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August 26th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for August 26

School starts tomorrow. I swear, the older I get, the shorter summer seems to be.

It’s a lot easier to find a bus stop these days.

That sounds you hear is Tiffany demanding to know how she can be chosen to participate in a study like this.

There’s a simpler explanation for Democratic apostates like these guys: They’re all huge jerks.

Three words: Presidential slash fiction. Yeah, now I need to go wash my brain out with bleach, too.

Cable TV is still hanging in there despite predictions of its doom.

“Sister Wives” lawsuit allowed to go forward.

Bullies really hate it when people fight back.

If you wonder why some of us keep referring to a war on women, it’s largely because people like Todd Akin are in positions of power. But it’s not just Todd Akin, and that’s the real problem. And with one more vote on the Supreme Court, they could impose their will on the country.

And I really hope someone reads this to Todd Akin. Not that I expect him to understand it, of course.

Death of Silicon Valley predicted. Film at 11.

Evangelism that’s meant to alienate and exclude is completely alien to what Jesus actually taught.

“The British Empire is over, Niall. It had its day.”

RIP, Phyllis Diller.

Men like this just make me cringe.

Skinny-dipping is not a sin, even when Congressmen do it.

Hugh Hefner is pro-marriage equality.

The Tesla Museum in New York will become a reality thanks to The Oatmeal.

“That, I think, is often one attraction of moralism: the false promise of safety from calamity and capricious suffering.”

Hey, it’s that guy! 25 actors who were on “Law and Order” before they were famous.

Wolverine! And this is pretty much par for the course.

Also, as an FYI for any non-Texas writer who comments about this: A “County Judge” is not a person who wears a robe and conducts trials, though they do have the authority to do so in courts that don’t hear the major felony or civil cases. A “County Judge” presides over the “Commissioners Court”, which is the governing body for counties in Texas. It’s a little like being the Mayor of a county.

Once again, the GOP Presidential ticket gets its hand slapped for using music without permission. File a DMCA suit, Dee!

RIP, Jerry Nelson, Muppeteer extraordinaire.

More cities need outlaw monkey mascots.

Conservatives are only saying they want a truce on social issues because they’re losing the argument on them.

This is indeed the stupidest story you’ll read this week.

“Pennsylvania’s “Voter Hall of Fame,” organized by the Department of State, is a list of 21,000 inductees who have voted in 50 consecutive general elections. Of the 5,923 of them who are currently registered voters, 1,384 of them either have no valid state ID or have an ID which expired before Nov. 6, 2011, which would make it invalid at the polls under the state’s voter ID law.”

RIP, Neil Armstrong.

Congratulations and Mazel Tov, Roy and Kia!

Oliver sues to stay on ballot

We’ll find out who’s right soon enough.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party’s attempts to oust him from the ticket.

“They’re not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down,” Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.


Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said there was no provision in state law for removing a political candidate accused of violating party rules.

Harris County Democratic Party officials say they have federal law on their side.

“Political parties get to determine who their nominees are going to be,” said Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney.

He said the Constitution prevents government officials from compelling a political party – a private association – to select a particular candidate.

Dunn said Oliver could run as an independent or a write-in candidate.

“But, if you want to run as a Democrat, then the Democratic Party gets to decide if you are its nominee,” Dunn said.

The irony of all this is that filing the lawsuit is the first proactive step Lloyd Oliver has ever taken to be elected to something. I wasn’t sure he’d even bother, given that his goal was never to actually get elected, but merely to get publicity. Well, now he gets to keep his name in the papers for a few more days.

I’ll say again what I said originally. I don’t see what leg the HCDP has to stand on. I hope I’m wrong and that they really do have chapter and verse of federal law on their side, because they’re going to look like a bunch of idiots if they lose. I just have a bad feeling about this.

As for Dunn’s statement about who gets to decide who the nominees are, well, not to belabor the obvious, but that’s what primary elections are for. The fact that the voters made a poor choice this time is certainly unfortunate and a failure of the process that I believe the party needs to address for the future, but that’s a separate issue. It’s true that Oliver could have run as an independent or as a write-in, but to do so would have required filing paperwork that was due at the same time as the paperwork to be on the primary ballot. Unlike, say, Connecticut, where you can form your own party to run in after losing in the primary of another party, you only get one shot at this in Texas. Oliver chose to file as a Democrat for his own inscrutable reasons. He won the primary, and that means he’s earned the right to run in November, much as I dislike the idea of him winning. I’ll wait to see what the judge has to say, but I really don’t understand this. Tactically speaking, it’s hard to see how Oliver was going to be more trouble on the ballot than he is now trying to get him off of it.

More Green woes

Maybe it’s the name.

CM Larry Green

A 28-year-old nonprofit workforce training organization is teetering on the brink of extinction after four years under the leadership of Houston City Councilman Larry Green.

Green left HoustonWorks USA in May by what he and board president Howard Lederer called a mutual agreement so Green could dedicate himself to his $55,770-a-year job as a city councilman. Green was elected to his first term last November. He was paid $179,369 by HoustonWorks in 2010, according to the organization’s most recent available tax forms.

