Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Idiots with guns

Late last night, I was standing in my front yard. In the distance behind me, I heard a gunshot. I didn't immediately think much about it, because gunfire isn't exactly a rare occurence in southeast Houston.

About twenty seconds later, however, I heard sharp cracking sound in the street in front of my neighbor's house, and then the "clink-clink-clink" of some metallic object bouncing down the street in front of my house. Thanks to my yard's proximity to a street light, I was able to see the object come to rest, and walked down my driveway to find a rifle slug, perhaps a .270 or .277 caliber, its tip badly deformed by its impact with the pavement.

I can only assume that this projectile was associated with the gunshot I heard behind me about twenty seconds earlier. It sounded like the shot came from several blocks away; if I had to guess, it probably came from Braes Bayou, where people have been known to discharge firearms from its grassy embankments that are out of view of the surrounding streets.

I don't know why some moron decided to fire his gun into the air that evening. Maybe somebody had recently acquired a new hunting rifle and wanted to test it. Maybe somebody was firing a shot as a Memorial Day commemoration. It doesn't really matter. What I do know is that if the bullet had landed just forty or fifty feet closer, I could have been seriously injured or worse.

Don't these people who randomly fire their guns into air understand that, in accordance with the law of gravity, that bullet is going to have to come down somewhere? It's no wonder that people get hurt or even killed during New Years Eve, when people "celebrate" the beginning of the new year by firing their weapons into the air. Houston is one of several cities trying to crack down on this practice, but, as last night's incident evidenced, the random firing of guns into the air isn't limited to New Year's celebrations.

I'm not "anti-gun" by any means. But I do wish that people who own firearms would understand that there are proper ways to use them, and that firing them into the air in a crowded urban area is not one of them.


Lori and I recently planted an herb garden, and while the mint, thyme, lavender and rosemary all seem to be doing well, the basil is absolutely thriving in the Houston heat. We don't have basil plants anymore; we have a big basil bush!
If you live near the University of Houston and need fresh basil for your pesto or bruschetta, let me know...

Friday, May 26, 2006

More about Elektra

Lori and I have gone several days without Elektra, and we miss her. It's difficult to get used to her not rubbing our legs or sleeping at the foot of our bed anymore.

In retrospect, it's reasonable to ask why we allowed our cats to roam freely outdoors in the first place. Had we kept them inside, after all, Elektra wouldn't have been run over because she never would have been out in the street. And therein lies a sad irony: Lori and I originally intended Athena and Elektra to be indoor cats precisely because of all the hazards that cats face when they go outdoors. When we lived in our apartments in Austin and Lewisville, their only trips outside were onto the patio.

But, in reality, it's hard to keep cats indoors all the time. Especially when they sit at the door meowing incessantly for hours on end and they try to escape every time you open the door. We began to relent and start letting them outside for brief periods when we had our townhome in Denton with its own yard. They became indoor-only cats again when we moved into our apartment in Midtown Houston, but once we bought our own house it again became difficult to justify confining them indoors. We just had more important things (fixing up the house, taking care of Kirby) to worry about and so the cats began to come inside and go outside as we pleased.

Elektra was a very curious cat and she liked to go across the street to see what was going on in other peoples' yards. We weren't too worried about her getting run over, because we were naive and thought "our cat isn't stupid; she'll get out of the way if a car comes." Maybe so. But as cats grow older and become a step slower, they don't always get out of the way in time. And I think that's what happened with Elektra, especially considering that so many moron drivers speed through this neighborhood without really paying attention.

We know we can't confine Hermes III indoors. But, as of Sunday, Athena is once again an indoor-only cat.

Last Sunday evening, we laid Elektra to rest in our front yard. Here's the story:

Earlier this year, after being told by two different arborists that it was diseased and would fall over sooner or later, we cut down the large, old water oak in our front yard. It had already shed a few branches and we just didn't want to risk more limbs falling on roofs or on people, especially as another hurricane season approached. However, the operation left our yard completely devoid of trees. We realized that we needed to replace the oak (we do live in a subdivision named University Oaks, after all), so a couple of weeks ago we purchased a Quercus shumardii sapling. We intended to plant it last weekend, and we did so.

