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Posts published in “Day: October 6, 2009”

The uphill drive

By Kristan Hoffman

For some reason, I often used to dream about driving. Specifically, about driving a stick shift. And even though nowadays you can order an automatic transmission on just about any car, those constant dreams were like subliminal messages. They convinced me that it was important to know how to drive a manual.

When I was sixteen, my dad promised that he would teach me both stick and automatic. When I was seventeen, I still didn’t know either one. Tired of being the only high school senior who always needed a chauffeur, I finally enrolled myself in a driver’s ed class. Two weeks later, I at least knew how to drive an automatic.

I didn’t learn how to drive stick until my boyfriend’s mom taught me on an old Jeep Wrangler last year. I quickly grasped the concepts—use the clutch to shift gears, don’t stall out, avoid steep hills—but the actual doing was much more difficult. I managed to drive several miles and get up to about 50 mph, but I also stalled out and slid downhill a bit, scaring the car behind me.

But regardless of those difficulties, I fulfilled my dream. I now possess the skill to drive a stick shift. All that’s left is practice.

Writing, my other big dream, is the same way. Since age 9, I’ve known that I want to be a novelist. So I worked hard in school, got a degree in creative writing, and switched from a full-time to a part-time job in order to write more. At 23, I have the skills I need to be a writer. All that’s left is the practice.

And just like driving stick, I find myself having to constantly shift gears, not stall out, and brave the hills. Which of course is easier said than done. Every day is filled with chores and distractions—the dog, the dishes, the internet. Even when I can find time to focus, there’s that dreaded “writer’s block.” And when I do finally work my way out of a block, writing is still an uphill battle. Sure, on a good day I can knock out 1,500 words, but that still leaves roughly 78,500 more to make a novel.

Of course, most goals in life are like that. You might want to be a teacher or a lawyer, a musician or a parent, a doctor or an actor. No matter what your dream is, you will encounter distractions that force you to shift gears, moments where you stall out, and hills that seem impossible to climb. The key is to keep driving yourself forward, no matter how rough the road gets. Because anyone can learn the skills, but it’s the people with dedication and perseverance who achieve their dreams.

Emmett: County must plan for the future


NORTHEAST HOUSTON – The Chamber had a busy luncheon schedule last Thursday, as it honored Aldine ISD for receiving the national Broad Prize for the best urban school district, heard from speakers on the 2010 national Census, from the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on commercial fraud and counterfeiting, and the keynote speaker of the luncheon, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on the “State of the County.”

AISD superintendent Wanda Bamberg thanked the community for their support to receive the Broad Prize. This will result in 50 to 60 scholarships, totaling $1,000,000, for underprivileged students to go on to college.

Ida Mae Love, representing the Census Bureau, emphasized the importance of a “complete count” so that the Houston area receives its share of $400 billion in federal funds over the next 10 years. The census will be due next April 1st.

Chip Owens of the federal Immigration and Customs agency spoke of the need to stop counterfeit merchandise, and asked for everyone’s help. He said that over $1 trillion dollars is lost annually worldwide, to perpetrators of counterfeit goods. Many of the bogus goods are of poor quality and dangerous, he said.

Judge Emmett’s message was that the county is cutting back on its spending budget to match the economy, but that the county is financially strong, due to reserve funds that have been set aside earlier. He noted that Harris County is made up of 33 cities, not just one, and comprises 4 million people, including 1.3 million in the unincorporated areas.

He pointed out the strengths of the county, including the fact that we will grow as a trading “gateway” to North America. Key factors in this are the expansion of the Panama canal, and our upgraded transportation, rail, airport and port facilities. Emmett discussed the upcoming commuter rail possibilities, expecting at least two lines of new heavy rail to be operating in the next year or so, with more to follow. This will include a line to Hempstead, and one to Galveston. Another to Tomball is being studied. All of these are on existing rail right-of-ways, and therefore could be implemented in a short time. The Hempstead line might eventually extend to Texas A&M.

