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Posts published in “Day: October 18, 2007

The end is a beginning (pt. 2)


Between the sweltering heat and sticky humidity, you would think it was still summer. As I walked to class on my first day as a graduate student, mosquitoes swarmed my bare legs, viscously biting to survive. Survive just as I had that summer.

Rather than joining the workforce after college graduation, I chose to continue my education, much to the surprise of my parents, who assumed that I’d be well on my way to a high-paid executive position with some Fortune 500 Company. Instead, I found an internship in New York City that would engage my mind and my time until school started in the fall.

But that wasn’t the only thing that surprised them. I had also gotten out of a three-year relationship with someone I considered my best friend, and losing him felt like losing a part of myself. Essentially, I bid my parents adieu and left for New York boyfriend-less and confused, but full of hope.

I still have trouble sometimes with this transition from being a “we” to an “I.” There are times I feel lost, uncertain and unable to contain my emotions. There are also times I find myself wondering more about what he is doing than what I have just learned in class. But I’ve realized that there will be moments like these, and eventually I will learn to move past them.

This learning process began in the summer, in New York, where working through my pain and my pride, I found myself enjoying life. At first, every day felt like a constant reminder of what I no longer had. The Whitney Museum hosted a blinding “Summer of Love” exhibit featuring the psychedelic colors of 1967 and photographs of John Lennon. The company where I interned held its “Summer of Love” outing in a roof-top loft littered with a few souls brave enough to wear the complimentary tie-dyed T-shirts. Even the W Hotel, which I passed daily on my walk to work, illuminated the fluorescent words “Summer of Wuv” on the lobby floor. Everywhere I went, the phrase followed.

But beyond my “Wuv”-ly reminders, I found new adventures, cuisines and people. I spent my free time tracing Richard Serra’s sinuous bronze sculptures at the MoMA, outfitting myself with fashionable confections at Bloomingdale’s private sale, daydreaming as I overlooked the night skyline from the Empire State Building, and representing my burnt orange Texas pride at a Yankees game. Life was different, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Returning home to Texas, summer faded into memory. Although the exposure to a different place and lifestyle was an incredible experience, it left me even more uncertain about what I want to do with my life. But I’m reminded of a curly-haired aspiring actress I met on a ferry who said she wished that when she was my age, someone had told her, “It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do now.”

It’s okay. I’m okay.

The end of a relationship is never easy. The start of a new life chapter is also a difficult journey. But we all should know, there are plenty of opportunities to discover yourself. To trust yourself.

Summer of Love or not, I am Angie, and that’s okay.

* * *

This is just the beginning. An introduction, if you will. This is the start of what we hope will be a long journey, and a good conversation between us and you, our readers. We want you to enjoy this column and to join in our adventures. We would love to make you think, talk, and especially respond. (See our contact info below!) Because we have stories to share. You know, just between us.

Kristan Hoffman and Angie Liang have been friends since middle school. Kristan is the daughter of newspaper publisher Gilbert Hoffman, and both she and Angie worked for the paper during summers. Currently Angie is a graduate student in advertising at the University of Texas in Austin, and Kristan works at a graphic design firm in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Kristan and Angie would love to hear from you! Email

Large meth stash nabbed in Crosby

CROSBY – Precinct 3 Constable Deputies made their largest quantity of methamphetamine arrest in the history of this area at about 3:00 a.m. Friday, October 12.
A traffic stop of a weaving car at about 2:40 a.m. by Deputy Jose Quintanilla would set in motion the interdiction of about 10 pounds of liquid methamphetamine, small packets of the powder and equipment to manufacture more.
The night shift deputy observed the driver to “fail to drive in a single lane. He almost ran off the roadway.”
According to Sgt. Jasen Rabalais, the suspect car containing the controlled substance pulled into a Barrett Station driveway – apparently when its driver saw a Precinct 3 patrol unit coming from the South behind it.
Quintanilla guessed that the suspect was hoping the deputy would just pass by and not make a stop. So, the deputy proceeded North – passing the car. Then he hid his patrol unit, awaiting the car to pass again. This way, he could watch what was happening as the vehicle passed him and he would be behind it before the other vehicle was aware of his presence. After the car pulled out from the driveway, it began to vier from one side of the roadway to the other, Sgt. Rabalais indicates.

