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Posts published in April 2002

In Memory of Gerald Lee Bell, Sr.

August 1945 – April 1996

It has been 6 years since your sudden death. That day we will never forget. Life without you has made a big void in all our lives. Nothing has been the same without your presence and that smile on your face. We think of you every day, some days more than others. We miss you oh, so very much. We will always love you. Wife Esther Bell; children Gerald, Jr., Marvin (Black), Ramona (Mona), Ronald Sr. (Blue), Spencettia (Spenny;) grand-children Tangie, Gerald, Kierra (Ke-Ke), Shawn, Jr. (Dray), Ronald Jr. (Bootie), Leotryce (Trice), Gerald III (Poppa), Nasia and Katino (Cut Cut.)

Witness Downfall at Jones Park Teen Fest

This weekend Jones Park affords teenagers a chance for some safe outdoor fun, as the talents of local musical group Downfall and other groups and activities are featured during a Teen Fest Saturday, April 27 from 5 to 10 p.m.

Families often plan activities that are geared toward adult or younger audiences. Unfortunately, however, teenagers are sometimes overlooked when these events are planned. Jones Park’s popular Teen Fest, taking place Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m., is designed to offer teenagers age 13 to 19 an opportunity to have some safe, secure fun in an outdoor environment. Jones Park’s outdoor stage features the rock alternative talents of Overshot, followed by the heavy metal talents of Sould. The evening’s musical extravaganza concludes with the locally renowned rock group Downfall. Door prizes donated by various local organizations and companies will be given away throughout the night, and many organizations are expected to be on hand to answer questions about potential career opportunities. Concessions are available, including hot dogs, chips and drinks. Officers from the Precinct Four Constables’ Department will also be in attendance to put parents’ minds at ease and ensure Teen Fest is as safe as possible.

For those people who prefer the quieter side of the park’s activities, an informative discussion of the amphibians of the area is featured Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. during Amphibian Watch. Through the use of slides, audiotapes and live specimens, visitors of all ages learn to identify local frogs and toads by sight and sound. Those who have an interest in helping scientists study these remarkable creatures can also learn more about the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Amphibian Watch program.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, a Harris County Precinct 4 facility, is located at 20634 Kenswick Drive in Humble. All programs are free of charge and open to the public. Harris County Precinct 4 programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, sex, religion, national origin or disability. For more information on the park, or any of its programs, call 281-446-8588.

Aldine ISD students take part in TEA’s Celebrations of Excellence

Seventy Aldine ISD students were honored for achieving high academic standards during the eighth annual Celebrations of Educational Excellence, sponsored by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

The week long event was held throughout the state by TEA to honor secondary students who have risen to the challenge of attaining academic achievement.

The AISD students joined fellow students from the Houston area for a celebration at the University of Houston Alumni Center, where they each received a medallion and certificate of achievement.

The State Board of Education created Celebrations of Excellence to honor the state’s scholars.
A board member from the State Board of Education was on hand at each of the events statewide to address the students and present them their medallions and certificates.

Aldine Senior High, Aldine Ninth Grade School, Carver High School, Eisenhower Ninth Grade School, MacArthur Ninth Grade School, Nimitz High School and Nimitz Ninth Grade School represented AISD.
Aldine Senior High students who were honored were Felicia Jackson, Tra-My Dinh, Christine Nguyen, Paula Tyler, Hai Nguyen, Dorothy Pham, Lilian Moguel, Haseeb Zakaria, Eli Rodriguez and Ciekiesha Samples. Representing Aldine Ninth Grade School were Anadeli DeJesus, Milton Alvarez, Cassandra Garza, Jose Guzman, Tri Dung Le, Otoniel Moguel, Walter Padilla, Crystal Robles, Dina Urena and Christina Villarin. Carver High School was represented by Eric Duncan, Cindy Chiu, Chris Lu, Barbara Kierewicz, Kim Watson, Adriana Jimenez, Chris Cecil, Tina Trang, Francisco Arias and Brandon Taylor. On hand representing Eisenhower Ninth Grade School were Tasheka Adams, O’Shanae Bell, Erica Bocanegra, Cortnie McBride, Trachelle McDaniel, Oscar Perales, Elizabeth Tran, Shardae Welcome, Abraham Zendejas, Jennifer Zepeda, Amber Sims and Charles Ofili. Kristina Camacho, Ismael Deleon, Adrianne Johnson, Jason Mohammed, Robert Moyes, Shannon Patterson, Xotzy Romano, Joseph Salazar, Amie Sanchez and Danielle Trevino represented MacArthur Ninth Grade School. On hand representing Nimitz High School were Emily McCallum, Aaron Milsaps, Mary Mahon, Gregory Brown, Christopher Phipps, Katrina Martinez, Lance Davis, Ricky Patel, Melissa Tan and Peter Tan. Nimitz Ninth Grade School was represented by Jaqeline Coronado, Wan Jeffery, Samantha Herber, Monther Ali, Chastity Brown, Skye Nash, Linh Tran, Nguyen Tang, Tran Hoang and Ashton Sneed.