In transportation, he noted that the northeast section of the Beltway 8 is under construction now, and will soon be completed. He expects that the Grand Parkway will see completion too, in the next decade. It will connect through 7 counties, he noted, and that regional cooperation has been important to its success.

One of the strengths of the county, he said, is its diversity and richness of ethnic groups. Although it is now almost 40% Hispanic and growing, he thinks this distinction in ethnicity is disappearing as the various races blend and adopt American life styles.

He also talked about quality of life issues, including health care and water and air quality. He stressed all of these problems require a regional solution to be successful. In addition, he said that health care needs a coordinated systems approach to delivering services, not just more hospitals and clinics.

The age and condition of our infrastructure is a major concern, he said, and indicates that we must be planning and budgeting for the future. Our water system is antiquated, and now serving a county population of 4,000,000. Most of it will need to be replaced, and the MUDs in unincorporated areas may not be able to afford this, indicating a new regional approach and funding will be required.

Emmett reminded the Chamber members that in Texas, the county government is actually an arm of the state government, and can only implement laws and funding provided by the state.

His conclusion to all this was that Harris County will continue to grow and prosper, but that funds must be found and budgeted for the services and growth that will be required in the future.

In his words, “We are on the Cusp of Change,” and are setting ourselves and the county up for the future.

Airline Improvement District seeks state funds for water, sewage projects


In an effort to provide public water and sewage service to certain areas within the District, the District recently completed its application to the Texas Water Development Board’s Economically Distressed Areas Program.

The primary purpose of the application is to request funds for a water and wastewater project in certain sections of the District that currently qualify based on census data. The funds would be utilized for the initial phases of the project which include Planning, Acquisition and Design.

Following submission of the application, the Department of State Health Services will determine whether there are unsafe conditions such as overflowing septic systems or a significant number of shallow private water wells that are located within 50 feet of a septic tank. Provided such conditions are prevalent, the District anticipates funding for the initial phases of the project.

In addition to its efforts on public water and sewage service, the District has been actively monitoring efforts by Harris County to regulate salvage yards. Harris County Commissioner’s Court passed an order adopting an ordinance regarding licensing of junkyards and automotive wrecking and salvage yards in unincorporated areas of Harris County on Tuesday, September 15th, 2009.

The ordinance will become effective Jan. 1, 2010. The purpose of the ordinance is to protect public health, safety and welfare of the community. The County Engineer will be responsible for the administration of the Ordinance, issuance of licenses required by the Ordinance, enforcement of the Ordinance and maintenance of proper records.

The District has also scheduled a Heavy Trash Pick-Up Day for Saturday, October 17th, 2009 with a rain out date of October 24th, 2009 (this excludes Bellmar and Northline Terrace subdivisions due to earlier pickups by Precinct One). This heavy trash pick-up day is brought to you as a joint effort between Commissioner El Franco Lee and the District.

The District’s next Board Meeting was scheduled for Sept. 24th, at 11:30am at the Little York Fire Department located at 10410 Airline Drive, Houston, Texas 77037 and was open to the public. In the event you are unable to attend, a brochure of the District’s current projects and initiatives has recently been completed and it is anticipated that copies will be mailed to all the businesses within its boundaries.

Farouk Shami for our next governor?


Reveals interest at Chamber mixer

NORTH HOUSTON – The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce is holding monthly networking mixers, as an added benefit of membership. The Greenspoint Club was the site of the September mixer, and there was a large group turnout. The honored guest at the event was Farouk Shami, who recently announced the expansion of his business, CHI USA, and Farouk Systems.

Farouk held a ribbon cutting and a large grand opening event earlier in the month, as he announced that he was moving his manufacturing of hair care products back to Houston from several overseas locations. As part of this move, he announced that the company will be hiring hundreds of new employees, bringing the total in North Houston up to at least 1000. Farouk’s products include CHI and BioSilk.

