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What To Do When Visting Houston For The Final Four—Some Excellent Suggestions

The college basketball Final Four will be played in Houston. The event begins on Saturday, April 2 and ends on Monday, April 4.

(Above–Basketball. Here is a useful history of basketball.)

What should folks visiting Houston do while in our city for the Final Four?

I have some suggestions.

1.  Thank every person you see in Harris County for helping to pay for Reliant Stadium. Even if the money comes from car rental and hotel taxes, it is still money that belongs to the people of Harris County.  Our county has a big budget shortfall right now that will involve vital services being cut. Still, even if some folks can’t  get mental health counseling anymore , we at least have plenty of taxpayer subsidized sports facilities.

People at the games are free to start chants in favor of socialism as they enjoy the Final Four.

2. Arrive in Houston early and attend the Harris County Green Party fundraiser to be held at 8:00 PM on Thursday, March 31 at Bohemeo’s. Bohemeo’s is located at 708 Telephone Rd. in Houston. We deserve other options than just the two major parties.

3. Visit our newly renovated Downtown Houston Public Library. The library had plenty of books for you to read.

4. April 4th marks the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. ( Please click here for the best Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List on the web.) The well-known Rothko Chapel features a sculpture outside the building that honors Reverend King.  The Rothko Chapel is located at 3900 Yupon Street.

(Below–Rothko Chapel. Photo by Argos’Dad.)

5. Drive 50 miles down the road and visit Galveston, Texas. There is a lot of history in Galveston and there is plenty to do. Galveston is working to recover from Hurricane Ike and your visit will be most welcomed. One of the very best attractions in Galveston is the free Bolivar Ferry. This boat trip runs about 25 minutes each way between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.  You can park the car and walk on board. Or you can drive on and explore Bolivar.

(Below–View from the Bolivar Ferry. Picture taken by myself.)

The Bolivar Chamber of Commerce thinks the ferry is wonderful. I’m glad to see this Chamber favors the Texas Department of Transportation money that keeps the ferry free to all.

In any case, provisional on your ability to drive in a civilized fashion if you are renting a car, and contingent on your willingness to tip well given that you have enough money to attend these basketball games, welcome to Houston.

March 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Candidates For Governor Of Texas Debate Education–An Eyewitness Report

I attended the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area Texas Governor’s race debate held on Sunday, October 3 here in Houston.

The debate was held at the Harris County Department of Education building you see pictured above. As you will note in the picture, this education building is named after Ronald Reagan.

That would be funny if the joke were not on all of us.

Three of the four candidates for Governor of Texas took part in this debate.

The three in attendance were—

Democratic nominee Bill White.

Green nominee Deborah Shafto.

Libertarian nominee and scary person Kathie Glass.

Not attending the debate was incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry.

Governor Perry does not believe that the people of Texas merit the chance to see and compare all the candidates in one place and at one time.

The focus of the debate was education. There was a warm-up panel of three Harris County school superintendents to discuss education issues in Texas.

So the event was really something of a double feature.

(Below—Double Feature.)

The three local superintendents all agreed that educating kids is a challenge. They all agreed that kids must take many standardized tests, but that they sought to educate kids beyond the tests. They all agreed that money is tight. They all agreed that they agreed.

A top Houston and Texas education blogger is Martha Griffin who writes musings.

As for the debate, here are some observations—

Bill White spoke to the fact that anybody born in the U.S. is a citizen. This was in response to a question about if the children of undocumented persons should get government services.  Mr. White’s stand is clearly the correct Constitutional view.

Deb Shafto said she would be willing to raise taxes to support education. This is a good position that puts the long-term interests of Texans ahead of short-term politics. Texas has one of the worst drop out rates in the nation.

Angry Kathie Glass said that the number of immigrants coming across the border represented an “Invasion.” If you hold this to be true, it seems to me you’d be justified to do just about anything to repel an “invasion.”

(Below–Invasion.)

Mr. White did not at any point mention poverty or the large number of poor Texans. He may have alluded to the fact of poverty, but he made repeated and clear mention of the middle class. The middle class does indeed need a government that is on their side. Yet at the same time, it is frustrating that in a state as poor as Texas, the former Democratic Mayor of a city with a near 50% child poverty rate did not discuss attacking poverty as an important way of improving education. We need a root and branch approach to education because as it says in Job 18:16

“Their roots will dry up, and their branches will wither.”

Ms. Shafto said that she has been a union member and that she supported teacher’s unions. She said that while she has seen these unions at times pursue things she did not fully agree with, that people have a right to organize and that teachers unions are often good advocates for education.

Extreme Ms. Glass said that she would get rid of truancy laws and that if kids as young as 14 wanted to drop out that they should be allowed to do so.

That is just what she said.