‘The Scorpion King’

The Scorpion King” steals blatantly from The Indiana Jones movies, which of course stole from the old adventure serials from the 30s and 40s.

Those serials, aimed mainly at kids, were not that good. The Indiana Jones movies were aimed at everyone and had high production standards and loads of talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

The success of the Indiana Jones films had Hollywood making numerous knock-offs of the genre. “The Mummy,” and to a lesser extent “The Mummy Returns,” were two of the better ones.

Now, from the last Mummy movie comes “The Scorpion King,” not a sequel, rather an exploitation of one of that movie’s key minor character played by wrestling sensation The Rock.

With “The Scorpion King” the modern age of adventure serials has returned to its origins: the likable hero saves the day in an implausible way with lots of cartoon style violence and little blood and even less plot, but no shortage of stock characters.

As in days of yore, the movie is aimed at kids – or fans of The Rock who are mostly young – and while it might be a fun diversion, it’s not a very good movie. But it’s not bad either, especially if expectations are not high.

The Rock (real name Dwayne Johnson) made his big screen debut in “The Mummy Returns” as The Scorpion King. Here we find out how he became king.

There is the standard plot of good winning over evil and the good guy getting the girl, but it’s really all about The Rock. The Rock fights hard and kicks butt. The Rock makes funny little quips when not looking stoic. The Rock fights some more and shows off his muscles. The Rock woos a lovely young woman while kicking even more butt. You get the pattern.

There is an awfully lot of fighting, but it is relatively bloodless though there are lots of explicit sounds of swords going into flesh. Unlike the Mummy movies, spectacular special effects are not part of every scene. The production values on “The Scorpion King” are strictly in the medium budget range. There are some returns from the previous movies, but other than The Rock, none are on screen.

There is not nearly as much dialogue as there is fighting or posing by The Rock, which is fine since there are already too many lines like Mathayus’s (The Rock) creed: “Live freeÖ Die Well.” Then there’s the gem that lets us know that the sorceress who helps the bad guy Memnon (Steven Brand) is really a good woman at heart, “Rivers of blood will never buy peace.”

Grant Heslov (“True Lies,” “Enemy of the State”) adds comic relief as a horse thief who becomes Mathayus’s sidekick. Not that the movie needs much comic relief since it does not take itself too seriously. Thank goodness.

Real bad guys are important in this type of movie; alas Memnon does not seem so menacing. The Rock is much fiercer looking and he has tons more muscles.

It appears The Rock is hoping to step into the shoes of fellow muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger. They both have lots of charisma; their acting skills are about the same, though The Rock does have a better speaking voice. Rated-PG-13

Naturalist visits Grantham Academy

0The students at Grantham Academy for Engineering had a wonderful opportunity on Friday, March 8th when the traveling naturalist John Boyd visited with them.

Students squealed and squirmed as Mr. Boyd removed the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach from its container, then walked around the classroom allowing them to examine and touch its back.

He continued to teach the students about several different types of animals including reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.

The students observed a tree frog, and then touched an American alligator, a rat snake and an Australian hedgehog.

As he introduced each animal, Mr. Boyd explained its habitat and characteristics. Through participation in this program students are made aware of some of the creatures found in nature not only in the United States, but in other countries as well. They are given knowledge of the ways to respect and protect the animals in their environment.

The Traveling Naturalist program is offered by Harris County Precinct One in an effort to enhance current science curriculum across the county. Other programs offered by the naturalist include: Bodacious Bats, Leaping Lizards, and Raptors of the Night (along with many others). The students involved in this program included science students and teachers at Grantham Academy. The Naturalist Program offers a rare hands-on experience with animals from the wild for both students and teachers.