However, the young oak is no longer just a replacement tree; we decided to also make it a living memorial to Elektra. She is buried directly underneath the tree, and as her body decomposes and fertilizes the soil, she will provide sustenance to the roots of the growing tree: she will, in essence, become this new tree. Her collar and tag, in fact, now hang around the tree's slender trunk.

This way, Elektra will always be part of our home.

The Enron Verdict

As everybody knows by now, a federal court here in Houston has found former Enron CEOs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling guilty of a variety of counts, including conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. The jurors decided that the two repeatedly lied in order to conceal accounting gimmicks and business failures that led to the 2001 collapse of the energy company, which at one time was the seventh-larget corporation in the nation. Over 5,500 people lost their jobs and billions of dollars in retirement savings also disappeared as the company crumbled. Enron's fall, which occurred at about the same time as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, sent Houston's economy into a tailspin that has only recently ended. Lay was also found guilty of several counts of bank fraud in a separate trial.

I don't have anything to say about the results of this trial that haven't been already said elsewhere. Lay and Skilling are now convicted criminals and, barring a successful appeal, both are looking at a long time - perhaps the rest of their lives - in federal prison.

But I do have a humorous footnote to add to the whole Enron debacle. It comes in the form of a rejection letter Lori received in the summer of 2001, while she was sending out resumes in advance of her final semester of business school at UNT. We like to think of it as the "best rejection letter anyone ever received." Note that it's dated August 16, 2001: one day after whistleblower Sherron Waktins's famous memo to Ken Lay regarding the company's twisted and devious accounting schemes that marked the beginning of the end of Enron.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Elektra 1997 - 2006

To the careless driver (who probably lives in my neighborhood) who ran over Elektra late Saturday afternoon: thanks a lot for killing my favorite cat, asshole.

Lori and I adopted Elektra along with her sister, Athena, as kittens shortly after we moved into an apartment complex in Austin in 1997. They've both been with us ever since; we've taken them all over Texas with us, from Austin to Lewisville to Denton to my parents' house to Lori's great aunt's house in Sagemont to our apartment in Midtown Houston to our current home. They've been part of our lives for so long that life without them will be difficult and empty. Unfortunately, that emptiness has begun.

Unlike her solitary, easily-annoyed sister, Elektra was affectionate and social. Lori oftentimes remarked that Elektra acted more like a dog than a cat due to her friendliness; she never met a human that she did not like. She didn't merely rub someone's legs; she would hop up and "bodyslam" them. If she really liked somebody she'd twist over and flop herself on top of their feet and look up at them with her yellow eyes. She rarely hissed or growled, as her sister is prone to do. Instead, she'd purr and meow in a sweet, soft voice. She never really liked being picked up - she would whine in protest everytime she was held - but she was always looking for a hand to pet her or a lap for her to fall asleep in.

Elektra was patient and even-tempered. She tolerated Hermes III as an energetic kitten, when Athena did not. She tolerated Kirby as a curious toddler, when Athena did not (and, unlike Hermes, she never tried to bite him when he pulled her fur). She got along with my parents' cat Orestes and Lori's parents' dog Cash.

Pets really are part of someone's family. When they die, a part of the family dies. It is with great sadness that we must bury Elektra. We will miss her greatly.

My website is a medical training resource

Of all the e-mail I've received about my website - be it from angry rabbit lovers, Super 8 film enthusiasts, travelers to Ecuador, people asking how they can make their city's freeways look prettier, even economics students interested in dollarization - I never, ever thought I would receive the following message:
Thank you for sharing Kirby's photos. In one photograph you've allowed much discussion and learning opportunity for student nurses at Fayetteville Technical Community College in Fayetteville, North Carolina. [at a distance- before the actual clinical experience begins for the Maternal-Women- Newborn health rotation]. The photographer did an excellent job in capturing the forcep marks, the vernix, the amniotic fluid, the "normal" transition assistance of the healthcare team and Kirby looks to be a fine wee one as he prepared to leave the hospital.
This person is, of course, referring to the very first picture of Kirby, which was taken right as he was delivered. I put that picture, graphic as it might be, on my website because I wanted to document my son's life right from its first moment: him literally taking his first breath. That the picture is able to serve an educational purpose as well, even though that wasn't its original intent, is really rather cool.

One of these days, Kirby will be happy to know that he did his part for medical education!

