Archive for July, 2009

Bittersweet: UH lab school closes today

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I’ve previously reported that my Dad is losing his position at UTMB at the end of August. While he exercised his right to appeal, the university president upheld the initial termination decision. Chuck has plenty of opportunities to continue consulting, so I expect he’ll be fine. But the process has been irritating. Grumble.

However, I’ve failed to report that my brother Chris is in a similar boat. In May, I was horrified to read that UH decided to close its lab school, where Chris has taught for more than a decade.

In The Houston Press, Richard Connelly said this of the school:

There is an acclaimed — if ominously titled — place on the UH campus called the “Human Development Lab.” No cyborgs are created there (that we know of); instead it’s a pre-school where UH students in relevant majors can come in and watch, often behind a two-way mirror, as tots grow up and learn.


Our kid went to HDL, which is/was open to anyone in Houston. (This was back in the College of Technology days.) We can’t imagine a better pre-school.

It was run according to Jean Piaget’s Constructivist theory, which….well, we were never really into the gobbledegook of educational theory. Whatever the academic underpinnings, it worked.

Teachers were great; the place was tiny but no one cared. The usual kid problems got worked out, and it seems every child we know who went there went on to great success in the more formal school system.

The place really was a gem.

The closing appears to be deeply political and the process has been ugly. While parents made a valiant effort to save the school, collecting more than 500 signatures, the university was not turned from its course. Dozens of kiddos and families are affected.

Today — July 31 — is the last day of school, and the teachers are required to clear out their possessions by 6:00 pm. Chris borrowed our truck this morning to help haul his things home. While I was overcome with sadness, he seemed resolute, saying “the school had become like a dinosaur with too many parasites, and it was time for it to die.”

While it’s not clear yet where he or Izzy (she was a student in the school) will land, Chris seems optimistic that whatever comes next will be good. By all accounts, my brother is an effective, creative, compassionate pre-school teacher. If you know any schools in Houston that could use his talents, please point them his way. Chris is the sole breadwinner as his wife Shawn finishes college, so it’s important that he land somewhere good by the end of the year.

Chris heading to his last day of school at UH

p.s. As I wrote this, Chris called to describe his hot, tired trek home with a motley truckload of his teaching tools, including a cow puppet, a rocking recliner, a tank of fish, and a live basil plant.

Another small world moment…

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I took Sarah to get her haircut this afternoon and then joined her for dinner at Belmont. We sat with two guys named Bob (bringing the Bob count at the table to three!) and chatted through dinner.

The first Bob is Canadian and the second Bob grew up in Ohio. After he rattled off several small towns, I mentioned that my Dad grew up in small town Ohio, too, in Gallipolis on the Ohio River. My comment prompted a guy at the next table to turn and say, “Holzer Hospital!”

Surprised, I agreed that Holzer Hospital is indeed in Gallipolis and that I’m a Holzer, too. Chuck introduced himself and explained that he lived in nearby Jackson, OH for five years after The War. His daughter Ellen was born in 1950 at Holzer Hospital, deliver by Dr. Holzer (my Gran’pere) himself. So here in Houston is a guy whose life was touched by my late grandfather’s medical practice. How cool is that?

So helpful, yet so acerbic

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

This really needs little in the way of introduction. Simply put:

You suck at Craigslist.

I’m really not sure anyone wants a douchound, and they certainly would not want to take it surfing with this.

What’s in a bed, revisited

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I mentioned that Tibbs will sleep in the most uncomfortable-looking places. My cousin Mary forwarded an hysterical photo that makes me wonder if it’s a universal orange tabby trait:

orange kitty in lasagna dish

David Cook concert photos

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

I had a ball at the David Cook concert and Bill was a good sport. The venue allowed real cameras and Mom loaned me her super swanky zoom lens, so I captured several memorable images:

David Cook

David Cook

David Cook

David Cook

You can see all my best David Cook photos in my Facebook album.

My wife is a tool, er, um, provides great utility!