Farouk first started his business in 1986, when he invented the first ammonia-free hair lightener and color system, called SunGlitz. The company started during the 80’s recession, and later transformed into a powerhouse in the beauty industry, with a string of innovative products, such as BioSilk, the CHI hairdryer, and other hair and nail products.

At the networking event, Farouk surprised the audience by talking about his interest in running for governor of the state of Texas. He spoke about his success in business, and said that he could transfer that ability into running the state. If he actually decides to run as a Democratic candidate, he will emphasize his business success, and his ability to create jobs for Texans.

He says “My mission is to inspire and challenge others… so that we can stimulate the U. S. Economy.”

Astros, City of Houston break ground on Turner Park Youth Academy


Major League Baseball (MLB), the Houston Astros, and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) last week broke ground on the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park in a special ceremony. MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jimmie Lee Solomon, Houston Astros President of Business Operations Pam Gardner and current and former Astros players were on-hand with State Representative Sylvester Turner, Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner and other local dignitaries to inaugurate the future site of the second MLB Urban Youth Academy, which will provide year-round free baseball and softball instruction to local youth ages 7-17.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, which was emceed by Houston Astros Hall of Fame Broadcaster Milo Hamilton, MLB hosted 250 children from the Harris Academy and the local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program presented by KPMG in a youth-oriented event called Wanna Play?, providing various baseball activities such as batting and pitching cages, baserunning contests, wiffle ball games and demonstrations by Houston Astros players Michael Bourn, LaTroy Hawkins and Wesley Wright and Astros Manager Dave Clark.

Located in north Houston, the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will feature a show field complete with scoreboard; permanent seating for 500 fans, with space for an additional 1,800 fans; dugouts and lights; one auxiliary field; two little league/softball fields and batting cages; and 1,500 square feet of office space and other facilities.

Major League Baseball and the Houston Astros contributed $600,000 to the construction of the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park, which equaled the contributions by both the City of Houston and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will staff local high school, collegiate, current and former professional ballplayers to help run the different Major League-caliber training camps and clinics throughout the year. It will offer the free programs to a minimum of 2,500 youth.

Additional instructors, collegiate coaches, scouts, and certified athletic trainers will also work with young athletes at the Academy. The Academy will open its doors to all who want to participate from the Houston area with enrollment open year-round. In addition to baseball and softball instruction, boys and girls attending the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will be given the opportunity to participate in free seminars on umpiring, athletic field management, scouting and player development, sports and broadcast journalism, public relations and statistics, as well as athletic sports training.

Big doings in the SEC as Florida, ‘bama head to hostile territory

If you are a fan of SEC football, then this is a dream weekend for you. No. 1 Florida travels to Baton Rogue for a prime time meeting with No. 4 LSU, while No. 3 Alabama also hits the road to take on a Mississippi team that only two weeks ago was ranked No. 5 in the country.

Those two games should have a lot of impact on the division races (the SEC has an eastern and western division format) and could determine which two teams play for the SEC title game the first Saturday in December.

Before we take a look at those two games and a handful of others, we must first review last week’s record. A 7-5 mark brought the season record to a very mediocre 23-23 (53 percent). It’s definitely time to turn this thing around, starting this week!

HIGH SCHOOL

Eisenhower vs. Humble: Ray Evans’ Eagles opened District 19-5A play with a 31-28 win over Kingwood, which was the team’s third straight victory after a 0-2 start to the season. The Eagles have a dual threat in quarterback James Jones, who is hurting teams through the air and on the ground. Look for Jones to have another big night against Humble on Saturday in Thorne Stadium. My pick, Eisenhower 32, Humble 12

MacArthur vs. Kingwood: Bernie Mulvaney’s Generals have found the going tough thus far in the season, and they take on a Kingwood team that put up 28 points against Eisenhower two weeks ago in the district opener for both teams. The Generals need a win in the worst of ways, so look for a strong effort from the team on Friday night in Thorne Stadium. My pick, MacArthur 16, Kingwood 14

