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April 24th, 2016:

Weekend link dump for April 24

At some point, you’d think they’d have to actually find a Bigfoot, right?

It’s time for Animaniacs once again.

Has Carroll Spinney passed the torch on playing Big Bird and Oscar?

You want to claim your product is “all natural”, you’re going to have to prove it.

“Today, throughout white evangelicalism and the rest of white Christianity in America, we remain determined to cling to the hermeneutics and the lessons taught us by the people who were vastly wrong while ignoring and marginalizing the vision of the people who were consistently and admirably right.”

You should dump Apple Quicktime if you’re a Windows user.

Neil Gaimain is writing a six-part Good Omens TV miniseries. And I will watch the hell out of it.

“Have you ever joked that you wished you could clone yourself? Well, it looks like if you’re an extremist of any stripe who spends a lot of time on social media, you’ll soon be able to fulfil that dream.”

RIP, Doris Roberts, best known for her role on Everybody Loves Raymond.

Alas, Boaty McBoatface. It just wasn’t meant to be.

James Dobson is a lying liar who lies a lot.

“In practice, the only effect of registering with a party is to be able to vote in its primaries. You’re not promising to vote for that party. So if you’re really upset about not being to vote in a primary, why register independent? (That’s not a dig or rhetorical question.)”

What Sen. Elizabeth Warren says.

Good move, ESPN. Curt Schilling was so not worth it. Also, what Roy says.

“How hackers eavesdropped on a US Congressman using only his phone number”.

RIP, Joanie Laurer, a/k/a former pro wrestler Chyna.

RIP, Prince. You don’t need me to tell you who Prince is, do you? Man, it’s been a rough year for musicians.

The Internet has been flooded with Prince coverage, of course, and you should read it all, including this piece by my college buddy Steve Smith.

“A political insider in an expensive suit is conveying the message that Trump is domesticated now. So that’s what the mainstream press wants you to hear.”

Storm debris collection begins in Houston neighborhoods

From the inbox:

HoustonSeal

Beginning Saturday, April 23, 2016 the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department and private contractors working on the City’s behalf will begin storm debris collection in the single-family neighborhoods impacted by Monday’s flooding. This includes the following areas.

  • Acres Homes
  • Alabonson
  • Chateau Forest
  • Kempwood/Bingle, Hollister
  • Larchmont
  • Link Meadow
  • Linkwood
  • Meyerland
  • Spring Branch, Blalock, Gessner, Hemstead
  • Westbury

The City asks residents to help by separating everything into the following six categories.

  • Normal Household Trash – Normal household trash and bagged debris of any kind will not be picked up with debris as part of this program. You should continue to follow your normal garbage schedule.
  • Vegetative Debris – leaves (do not put in bags), logs, plants, tree branches
  • Construction & Demolition Debris – building materials, carpet, drywall, furniture, lumber, mattresses, and plumbing
  • Appliances & White Goods – air conditioners, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers and water heaters
  • Electronics – computers, radios, stereos, televisions, other devices with a cord
  • Household Hazardous Waste – cleaning supplies, batteries, lawn chemical, oils, oil-based paints, stains and pesticides

Residents should not place debris piles near other objects like fire hydrants and mailboxes or under power lines or low hanging branches that would interfere with the collection equipment.

The City is also continuing to help with debris removal from inside 17 privately-owned apartment complexes in the Greenspoint area.

And in other news:

It took until the wee hours of the morning, but all remaining flood evacuees who had been sheltering at M.O. Campbell Center have now been relocated into hotel rooms and the shelter has been closed. Well over 150 families are being provided hotel rooms for up to three weeks at a cost of about $150,000. The City is using the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund to cover the costs.

“I promised we would get everyone out of the shelters by the weekend and we have kept that promise,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “These families have been sleeping on cots in a high school gymnasium since last Monday. They have lost everything and have nowhere else to go. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in this time of need. That means providing a warm bed on which to lay their heads, showers and privacy.”

Catholic Charities and the American Red Cross are working to coordinate meals for the hotel guests. Yellow Cab and METRO assisted with the massive transportation effort from the shelter to the hotels. Everyone was placed in hotels in the immediate Greenspoint area so their children are in close proximity to their schools. The hotel accommodations are meant to be temporary housing until apartment repairs are finished or alternative units have been identified.

Approximately 1800 apartment units suffered minimal to major flood damage in the Greenspoint area. The apartment owners have 400 workers on site making repairs. In addition, the City has stepped in to help with debris removal so it does not pile up and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Debris collection begins today in the single-family areas impacted by the floods. 20 contract crews are working seven days a week with the City’s solid waste staff in nine neighborhoods. They are unable to get to the Kingwood/Forest Cove areas because flood waters remain high.

Donations for the relief effort are being accepted through the Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund at www.houstonrecovers.org. The donations will stay in our community and be used to help storm victims and relief organizations in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties

The Mayor’s office is also partnering with Airbnb, which has asked its hosts in Houston to share for free any extra space they have. The temporary accommodations are available to displaced residents and volunteers here helping with the relief effort. The offer is good from now until May 14. Listings of the available housing can be found at https://www.airbnb.com/disaster-response.

Glad to hear it. The Chron story on this is here, and as always, don’t read the comments if you want to maintain any faith in humanity. The Rockets made a $500,000 donation to The Greater Houston Storm Relief Fund before Thursday’s game. Hopefully many others will follow that lead.

Ken Paxton says he’ll run again in 2018

As I fully expect he will.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing state criminal charges and a federal complaint about his private business affairs, plans to run for re-election.