Southwest to reconsider its open seating policy

Earlier this week, it was reported that Southwest Airlines is considering assigned seating on its flights. Southwest, of course, is currently the only major airline in the United States that does not assign seats to flyers. Instead, seating on the plane is provided on a first-come, first-served basis: the sooner you get your boarding pass and get to the gate, the better your pick of seats will be. The so-called "cattle call" has been part of Southwest's business model since its inception, but current upgrades to Southwest's reservation system will allow them to assign seats in the future, if they so choose.

I've never had strong feelings, one way or another, about Southwest's open seating policy. I've always accepted it as part of flying Southwest. Apparently, however, a lot of people do feel strongly about it. As the almost-300 comments regarding the topic on Ben Mutzabaugh's Today in the Sky blog on usatoday.com indicate, there are a lot of people who refuse to fly Southwest expressly due to the open seating policy. There are others that prefer Southwest due entirely to that same policy. A sampling of the comments:
I would kill myself or retire before I would ever fly Southwest. When I see the cordoned lines of persons standing for ages to position themselves, all I can recall are lines of cattle in feedlots waiting to be slaughtered!
(I want to meet this guy with a vial of arsenic in one hand and a Southwest ticket in the other and see if he's serious about killing himself before flying Southwest. As for the "cordoned lines of persons standing for ages," has this guy ever been through security screening?)
WN is a cattle car operation airline which I never fly because of the no assigned seating. If they opt to offer reserved seating and treat the passenger like a person and not cattle, I might consider flying them.
(Uh, which airline doesn't treat you like cattle these days?)
The open seating policy is the reason I fly SWA over any other airline - over and over again. I am a firm believer in their policy. It works like a charm and SWA employees are fantastic.
(Well, all of them are fantastic except for that one clumsy flight attendant who tripped in the aisle and made me knock my beer all over myself. She wouldn't even get me another drink to replace the one that she made me spill!)
I used to fly Southwest out of Manchester and couldn't stand the cattle call. There is always a loser camped out in the front of the A line. Get a life!
(Yeah, and that guy probably thinks you're a loser because he's going to get a better seat than you...)
Southwest has the coldest beer of all the airlines I've flown. Who needs a seat assignment?
(Can't argue with that logic.)
I love the Open Boarding system. I hope that they never change. Most who fly SW do so because of cost and understand the system. The wonderful thing about competition is that you have choices. Those who want assigned seating have other options.
(True. If you don't like Southwest, then don't fly Southwest.)
You people who cling to your precious assigned seating can continue to fly your legacy carriers, even as they hemmorage money, dump their pensions, cut service, charge extra for pillows and blankets and exit row seats, stick you aboard aging MD-80s and cramped RJs, and treat you with contempt all the while. Meanwhile, I'll continue to suffer the traumatic indiginites of standing in line and will continue to fly Southwest, a profitable, courteous, reliable airline will be around long after your unprofitable, arrogant, elitist legacy carriers with their sancrosanct assigned seating have all shriveled up and disappeared.
(Wow. Somebody really has it in for the legacy carriers. Of course, discounters like AirTran and Frontier assign seats, too, so it's not just a legacy carrier thing.)

Southwest probably won't make a decision on assigned seating anytime soon, and although I don't think they need to fix what isn't broke, I really won't care what they decide to do. Judging from some of these comments, however, I'm one of very few people who don't care.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Just a thought...

Iranian Presdient Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be a religious lunatic who wants to acquire nuclear arms and wipe Israel off the map.

But he's not the craziest person in the world.

In fact, as long as Michael Jackson is living in Bahrain, he's not even the craziest person in the Middle East...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Barry Bonds bores me

For all of the Astros' current problems - they've lost eight out of their last eleven games, and once-dominant, now-struggling closer Brad Lidge has been demoted - the local media seems more interested in San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who is in town for a three-game series against the Astros.

I know it's a great storyline for the media: here is one of baseball's most dominant players, one home run away from tying Babe Ruth with 714 all-time career home runs, who is currently battling considerable controversy regarding his alleged steroid use.

