Former Raiders quarterback, and Biggest Draft Bust of All Time(TM)
JaMarcus Russell was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. That substance? Cough medicine with codeine. That seems like such a random drug to be caught with, doesn't it? Can't JaMarcus get cocaine like other millionaires?
Turns out that the cough syrup is a central ingredient in a popular southern drug cocktail that is called Drank, Sizzurp (that puts a new spin on that Kanye lyric, doesn't it? Jim knows what I'm talking about), Purple Stuff, Purp, and Lean, because, as one brilliant Urban Dictionary description puts it, "it's so thick that it just makes you lean cause' you so fucked up you
can't even stand up." (In that case, I'm going to start calling my Baileys and coffee drink "lean".)
To top it all off, Drank was created in my new hometown of Houston, Texas. Represent! This Outside the Lines piece on it is absolutely fascinating:
Three things I learned while watching this video:
1) DJ Screw, the Houston music producer who invented it, also died from an overdose. Just like Marie Curie!
2) If you want somebody to think you are enjoying some Purple Drink, all you need to do is stack up three styrofoam cups and fill it with grape soda.
If you want to really feel the difference that economic impact can have on your decision making, go to the casino (without me there, of course, since I am the cooler) and play a few hands of $5 limit poker. Then move up to the $50 limit table and see if there's any change in how you approach your game.
Economic impact is the primary driver of almost every decision we make. And the we in this case is both you and I personally and the institutions that make up our society. I wrote recently about how the desire to be environmentally friendly got driven out of the decision making process because of the difficulty in evaluating how reducing carbon emissions would impact of a university's bottom line. About the existing cap and trade program for other environmental pollutants, I wrote:
This cap and trade program is able to apply a specific dollar amount to
the cost of the emissions. If you want to emit NOx, then you have to
purchase credits on the open market. And the cap ensures that only a
certain number of credits are available. This means only a certain
amount of NOx will be emitted - and its an amount that can be reduced
over time by reducing the number of credits available.
allows the cost of environmental pollution to show up in an economic
analysis of a project.
But no such mechanism for carbon exists. [...] The only way to reduce
carbon emissions is to include the externality cost of these emissions
into the cost of energy.
And here's another case of environmental benefits being overshadowed by hard economic reality. From a recent Cato institute report making the case against rail transit (via my favorite local anti-rail source, Houston Strategies):
This Policy Analysis uses the latest government data on
scores of rail transit systems to evaluate the systems' value and
usefulness to the public using six different tests:
Do rail fares cover operating costs?
Ridership: Do new rail lines significantly increase transit
Cost-Effectiveness: Are new rail lines less expensive to
operate than buses providing service at similar frequencies and speeds?
The "Cable Car" Test: Do rail lines perform as well as or
better than cable cars, the oldest and most expensive form of mechanized
The Economic Development Test: Do new rail lines truly
stimulate economic development?
The Transportation Network Test: Do rail lines add to or
place stresses upon existing transportation networks?
No system passes all of these tests, and
in fact few of them pass any of the tests at all.
25 mpg car: 0.35 metric tons of CO2 per 1000 miles traveled Bus: 0.17 metric tons of CO2 per 1000 miles traveled Rail: 0.10 metric tons of CO2 per 1000 miles traveled
How would a carbon tax change the economics of mass transportation? At what cost per ton would the (economically measurable) environmental savings offset the higher costs of constructing the systems?
I don't have the answer, because I haven't done the math (yet - I'm totally going to). But what I do know is that right now, the decisions that shape a transportation system - not only whether or not to build mass transit systems, but whether or not to allow the sprawl that would make such a system less effective - are not forced to take into account the environmental impact that they have. To get back to my original analogy, we're making decisions like we're sitting at the $5 table, but we're actually at the $50 table and don't know it.
The economic case made against mass transit are 100% correct, but an economic case that doesn't take environmental impacts and energy sustainability into account misses the whole point of building the system in the first place.
This won't be the first time I point out some foolishness on Tory Gattis' blog, and it won't be the last.
My proposal would be to scale back the core LRT network to connecting
just the major job centers and destinations. That network would free up
money by temporarily switching the North, East, Southeast, and
(probably) Uptown lines to fast, frequent signature bus service. They
have relatively low ridership projections and are through neighborhoods
with uncongested streets (except Uptown, of course, but it can
ill-afford rail disruption on Post Oak) where buses work just fine for
the demand. We can no longer afford
speculative rail lines through uncongested low-density neighborhoods
without major destinations, while hoping for long-term densification.
When light rail is going through an uncongested street, its a speculative rail line without major destinations. When light rail is going through a congested street, it can ill afford rail disruption.
Being an advocate for mass transit is tough these days in Houston. It was always going to be an uphill battle in a city whose largest local industry is Big Oil, but its much harder when the agency in charge of developing transit strategies for the city is... well, let's just say that if you told me Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown had taken over Metro after he was done with FEMA, I'd say, "Well done sir! Hilarious juxtaposition of the thousands dead in New Orleans with the poor job being done running Houston's mass transit authority."
