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Posts published in “Day: August 5, 2008”

Tails from the Spell Chequer

Have several things on my mind this morning as I sit at my computer trying to turn a few thoughts into a column. This is my fourth bit for newspapers this a. m. so I’m off to a good start for a Monday morning. It is only 9:05 a.m. Sometimes the words come hard. I’m going to mention several Crosby area friends this week and all of them are of the opposite sex. I know where to make friends!!

Received an e-mail from my good friend Irene Cook who, if my memory serves correct, serves as a librarian at work. Irene sends me an e-mail every now and then giving me Crosby updates and items she things I might find of general interest. Last week she sent a poem about the computer “spell checker.”

That is every computer user’s right arm these days and particularly of use to me, a rather poor speller for a writer. I use the spell check on every sentence, every page and every article. It does its job. Here is Irene’s poem contribution.

SPELL CHEQUER
Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my pea sea.
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it to say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rarely ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I’m shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect in it’s weigh,
My chequer tolled me so.

Irene’s e-mail brought a big smile to my face when I read this and I thought you might enjoy it as well. That poem is also somewhat of an indictment of the English language. Irene and I are early service church buddies at Crosby Methodist and also pass frequently while walking our dogs on Sea Palms Drive.
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Speaking of dogs, I’ve got to tell a little story on another good friend, Georgia Hayes, a neighbor of our son Dave. We all spoil our dogs as they become part of their family.

Georgia has joined this group with her two little dogs. They love to travel, as does our Maggie, and get a little down in the face when Georgia starts to leave in the car. So Georgia loads them both in the car and takes them on a quick trip around the block before going about her duties of the day. Nice going Georgia. The dogs then seem satisfied. Our Maggie just jumps with joy when she knows she is going to get to go for a ride.
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A last but not least item. Another good friend, Jo Pyle, sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago informing me, and others, she has moved from Crosby to Houston. Jo, another member of Crosby Methodist, was the first visitor to Dave’s Sea Palms home a few days after he moved in nearly seven years ago. I’m miss seeing Jo’s face around Crosby.

Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Aaron Cole recounts his Olympic trials, and previews 2008 Olympics

HIGHLANDS – Rotarian Aaron Cole has been swimming competitively since he was 5 years old, when he first thought about competing in the Olympics as his life’s goal.

After working toward that goal for most of his life, he got the chance to compete in the trials to make the U.S. team in 2003, and almost made the team. Cole says he is ranked 15th in the world in the 100 yard butterfly, but it turned out that wasn’t good enough to make the team, so now he watches from his home in Crosby.

Cole said that the work to get that good in an Olympic sport category is heroic, and he cites his own work ethic, of 2 hours of swimming every morning and 2 hours every evening since he was five. After college Aaron continued to train, and he would actually swim all day. This meant on many days, he swam 6 or 7 miles. He noted that his forte was as a sprinter, not a distance swimmer.

While training for the 2004 Olympics, he swam with the Auburn University swim team, with about 70 others.

Like most Olympic athletes, his goal was “To be recognized as Best in the World” and to represent the USA.

XXIX OLYMPIAD BEIJING

Opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing, China will start on August 8th, the events run from Aug. 9 to Aug. 24, he said. 205 nations are scheduled to send teams to China.

Due to time differences, many of the events will be broadcast live at early hours of the morning. For instance, NBC is scheduling a “Primetime Replay” from 1:30am to 6am in the mornings. Major events will be broadcast in Primetime from 7pm to 11pm, and later.

Most people will be able to watch on NBC broadcast channels, but because of the revolution in cable and internet, there are many other visual outlets this year, he said. Cole mentioned MSNBC, www.NBColympics.com, and specialized cable channels for Soccer and Basketball.

Competitors to Watch

Cole said that the US teams will be especially strong in Swimming, Track & Field events, and Gymnastics.

The US Swim team includes Michael Phelps, considered to be the fastest swimmer of all times, even more that the renowned Mark Spitz. His best event will probably be the 400 meter freestyle. Watch the first day of the swim events, Cole said, to see him compete.

Other swimmers of interest this year are Katie Hoff, and a 41 year old woman, Dara Torres, who has won about 4 medals in previous Olympics, and in spite of her age will be back to compete. This is unusual, since most Olympic Athletes are much younger, although this does vary by particular sport, he said.

Athletes of Local Interest

Cole mentioned that many of the athletes are from Houston, or trained here. These include: Steve Lopez, TaeKwando; Laura Wilkinson, Diving; Kyle Bennett, BMX Racing; Cat Osterman, Softball; Charlie Ogletree, Sailing; Glenn Eller, Shooting; Yao Ming, Basketball; and Jonathan Horton, Gymnastics.

During the talk, it was noted that US teams will also be strong in Beach Volleyball, Volleyball, and Baseball and Softball. However, because the US tends to dominate the latter two, they will be eliminated from future Summer Olympics, it has been decided by the rules organization.

Cole noted that many of the US woman swimmers, and some of the men, will be wearing a suit designed by NASA, with revolutionary details that promise to make them faster. This involves fabrics and flow lines that are built into the suit.

On Track & Field events, Cole said to watch US team’s Tyson Gay, perhaps the world’s fastest person, and Jeremy Wariner who will compete in the 400 meter event.