Raymond Academy for Engineering to receive international award

Raymond Academy for Engineering in the Aldine Independent School District will be honored by Magnet Schools of America at the 20th Conference on Magnet Schools.

The school was selected as a Magnet School of Excellence award winner. This award honors the top magnet schools in the nation based on the criteria of reduction of racial isolation, academic achievement, innovation of programming, parental involvement, and staff development.

Raymond Academy was also selected from a field of 62 candidate schools as a finalist for the Ronald P. Simpson Award.

This award is given to the most outstanding magnet school in America and includes a $5000 cash award.
Ms. Caroline Massengill and Ms. Donna Grady-Creer, President of Magnet Schools of America will present the awards, during the April 27 – May 3 conference held in Aldine.

Attendees will include nearly eight hundred administrators and faculty members from magnet schools and school districts in the United States and around the world.

Magnet schools were developed during the 1970’s in the United States to combat the inequity of segregated schooling. Specially designed curricula with a particular educational theme was placed in minority-dominated schools to attract majority students and improve the racial balance of the schools and the quality of education for all students,

More information on Raymond Academy can be found at http://www.aldine.k12.tx.us/default.cfm on the Internet.

More information on Magnet Schools of America can be found at http://www.magnet.edu

Record Increase Predicted for Shooting Sports

Like an old Indian scout of another era putting his ear to the ground to hear the rumble of an approaching buffalo herd, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is predicting a stampede of interest in the shooting sports this summer. The organization is advising the nation’s gun clubs and shooting facilities to prepare for a busy target shooting season.

The forecast is that more shooters will visit gun ranges and target shooting facilities this summer than ever before, fueled by an increase in first-time shooters and women participants. Bob Delfray, president of SNNF, said those shooting clubs that offer a quality recreational experience can look forward to seeing those new customers return again and again.

So, my advice to the shooting clubs and gun ranges around the area is to straighten up the “welcome’ sign, paint the front porch, dust off the door mat, put on a pot of coffee, and get ready for lots of company.

Delfray explained that there are a number of factors that they think will lead to unprecedented attendance at shooting facilities this season. One factor is the recent trend toward family recreation. Another is the interest women have taken in shooting sports over the past few years. Participation by women in target shooting sports has increased by 80% since 1988.

Supporting NSSF’s positive forecast is a recent Roper-Starch Worldwide survey, indicating that more than half of all Americans view target shooting as a popular leisure time activity. Almost 30% of those feel that shooting sports are becoming increasingly popular.

If the sale of clay targets is any indication, shotgunning is on an upward trend. Sales have been on a steady increase for the past five years to over 700 million targets per year. That’s a lot of shooting!

The largest governing body of shooting sports, the National Shooting Clays Association (NSCA) reports the number of registered targets received was up substantially from the year before. Also the number of gun clubs joining NSCA has increased.

The Roper-Starch poll also indicated there are over 67 million men and over 47 1/2 million women who have an interest in and would participate in a shooting sport if asked. The NSSF is busily reaching out to this huge potential market.

In anticipation that the number of women in the shooting sports will grow, the Women’s Shooting Sports Federation (WSSF) initiated a “mentor” program whereby novice shooters can call them and be paired up with a volunteer mentor, male or female, who will show them the ropes. Sue King of Houston is one of the founders of WSSF.

There are many excellent shooting facilities in the Houston area. One of the largest and most popular is the American Shooting Center west of Highway 6. The ASC annually hosts numerous championship events.

Having tried my luck at hitting those speedy and elusive little clay targets, I can attest to the fact that the ASC has one of the best trap, skeet, and sporting clays courses available. As one experienced shotgunner commented to me, “Shooting sporting clays is like golfing with a shotgun.”
Whether you are a serious competitive shooter, trying to improve your shotgunning skills for the next bird hunting season or trying out a new and exciting outdoor sport to share with the rest of your family, all signs point to more Americans visiting area shooting ranges this year.

Shooting sports is a classic tradition that has never really gone out of style.

Officer Campbell receives LifeSaving Award

Houston Police Chief C.O.Bradford recently presented a LifeSaving Award to Northeast Patrol Officer Meredith Campbell. Officers tried to stop a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver crashed causing the vehicle to burst into flames. Two of the occupants fled the scene but were later apprehended. A third suspect was still trapped in the burning vehicle. Officer Campbell was able to pull the victim from the wreckage saving his life.

LTC Kickbusch delights, advises students at Sam Houston High

Students at Sam Houston High School were privileged to see and hear Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch, a twenty year United States Army veteran speak last Friday.