But I've become tired of hearing about him. For one thing, I just don't care about him very much, the same way I really don't care too much about anybody who doesn't play for the Astros. Secondly, even when he does break Babe's home run record Bonds will still be several gopher balls away from the all-time career home run leader, Hank Aaron, who has 755 homers. Is second place really worthy of all the attention it's getting? Finally, I just don't care about his alleged steroid use. Major League Baseball didn't test for performance-enhancing drugs at all before 2002, meaning that the league didn't really care about it until recently, either. So why should I be upset that he might have used steroids in the past? He wasn't the only one.

In short, Barry Bonds bores me. I'll be glad when the series with the Giants is over and Bonds leaves town and takes his media circus with him.

Denton's new mayor

Continuing my coverage of the goings-on in Denton, Texas: congratulations are in order for Perry McNeill, a professor of engineering at the University of North Texas who has emerged victorious in a three-way race to replace term-limited Euline Brock as mayor of the rapidly-growing city.

McNeill was appointed to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission shortly after I began working there in 1999. In 2001, he ran for city council and, riding a wave of voter discontent regarding a perception that the existing council was elitist and "anti-business", defeated his district's incumbent with relative ease (more about that May 2001 election here). He served on city council for five years, becoming mayor pro tem in the process, and, having avoided a runoff with either of his two challengers by winning almost 57% of the vote, now moves over a couple of seats to the mayor's chair.

Two other incumbent councilmembers, Bob Montgomery and Joe Mulroy (who himself is an alumnus of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission), withstood challengers as well. McNeill's unexpired council term was filled by retired businessman Guy McElroy, who ran unopposed. He represents the only new face on Denton's seven-member council.

Thus, it would appear that the oftentimes-volatile Denton electorate doesn't really desire to see a major change in the city's direction right now. There does not appear to be overwhelming dissention caused by the city's proposed property maintenance code, nor does it appear that the recent controversy surrounding proposed redevelopment on Fry Street had much of an effect on voters, either.

Not everybody is happy with the outcome of Saturday's ballot. Local businessman Bob Clifton, a longtime critic of city government who finished third in the mayor's race, said that "the incumbents rode in on a lame-duck mayor’s well-oiled machine, and those voters tell me they’re satisfied with mediocre tax-and-spend government.”

McNeill, of course, disagrees: “[voters] say things are going in the right direction and they were pleased with that. The fact that two incumbents were elected and I was elected as mayor … I think it’s really very exciting.”

All Denton elected officials are limited to three two-year terms of office, so McNeill will have at least two years and as many as six at the city's helm.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fry Street redevelopment in Denton

As some of you might remember, I worked for and lived in the City of Denton between 1999 and 2002. More recently, as a consultant for the Denton County Transit Authority, I have been assisting with modifications to the rapidly-growing city's bus network. I've also been involved in studies related to a commuter rail line that will one day link Denton to Dallas.

(Denton, Texas is like my own, personal Hotel California: I can check out any time I want, but I just can't ever leave...)

Anyway. For those of you unfamilar with Fry Street, it is a collection of restaurants, bars and stores located along Oak Street, Hickory Street, Avenue A and, of course, Fry Street on the north side of the University of North Texas campus. These businesses are generally oriented towards college students and are similar to the types of businesses you might find adjacent to other college campuses around the nation.

As the Denton Record-Chronicle reports, however, a developer based here in Houston has recently purchased several buildings that are part of the Fry Street district and has plans to tear them down to create a new development. The project, which would likely include national chains like CVS, Borders and Starbucks, would replace the existing businesses, which include well-known Fry Street establishments such as The Tomato pizzeria and Uncommon Grounds coffee shop. It's unlikely that any of these existing businesses will reopen in the new structure, because, as the article reports, rents are likely to be much higher than they are now.

Reaction to news of this new development is mixed. Some people think that redevelopment of the tattered area is a good idea that will make Denton more attractive, bring in more upscale businesses and expand the local tax base. Others see it as regrettable corporate homogenization that will destroy the area's unique culture and character by replacing a bunch of small, independent businesses with a bunch of bland chains. (There's been a lot of discussion about the topic on gomeangreen.com, the UNT athletics discussion board; see threads here, here and here).