Nimitz at Atascocita: Robert Toomer’s team takes to the road to face an Atascocita team that won its first five games of the season and is putting up some impressive offensive numbers. They opened league play with a 31-0 win over MacArthur two weeks ago. The Cougars must have success on the ground if they hope to hand the Eagles their first loss of the season. My pick, Atascocita 23, Nimitz 21

NCAA

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: The Aggies take a big step up in class when the high-scoring Cowboys come calling to kickoff A&M’s Big 12 season. In winning their first three games of the season, the Aggies averaged 45 points per game and quarterback Jerrord Johnson of Humble has been a big reason why. The 6-6 QB has passed for nine touchdowns and run for another four scores, but he’ll be facing a fast OSU defense that will be looking to make things difficult at Kyle Field. The Cowboys will bring a pretty decent offense of their own to Aggieland, and look for talented running back Kendall Hunter to return to make Zac Robinson and Co. all the more potent. My pick, Oklahoma State 36, Texas A&M 31

Wisconsin at Ohio State: Wisconsin won its first five games of the season, but they will get a real test when they hit the road for Columbus and the Horseshoe on Saturday. The Badgers will also have to contend with a pretty fair quarterback in Terrell Pryor come Saturday. Pryor has yet to have that “wow” sort of game, but this would be a good week for him to turn one in. The Badgers have shown an ability to throw the football early on this year, so the Ohio State defense will need to apply pressure if they hope to avoid being upset at home. Look for a bust out game from Pryor as the Buckeyes prove to be too much at home for Wisconsin. My pick, Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 24

Alabama at Mississippi: It’s been years since the Rebel faithful have hosted a game this big, so expect a loud and raucous crowd in Oxford on Saturday. The Crimson Tide have a history of playing in big games, so they won’t be intimidated, but you can bet your hounds tooth hat that that won’t look past a Ole Miss team that weeks ago was ranked No. 5 in the country. The key to a Rebel win will be how well quarterback Jevan Sneed performs. He was downright awful two weeks ago when his team was upset at South Carolina, but he’s the sort of player that has a short memory and will wipe that poor performance out of his mind. ‘Bama has received stellar play from quarterback Greg McElroy, who was unproven when the season began. Four games in, McElroy has been steady with 938 yards passing and seven touchdowns. It also helps to have a dependable running back in Mark Ingram and a defense that has given up 54 points in the team’s first four games. This game will come down to which quarterback does the best job of protecting the ball and this intangible: Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s team may be playing the best football in the nation and badly wants to win a national championship. A big road win would go a long ways towards sending a statement to the rest of the SEC and the nation. My pick, Alabama 23, Mississippi 20

Florida at LSU: What a day for the SEC. Two huge games and this one will be seen in primetime (I’m assuming on CBS), just as it was two years ago when the Tigers upended the then defending national champions en route to a national title of their own. Talk about re-living history. Florida returns to Death Valley defending a national title but they have one big question mark, the availability of Superman, errrr, quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow suffered a concussion two weeks ago after he took a vicious hit in his team’s win at Kentucky. He will have had two weeks to recover, but when you are dealing with a head injury, you don’t take chances, especially with a kid who has a chance at a career in the NFL. But if you know anything about Tebow, you know he’s a team first sort of guy. If he’s able to play, he’ll be out there, which is good for college football and this game. Florida has won, but hasn’t established itself as a dominating team as of yet. Urban Meyer’s team will be in for a real test against a fired up crowd and LSU team that won its first four games heading into last week’s game at Georgia. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson must be poised and protect the football to give his team a chance to win and it would help if the Tigers can establish their running game early. Tebow’s health will be a major factor in this game, but the guy has proven himself time and time again during the last three years. Look for him to come through once again for the Gator faithful in a game that could propel them too much bigger things down the road. My pick, Florida 34, LSU 31

