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Posts published in “Channels – Editor’s Notebook”

A BIZARRO page from my notebook. Or why I always carry a camera.

Rule number one for a reporter or editor: Always carry your camera, ready to take a picture.

An event on Monday afternoon of this week serves to illustrate the wisdom of this advice: On a routine errand, driving down Westpark Drive, I happened to notice several ramps to the new Westpark Tollway were closed off by Constable and Police Cars. As curious as a newspaper person can be, I drove around another way to get a view of what might be happening. Was I surprised.

There standing on top of a 170’ tall electric transmission tower, was a man, balanced perfectly with no support.

Pulling into a parking lot, I found a lot of others watching, too. “What’s happening?’ I astutely asked, and learned that this man had climbed the tower over 4 hours earlier, and now the police, sheriffs, constables, Houston rescue squads, SWAT team, Houston Fire Department, ambulances, and even the federal terrorism authorities had gathered to watch and figure out what to do about it.

The electric company, which is now known as CenterPoint Energy, was also on hand, since it was their tower. They had the good sense to shut off the 345,000 volts that were pulsing through the lines only a few feet away from the man. They also were smart enough to have two trucks that could reach the top of the tower if needed. One had a height reach of 170’, the other 200’ feet tall.

Let me tell you, that is a long way up, looking from the ground. I can only imagine (no I can’t) how high it must have looked to that man, staring down in such a stoic way.

What was he thinking or feeling? What was his ultimate intention? The hundreds gathered below, curious, worried, or entertained, didn’t know. The first thought was that he would jump, but I am glad to say no one on the ground wished that for him. Was he trying to damage the electric line? He had plenty of time to do that before I arrived, so it must have been some other motive.

I was there several hours, not knowing how this would resolve itself, and hoping that my prayer and presence would bring some since.

The authorities either didn’t know how to deal with him, or they did. Besides talking to him in Spanish through a bullhorn, the only other thing they tried was to gather a lot of men and equipment, perhaps in a show of authority.

Anyway, the man moved around a bit, climbed partway down and then back up. Took off his shirt, put it back on.

Why?

We don’t know. The authorities finally decided that the best plan was to show him they had no interest. They began to pull their equipment away, they had ordered the helicapters to stay away, and at some point this climber decided his show was over, and he came down.

I must say, at that point he was treated by the Houston Police with care and concern.

Reportedly he told them he was depressed, had no job or legal papers, and saw no future. He was taken to a phsychiatric hospital for exam, but at this writing has not been charged with any crime.

So there is an unusual, but perhaps not too untypical, day in the life of a newsman.

On a diet at the Star-Courier…

ItÕs quite the craze these days, to be slimming down. Popular diets include Atkins, Weight Watchers, Curves, and much more.

ItÕs true in the newspaper industry, too. For many reasons, the large and small newspapers have reduced the size of their pages, some in width only, others in length also. You may notice that this issue of the STAR-COURIER looks slightly different. ItÕs the page width, which has been reduced from 14Ó to 12.5Ó

Did you notice? We are interested in your opinion of the new size, and how the pages will look with a different layout. Also, please remember that we are here to serve you. If you would like to read different material, let us know by letter, email, or phone.

Thanks. And enjoy our new slim look.

Open letter to… that other newspaper

How curious, I thought, as I read the headline at the top of the front page. “Committee scraps original bridge design.” Well, I thought, this was about my work, and I was at the meeting, and the headline is completely wrong. How could that be, I wondered. Perhaps the writers of this article and head just don’t understand the design process, for in fact, we had accomplished exactly what had been asked… getting TxDOT to agree to the design goals of the Chamber’s committee.

After several meetings, with many TxDOT staffers, we had gotten them to agree to several key points:

1. Build a 300 foot long, 25 foot tall highway bridge in the middle of an historical district, that would respect and complement the traditions of Old Crosby;

2. Furnish a railing detail at their expense which will recall small scale, “human size” walkways of the past;

3. Provide wiring and pedestals for the antique looking light fixtures that the community plans to pay for and install;

4. Make provision for a unique paving brick area, with names of donors to the project;

5. Furnish design upgrade features, such as “Lone Stars” and Rustic Stone-like retaining walls at the state’s cost;

6. And we even pushed for and got a prommise of grass (sod or seed) under the bridge, which is usually outside TxDOT’s budget.

And most important to me as a design professional architect, TxDOT had been prodded to look for, and finally suggested at this meeting, an inexpensive existing formwork that would achieve our look.

Sometimes I will get a call about an inaccuracy in our paper, and after listening to the facts, we make what apologies and corrections possible.

In this case, with the parties present at the meeting, and the facts very clear, I can only wonder at the strange reporting that resulted in the headline.

It should have read, and did in the STAR-COURIER, “Chamber works with TxDOT on details.” In fact, as even the state knows, a Design project moves through various phases, with many parties contributing to a final solution. Alternate forms or features are always welcome when they enhance the original intent, as these TxDOT contributions did.

Well, I can only wonder at the headline that misrepresented