Opponents of the proposed development have started a myspace.com site which suggests that people take action against the project by voting for certain candidates in this weekend's local elections (which I will be covering) and attending future planning and zoning commission and city council meetings. As a former planner for Denton, however, I'm afraid that there's really nothing that P&Z, council or city staff could do to stop this development. The property is already zoned DC-G, which allows retail, restaurants, clubs and apartments. No rezoning will be necessary and that means council will have no say in the project. The developer will probably need to file a replat in order to combine the various existing lots into one new lot before construction begins, but if the plat meets the requirements of the Denton Development Code, P&Z is required to approve it per state law. Likewise with building inspections - if the development meets all the regulations, they can't legally keep it from being built.

Although I really didn't spend a lot of time on Fry Street when I lived in Denton, I do think it's a bit sad that a lot of local businesses are going to be lost in favor of a bunch of big chains. I also agree that the character of the neighborhood will likely be altered by this project (to what extent remains to be seen). But Denton is growing, as is UNT's enrollment. Land around campus is becoming increasingly valuable. To be sure, most of the property on which this project sits is parking, and the buildings themselves are generally old, small and not in great repair. Redevelopment of the area was simply inevitable.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The march of the seasons

Wednesday's cold front brought pleasant late-spring weather to Houston today, with clear skies, low humidity and moderate temperatures (into the 50s overnight). We should see the same weather Friday and perhaps Saturday.

I'm enjoying it, because I know that this is probably it as far as pleasant weather is concerned, at least until October (and I'm not the only person who believes this, either). We might get lucky and get another cold front or two before the month is over, but, as everybody in Houston knows, the oppressive, muggy, hazy heat that is summertime in Houston usually begins to set in during the latter days of May. The fact that summer doesn't "officially" begin until the solstice in late June is irrelevant.

And this summer is going to suck. Not merely in the way every Houston summer sucks, either. It's going to *really* suck. I can tell just by how hot it's gotten already; temperatures have been above normal for most of May. We had hardly any mosquito-killing freezes over the winter, which means that the virus-carrying bloodsuckers are going to be swarming with apocalyptic vigor. The hurricane prognosticators are predicting another rough season in the tropics, too. All signs point to a Houston summer that is even more unbearable than normal, if that were possible.

I noticed another sure sign of the arrival of summer today as I was driving home from work: dozens of cars and trucks, with trunks open and tailgates down, were parked alongside the dormitories at the University of Houston. The school year is offically over - commencement is this weekend - and the students (yes, there are actually a handful of UH students who live on campus) are packing up their worldly belongings and moving out.

Speaking of the end of the semester at the University of Houston, earlier this week my father administered his last final exam. Ever.

This August, after well over 35 years as a professor in the Department of Biochemical and Biophysical Sciences, my old man is retiring.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A new park for downtown Houston

Hey, I think this 12-acre park, which will be built on land currently occupied by surface parking in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center, is a good idea.

But I've gotta be honest: when I hear the phrase "downtown Houston park," the first thing that comes to my mind are a bunch of homeless people sleeping under trees, digging through garbage cans, relieving themselves in public and asking passersby for spare change.

Given the number of homeless people circulating around downtown Houston - especially the east end of downtown - what's going to be done to keep this park from going the same way as other downtown green spaces like Root Memorial Square or Sesquicentennial Park and becoming another big campground for the indigent? Is the understaffed Houston Police Department finally going to begin enforcing the city's civility ordinances? Are soup kitchens and church groups going to be be disallowed from their regular "feed-and-preach-to-the-homeless" activities here (and how could you legally and constitutionally structure such a restriction, anyway)?

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the homeless, especially since an overwhelming number of them suffer from mental problems or drug and alcohol addictions that keep them from living a normal life. But the unfortunate fact is that they make other people uncomfortable. As nice as this park might be, families aren't going to want to visit if the place develops a reputation as another downtown homeless hangout.

Houston's Olympic Dreams

Yesterday United States Olympic Committee members visited Houston as part of a week-long trip to five potential host cities for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The USOC will also be visiting Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco before deciding whether to submit an American bid to the International Olympic Committee. New York, the USOC's failed 2012 entrant, is not on the list this time around.

Houston, along with New York, Washington DC and San Francisco, was a finalist for the 2012 bid, and I'm glad to see that the USOC is giving Houston another chance to make its case for hosting the Games. However, I expect the city to be passed over, just like it was in 2012.

This isn't because the city is functionally incapable of hosting the Olympics; much of the infrastructure is already in place, it was widely reported that Houston had the best technical package of the four USOC finalist cities in 2012, and there's no reason to believe that local citizens, politicians and business leaders couldn't effectively organize themselves for the challenge.

