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Posts published in June 2005

Area students awarded HLS&R scholarships

HOUSTON – At a ceremony last month, 312 outstanding Houston-area graduating high school seniors filled the floor of Reliant Stadium. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo honored these exceptional young Texans for their achievements with a scholarship presentation, totaling $3.744 million on the evening of May 24, 2005.

Each recipient received a four-year, $12,000 scholarship from one of three Show scholarship programs – Metropolitan, Opportunity and School Art. The Houston metropolitan area has long supported the Show’s educational endeavors, and these scholarship programs were designed specifically to boost the educational opportunities for students in the Show’s home community.

The largest of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s programs, the Metropolitan Scholarships are awarded to 197 students in Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties, and are based on academic achievement, leadership, community involvement and financial need. The Opportunity Scholarships are based on academic achievement, leadership and community involvement, and are weighted for financial need.

Nearly 1,200 students from Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties applied for the scholarships, and 100 recipients were selected.

Receiving scholarships from Crosby High were Randy Allen Johnson (Metro) and Adam Spencer Cook (School Art).

From Goose Creek were: Robert E. Lee HS: Tram Yen Pham (Metro) and from Ross S. Sterling HS: Gabriel Emigdio Barragan (Opp), Matthew Chase Casey (Opp) Kyleigh Noel Parker (Metro) and Jeromey Scott Thornton (Metro).

From Willie J. Hargrave HS were Jenna-Rose Ascherl (Metro) and Joel Ray Burgess (Opp).

In order to be eligible for a School Art Scholarship, applicants must have achieved Best of Show, Gold Medal, Special Merit or Gold Star Finalist status at the district level in the Show’s School Art Program in 2005.

These scholarship recipients must demonstrate the same academic achievement and leadership as Metropolitan and Opportunity winners. Fifteen School Art Scholarships were presented.

The Metropolitan, Opportunity and School Art scholarships are part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s educational commitment of more than $7.5 million annually.

Well fire dormant

CROSBY – Residents here frequently ask what happened to the smoke on the eastern horizon since last Wednesday, June 15.

The answer according to the Louisiana Gas Development Corporation, “As of June 16, 2005, LGDC’s Shmidl-Brooks Well No. 1 is static and dormant.  There has been no fire and no natural gas escaping from the well bore or surrounding area for the past 72 hours. This currently signifies that nothing is being emitted to the surface to burn and there is no gas to ignite, which is the natural progression in the next stage of killing the well completely.”
LGDC is preparing to drill a well from another location to permanently plug the Shmidl-Brooks Well No. 1. ##M:[full story]#

“Wild Well Control has looked at and is making plans to do surface work around the well in preparation of surface plugging after the relief well has been drilled,” according to the company. “The initial water well testing results in the evacuation zone showed there was no methane danger present in the wells.”

On Friday, June 10, 2005, a 1,250-foot safety radius around the well was declared. All but two families in the original evacuation zone would be allowed to return home Saturday June 11.

On June 20, media access was still not allowed down Kennings Road to within one quarter mile from the road site closest to the well.

Residents with additional questions can call (713) 770-0735 or visit Louisiana Gas Development Corporation at on line. Insurance claims or questions should phone (713) 451-0100.

DreamWorks shows improvement with ‘Madagascar’

Running time: 86 minutes
MPAA rating: PG

“Madagascar” is the latest CGI’d animated film from Dreamworks. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as that awful shark movie it released last year. In fact, “Madagascar” comes pretty close to matching the entertainment standards set by Pixar, the studio that gave us “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story.”

The film stars Chris Rock as Marty the Zebra, one of the menagerie at New York’s Central Park Zoo. His buddies are Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). The animals have lived in princely, pampered comfort at the zoo for their entire lives.

On Marty’s 10th birthday, some enterprising penguins (voiced by the director and members of the production team) attempt an escape to someplace called “The Wild.” Marty becomes obsessed with the idea of living in the wild and makes his escape. Of course, Marty’s idea of The Wild is . . . Connecticut, and he thinks all he has to do is go to Grand Central Station and hop on a train.

Alex and the rest of Marty’s pals chase after him. Of course, they’re all captured. An animal-rights group convinces everyone that this is the animals’ way of saying they don’t want to live in captivity, so Marty, Alex, Melman and Gloria are crated-up and put on a slow boat to Kenya. Little do the humans realize that the crack commando team of penguins has infiltrated the ship and changed its course to Antarctica. On the way, our crated friends are accidentally knocked overboard and wind up on the sandy shores of Madagascar, where they are greeted by a gajillion zonked-out, party-animal lemurs led by flamboyant King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen).