The erratic driving was enough cause for the deputy to put on his overhead lights and the vehicle pulled over.
Quintanilla cautiously approched the car and looked inside. Inside the car, the deputy saw ont only a male driver and a female passenger but also syringe needles and what appeared as powder in a small packet of sealable baggy not completely under the passenger’s seat.
He called for back up and back up arrived in about two minutes. Sergeant Rabalais, Deputies Jeremy McCaffrey, C. Dobbins, J. Camudio all showed up to help out. Deputy Bearden arrived last, having just come from stopping a fight in Channelview and processing an arrest there.
Deputy Quintanilla detained the people in the automobile, removed them from the vehicle and began to question them. He observed that they seemed to be under the influence of something.
When Sergeant Rabalais asked the woman about the small quantity of powder, she at first said she knew nothing about it then she said. “Okay, let’s talk about the Meth.”
That statement was a clue and not the only one. Other deputies suspicious items in the care.
As Sgt. Rabalais began to ask questions of the male driver, the man fell to the roadside and began to gyrate.
ESD#5 paramedics were called to the scene. A female paramedic said to the man apparently attempting to behave like he was having a seizure, “It isn’t working.”
The man then ceased to gyrate.
The driver had a pocket knife, ( which is classified as a weapon) and personal items. The contents of the woman’s purse were several more packets of powder, a pipe and a cell phone.
The small packet of powder turned out to be methamphetamine and several packets of similar powder were found inside the woman’s purse.
Inside the packed trunk of the car were a VCR, various items stuffed inside a bag, another bag with what the F.B.I would identify as water bottles filled with about 900 grams of liquid meth, and devises used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

With the radio announcement of a mobile meth lab being discovered, agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency, Harris County Organized Crime, Texas Department of Safetyand F.B. I were on the way to help the deputies deal with the potentially volitile and highly dangerous substance. An agent from the Federal.Bureau of Investigation showed up first to identify and process the evidence.
Rumors spread of another arrest for the manufacture of methamphetamine by federal agents later at a location where a woman was observed to be cooking up three vats of the drug. More arrests seem likely to follow.

Huffman’s Kershaw leads in Iraq

HUFFMAN – Colonel Michael Kershaw is scheduled to return to the States in a little over a year having distinguished himself and done his community proud with his service in Iraq.
That service not only includes analysis of enemy tactics developing effective counter tactics and diplomacy to mobilize local Sunni resistance to Al Qaeda In Iraq. The persuasion of local sheiks to join with American efforts to drive Al Oaeda from the area was recognized by President Bush as ‘a breakthrough in U.S. Iraqi relations to free Iraq.’
On the battlefield
Since 2001, the 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division has served the most time on the battlefield in Iraq. Kershaw and his troops patrol a 300-square-mile area southeast of Baghdad, once known as an insurgent stronghold called the triangle of death. Casualties taken by the 3,600-member brigade have totaled 52 killed and more than 270 wounded in action, Kershaw told reporters at the Pentagon via videoconference.
The 2nd Brigade will be replaced in Iraq by the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. In the transition over the coming weeks, they will be briefed on lessons learned by Kershaw’s brigade over the last 14 months. Kershaw said there has been great progress in his sector during his brigade’s time there. Thousands of Iraqis have allied themselves with the U.S.-led coalition troops and have applied to join the Iraqi police. Economic conditions are improving, and children who had been working on farms are starting to go to school, he said.
“You can rest assured that although we’ve had some heavy sacrifices, our contributions have been significant,” Kershaw said. “And we’re going to leave south Baghdad better than we found it. We’ve really seen a dramatic reversal in the security situation,” said Kershaw, commander of 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Fighting insurgents
The emergence of these citizens groups about four or five months ago was indeed turning point in efforts to establish stability within his area of operations. About 16,000 vetted citizens have enrolled to form the armed citizens groups, Kershaw said, of which about half are now performing security patrols and checkpoint duties. Cooperation with citizens groups has led to the capture of more than 85 terrorist leaders in recent months. And citizens groups are finding and turning in large amounts of explosives and other ordnance that could be used by insurgents.
There’s been “a huge decline” in improvised-explosive-device attacks on U.S. forces since the citizens groups began anti-insurgent operations, the colonel said. “We’re now able to work on projects in the local areas that help stimulate the local economy,” Kershaw said. As al Qaeda departs, roads are opening up, which helps spur local commerce and industry, Kershaw said. And local children are being escorted to schools without incident, he added.
“Government of Iraq programs can now move into areas that were previously denied to them by the insurgency,” Kershaw said. The formation of concerned citizens groups in his area appears to be an outgrowth of the earlier “awakening in Anbar,” where sheikhs in western Anbar province had turned against al Qaeda. The area southeast of Baghdad was once a bastion for Sunni Baath Party members who’d been displaced from high office after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Kershaw explained. Al Qaeda moved in afterwards, he said, and the terror group struck alliances with the embittered Sunnis. But, as in Anbar province, Sunnis soon became disillusioned with al Qaeda’s brutal methods and religious philosophy, Kershaw said. The terrorists forced marriages between their leaders and local women and banned smoking and other cherished pastimes, he said.
“In every counterinsurgency, you’re really struggling for the bulk of the people,” Kershaw pointed out. “What we’re trying to do is bring a sustainable, lasting peace to this area. And, to date, the results have been very favorable.” Iraqi military and civic leaders also are making gains in tamping down the insurgency in the region, Kershaw said, noting cooperation between Iraqi government officials and tribal leaders remains a critical element in effecting stabilization and reconstruction efforts.
Soldiers captured
Two of Kershaw’s soldiers, Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, and Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, remain missing after a May 12 al Qaeda attack near Qarghuli Village. “We’ve been doing everything possible to bring them back before we leave,” Kershaw said, noting that search efforts are ongoing to find the missing soldiers. Kershaw also saluted his troops for their successful performance of a “tough mission” in Iraq. “Our soldiers have truly performed extraordinarily,” Kershaw said. “We’ve been doing everything possible to bring them back before we leave. This is still our brigade’s No. 1 priority,” he said October 5.
Their identification cards were found later in an al-Qaida safe house north of Baghdad, along with video production equipment, computers and weapons. The house was more than 100 miles from the area where they disappeared. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front group, claimed in a video posted on the Internet the soldiers were killed and buried.
However, “We flooded the area for about six weeks in a detailed search,” Kershaw recalled Friday, “and continued a more surgical search since then.” A dozen insurgents involved in the planning and execution of the assault have been captured and other suspects may have been hit in a strike Thursday night, he said. He did not identify any of those involved except to say the attackers were 15 to 18 people affiliated with al-Qaida.
Jimenez’s wife Yaderlin Hiraldo Jimenez, an illegal immigrant in the United States, was threatened with deportation but later was given a green card – evidence of legal residency – out of respect for her husband’s sacrifice, U.S. government officials said.
An active career
Kershaw was commissioned in the Infantry from the United States Military Academy in 1984, first assigned to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he served as Rifle and Scout Platoon Leader in the 3d Battalion, 327th Infantry.
In 1987, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Lewis, Washington as a Weapons Platoon Leader. In 1989 he was assigned to the 3d Battalion, 41st Infantry, 2d Armored Division as Fort Hood, Texas. He participated in Operation Desert Storm as a Mechanized Company Commander in the 1st ‘Tiger’ Brigade attached to the 2nd Marine Division.
In 1991 he returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment where he served as a Supply Officer and Headquarters Company Commander. 1996, he was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia where he served as the Operations Officer for 3d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and the 75th Ranger Regiment. He was then posted to Italy where he commanded 1st Battalion, 508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team. He commanded 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia.
Colonel Kershaw’s military education includes the Infantry Officer Basic Course and Advance Courses, the Command and General Staff College and the National War College.
He holds a Bachelor of Science from the United States Military Academy and a Master of Arts from the Naval Postgraduate School. His awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, and the Ranger Tab. The brigade is in its 14th month of an extended 15-month tour; “The most-deployed brigade in the U.S. Army,” he noted. On its return home, which should be completed over the next several weeks, it will have served 40 months overseas since December 2001.

Avoid these frightening investment moves

Once again, it’s Halloween. If you’re an adult, you’re probably more amused than frightened by the variety of ghouls, ghosts and goblins you’ll see running around this week. However, although Halloween itself may not be particularly alarming, you can find some things in life that are truly scary – such as making bad investment moves.
Here are a few of these alarming errors to avoid:
*Investing too little in your 401(k) – If you have a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan, you owe it to yourself to take full advantage of it. Your contributions are generally made with pre-tax dollars, so the more you put in each year, the lower your taxable income. Plus, your earnings have the potential to grow on a tax-deferred basis. Furthermore, you may have a dozen or more investment options within your 401(k), so you can spread your dollars around in a way that reflects your risk tolerance and retirement goals. At the very least, contribute enough to earn your employer’s match, if one is offered. And try to increase your annual contributions every time your salary goes up.

