Tuesday, April 30, 2013

From near death to first round pick

If you don't know the story about D.J. Hayden, the UH Cougar football player that narrowly avoided death after a freak injury last fall and went on the be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft last Thursday, you should watch the following segment from ESPN.

Actually, even if you do know the story, you should watch it. Because it's amazing.

Prepare for a fare war

A few weeks ago I mentioned that JetBlue was inaugurating service between Houston Hobby and Boston Logan in July.

Apparently that didn't sit well with Southwest, because this was on their website a few days ago:

Expect to see some cheap flights from Hobby to New England this summer...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Aeros are leaving town

I'm not a huge hockey fan and over the years I've only attended a handful of their games. Nevertheless, I really hate to hear that the Houston Aeros are moving to Des Moines, Iowa.

RIP 1994 - 2013 We'll miss you guys!
The Aeros began play in 1994 at Lakewood Church Compaq Center The Summit as a member of the International Hockey League. They later moved to the American Hockey League and became the minor-league affiliate of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, had been around for 19 years. The team took its name from the WHA's Houston Aeros, which played in the 1970s and whose players included hockey legend Gordie Howe.
"Our organization has enjoyed tremendous support from the loyal, passionate hockey fans in Houston since 2001," Aeros general manager Jim Mill said.
"There is a great hockey history in Houston, beginning with the Apollos in 1965, and continuing with the Aeros in the WHA, IHL and AHL. We are honored to have been a part of this hockey tradition."
The Aeros were left with few options when negotiations for a new lease with the Toyota Center failed to come together.
Both the Wild and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority were unsuccessful in finding a suitable alternative location for the Aeros to continue playing in the Bayou City.
Put another way: Toyota Center is the only commercially viable hockey arena in this city, and Rockets owner Les Alexander used that advantage to screw the Aeros right out of town. As if I need another reason to hate that guy.

Hopefully the AHL will retain the rights to the Houston Aeros name, just in case somebody else tries to bring hockey back to Houston in the future. But, as of now, this city is now the largest in the country without any sort of professional hockey team, NHL or minor league. The Houston Press has more.

Because I like to blog about the weather

This time of year, I'm thankful for every cold front that rolls through town (like the one that came through earlier today, which along with cooler temperatures and a lot of wind brought a bit of much-needed rain), because I know that that it's only a matter of weeks before the misery of the Houston summer begins.

With that said, this cartoon (it appeared on Facebook without attribution, so all credit goes to whomever actually drew it) very aptly describes what today was like here in Houston:

It's going to get down into the low 40s tonight, and a beautiful weekend is supposedly on tap. So enjoy it while you can!

Horrific video of plant explosion in West, Texas

I'm a bit annoyed at this guy, not just because he put himself and his daughter in danger by getting so close to the fertilizer plant when it was on fire, but also because he held his phone vertically instead of horizontally. (It's a pet peeve of mine, especially since he would have captured the explosion better if he had held his phone the right way.) Anyway, what he got is scary enough as it is...
I was especially worried about the girl: did she suffer hearing loss as a result of the explosion? Earlier today I heard through a friend of a friend of a Facebook friend that both are okay. I hope that's true.

At last count, 35 people are dead in the blast. Here's what you can do to help. And props to the Czech Stop for taking care of the rescuers. I've stopped there many times on my travels between Austin/Temple and Dallas/Denton.

No more explosions this week. Please.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

When things break

First, it was my 46" HDTV. The left side of the screen began flickering intermittently, making it difficult to watch anything.

Not a big deal, because there are two TVs in this household and Game of Thrones is just about the only thing I'm watching right now anyway. So we swapped Michelle's TV for mine in the living room and put mine aside until I have the time and money to get it fixed. Which will probably not be until right before football season starts.

Then, the air conditioning in my car quit working. One day it was blowing cold air, and the next day it wasn't. It's possible that a coil got punctured and the freon leaked out, but given that I've already had one electrical issue with this car, I'm willing to bet that this is an electrical problem as well.

Again, it's not a big deal. The AC at least decided to quit now, while it's still relatively cool outside, as opposed to, say, August, when its failure would have been truly traumatic. More importantly, the car is still under warranty. I'll get it fixed when I take the car in for its 30,000-mile servicing in a few weeks.

(Since this is the second problem I’ve had with this relatively new car, I’m reconsidering whether I want to keep it once the lease is up. But that's a discussion for later.)

But then, last week, almost six years to the day since I bought it, my iMac quit working. As in, it wouldn't turn on at all. No screen, no fan, no hard drive. Nothing. Power simply wasn't getting to the computer.