Audits of the organization have revealed $1.7 million in unpaid bills, including repayment of a $665,000 cash advance due next month to a grantor, a $490,000 bank loan due this month and $629,000 in other bills that include overdue rent on its corporate headquarters. The Houston-Galveston Area Council, a regional planning agency that funnels federal money to HoustonWorks for job training, decided early this month to discontinue the $16.7 million annual allotment to the organization. That represents more than 90 percent of HoustonWorks’ total budget.

HoustonWorks was in fiscal distress before Green came aboard. The organization’s financial problems have their roots in an $800,000 loss on a failed ice cream store on Main Street downtown. Lederer said he continues to think highly of Green.

Nonetheless, Lederer said, “If somebody gives you a job and you’re the top guy and you’re there for four years, it’s pretty hard to say you don’t have anything to do with the net result.”

Green said he is proud of the job he did at HoustonWorks, and that he brought in $7 million in new revenue.

“I was the guy that brought fundraising to the organization,” he said.

This largely appears to boil down to a business dispute, and the facts laid out in the story don’t make either side look particularly good. Hard to say if there’s anything more to it than that. Perhaps if there’s a lawsuit we’ll learn something interesting in the discovery process. Should CM Green face more serious opposition in his subsequent elections, I’m sure this will come up again.

The bid is in for the NCAA Champions game

We are officially bidding on the new Champions Bowl, the 2014 replacement for the BCS Championship Bowl, for Reliant Stadium. We heard about this in July, and it makes sense that Houston was solicited for a bid and that we’d go through with it. Mostly I’m noting this because I was amused by the following in the story:

The bid for the Champions Bowl is for 12 years and includes being a semifinal site four times, said Heather Houston, executive director of the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

Houston declined to disclose the terms of the bid – a joint effort between the city of Houston, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment – but said “it’s really competitive.”

“We’re really honored and very proud of the bid that we’ve put forth,” Houston said. “We feel like it’ll stack up against any other market.”

Part of the reason for submitting a bid, Houston said, is the city’s “proven track record” of hosting a postseason bowl game and major sporting events. Reliant Stadium was the site of the 2004 Super Bowl and the 2011 NCAA men’s Final Four. A bowl game, currently the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, has been played at the stadium since 2006.

“We felt like we have just as strong a chance as anyone else,” Houston said. “The only thing we don’t have going for us is the history, but we have a lot of other things that make up for that.”

Am I the only one who read that and had a brief moment where it seemed like the city of Houston had come to life and begun speaking for itself? I’m thinking this is one of those time when the Chron should have adopted the NY Times style guide and referred to the spokesperson as “Ms. Houston”, which might have made the whole thing seem a bit less surreal. Be that as it may, I hope the bid is well-received.

Electric cars and the power grid


Pecan Street Project

It doesn’t take too long for visitors of Mueller, a 700-acre master-planned community in Austin, to realize that the neighborhood is peculiar.

The planned community, built on the site of the former Mueller airport, boasts almost too-perfect rows of homes with cheery pastel exteriors and quaint front porches. And then there are the neighborhood’s green flourishes—solar panels that adorn every other rooftop and the eco-friendly hybrid cars that roll almost silently through the development’s tidy streets.

Mueller isn’t just a subdivision—it’s a life-size green energy research test site. The New Urbanist, a mixed-use development, is home to a five-year “smart-grid demonstration project” led by Pecan Street, Inc., a nonprofit research and development organization focusing on green energy, and Austin Energy.

In late July, General Motors announced that it is partnering with Pecan Street, making 100 Chevy Volts available to Mueller residents to buy or lease. Since February, Pecan Street has been providing financial incentives for residents to join, matching the $7,500 federal tax credit extended to owners of electric vehicles with their own $7,500 rebate. Those who opt to lease will receive a $3,000 rebate.

Mueller’s 600 residents are currently using about sixty electric vehicles, according to Colin Rowan, Pecan Street’s director of communications, and 52 of those vehicles are Volts.

Now, the recent influx of electric cars in Mueller has allowed Pecan Street to test the impact that high concentrations of electric cars might have on the area’s smart energy grid.

“We’re interested in how the grid performs when you have a lot of electric vehicles pulling power in one area, and how people use them and charge them,” Rowan said. “That sounds kind of basic, but it actually puts some interesting stress on the grid. We’re very interested in finding out how that can be optimized so that it is actually a benefit to the grid and not a liability.”

The Statesman adds on.

For 16 years, OnStar has been communicating with GM customers in their cars, usually in times of emergencies. But now the company is re-imagining itself to also be an energy manager for a fleet of electric vehicles.

The electric vehicle market is minuscule today, but some day, they could potentially serve as a fleet of mobile batteries that could store power until it is needed by a homeowner or grid operators during peak power demands.

Until now, OnStar’s experiments have been limited to small demonstration projects or work in the lab. Now they want to begin test-driving their theories with Austinites.

“This partnership provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting,” said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president for strategy and business development. “We are moving our lab demonstrations into the real world.”

Among the possibilities are taking advantage of different rates for different times of day for cheaper charging, and using the stored energy in car batteries to help power one’s house or give back to the grid in times of high usage. This real-world experiment is set to run through the end of 2014. Very, very cool.