Mr. White said the cost of attending our Texas state universities has gone up a great deal while Rick Perry has been Governor. This is a correct assertion by Mr. White and it is not clear what Governor Perry is going to do about this problem.  Maybe if the Governor had been at the debate, his views on the matter would be more clear.

Ms. Shafto used the analogy of a “jump ball” in basketball to describe how Texas teachers are competing for bonuses. I enjoyed this metaphor. As Sojourner Truth knew, we must sell the shadow to support the substance.

(Below–Jump ball)

Far Out Ms. Glass said that local government control of schools was okay, but that Austin should stay out of the picture to the extent possible.

Yet if the issue for libertarians is the place of government in our lives, local government is still government. If any level of government can be trusted to run something as important as are our schools, why can’t government be trusted to handle a number of responsibilities? Libertarians live in a fantasy world.

All in all, the debate served a useful public purpose. I urge folks to consider all the candidates. In my view, either Mr. White or Ms. Shafto would do a good job for Texas. I will be voting for Mr. White because he will be a far better Governor for the future of Texas than Mr. Perry. 10 years of Rick Perry so far is more than enough.

(Below— The debate stage. This is an approved LWV picture. I followed the rules and did not take any pictures inside the debate hall.)

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I Don’t Follow Hockey And Basketball

I know the world is in the midst of financial collapse and a flu pandemic, but I’d like to write here about hockey and basketball.

( Above—Women playing ice hockey 120 years ago.) 

I saw in my morning paper—which remains the most civilized and reflective way to get the news—that the Anaheim Ducks had eliminated the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the National Hockey League Playoffs.

This happened despite the fact that the Sharks had gained the best record in the NHL for the past season and that the Ducks were only the 8th best team in their conference.  Here are the final NHL standings for this season.

Hockey has something like 30 teams. 16 of them make the playoffs. Why even bother to play the regular season? Anybody who can muster just a halfway decent record makes the playoffs and then the best team can be knocked out in the first round. These same circumstances exist in pro basketball.  

The only sport I follow is baseball. In baseball 8 of the 30 teams make the playoffs. That’s better. The games mean something and fewer teams can coast knowing they have a playoff spot locked up.

In hockey and basketball, the games lack context and meaning. It’s a muddle. They just skate around or run up and down the court for six months waiting for the real action to start. Who would pay money to see all that meaningless mess?  

Our time and what we do with our time should have meaning and context.     

(Here is a history of hockey.)

April 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 5 Comments

$165 Houston Rockets Ticket Buys Time For Reflection On Meaning Of The Shot Clock

 

Last night I attended the NBA game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors.

I don’t follow basketball. I went because I had free tickets.

You’ll think I am making this up, but the tickets I had sold for $165 each.

I figured that had to be the most expensive ticket. I looked it up. It is not. $ 165 is the sixth most expensive ticket.

For $165, one sits about 20 rows up and in the center court area.

The cheapest seat is $9.

You get the idea why these teams want to build new arenas and stadiums with expensive seats and sky boxes. People will pay big money to go to these games.

It’s less clear why the public is so often willing to finance these places with tax dollars.

I entered the so-called Toyota Center by walking over a sky bridge open only to what were termed “premium guests.”

I was a premium guest.

I voted against the publically financed construction of the Toyota Center both times it was on the ballot in Harris County.

The first time the public saw the question my way.

The second time the public did not.

At the end of the skywalk were two cheerleaders greeting Rocket’s fans. The cheerleaders are termed “Rockets Power Dancers.”

This was the fourth or fifth Rockets game I’ve attended. I’m always struck by how small the court appears in relation to the size of the players. ( Above is an 1890 picture of the first basketball court which was located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield is the birthplace of basketball. )  

If you’ve never seen the famous Yao Ming in person, I can tell you this—He is quite tall.

Click here for some good information on basketball court dimensions and requirements.  

The 24 second shot clock is a disturbing aspect of NBA basketball. It leads to a lot of running up and down the court and a great deal of haste in shooting for a basket.  

A longer shot clock, or no shot clock at all, would lead to a more reflective and thoughtful game.

Poor shot selection by both teams last night seemed more a manifestation of the artificial constriction of the shot clock, rather than a honest reflection of the sincere desire of the players to score as many baskets as possible. 

The shot clock sends the wrong message—Everybody knows good things come to those who wait. 

Here is a history of the NBA shot clock. It’s said that the shot clock saved the game from tedium.

Tedium is underrated.  

Here are the 13 original rules of basketball from the 1890’s.  

Music was played over the PA system while the game is taking place. Often the music would stop when play stopped.

I found this odd. Isn’t the game enough?

Below is a picture of my favorite NBA basketball player ever—World B. Free.  Mr. Free changed his name legally from Lloyd B. Free to World B. Free.

December 31, 2007 Posted by | Cheerleaders, Houston | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments