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Posts published in January 2004

Learning curves

Weather: Wonderful! (And freezing.) Can we say “humidity”? Not in Pittsburgh!
Freshman Fifteen: Um, don’t ask…
Classes: Calculus, chemistry, computer programming, philosophy and a freshman seminar on psychology.
No. of Times Locked Out of Room: 12.
Pints of Ben & Jerry’s Consumed: 5.

Before I left for college — or maybe sometime during the 26 hour road trip up to Pittsburgh — I asked my dad if I could write a column for his paper while I was at school. He of course said yes, but seeing as I was his little baby girl going away for four years, I probably could have asked for a small island off the coast of Africa and gotten it. (I decided to put that on my Christmas list instead.)

So in the true fashion of a college student — or a journalist — I’m turning this little composition in late. Very late. I’ve already been here at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for an entire semester…

And I love it!

I moved in on a Tuesday, met my roommate, and then spent much time deciding just what my parents needed to buy for me, since, in the Hoffman tradition, we’d left a good many necessities at home. While they were slugging through Target with 800 other freshman parents, I was playing 20 million ice-breakers and listening to 60 speeches per hour about CMU, “healthy student life,” and my future. This was all part of our week-long Orientation, which is a lot like summer camp but without the bonfires and bugs. My favorite activity was probably House Wars, a big competition between the freshmen in all the dorms, which does absolutely nothing to “orient” you to the school but was definitely what made me fall in love with CMU. (And who won? Why, my dorm of course!)

Classes began the following week, and after a couple very productive meetings with my academic adviser (and his Labrador pup Butterscotch) I managed to create a schedule that wouldn’t kill me. My favorite course was chemistry — if you knew me, your jaw would be on the floor right now — because my professor is just cool beyond belief: for the first month he blew something up in every single lecture! I mean, how can you not enjoy a class that produces fireballs bigger than your own body? (Yes, he did indeed set off the fire alarm, but only once!)

I learned that all college students live and die by their cell phones, and Free Nights and Weekends is a gift from the heavens. In the first couple of weeks I could walk around at 8:59 p.m. and see all my floor mates getting out their phones, ready to dial right on the turn of the hour. One guy even went so far as to say “I could lose my arm in a horrible accident, and no one would know about it until after 9 p.m.”

In addition to cell phones, email and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) have allowed me to keep in touch with the people I miss and care about. I even taught my dad — at his request — how to use AIM before I left so that we could chat every now and then while we were both working late at night. It’s obviously not the same as getting to see each other, but it’s close: his jokes are just as corny over the internet as they are in person.

So far my biggest problem has been the lack of edibles. See, our meal plans provide for plenty of “food,” but what use is having lots when none of it’s any good? And if anything actually tastes decent enough to swallow, it’s safe to assume that it contains 10 times the amount of fat you’re supposed to consume in a week. So although I was determined not to gain the infamous Freshman Fifteen… Uh, let’s just say that I got an unanticipated wake up call.

Another effect college is having on me that I certainly did not expect is the revival of my love for sports. Almost every night the guys on my floor are crowded around the television rooting for some team or another, and slowly but surely they’re sucking us girls there with them. I’m now hopelessly compelled to watch playoffs and shout at the TV screen when things don’t go my way. Soon I’ll be that crazy college student waving the foam finger, throwing popcorn at the opposing team, and shouting obscenities at the referee.

Dorm life is both exactly as I expected and nothing at all like I imagined. My RA — Resident Adviser, the non-freshman who lives with us and helps us through our first year — is beyond awesome. He organized trips for our floor every weekend for the first month — and one of the perks of being a poor college student is free/reduced admission to most of the museums, stadiums and other venues. Thanks to those forays into the city, we managed to bond pretty quickly and we all get along well. Occasionally our closeness turns against us — in other words, “drama” arises — but for the most part, we have each other’s backs, teach each other the things we don’t get out of class, and goof around. (A lot.)

Basically, the things you really learn in college are the following:
– How to nap properly.
– How to take care of a lot of drunk people with limited resources. (Parents, if you love your kids, don’t put chocolate in those care packages; we need paper towels, trash cans, and Febreeze!!)
– How to write an 8-page paper in 4 hours, when you were given 4 weeks to do it.
– How to not get sick when your roommate does.
– How to hear the word “FREE” from across campus.

So that, in a nutshell, is my college experience so far. It’s only 300 years late, but hey, a girl’s gotta sleep, right? : )

Super Bowl Stars: Crosby HS Stars to be in Super Bowl performance

The Cougar Star Drill Team is going to Reliant Center with Student Council to perform with Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock during the halftime of Superbowl #38. Director, Nikki Blanchet, was thrilled to share the news with her students last week.

Left to Right: front row; Daniella Serrano, Angela Friddle, Chancey Fitch, Michelle Williamson, Erin Stevenson, Samantha Gwinn; Second Row; Amanda Shoemake, Lindsey Arsement, Kayla Dement, Ashley Rein, Julie Stoner, Casey McMahon, Shauney Savoy; Third Row; (All Social Officers) Kimberly Batton, Amanda Ellis, Katy Kasprzak, Danielle Flahrity, Ashley Simien, Standing fourth row officers, Danielle Young, Cecilly Williamson, Emily Dupuis, Heather Adams, Fifth row; Chelsey Griggs, Paige Turner, Misty Watkins, Beth Hammond, Gina Butler, Stacey Sanders, Nadia Abelhad, Sixth Row; Vanessa Bennett, Brenda Garcia, Ashley Schwab, Blair Foster, Rosalind Mathis, Kelsey Goffney.

Minyard picked as new head football coach at Sterling


BAYTOWN — An assistant coach who came to Sterling last year with coach Danny Long was selected last week as the Ranger’s newest varsity coach, to replace Long.

Herb Minyard was named to the position by the board of trustees during their Jan. 20 meeting. This past season Minyard served as defensive coordinator under Long. Since Long’s departure at the end of last season Minyard has served as interim head coach.

“I am very happy with the decision by Dr. (Barbara) Sultis (district superintendent) and the board and am looking forward to building upon the program we brought in last year,” Minyard said. “I am very excited about this opportunity and the chance to continue with the high expectations Mr. Long and I set previously.”

Prior to coming to Sterling, Minyard served as defensive coordinator under Long at Jacksonville ISD from 1995-2003. During this time, the team advanced to the quarterfinals and regionals three times. In 2002, Jacksonville won bi-district with an 8-3 record.

This past season Sterling did not have the same type of success, ending with a 1-9 record. A member of the Texas High School Coaches Association and Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, Minyard has an overall career record of 149-70-2. He holds a degree in education from Stephen F. Austin State University with certifications in physical education, health and junior high earth science.

Before going to Jacksonville ISD, Minyard served as coach at the high school and junior level in Huntsville ISD as well as teaching science and physical education.

In addition to becoming Sterling’s head varsity coach he will also serve as campus athletic coordinator.

Sports Ranch hosts qualifying meet


CROSBY– Texas Sports Ranch may grow rapidly now that parents and gymnasts from throughout the region have witnessed the fantastic facilities here, during the first of a series of qualifying events to determine who represents the United States at the Olympics in Power Tumbling, one of the disciplines in Sports Acrobatics. One parent stated on Jan. 24 as she entered the 30,000 square foot gymnasium, “Now this is what it is supposed to look like.”

Probably her reaction was based on the common experience that a 15,000 square foot gymnasium is considered large. Or, her reaction may have been based on the three ring circus effect of a 120 foot rod floor (a floor for running, power jumping and tumbling) beside two side by side massive (fly guy) trampolines with double mini trampolines on the opposite side. Her reaction may have been based on the high volume of spectators or the omni-present judges and coaches.

According to Jill Oxford, events coordinator, “Everything is going great today. We are running ahead of schedule. Everything is provided here at the Sports Ranch, the largest complex in Southeast Texas,food, lodging, we never have to leave. We love having our meet here. We have over 250 competitors today. In the morning we hold they younger ages and in the afternoon move up to Senior Elite. The Senior Elites and they go all the way up to the Olympics. They start now in getting their scores and start training for the Olympics and Senior World.”

According to David Rogers, Power Tumbling is certainly a growing sport, “We have twice as many people here as we had last year.”

The region that Texas Sports Ranch is in goes from Baytown to Victoria, down to San Antonio and out to the Valley, according to Oxford. It is the most active gymnastics regions in Texas.

(Full story in paper version.)

Crosby ISD Board recognized, Merrill’s yearbook excellence awarded


CROSBY – The local school board meeting was more fun than usual on January 26. Students from throughout the area bestowed additional appreciation and gifts for the over 20 times per year that the school board trustees meet and the
countless hours they volunteer to administer local schools.

Students from Crosby Kindergarten, Barrett Primary, Newport Elementary and Drew Intermediate School lavished gifts and personal accolades on each member of the board and some of the staff. Gifts included plants and a special cake was presented to board members. Older students recited poetic praise for the boards answer to a call to active citizenship.

In addition to all that fun, one indispensable teacher was recognized for her contribution by the University Interscholastic League. Ramona Merrill, journalism teacher, editor in chief of
the Crosby High School Yearbook, was presented a 2003 Sponsor Excellence Award.

During the presentation of the award, the representative of the University Interscholastic League quoted Principal Debra Frank as having said that teachers in other districts pray for redistricting so as not to compete against Ramona Merrill’s kids. He pointed out that each year several of Ramona’s students advance to regional competition with several going on to state competition.

The award (established in 1991) was “created to honor and highlight the contribution of coaches of UIL scholastic and athletic competitions and to identify and recognize outstanding coaches who assist students in developing and refining extra curricular talents to the highest degree possible within their educational system while helping them keep their personal work separate from their failure or success in competition.”

In other words, it honors teachers that put a lot of personal time and expense into helping their students achieve their potential – concluding the explanation by adding, “Public education works because of people like Ramona.
One of the 15 best in the state.”

He went on to describe how Merrill pushed her students to develop a drive for the beat work and the ambition to achieve.

When the grunt work began in earnest, the board consented to financial reports, approved some out of district trips, approved payment of signing bonus and referral fees. They approved an Interlocal Agreement with Houston ISD for Cooperative Purchasing. Bonds were approved for release for Drew Intermediate School Renovationa and additions. Discussion of improvements to Newport Elementary’s 22 acre property site. They board heard and approved invoices from Bonds Proceeds totaling $545, 697.87

Fire at Crosby Apartment Complex destroys 16 units

CROSBY – An apartment fire destroyed 16 units and displaced 9 families on Sunday morning.
Fire Arson Investigator H.W. Buddy Rice indicates Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. responded to the blaze at 10:15 a.m. on January 11 to the Country Oaks Apartments in the 4015 block of US 90.
Nine adults, (eight women and one adult man) and ten children lost their homes.
A torrid inferno engulfed the entire two story wood sided multifamily dwellings located in the free standing structure on the northwest portion of the apartment complex, according to investigators. Due to building construction, the fire ravaged through the attic and sub-floor; the blaze consumed the building completely, Arson Investigator Rice indicated.
Observers say it was the northeastern end of the complex that burned.
Investigators say 10 fire departments, 30 fire trucks and about 100 firefighters assisted Crosby Volunteer Fire Department battle the blaze.
A firefighter sustained heat-related injuries during the battle. Arson Investigators estimated the damage at $500,000 but resident estimates are about $1,000,000.
According to Natishia Myles, Manager, the apartment’s management was unable to relocate the displaced families in the complex. Seven families are staying with relatives while two families were relocated to a hotel. Myles said, “There is no need for any furniture – the families at this time have nowhere to put furniture. But donations of clothing, diapers, wipes for babies and toddlers, shoes, socks, underwear, toothbrushes with toothpaste, toys and nonperishable food items are needed. The children that lost their homes are ranging in age – an eight year old boy, a four year old boy, a to year old boy, a one year old boy, another child aged about one year old, two 10 year old children, two young boys who’s ages are unknown, a young girl who’s age I don’t know.”
According to Christy Orn of Realty Associates, “Donations can be dropped off with us and we’ll make sure they are taken to all the victims of this fire. ”
Orn’s business is located at 302 Wahl Street, she added, “Please remind our community that it is winter and these children have no clothes to wear.”
Investigators determined that the cause of the fire was most probably due to a 4 year old occupant of an apartment playing with a cigarette lighter. Investigators from Harris County Arson Bureau examined the scene and conducted interviews.
Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. returned to the scene that evening when prevalent winds rekindled the blaze inside the burnt out building.
There are no fire hydrants located near the apartment complex so water had to be shuttled in to combat the inferno.

Teresa Campbell-Firefighter of the Year


HIGHLANDS– Deacon Tittel was back, not only as assistant fire chief, but also that emcee that gives away the gag gifts.
After a year’s leave, Deacon’s return almost overshadowed the more serious business of honoring the Firefighter of the Year, Teresa Campbell, and other top awards.
The event was the annual awards banquet and installation of a new board and officers, which was held by the HVFD last Saturday night at the Monument Inn.

Other major awards included the top ten reponders for the year, service awards for 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20 years of service, recognition of new officers and board, and elected and appointed positions, and truck lieutenants.
Special awards were: Citizen of the Year, Naomi Smith; Business of the Year, Kostka Wrecker Service; and Top Responder, Herman Bradford.
Junior Firefighter was recognized as Daniel Grabill, and Rookie of the year was also the top responder, Herman Bradford.
Chief Harvey Little reviewed the accomplishment and service history for the year. In particular he mentioned the radio equipment now located on our own antenna in Highlands, reduction of response time, improvements in billing, no major accidents or incidents in the year. Responses for the year were 1296 EMS and 308 fire calls, both figures up slightly from year 2002. Membership in the department now stands at 75, including 17 part time paid EMS crew members.
Assistant Chief Deacon Tittel reviewed the progress in training program, including a $2500 grant from the County, complete certification of all personnel at some state defined level, and new courses for driver/operators, and additional training in officer command structure, and water rescue.
EMS accomplishments were reviewed by EMS Chief Kacey Sammons.The included a $22,000 grant from TDH to upgrade the old ambulance chassis.