“Let there be no doubt that at the appropriate time General Paxton will make the official announcement that he fully intends to seek re-election and keep fighting for Texas,” Jordan Berry, a political consultant for Paxton, said in a statement Thursday.

The former state legislator who won the attorney general’s seat in 2014 faces federal and state securities fraud charges stemming from his time as an investment adviser before he took office. He was indicted by a Collin County grand jury last year, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange brought charges against him earlier this month.

But why let any of that get in the way? As I’ve been saying all along, until such time as the power structure, starting with Greg Abbott, turns against him, Paxton has every reason to believe he’ll be as welcome on the ballot in 2018 as he was in 2014. So what if he’s been convicted of felony charges by then? He’ll still be out on bond pending appeal. More importantly, he’ll still be the same all-in sue-the-feds-for-everything culture warrior that got elected in the first place. Republicans put him into office, and Republicans are going to have to do at least some work to take him out, either in a 2018 primary (which I doubt they’ll do) or by not voting for him that November. It would be nice to think that Democrats will have figured out how to get more of their people to come out and vote in an off-year election, but even if they do it’s unlikely to be enough without some loss of GOP voters. Which, again, is what I hope having a convicted felon (or two) on the ballot will provide. So run, Kenny, run. We’re all counting on you. Trail Blazers has more.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, you must acquit

I knew there was a lawsuit going on over the provenance of Stairway to Heaven, but I hadn’t realized there were Texas connections to it.

In a few weeks, jurors will decide if Led Zeppelin lifted the guitar intro to “Stairway to Heaven” from an instrumental song “Taurus” by the California psychedelic pop-rock band Spirit. Three of the former members of Spirit live in the Houston area.

The suit was filed in 2014 by original Spirit bassist Mark Andes and the estate of “Taurus” composer Randy Wolfe, known in his Spirit days as “Randy California,” a handle bestowed upon him by none other than Jimi Hendrix. After leaving Spirit, Andes held down the bottom end for Jo Jo Gunne; soft-rockers Firefall; and then, during their chart-topping 1980s run of pop hits, Heart. After leaving Heart, Andes moved to Austin with one-time love interest Eliza Gilkyson and stuck around after their relationship ended. Since then he has married and now lives in Montgomery County, just north of Houston. Citing the ongoing suit, Andes politely declined to comment.

Houston is also the home of Austin-bred brothers Al and John Staehely, both of whom played in Spirit after Andes’s departure and the composition of “Taurus.” Al Staehely is now Houston’s most prominent entertainment lawyer.

Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer (and former Austinite) Robert Plant, composers of “Stairway,” are the defendants. The suit seeks to have Wolfe listed as a co-composer alongside Page and Plant, who have long claimed to have written the song in the stark, rustic confines of Bron-Yr-Aur, an isolated Welsh cottage, near where the faeries gambol and the hobbits frolic.

Here’s the Spirit song in question:

I trust you know how Stairway to Heaven begins, but you can click over to the Texas Monthly story for a video embed of it if you need to. The guitar riff that is clearly the basis of the lawsuit starts about 55 seconds in. There’s definitely a similarity, but to my amateur musician’s ear, it’s just too basic to be copy-able. I don’t know that I could bring myself to find for the plaintiff, but if you read the story you’ll see that based on past cases, it doesn’t take much for the plaintiffs to prevail in this kind of action. You’ll also see that there’s another song, from Robert Plant’s childhood, that might have been the real inspiration for Stairway. What I know is that the YouTube video of Spirit’s Taurus has more than four million views, so even if they lose this lawsuit, they’ve already won in a way. Take a look and listen and see what you think.

Want to buy a big piece of land near the Medical Center?

Here’s your chance.

A single tract of land large enough to hold multiple office towers, high-rise residential buildings and a hotel doesn’t often come available inside Loop 610. One near the Texas Medical Center is even more uncommon.

After 45 years, Shell Oil Co. is selling 21 acres it owns at the southwest corner of Old Spanish Trail and Greenbriar, just south of the Medical Center’s main campus and directly west of the Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

The site houses a midrise office building, a parking garage and several warehouse structures.

As far as most people in real estate development would be concerned, they’re all teardowns. The value of the property is in the land, which is likely worth tens of millions of dollars.

The land is next to a giant parking lot owned by the Medical Center that is the proposed location of a medical research project to be called the TMC3 Innovation Campus.

The facility would bring together several Medical Center institutions and for-profit commercial components, such as hotels, shops and restaurants. It would have a large plaza shaped like a double helix, a nod to intertwining strands of DNA.

The Shell property is along the light-rail line and represents the largest contiguous redevelopment site in the Texas Medical Center area, according to Cushman & Wakefield, which has the listing.

I used to work out that way, and I can tell you, the stretch of Old Spanish Trail from 288 to where it meets up with Main Street, just to the west of this property, used to be mostly run down and vacant lots but is now packed with new Medical Center complexes and residences. The “giant parking lot owned by the Medical Center” referenced is in front of the Smithlands light rail station, which is two blocks from the main entrance to the for-sale tract. That lot is always full – there was a dedicated traffic light put in for it on OST between Greenbriar and Stadium – so I have no idea what will happen when it gets developed as well. I would also note that the large tract of land at Main and Greenbriar where The Stables once was is still a vacant lot after just shy of a decade has passed. In other words, just because a large tract of land is coming on the market, doesn’t mean something will get built on it any time soon. Anyway, if you have a few million bucks lying around, this might be a nice piece of land to pick up.