves far more effectively than any megaphoned "join the one true path" solicitation could ever hope to achieve. 

OK, that's enough soapboxing from me for one post.  Before I close, let me also mention that there is room in Faithful Friends for new members.  Sometimes folks read an announcement like the one screengrabbed above, and they figure that the organization represented is so obviously cool and so well-established that there probably aren't any opportunities remaining for meaningful participation by newcomers.  That's not the case here.  First of all, much of the work done by Faithful Friends is in nursing homes, where about 60% of the residents never receive any visitors.  Plenty of opportunity to contribute to that lopsided equation.  Second of all, as Laura Elder pointed out just last week, League City is currently seeing a boom in construction of assisted-living facilities.  I have heard several times that there is a waiting list for facilities that would like to be included on the Faithful Friends visitation roster, but there aren't yet enough volunteers to meet the demand.

So if you're looking for a volunteer op, there are some of my characteristically-strong opinions for you to consider as you evaluate your potential choices.