But, on the international stage, it's all about perception. Houston's international perception ranges anywhere from "poor" to "non-existent." Moreover, the city has its summer climate working against it: it's hot, humid and vunerable to hurricanes. Last but not least, it was rumored that anti-American sentiment among some members of the IOC was working against the Big Apple's 2012 bid, which, if true, isn't exactly encouraging for any American bid for 2016.

By 2016, it will have been twenty years since the last Olympics in the Americas and it will probably be time for the Summer Olympics to return to this side of the planet. But IOC president Jacques Rogge has already indicated that he'd like to see South America host a future Olympiad, and Argentina, Brazil and Chile are all rumored to be preparing bids of their own. Even if the Olympics did return to North America, wouldn't it be more likely that they'd go to a city with a more temperate summer climate and more international recognition, like Chicago or Toronto?

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see Houston host the Olympics. But let's be honest: Houston has about as much chance of hosting the Olympics as a snowball has of surviving Houston's August heat.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The weekend in sports

Good news: the Houston Cougars swept the UCF Golden Knights at Cougar Field. The nationally-ranked Houston Cougar baseball team is now 37-14 overall and 17-4 in conference going into the big showdown against crosstown rival Rice this weekend.

Bad news: the Houston Astros got swept by the Colorado Rockies in Denver. The Astros have lost six out of their last ten games.

Oh, and a tip to the FC Dallas fan who held up the "HOUSTON SUCKS" sign during Saturday's soccer game at Robertson Stadium: if you're going to toss weak smack, at least try not to do it when your team is down 3-0.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No martyrdom for wanna-be terrorist

Have fun spending the rest of your natural life in a concrete cell, scumbag.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Website Update

I've updated my page of aerial photos to include pictures of the Hoover Dam and Humphreys Peak that I took while flying back from Vegas a couple of years ago.

I'll be in Dallas for the rest of this week. Look for new postings when I return this weekend.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Houston Texans and their first round draft pick

Unlike just about everyone else who lives in Houston and has an internet connection (or so it seems, at least), I just can't get myself too riled up about the Houston Texans' decision to use their first round draft pick on North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, as opposed to USC running back Reggie Bush or Texas quarterback (and hometown favorite) Vince Young.

For one thing, I'm just not a huge fan of the Texans, or of NFL football in general. I am a college football fan first and foremost; for me, pro football runs a distant second in terms of my interest. Yeah, I'll watch the Texans on TV sometimes - I've even been to a couple of their games at Reliant Stadium - and I'll hope they do well. After all, they are the local franchise. But I just don't have my emotions so heavily invested in them that I have strong feelings about who they draft.

However, I did follow the Texans closely enough to know that quarterback and running back just weren't dire needs for this team. The Texans sucked mainly because their defense was poor and their offensive line was abysmal. In 2005, the Texans had the worst offensive line in the nation, by far, in terms of sacks allowed. They also had the second-worst defense in the league in terms of yards per game allowed and were the worst in terms of yards per play allowed. Given those facts, the Texans' decision to use their number one pick on the top defensive player makes sense, even though Reggie Bush might have been the best overall athlete in the draft. The Texans, in fact, spent their first four picks on a defensive end, a linebacker, and two offensive linemen, which cleary indicates what the Texans staff perceives are areas of need.

Finally, the process of drafting college kids into the pros is no different than the process of signing high school kids into college: it is fundamentally a hit-or-miss affair. You never know exactly what you're getting or how well a player is going to develop and perform. Mario Williams could be a total bust in the NFL; he wouldn't be the first top draft pick to disappoint. But there's no guarantee that Reggie Bush will pan out for the Saints, either. So while some of the "experts," such as the Chronicle's Richard Justice or ESPN's Len Pasquarelli, are denouncing the Texans' choice, and others, like MSNBC's Mike Celizic, are praising the move, the fact is that all the fury surrounding the Mario Williams decision is, at this point, little more than speculation. We won't know for sure about Mario Williams until he actually spends time on the field, and until that happens I'm just not putting a great deal of stock into the discussion.

By the way: I agree with USAToday.com's Joe Saraceno: the NFL draft is the biggest and most overhyped "non-event" of the year. I'm glad it's finally over.