Slowly, Alex the Lion begins to hear The Call of the Wild and becomes more and more like a real lion, wanting to eat not only the lemurs, but tempted to make a buffet of his friends as well.

“Madagascar” is a really funny movie, not only for kids, but for grownups too. I’m definitely buying the DVD when it comes out. The curious thing about the film, though, is that most of the laughs are inspired by the supporting cast: King Julien, the penguins and other peripheral characters. This isn’t a criticism, just an observation.

The film is also short enough to keep younger viewers’ attention while still having enough time to instill a very important moral: Don’t eat your friends. Really.


Know your tenant rights

My office receives quite a few calls from tenants who have disputes with their landlords. The complaints range from issues of health and safety to non-return of security deposits and lack of peace and quiet.

The most important part of your relationship with your landlord is your rental agreement, which you should always obtain in written form. Be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign it. If you want to change a part of the lease, discuss it with the landlord. He or she may be willing to make changes to the contract.

Texas law provides you with additional protection. The laws states that you have the right to “quiet enjoyment.” If other tenants in your building are disturbing you, you should complain to the landlord. The landlord has a duty to see that you are protected from other tenants wrongful behavior.

Except under certain circumstances, a landlord may not interrupt utilities to a tenant unless the interruption results from bona fide repairs, construction, or an emergency.

You have a right to demand repairs when a condition affects your health and safety. Under Texas law, by renting you the property, the landlord guarantees that the unit will be a fit place to live. The landlord does not have a duty to pay for or make repairs if you or your guests cause an unsafe or unhealthy condition through negligence, carelessness, abuse or accident.

A dwelling must be equipped with security devices such as window latches and keyed dead bolt locks on exterior doors. These devices must be installed at the landlord’s expense. If such devices are missing or are defective, you have the right to request their installation or repair. The landlord must also provide smoke detectors.

If the landlord won’t make repairs needed to protect your health, safety or security, and you follow the procedures required by law, you may be entitled to end the lease or have the problem repaired and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent. You could also file suit to force the landlord to make the repairs.

Send the landlord a certified letter outlining the needed repairs. Be sure that your rent is current when the notice is received.

Your landlord should make a diligent effort to repair the problem within a reasonable time. The law presumes seven days to be a reasonable time. If the landlord has not made a diligent effort to complete the repair within seven days and you did not have the first notice letter delivered to your landlord via certified mail, return receipt requested, or via registered mail, you will need to send a second notice letter.

If you receive a notice to vacate from your landlord, you do not have to move out of the unit by the date indicated in the notice. If you decide to stay, the landlord can then file an eviction suit with a local justice of the peace.

The landlord still cannot remove the tenant or the tenant’s property without a court order, except in the case of abandonment or when exercising a landlord’s lien. For example for non-payment of rent. After the landlord files the eviction suit, the court clerk will send the eviction citation to the Constable’s office for service to the tenant.

If you receive a citation, you should review it carefully. It will outline your rights. You will then have the opportunity to go before the justice of the peace to tell your side of the story. You do not need an attorney present, but it may be advisable for you to consult with one. If you lose, you still have the right to appeal the decision.



Tenant Rights

Read the Attorney General’s brochure, Overview of Tenant Rights

The Austin Tenants’ Council and the State Bar of Texas provide additional information on tenants’ rights, including brochures. You can contact those organizations as follows:

Austin Tenants’ Council
1619 E. Cesar Chavez Street
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 474-1961

State Bar of Texas
P.O. Box 12487
Austin, TX 78711
(800) 204-2222

Information on this and other topics is available on the Attorney General’s Web site at

Shop Around for Low-fee Variable Annuity

It’s hard to save too much for retirement. So, if you can afford to contribute the maximum amounts to your IRA and your 401(k), and you still have money left to invest, you might go searching for another good retirement-savings vehicle. And you won’t have to search hard before you find a variable annuity. Annuities are long-term investments designed to provide tax-deferred savings and an income stream for retirement.

However, you might have been dissuaded from investing in this vehicle because of two key factors: high annual fees and lack of liquidity. But if you’re willing to do some comparison shopping, you can find a lower-fee, more liquid version of the variable annuity – and when you do, your efforts may be rewarded.