Waiting in the Atlanta Airport

Spent two hours sitting inside Concourse C @ Atlanta Airport this morning waiting on my airpane. That’s how little Toby says airplane.

Sat on a front row seat facing the lobby and admired the traveling folk. Got an eye full too as I like to sit, watch, and observe people. Been nice to have one of my buds around to talk about the folks as they passed.

One load of folks came in from cold country because they were holding big coats. It was 57 in Atlanta this morning when I got up and not big coat weather inside that large airport.

For the life of me, I cain’t see how some female women wear those raised high heel shoes with a five or six inch heel with a two inch sole. It’d kill me to walk that far with them thangs on my feet and the Atlanta airport ain’t no small place. Seems like each Concourse is as long as a drag strip and there are three of them I do believe.

I was observing the gait or strut of people: Ladies walking lady like, men walking like a man. There were some runners too going to their gates due to their delayed flight.

One dude was all decked out in black with his walk and hands pointing around like a rap singer as he strutted along.

Lots of wheelchairs and those golf cart busses beeping, trying to get people out of their way. I walk on the right side and they can go around me.

People kept their children close at hand and I would too. It would make a child cry to get lost in that place. Dog tags would not be a bad idea.

This person in a sports jacket sat down in the row of seats next to me and then laid down. I kept waiting for security to come by and tell him to sit up, but none ever did or showed up. Three seats, a table thing and his foot on the next seat: long man indeed, in my book. He lay there for an hour at least. That’s rude and shows his ignorance.

Mind you, I was sitting in the seats that had a wheelchair and a circle around it as I am qualified to do so.

Numerous persons sat in the seat next to the seat next to me. Don’t think they were actually qualified to sit there but maybe they thought I was not either.

Lots of nice blue jeans walking up the aisle to passenger pick up and baggage claim, some with their bellies showing and some with meat hanging out over the jeans too.

About 30 minutes before they announced my flight, I went to the multi commode/urinal room, and then thought I’d get an Atlanta paper before the flight. Boy could the Summit have taken a lesson on how to build a head. Other sports arenas could do the same. No waiting in line in one of those at the Atlanta Airport.

Went back to my seat and it was taken. Matter of fact, my whole row of seats was taken. Big boy was still stretched out over 3 seats and a table and his foot was still resting on the end seat.

Here I am with a pound or two of newspaper and my new little carry on with a jar of fig preserves and a jar of pear preserves plus my sport coat was inside the handle and all the other stuff my aunt put in for me.

I went up and banged my newspaper on big dude’s foot to wake him up. He looked up and sat up in his seat. He was either sleeping good or had one fine hangover because he went back to sleep with his head in his hand.

Constable Ken Jones’ expanded coverage area includes Huffman, others


BAYTOWN – Precinct III Constable Ken Jones’ deputies now range North to the Montgomery County Line and include all of FM 2100.

A Commissioners Court ruling enacted Dec. 1 expanded Precinct III against Liberty County Line up to the Montgomery County Line for Precinct III Constable Ken Jones. This expansion allows Jones’s deputies to patrol Huffman.

According to Chief Deputy David Franklin, the new boundary goes to the middle of Lake Houston and forfeits the West of Lake Houston to Precinct 4 Constable Ron Hickman. The southernmost portion of Precinct III is still the Ship Channel. The new precinct goes up Green’s Bayou to US 59 to Old Humble Rd. and to Beltway 8, North of Beltway 8 now belongs to Precinct 4.

In addition to increased territory to patrol Jones’ Law Enforcement responsibility has increased to a new school district, Dayton ISD has now contracted for a Sergeant and two deputies patrolled by Precinct III. That is in addition to Crosby ISD, Galena Park ISD and Sheldon ISD.

Among subdivisions that are now patrolled by Precinct III, Jones has increased his responsibility over Highpoint with a two deputy contract and Summerwood remains in his patrol. Other subdivisions under Jones protection include Indian Shores, King’s Lake Forest, Newport, Parkway Forest, Pine Trails, San Jacinto River Authority and Sterling Green.

Since having taken office with the retirement of Constable James Douglas, Jones has expanded his Patrol Division, initiated a Marine Division, initiated a Mounted Patrol, expanded the Reserve Division and initiated an Internal Affairs Division.