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

So, Bob bought tickets to David Cook’s concert in Galveston (see prior post). She likes him so much that she then bought MORE tickets once they released more reserved seats. The opening act, Need to Breathe, didn’t suck and may even be relatively creative in a Southern Rock/Blues sort of way (clear Lynyrd Skynyrd and CCR influences). However, Bob wouldn’t know. She and the person next to her were busy trying to take pictures of David Cook through the sub-structure of the stage (he was walking a dog). Should the stage have collapsed, Robin and she could be tied up in the litigation for months.

David walking his dog

David chatting backstage

While I was mostly indifferent through the process, I felt bad for the daughter of the woman next to us. Contractually, I believe that tolerating this sort of silliness certainly edges towards the “or worse” clause, but I went into it knowing my wife was a tool for a band (Rush), and realistically, I should have expected other such dysfunctions to manifest themselves later. The daughter, on the other hand, seems to have come up snake eyes on at least one roll of the cosmic crap shoot. You can choose a lot of things in life, but you can’t choose your parents. Too bad for her.

Unrelated thought: why does Alex Rodriguez own a Mercedes dealership in Houston, and why does he think I care about him? (Sponsor of the event)

Unrelated thought #2: Who’d’ve thought one would hear a Cutting Crew cover at a concert, ever.

Open letter to the tour visiting Galveston

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

American Idol winner David Cook and his band will perform in Galveston tonight. David strikes me as a smart guy, and he has ties to the Houston area. He told the paper he’s genuinely interested in Galveston, and I believe him.

The reality is that the tour just rolled in from Baton Rouge, will hurry through set up and sound checks, will do the show tonight, and then have to break everything down and hustle off to New Orleans. They probably don’t have time for sight-seeing.

But if David and his team had time to contemplate Galveston, here are some things I would want to mention to them:

Hurricane Ike hasn’t been in the news in ages, but the impacts of this devastating hurricane are still super salient today. While it’s impossible to absorb the thousands of personal stories wrought by Ike, it’s easy to imagine some of it if you’re paying attention.

As you ride down Stewart Rd and Jones Rd toward the Moody Gardens venue, consider that your route — and the homes and business on either side — went under 4+ feet of stormwater 10 months ago.

Stewart under water

Galveston’s Seawall is about a mile from the venue. During the storm, two people in a pickup truck fled here from the unprotected west end of the island. With the rest of the island under water, evacuation was impossible, so they sought the highest “ground” they could reach: the 91st Street fishing pier. They rode out the storm upstairs and survived. But by morning, their truck was swamped and much of the pier was gone. You can still see what’s left:

91st Street fishing pier

Galveston has brought together hurricanes and rock music previously. The cover art of Rush’s 1980 album, Permanent Waves includes a photo of the Seawall taken during Hurricane Carla in 1961.

Rush album Permanent Waves cover

Note the monument in the middle of the frame, placed in 1905 to commemorate the extension of Galveston’s seawall from 39th Street to 53rd Street. When Ike hit in 2008, not only were all the buildings on wooden piers swept away, but the multi-ton granite monument was rearranged by the sheer force of the waves:

Seawall monument

There are several long-time local restaurants near Moody Gardens that have survived to serve up yummy food. Cafe Michael Burger offers burgers and brats with a beach breeze, and Mario’s on 61st will deliver a mean pizza.

Tonight’s performance is more than a concert; it supports a broader effort to rebuild this community. Island Star Performances is recruiting national acts to perform in Galveston, and a portion of ticket proceeds will benefit the Galveston County Recovery Fund. In addition, the concert will attract visitors from the Houston area and beyond, whose hotel and restaurant bills are essential to the island’s economy. It’s important that these folks have a good time and return in the future.

Finally, I would say ‘thank you’ to the folks on Cook’s team who chose to bring the tour to Galveston. As an artist with a platinum-selling album, Cook could go most anywhere in the country. I appreciate that they’re coming to be a small part of Galveston’s recovery. And I’m grateful that tonight I will enjoy a couple hours of joy in a place that is still steeped in heartache.