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June 22nd, 2005:

At least he didn’t call it a “hellhole”

Apparently, Tom DeLay has been taking the same stupid pills as Rick Perry:

“You know, if Houston, Texas, was held to the same standard as Iraq is held to, nobody’d go to Houston, because all this reporting coming out of the local press in Houston is violence, murders, robberies, deaths on the highways,” DeLay said.

I’m still on vacation, so I’m going to outsource this one to Pete. There’s a fruity rum drink with my name on it out there waiting for me.

Memed again

Ginger has tagged me with a book meme, so let’s dive in.

1. How many books do you own?

I’ve never counted, but we have one bookcase’s worth upstairs (plus an overflow box) and three more cases downstairs, not to mention 20 or so books in Olivia’s room and some cookbooks in the dining room. So, maybe a couple hundred all together. I’m under strict orders to throttle back book purchases because we don’t have the space for them, and both of us regularly dump used books at Half Price or whatnot.

2. Last book read.

“Turncoat”, a thriller by Aaron Elkins. I do a lot of my pleasure reading now while travelling, as there’s often too much to do at home, but this one was read while not on the road. I’m most of the way through Peter Robinson’s “Close to Home” now – it’s a British police story – which I started on the plane to Colorado. Mysteries of all stripes are my main reading passion.

3. Last book purchased.

My in-laws give me a $100 gift certificate to Murder by the Book every year as a birthday present, and that’s most of my bookbuying these days. I used about $65 worth of it in March; the haul included the two books mentioned above.

4. Name five books that mean a lot to you.

I’ve never been much for Literature, so this list may seem a little weird.

– The “Enclyclopedia Brown” mysteries. My love of the genre didn’t spring from a vacuum, you know. My parents saved all my old EB books, so they’ll be Olivia’s some day.

– The Baseball Encyclopedia. Hey, back in 1979 when the Internet didn’t exist, this book was the Holy Bible for statistics-obsessed baseball fans, which was a pretty good description of my 13-year-old self.

– “Illusions”, by Richard Bach. Didn’t everybody go through a Richard Bach phase in college? I admit it was a bit of a comedown to reread “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” a few years afterwards and realize that it’s the same book, but disappointment can be a good learning experience.

– “The Mystery of the Aleph”, by Amir Aczel. As a math major, the concept of infinity, and different types on infinity, is one of the most challenging and bedevilling things to grasp. This is the best book I’ve read on the subject – it’s mostly a biography of Georg Cantor, who revolutionized how we think about it. He also went mad, which lends some poignance to it all.

– “Planet Ocean”, by Brad Matsen and Ray Troll. The book we all should have read as kids during the dinosaur-fascination phase most of us go through. It’s a beautifully illustrated guide to the wonderful and strange creatures that walked and mostly swam the earth hundreds of millions of years ago. It’s a book I plan on reading with Olivia in a few years, though we’ll start with their more kid-oriented “Raptors, Fossils, Fins, and Fangs” first.

5. Five people to tag.

Like Ginger, I say anyone who wants to do this should give it a shot. I’d go ahead and tag Hope, Julia, Perry, Sarah, and Christina. Have fun, y’all.

Toll road followup

The Harris County Commissioners’ Court did hear complaints about its stealth hearings on toll road plans, then went ahead and approved those plans anyway.

Art Storey, head of the county’s Public Infrastructure Department, said the county has not given a green light to any new toll road projects, noting that all of them have been discussed publicly for years.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority’s critics, he said, mistook the county’s commitment to study the feasibility of building five toll roads or segments of toll roads for actual approval of the projects.

The court approved spending $192,000 to study five potential toll road projects on Beltway 8 East, Texas 288, the Grand Parkway, the Hardy Toll Road and Hempstead Road.

Robin Holzer, a member of the Citizens Transportation Coalition, told the court that residents didn’t know the county was going ahead with the projects until it released its five-year capital improvements plan Friday. She couldn’t get a copy of the plan until Monday, she said.

“A Harris County resident might get the impression you don’t want them to participate in the toll road planning process,” she said.

She and other speakers said the court should delay voting on the plan for 30 days.

Yeah, well, it’s good to be the king. Or “czarina”. Your choice.

Anyway. Anne has some more coverage. You can find some in-depth discussion at the CTC discussion forum. Finally, Rorschach has an open letter to AG Greg Abbott in which he asks for the following:

I would like a state website set up to act as a clearinghouse for public notifications such as hearing announcements and such searchable via zip code so that you don’t have to worry about the notification being on a bulletin board in some county courthouse on the other side of town that nobody ever sees. Even better would be a voluntary sign-up system so that notices concerning specific zip codes would be automatically e-mailed to you. I would also like to see this clearinghouse show open record requests that are pending and whether they have been approved or denied and reason for denial.

I would like the notifications to be prompt and with enough forewarning that interested parties can attend or respond instead of being caught flat footed or worse, never even knowing the hearing has happened until too late to do anything about it. Ideally, hearing notices should be posted to the above proposed website at least 30 days in advance.

Seems reasonable to me. If anyone takes up his call to write AG Abbott and ask for something like this, please let me know if you get a response.

Watch that mike, Governor

This is more funny than anything else – Rick Perry said a naughty word to a local reporter.

We were trying to get the governor to give us details about his education plan. He’s releasing it today, and he didn’t want to give out details a day early.

“You’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I hate to let you guys in on it and no one else,” Gov. Perry insisted.

So we said goodbye, thank you and thought the interview was over.

“You’re welcome,” Gov. Perry signed off. “So long.”

Our questions were not recorded on tape, but in saying goodbye I told the governor, “Try as I may, Governor, I guess I can’t win this one.”

Eleven seconds after he said goodbye, the camera crew was getting ready for the next interview with another station. That’s when Gov. Perry repeated what he thought I’d said, and added a few words of his own with his microphone on and tape still rolling.

“Try as I may, Governor, I’m not going to wait that long,” Gov. Perry said. “Adios, Mofo.”

Those last words aren’t exactly part of the seven dirty words, but it isn’t something you want to say to your mother or use in good company. Tuesday morning, Governor Perry called me personally. He apologized and said his comment wasn’t directed at us.

He agreed it was just one of those times a politician is caught by an open mike saying something embarrassing. He tells us he was just trying to get a reaction from the camera crew and it wasn’t said with any malice or intent.

You’d think a guy who’s been in politics for as long as Perry has would’ve taken some training in media relations by now. Clearly, it’s time for a refresher.

Best reaction goes to PinkDome:

The question the reporter asked was, “Governor, what do you think the voters will say to you come next election once you fail to fix school finance yet again?”

Heh. And if you like the quote, you can buy yourself the t-shirt.