In Women’s Beach Volleyvall, the outstanding athlete is Kerri Walsh.

In gymnastics, it was announced just this week that the best US team player, Paul Hamm, will not compete due to slow healing of a wrist injury. This will open up the outcome to other teammates and countries that were not previously expected to win.

Other outstanding US gymnastics to watch include world champion Shawn Johnson, and Nastia Luikin on the womens team.

In addition to the hard work that individual athletes endure, Cole mentioned the large support structure that is required to send a country’s team to the Olympics. This includes a staff of coaches, trainers, medical personnel, food managers, masseuse, drivers and managers, and many more that are never seen but without whose efforts the teams could not compete.

Keith-Wiess Park to open Aug. 12th

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – Keith-Wiess park with about 500 acres is about to fully open to the public, with an official ceremony on August 12 at 12 noon, according to officials.

At the monthly networking luncheon of East Aldine, held last Thursday at the District’s offices, Kirk Hooper and Beth Walters of the Harris County Flood Control District presented a talk and slide show of the park’s history, development, and future functions for the community.

The luncheon varied from its usual format of discussion and networking, so that Mr. Hooper could make a complete presentation of this huge park, which will be important for the Northeast neighborhoods and city and county residents alike.

The park is actually an unusual partnership of the city, the county, and the flood control district, with additional funding from the state and the Texas Parks and Wildlife department.

Hooper related that the start of the park was actually a discussion on the mid-1970s between contractor George R. Brown and Charles Tapley, architect, about the need for more
park space in the city of Houston. They ended up taking a helicopter trip, and from the air decided on two large parcels to buy and develop into parks for the city.

One of these parks is Herman Brown park, near I-10 and East Loop 610. The other is the old dairy farm on Aldine Westfield that was purchased by the Elkins family, names after their parents Keith and Wiess, and donated to the city of Houston. The deed to the city stipulates that the land must be kept in a natural state, and used for family
and group activites.

Even though the land is in unincorporated Harris county, the park is actually owned and operated by the Houston Parks
and Recreation Department. Other entities with interest in the park include Harris County Flood Control District, which has developed the Master Plan with the help of architect Tapley, East Aldine Improvement District, within whose boundaries the park lies, and Harris County.

Hooper pointed out that a walking trail and some athletic fields have already been developed in the park and are in use, but that many more are part of the Master Plan.

The existing walking trails extend out of the park, and down to more parks being developed by Harris County and the City, near US59 and Little York. One of them is known as Bretshire Park after the subdivision it replaced.

A construction contract for $10.4 million, to make the park usable for both recreation and flood water detention, was recently completed. In additon, a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. was used to develop the wooden walks and piers, hike/bike trails, and other amenities for park use.

The grant provided for the construction of trails within the park, boardwalks across the wetland area, fishing pier, educational and informative signage, additional soccer fields, and playgrounds and parking.

Replanting of the nature areas included 2600 native trees, 250 lbs. of wildflower seeds, 175 lbs. of native grass seeds, 68,000 wetland plants.

Additional funds have been spent, including $900,000 for turf establishment, and $600,000 for two wooden pedestrian bridges over the bayou.

Hooper said that the detention features, holding 300 million gallons, will mean that in flood conditions, downstream flooding may be reduced by anywhere from 4 inches to 1 foot. This is a significant amount, he said, for one facility to help with.

State acts to replace North Forest School Board and Superintendent

AUSTIN – Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced today that he will install a board of managers and a new superintendent in the North Forest Independent School District this fall.

The appointments of the new administrator and a three-member board, which will replace the current school board, are pending preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Scott said he was taking this action because of “the district’s extensive history of deficiencies, its recent significant problems and its current failure to consistently work cooperatively with the assigned management team.

“It’s unfortunate that this drastic action is necessary. We have tried every intervention at our disposal except this one. While our management team and agency employees have helped the district cut its deficit and improve its academic performance, the district remains in a very precarious position. It is necessary for the Texas Education Agency to place a superintendent and board in the district to safeguard the educational environment for students,” Scott said.

The district is expected to start the new school year with an $11.8 million budget deficit. The district will not be able to sustain itself financially at its current taxing rate. During the last school year, North Forest was unable to meet payroll using appropriate funding sources and it cannot reconcile its bank statements. It’s been denied short-term bridge loans by several banks. The district’s bond rating has been downgraded. Due to the financial problems and declining enrollments, schools were closed as a cost saving measure.

TEA’S recent review of the district’s special education program found substantial noncompliance. Another review disclosed a failure to implement program requirements of the No Child Left Behind program. The district’s two high schools have struggled academically for multiple years and received the state’s lowest rating. Academically Unacceptable.

Additionally, the instability of the school board remains a chronic problem for the district. The school board in March 2007 terminated the superintendent and paid him $233,000 in severance pay. The board has twice tried to rehire this superintendent but that action was overruled by a TEA conservator.

Based on its academic and financial track record and its failure to comply with state and federal requirements, TEA earlier this year placed North Forest on Accredited-Probation status, which is one step short of closing the district.

The commissioner is hopeful that the board of managers will stabilize and improve the district’s situation so that closure is not necessary. A board of managers can remain in place for up to two years. Under state law, the appointed board may exercise all the powers and duties of a school board.