Before we explore the issues of fees and liquidity, however, let’s see what benefits a variable annuity can offer you:

* Tax-deferred earnings – When you purchase a variable annuity, you place your money in various sub-accounts that can be made up of stocks, bonds and other securities. You choose how to allocate your investment dollars, based on your risk tolerance and time horizon, and your earnings grow tax-deferred until you begin taking withdrawals. (Keep in mind, though, that this investment is called “variable” for a reason; your account balance will fluctuate along with the financial markets.)

* Lifetime income stream – You can structure your variable annuity so that it will provide you with an income stream that you can’t outlive.

* High contribution limits – You can invest far more money to a variable annuity than you can to an IRA or your 401(k).

* Guaranteed death benefit – Your beneficiary is assured of a minimum guaranteed death benefit, based on the claims-paying ability of the insurance company that issued the annuity.

The “A-share” option

As you can see, a variable annuity offers some attractive features. But some annuities will charge you high fees for these benefits. When you add up the “insurance charges,” asset-management fees and, in some cases, surrender fees (called “contingent deferred sales charges”), you might find that some variable annuities are just too expensive, relative to their hoped-for return. Plus, the surrender fees can take away liquidity by making it expensive for you to get money out of your annuity contract, should you need to do so.

That’s why you need to look for variable annuities with low fees and low – or zero -surrender charges. And in recent years, some lower-cost options have emerged. Some variable annuities now assess a front-end sales charge, or “load,” on consumers in exchange for lower annual fees. You may see this option referred to as an “A-share” annuity. The more you invest, the lower the up-front sales charge may be. To ensure you are charged the lowest sales charge you are eligible for, be sure to ask your investment professional whether any of your current investments qualify as related accounts for breakpoint purposes. You’ll typically get the greatest benefit from an A-share annuity if you hold it for at least seven years; at that point, your fee savings usually compensate you for the higher initial sales charge.

And the seven-year wait is not really a hardship, because variable annuities are unquestionably long-term investment vehicles. You should hold onto a variable annuity long enough to give the investments a chance to grow, and to overcome any “down” periods that may occur as a result of market slumps.

Don’t rush yourself

Variable annuities – even the ones with lower fees – are not for everyone. Variable annuities fluctuate in value, which means you may get back less than your original value. And withdrawals before the age of 59 1/2 may be subject to a 10 percent IRS penalty and income taxes on earnings. Before making any purchase decisions, consult with your financial professional to make sure that a variable annuity is right for you.

Aaron Cole, A.A.M.S.
Edward Jones
6500 FM 2100, Suite 285
Crosby, Tx. 77532

Summer Daze: Gardening and watching the grandkids

If hot weather makes peppers hot then we should have a nice crop of after burners this year. A friend has six Habanera pepper plants and offered some which I refused. They are simply too hot for me, all you taste is hot and then you can’t taste anything else but hot.

The old boy puts up quarts of Cow Horn pepper sauce and includes three to four of the pods of the Habanera in each quart. He said it gives the pepper sauce some heat. Having had a quart of it, the pepper sauce is not as hot as you’d have thought.

Picked Brussel Sprouts from the garden this morning and will use some of the pepper sauce on the stout tasting things tonight.

The tomato patch is almost gone except for a few of the Cherry tomatoes and Zebra tomatoes. First year to grow the Zebra and will again if I can find a plant next year. They are green and yellow on the outside but green in texture; they still taste like a regular tomato.

Had some yellow tomatoes and they too taste no different than the red.

The 10 year old grand daughter has eaten five ripe tomatoes over the sink with a sprinkle of Cajun Seasoning since she got here yesterday. The 8 year old does not eat tomatoes.

Fried some green tomatoes today and gave the 10 year old one to sample. She tasted it then bit into it. She made a face that would scare Darth Vader.

Good to have the two grand daughters here for a spell. Hope it don’t turn into a spell.

They are not used to being still except when they are sleeping it seems.

Allowed them to ride the lawn mower in the back yard with strict orders on this that and the other. Might have to go get more gas tomorrow for them to ride that hot thing out in this heat; they loved it.

Their father is calling from Pennsylvania checking on them. Mr. Wild Child himself at that. The old road warrior has the two girls plus now an almost 2 yr old boy, and his tune has sure changed since his hitch in the Marine Corp.

Asked him what he is going to do when one of the girls brings home a long haired hippy type dude. He doesn’t appreciate my comments.