LTC Kickbusch, speaking in a combination of Spanish and English, told the assembly the stories of four teenagers, who decided to be “followers” rather than “leaders” and suffered life-altering consequences for their decisions.

One, a 13-year-old gang member in San Antonio, was shot and paralyzed for life in a drive-by shooting. She told about a young girl, pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend, who wound up in prison for the negligent death of her baby. And another, lazy and abusive, who realized when her mother died in a traffic accident and she was placed in foster care just how much she had to lose.

The stories were accompanied by LTC Kickbusch’s constant movement, swaggering and dancing, pantomiming the actions of teenagers much like those she was addressing. Everyone was mesmerized.
The story the Lieutenant Colonel did not tell in detail was her own; how she was born and raised in a barrio in Laredo, one of ten children who have become successful in spite of poverty, humiliation and illiteracy problems.

She graduated in 1976 from Hardin Simmons University in Abilene where she earned her degree in Law Enforcement and her ROTC commission as a Second Lieutenant to become the first woman commissioned as a ROTC officer in the state of Texas.

She holds an advanced degree in Cybernetics from San Jose University (California.) Her military education includes completion of the Army Command and General Staff College and Department of Defense Program Management Executive Course.

LTC Kickbusch has held leadership positions in a wide variety of organizations and has been honored with numerous awards including Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service medal (four times), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (twice), Toastmaster’s Inc. Leadership Award, induction into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, and Texas Women’s Forum. Before her retirement, LTC Kickbusch was the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support field in the United States Army.

LTC Kickbusch has produced an educational video entitled “¿Porque No – Why Not?”, filmed in the same barrio in which she was born, in honor of her parents. The video has made its way to fifteen states serving as testimony that we can make our dreams come true if we follow a road map to success.

LTC Kickbusch has worked extensively with the needs of the homeless, helping communities throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, especially impoverished ones, relating her own life experiences and offering hope and motivation to the disadvantaged. In addition to her work with youth, parents and educators, LTC Kickbusch has provided encouragement and wisdom gleaned from her personal management experiences and research to managers and executives in the corporate world and government entities.

Newer vehicles can be guilty of spewing harmful emissions

New test taps into built-in computer on late-model cars to look for problems

If identifying the worst polluting cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles were as simple as standing on the side of the road looking for fumes, there would be no need for AirCheckTexas. But it’s not, and there is.

“You can’t tell which vehicles are polluting the most just by looking at them,” said Hazel Barbour, Mobile Source Programs Manager with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. “The only accurate and fair way to find out is to test vehicles so owners can get those polluting vehicles repaired. Even newer vehicles, if not properly maintained, can emit higher levels of the pollutants that form ozone smog.”

Beginning May 1, every gasoline vehicle 2 to 24 years old, registered in Harris, Collin, Denton, Dallas, or Tarrant Counties, must pass the new AirCheckTexas emissions test along with the annual vehicle safety inspection. Depending on the model year of the vehicle, it will have to pass one of two new tests.

Model year 1996 or newer vehicles must pass the On-Board Diagnostic II, or OBDII test. While the engine is running, the OBDII taps into the vehicle’s built-in computer that monitors the fuel, ignition, and emission control components. This computer is constantly making adjustments to the systems’ operations. “The OBDII test uses the vehicle’s computer to accurately check all the emissions-related parts,” said Maj. Robert Burroughs, head of the Vehicle Inspection and Emissions Division for the Texas Department of Public Safety. “This test is so sophisticated, it can detect problems before there’s a serious and potentially costly failure.”

When there is an emissions-control problem, the “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light appears on your dashboard. At the same time, a diagnostic trouble code is stored in the computer’s memory so a repair technician can easily retrieve the code and fix the problem. “If you don’t make the repairs early, you’ll end up paying a lot more later,” said Burroughs. “That’s just one of the benefits of AirCheckTexas- saving people money in the long run.”

The emissions testing program is part of the state’s plan to clean up the air in Texas’ most polluted regions, so they will comply with health standards of the federal Clean Air Act. Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas are both considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be in violation of federal health standards for ozone smog.

“This is the most important action individual Texans can take to help clean the air we breathe,” said Chairman Colleen McHugh, Texas Public Safety Commission. “For our health, everyone must take responsibility and make sure their vehicles are well-maintained.”

For more information, visit www.airchecktexas.com.