I can live without a TV. I can live without air conditioning in my car, at least for now. But I cannot live without a home computer.

I lugged the non-functioning machine to the Apple Store in Highland Village. The guy at the Genius Bar diagnosed the problem as a bad power supply unit, but said that they no longer carried replacement parts for my particular model of iMac. I would need to take it somewhere else to get it repaired, and that would cost several hundred dollars (assuming that the correct PSU for my particular model of computer could be found at all).

Which left me to think: do I really want to spend money to get an increasingly-obsolete six-year-old computer fixed, or should I just go ahead and get a new one? One with a faster processor, more memory, a larger hard drive, and a bigger screen?

I have to admit, it wasn't a hard decision to make, even if the hit to my savings account was somewhat painful.

Say hello to my new 27" iMac, and another six years of happy computing.

If it is true that bad things happen in threes, then hopefully my stuff will stop breaking for awhile.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

What it was like to fly (and stay at the Shamrock Hotel) in 1957

Via the 1940 Air Terminal Museum's Facebook Page, some (silent) 16mm film taken from a traveler to Houston in 1957:

The cameraman is flying into Houston on an Eastern Airlines DC-7. Clearly visible are the Huey P. Long bridge across the Mississippi in Baton Rouge, refineries along the Port of Houston, the San Jacinto Monument, the swimming pool at the old Shamrock Hotel, and what is now known as Hobby Airport (which was then known as Houston International Airport; it would be another decade from the time this film was taken before Intercontinental would open).

The Houston footage ends around halfway through the film, but at the 3:40 mark there're some nice shots of Manhattan.

Notice that there is no door to the cockpit in any of the airplanes the cameraman is flying in. Air travel was much different back then.

Very cool!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

JetBlue adds non-stops between Hobby and Boston

Another major city is now directly accessible from Hobby Airport:
JetBlue Airways, Boston’s largest airline with more flights than any other carrier at Logan International Airport (BOS), today announced it will be adding two daily flights between Boston’s Logan International Airport and Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) starting July 25, 2013. To celebrate, customers can now book sale fares from $49 one way between Boston and Houston through April 2, 2013 at jetblue.com for travel between September 3 and October 9, 2013 (blackout dates apply).  
"Houston welcomes the new nonstop flights between Hobby Airport and Boston this summer," said Mario C. Diaz, Houston Airport System Director. "The growth of JetBlue in the Houston market demonstrates the strength of our local economy.”
This is a logical move on JetBlue's part, considering their major presence at Boston Logan as well as the lack of direct flights between that city and Hobby Airport. But it's also strategic; thanks to its merger with AirTran, Southwest (which, of course, is Hobby's dominant carrier) is increasing its presence at Logan, suggesting that it could be just a matter of time before they introduce HOU-BOS service of their own. JetBlue seeks to get a jump on their potential competition, as well as expand their presence in the Houston market, by adding this service.

It's also another option for local flyers. Up until now, the only way to get from Houston to Boston without changing planes was to fly United out of Bush Intercontinental.

If cable and internet providers had to tell the truth...

...their commercials would look something like this (NSFW language):

(Hat tip: Bucks vs Bytes)

Guy Lewis finally gets his due

It's a travesty that it has taken this long, but I guess later is better than never.
Former University of Houston coach Guy V. Lewis, who won nearly 600 games, was the architect of the high-flying, rim-rattling Phi Slama Jama dynasty of the 1980s and helped integrate college basketball in the South, will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, a person familiar with the selection process said Thursday.  
Later Thursday, Lewis' wife, Dena, said the 91-year-old legendary coach received the news of his induction after years of being passed over.  
"We think it's great," Dena Lewis said. "Long overdue. I cried when I heard."

Asked how Lewis, who retired in 1986, reacted, she said: "He said, 'That's great.'"
It's a bit ironic that this announcement came on the same day as the 30th anniversary of the game that many people believe kept him out of the Hall of Fame for so long - Houston's stunning 52-54 loss to North Carolina State in the 1983 NCAA Baskebtall Championship (the second-biggest chokejob in Houston sports history, and something I'll always be bitter about). But there's way more to Guy Lewis, and his contributions to the sport of college basketball, than that game. Lewis won 592 games and took the Coogs to 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and five Final Fours during his thirty-year career as head coach of the Cougars. And that's just the beginning:
Among his other contributions, Lewis was the architect of the "Game of the Century" between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 UH at the Astrodome in 1968. The game, won by the Cougars 71-69 to snap the Bruins' 47-game winning streak, drew a crowd of 52,693 and was the first regular-season college basketball game televised nationally.  
Lewis is also credited as one of the first college basketball coaches to embrace racial integration in the South during the 1960s, signing Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney as the first African-American players in program history.
Again, Guy Lewis should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago. But I'm nevertheless happy that it's finally happened, and I'm glad he lived long enough to see this long-overdue honor bestowed upon him. Congratulations!