NFL

Houston at Arizona: Well, here we go again. Just when you want to start believing the Texans have turned the corner and will become a real NFL team, they fall flat on their face against a team they have owned over the last few years. Houston’s loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago was inexcusable, considering they were playing at home and coming off a season-saving come-from-behind win at Tennessee week earlier. It’s become apparent the Houston defense has some issues and that’s not a good thing heading into a game against pass happy Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. Warner did struggle two weeks ago and played one of his poorest games in years in his team’s 31-10 loss at home to the Colts, but don’t expect a repeat of that against the Texans. The Texans have been woeful against the run and while the Cardinals aren’t a great running team, they can fling it all over the field. This could turn into an offensive shootout, but something tells me Warner will make one more play than Matt Schaub to pull out the win. My pick, Arizona 34, Houston 31

New England at Denver: Denver head coach Josh McDaniel welcomes his old boss to the Mile High City when Bill Bellichick and the Patriots visit the surprising Broncos. New England appeared to begin putting things together two weeks ago in their 29-10 win over Atlanta, but they should get a test against a Denver team that is gaining confidence week by week. Denver’s defense is better than most expected, but it will receive a real test from Tom Brady, Randy Moss and running back Fred Taylor, who looked like his old self in the win over the Falcons (100+ yards rushing, one touchdown). When Denver has the ball, look for them to run the ball with rookie Knowhown Moreno and veteran Correll Bulkhalter to take pressure off quarterback Kyle Orton. In the end, look for the master to teacher the pupil a lesson he’ll never forget as the veteran Pats leave Invesco Field with a solid road win. My pick, New England 26, Denver 21

Dallas at Kansas City: The Cowboys had to work a lot harder than they wanted to in their 21-7 win two weeks ago at home against Carolina, and this week they travel to Kansas City to face perhaps one of the worst teams in the NFL. This is no week for the Cowboys to let down their guard. The young Chiefs would like nothing more than to meet the much-despised Cowboys at home. If Tony Romo plays within himself as he did against the Panthers, the Cowboys should take care of business. It would help if Marion Barber or Felix Jones, both of whom are nursing injuries, were available for this one. Third-team RB Tashard Choice is a solid backup, but he isn’t ready to carry the load. Look for the defense, which finally made some timely plays against Carolina, to apply pressure early and often against a porous KC offensive line. My pick, Dallas 26, Kansas City 13

Indianapolis at Tennessee: When the schedule makers picked this one for Sunday Night Football, they figured this would be a battle for first place in the AFC South. Now, it’s a game that Tennessee must win to stay alive in the division race after the Titans opened the season with three straight losses. It’s desperation time for Jeff Fisher’s team. The Colts, on the other hand, can play free and breezy (is it me, or is Peyton Manning putting together another MVP-type season?) thanks to the big cushion they have already built in the South. Manning has done a great job of spreading the ball around, and running back Joseph Addai looks like he did two years ago when he was one of the top five running backs in the league. The Titans will need to get Chris Johnson and Lindale White going early in this one to take pressure off of Kerry Collins. One thing Collins and the Titans will have going for them is the fact speedy defensive end Dwight Freeney should miss this game with a leg injury. I know the Titans must win this game, but something tells me Manning will be his usual cool self and lead his team to the win. My pick, Indianapolis 31, Tennessee 27

New York Jets at Miami: Rex Ryan brings his salty Jets to prime time on Monday night to take on a Dolphins team that lost its first three games and is going dealing with injury woes, most notably starting quarterback Chad Pennington, who was lost to the season with a dislocated passing shoulder two weeks ago at San Diego. Second-year QB Chad Henne will be facing a tough New York defense that will bring pressure all night long. It would behoove the Dolphins to get Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams untracked early in this one, or it could be a long night for Henne. The Jets have a young signal caller of their own in rookie Mark Sanchez, who has played brilliantly in his first three NFL games. This week, he’ll have to handle the glare of the national spotlight. Let’s see how he handles that. My pick, New York 23, Miami 21