*Ignoring your IRA – Even if you have a 401(k), you can still open an IRA. Many people do this – but then forget about it. For 2007, you can put $4,000 into an IRA, or $5,000 if you’re 50 or older. A traditional IRA offers the potential for tax-free earnings, while a Roth IRA can grow tax-free, provided you’ve had your account for at least five years and you don’t take withdrawals until you are at least 59-1/2. And you can fund an IRA with virtually any investment you choose.
*Investing too conservatively – Many investors are so uncomfortable with the volatility of the stock market that they put much of their money in more “conservative” investments, such as Treasury bills, corporate bonds and certificates of deposit. It’s true that these types of securities will, in general, offer more preservation of principal than stocks, but they will not provide much growth potential. So, if you’ve “loaded up” on these fixed-income vehicles, you could lose purchasing power, over time. Over the long term, only stocks have historically outpaced the rate of inflation, although past performance is not an indication of future results. Consequently, if you are saving and investing for retirement, you will certainly need an appropriate amount of stocks in your portfolio.
*Chasing “hot” stocks – If you follow a tip on a “hot” stock, you could get burned. Why? For one thing, by the time you buy the stock, it may already be cooling down. Even more importantly, it simply may not be appropriate for your individual risk tolerance and long-term goals.
*”Timing” the market – If you could always “buy low and sell high,” you’d unquestionably make a fortune as an investor. Unfortunately, no one can really predict when market highs and lows will occur – and you can rack up a lot of expenses buying and selling your investments in a vain attempt to “time” the market. You’re much better off by buying quality investments and holding them for the long term, or at least until your needs change.
There’s no trick to avoiding all these investment mistakes – and if you do, you may just find your investment statement is not so spooky to read.

Mont Belvieu sees higher sales tax collection

MONT BELVIEU—The Cities of Mont Belvieu and Old River-Winfree followed a state trend this past quarter that saw increases in state sales tax collections.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, in a report issued last week, said the state took in $1.62 billion dollars in sales tax in September, a seven percent increase over September 2006.
Combs sent $443.7 million in monthly sales tax payments to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, up 6.8 percent compared to last October.  So far in 2007, local sales tax allocations are 6.9 percent higher than last year.
“Growth in September sales tax collections slowed slightly, but continue to increase at a healthy rate,” Combs said.  “Receipts from the mining, manufacturing and retail sectors continue to demonstrate the current strength of the Texas economy.”

Mont Belvieu and Old River Winfree saw from the saw time period last year to this year. During the same quarter in 2006 Mont Belvieu had a net payment of $152,233.31. This past quarter it was $173,673,27 or a 14.08 percent increase. Old River Winfree saw an 8.19 percent increase from $1,701.72 to $2,233.31. Cove, however, has seen a dip, going from $4,022.71 to $3,726.79 or a 7.35 percent drop.
Dayton has seen a 6.19 percent sales tax collection with $87,915.80, up from $82, 786.32.
Both Mont Belvieu and Dayton have a 1.5 percent state sales tax, while the state sales tax for Old River Winfree and Cover is one percent.
The Chambers County Health Service District collected one-half a percent sales tax. They have a seen a .58 percent increase from $140,655.93 to $1141,474.74.
Combs sent sales tax allocations of $300.8 million to Texas cities, 6.4 percent more than October 2006.  Calendar year-to-date, city sales tax allocations are up 7 percent. Texas counties received October sales tax payments of $27.8 million, up 9.6 percent compared to a year ago.   Calendar year-to-date, county sales tax allocations are 8.4 percent higher than last year.
The 122 special purpose taxing districts throughout Texas received $14.7 million in sales tax, up 20.2 percent compared to last October.  So far this year, sales tax allocations to special purpose districts are up 17.9 percent compared to 2006.
September state sales tax collections and October allocations of local tax revenue represent sales that occurred in August and were reported to the Comptroller in September.
The Comptroller’s next local sales tax allocation will be made on Friday, Nov. 9.