Meet Attila

Michelle wasn't sure how long she wanted to wait before she got a new dog, but after coming across this guy at the Friends for Life Animal Shelter and Sanctuary in the Heights, she decided that the time was now.
Attila is nine weeks old. His mother was supposedly a Sheltie, but it looks like Attila himself has some Labrador and border collie in him. We won't know for sure until he gets bigger. And it's obvious that he's going to get way bigger, probably even bigger than Genghis.
Attila is dark brown with spots of white on his chin and tummy. Like any puppy, he's very playful and he gets along well with Kirby. So far he seems to be adjusting rather well to his new life with us.
Obviously, Michelle likes to name her dogs after notorious Asiatic conquerors. Which seems appropriate, considering that this guy has already conquered our hearts...

RIP Jack Pardee

Jack Pardee, a Houston football icon, passed away Monday at the age of 76:
Even among the long list of Texas football legends, Pardee's story ranks in rarefied air. He was a six-man football champion, a member of the A&M team Bryant held closest to his heart, an All-Pro linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins and a Coach of the Year at every level he plied his trade in college and the pros.

Family members disclosed his death Monday in Centennial, Colo., a Denver suburb, from gall bladder cancer. He was diagnosed in November and moved with his wife, Phyllis, to Colorado to spend his final days.

"My dad was in a lot of pain near the end, and it was time for the Lord to take him," said his son, Ted Pardee. "He was committed to football, but he was always close to his family.

"He had a lot of love to give. He was a sweet guy who was never afraid to give us a hug and kiss. He fought a tough battle, and we're going to miss him."

He will be best remembered in Houston for his years as head coach of the USFL's Gamblers, where his players included future Hall of Famer Jim Kelly; the University of Houston Cougars, where he coached Andre Ware to the 1989 Heisman Trophy; and the Oilers of the run-and-shoot era of the 1990s.
I met Jack Pardee on a several occasions when he was coach of the Cougars because he would oftentimes attend the same mass at the Catholic Newman Center on campus that my mom, brother and I attended. He was a pleasant person to be around and I had a lot of respect for him.

Pardee had his critics. I know of a few UH faithful who felt that he was not a good recruiter, or that he merely used the University of Houston as a “stepping stone” to get back into the NFL. While at UH, Pardee and his staff received national scorn for running up the score on various opponents: 82 points against Tulsa in 1988, 95 points against an SMU team coming off the “Death Penalty” in 1989. There were also fans and sportswriters, locally as well as nationally, who disliked Pardee’s devotion to the Run and Shoot offense; they felt that the one-back, no tight-end set was gimmicky, couldn't control the clock and couldn't score in goal-line situations. Then there's the fact that he never led the Oilers to an AFC title, let alone the Superbowl, and that he was coach when the team managed the biggest chokejob in NFL and Houston sports history.

Nevertheless, I'll always appreciate him for what he accomplished during his short tenure at the helm of the UH football program. When legendary UH Coach Bill Yeoman fell on hard times and was forced to resign in the mid-1980s - the team went 1-10 in 1986 and was being investigated by the NCAA for violations that would later put the team on probation - Pardee breathed life back into the moribund program. In his three years as head coach the Cougars went 22-12-1, including a 3-0 record against the hated Texas Longhorns. Pardee's 1989 Cougar team, which scored an average of 53 points per game, gave up an average of 13.3 points per game, and ended the season ranked #14 in the AP poll, might be one of the best teams in UH football history. It should also be remembered that Andre Ware won the Heisman that season in spite of the fact that none of the Cougars' games were televised. Such a feat would be impossible today.
Ted Pardee said his father chose in his final days to establish what he hoped will be a lasting legacy through the Jack Pardee Memorial Scholarship at UH.  
He truly loved the time spent at the University of Houston and wanted to find a way to help a deserving, hardworking, dedicated athlete who might not have the means to pay for their own college tuition," Ted Pardee said. "He could have offered his name to a lot of different charities or scholarship funds, but this was what my dad wanted to do."
Pardee could have chosen to set up a memorial fund anywhere, including at his alma mater, Texas A&M. That he chose to set up a fund at the University of Houston speaks volumes about him and his love for UH.

Pardee's funeral mass will be held here in Houston on Monday.