Reap what we sow, I love it because he did good.

Have a promise to keep to the girls and that is going to Wal-Mart at six o’clock in the morning. Already been asked when we are going because they can smell the toy section as soon as they get in the door.

They will get a whiff of a mini batch of chowchow coming up early one morning too.

Have been wearing my Day Lake pocket T shirts and they are holier than Swiss cheese.
The old blue jean shorts are frayed with an occasional hole and/or paint on them. Don’t mind wearing them one bit as they are very comfortable fitting clothes to me.

These girls fuss at me for wanting to go out to eat with the ragged clothes on and it is funny listening to them. Then I say, “I suppose you want me to wear some shoes too?”

It’s like adding fuel to the fire.

The girls also told me I am very grumpy. I told them living with their grandmother makes me that way.

Yackety yack, yack, yack.

Getting a “C” in housecleaning

Today is a day when I got up on the right side of the bed. At least I had my housekeeping hat on and began to do my bit immediately following breakfast. I rose from the breakfast table, cleaned off the table and put things away. This was followed by the task of taking the clean dishes from last evening out of the dishwasher and replacing them with those food-stained.

I’d like to say I follow a routine like that daily in assisting my bride of 50 years around the house. As she knows all too well, that is not among the facts of the issue. This writer is not the best at helping around the home, particularly in the kitchen, now or in the past. Oh, I may do limited housework on a daily basis but, I am not alone, as I have learned during “retired husband confession time” in some of our restaurants.

First, I am no cook, never have been and do not plan to start. Linda loves to cook, so that works out fine. During our earlier years of married life when Linda was working out of town or ill and mealtime rolled around the three youngsters would ask, “What restaurant are we going to tonight, dad?” They were all quick learners on Dad’s likes and dislikes.

Our eldest, Donald Kent, has grown up enjoying the art of cooking and does it frequently in his and Marta’s home. Over the years Denise has lined up on my side of the fence and Dave, living alone in Crosby, cooks out of desperation.

When it comes to helping in the kitchen I get mixed reviews. There are times when I have removed things from the dishwasher, put them away and they have never been found. This morning I pulled one black plastic thing out of the dishwasher that I had no idea where it was to be placed or what it was. She told me its function then put it away but I still don’t know what it is.

In some other areas I do better. I’m hell-on-wheels when it comes to dusting with a rag or mop. Why should this job take two hours when I can do it in an hour, I keep asking myself? Of course, an end table item may get broken or scratched once in a while but who’s noticing. My mother used to say she, “didn’t like sittin’ around items” anyway. I’m just following my mother’s lead.

The sweeper and rug cleaner are also right down my alley. The only criticism I receive using the sweeper is that I don’t do it enough and don’t empty the bag when due. However, the rugs don’t look dirty to me!

Over the years I have come to accept the fact that rug cleaning (shampooing) is my job and I do it pretty well and faithfully about twice a year. For this I usually get my “star of the day” and feel pretty good about how good the clean rugs smell.

When it comes to things like making the bed I am still in the learning stage. I make the bed often enough, but it rarely passes inspection without an extra tug here or fold there. The learning stage also applies to clothes washing. Most of the time I do it without incident.

However, every now and then I get a lecture about having the dryer too hot or putting something in that should have been hung on one of the lines nearby. Not recently, but in the past I have been known to put too much soap in the washer and not putting in a soap aid when needed. Lately I have passed muster.

As for my overall performance as a housekeeper I would give myself a middle to low “C.” Better than some husbands I have been told! How about it husbands? How do you rate yourselves, or should I ask your wife?

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

Fresh Start

We broke away from daily cares
to somewhere by the sea
where we spent two long, peaceful days
feeling footloose and free.

Wide waves sparkled like cut diamonds
—brilliant in sunlight.
We walked in the flower gardens,
delighting or eyesight.

Back through time, we leisurely strolled
through trains, mansions, quaint shops.
We took great pleasure in dining,
pulling out all the stops.

My ‘break away’ became a release
from upset applecarts.
Thank you, Lord, for the new views;
I now have a fresh start.

—Reba Curtis, Houston

The Star-Courier and Barbers Hill-Dayton Press are now accepting submissions for their new feature “Poet’s Corner”. Submissions can be mailed to P.O. Box 405, Highlands, Tx. 77520, attn. Poet’s Corner or sent by e-mail to