Here's what sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: "So a Metro Bus and a Metro Train are entering the same intersection..." I'll give away the ending. It ends in a bang. Here's the surveillance footage:
That is a Metro bus getting hit by Houston's only light rail train in downtown. The light rail line, which opened in 2000, has gotten the nickname "The Danger Train" because it keeps running into things. Or, more correctly, things keep getting in its way. Things like cars and buses. Has nobody in Houston heard of these?
Seven years after a referendum passed to expand the one light rail line to six, a single mile of additional track has yet to be laid. Only in the past year has any work begun at all. And the University Line, the most critical link that would tie the city's major employment centers together, is the one that hasn't been fully funded yet.
All this is to say that the critics of mass transit in Houston (and they are legion) smell blood in the water, and are circling. The new mayor has thrown the executive board out on its ass, and is now openly questioning the future of the system expansion. The City itself is in a budget crisis that could cause end in a furlough of city employees. But nowhere is this anti-transit message clearer than over at Houston Strategies, where author Tory Gittis has endorsed the following under the title "The Real Future of Transportation":
Randal O' Toole has such a great essay
in the Wall Street Journal this morning, I have to pass it along (with
my own highlights). Its main theme is about the self-driving cars of
the future, but it also brings up a lot of inconvenient facts about the
alternatives, like inter- and intra-city rail - which are the emerging
themes of the next federal transportation bill.
I'll give you the short version. O' Toole is proposing that, instead of investing in alternative transportation infrastructure, we should continue to build more streets and highways because, soon, cars will be driving themselves... in the future. *jazz hands*
So let me get this straight: we can't keep a bus from crashing into a train, but we're going to be able to design a system that drives millions of cars every day that will reduce traffic and congestion? And its only a convenient coincidence that the potential of this technology means that we should sustain the status quo of more roads and more sprawl.
And yet, for an alternative, I must turn to Metro. The sad thing is I can't decide which one is more pathetic.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - A felony suspect who tipped the scale at more than 500 pounds carried
an unloaded 9mm pistol into city and county jails beneath flabs of his
skin even though law enforcement officers repeatedly searched him,
authorities said Thursday.
Thank god for the dedicated officer who, after being told the 500 pound man had been searched four times, said, No. I need to search this fat piece of shit one more time, just to make sure, and really get under all the folds. I've searched his necks, I've searched under his boobs, I've searched in between and under his ass cheeks... AHA! Under this fold below is right arm! Wedged up here next to a half-eaten turkey sub and a copy of Scattergories.
Houston: coming to reclaim the title of America's fattest city, one quarter-ton man at a time.
You know what really grinds my gears? When people refer to places that are north of your current location as down. As in, "We're going down to Kingwood for the weekend," or "Santa went back down to the North Pole." Is Australia called Up Over? No, it is down under! BECAUSE SOUTH IS DOWN.
Here's a map.
See the A? That's Kingwood. See the B? That's Houston. Which direction is Kingwood? WHICH DIRECTION IS KINGWOOD, SUZI?!?!? HUH? WHICH IS IT, KEVIN? THAT. IS. UP. GODDAMMIT.
Here's how you can justify down to Kingwood.
You can hold the map upside down. Except now you live in notsuoH, you're going down to doowgniK, and people say, "Hey, retard, you've got that map upside down."
I'll allow the following exceptions: If you are on top of a mountain, and the bottom of the mountain is north of you, then yes, you can go down to the valley. That is it. And last I checked, Houston was not on top of Mount fucking Everest.
The Discovery Channel has aired an episode of their show Mega-Engineering that proposed to build a giant geodesic dome over the city of Houston. The stated purpose of the dome, other than to continue to make engineers look ridiculous, is to protect the city from hurricanes.
Huh, that's weird. Doesn't it look like there is a bunch of stuff outside the dome that remains unprotected? Because the proposed dome (which I swear I am not making up, this is a real fucking idea somewhere) would only cover downtown.
If you actually had unlimited resources to protect Houston from hurricanes and reduce the city's energy consumption, you would bury as many power lines underground as possible; build the goddamn light rail that was approved 6 years ago, along with the proposed commuter rail system to reduce energy use and facilitate rapid evacuation; and fund energy efficiency improvements in as many buildings as possible. But that doesn't get you an episode of Mega Engineering, does it?
Engineering isn't sexy unless you are building a bridge across the ocean, or a dome over a city, or sending spaceships to Jupiter controlled by insane computers. The time and effort that went into producing even a concept for a dome to seal downtown Houston off from the elements was engineering masturbation. It might be fun while you are doing it, but when you broadcast it on the Discovery Channel, you should be embarrassed.
When you are a little boy, and you want to go to the park, what do you do when your dad says no? You go ask your mom, hoping that she will say yes, which will, in your mind, invalidate the previous decision made by your dad, because you just want to get what you want.
Now that you are all grown up what do you do? Well, if you are in politics, you do basically the same thing. That is the shit that opponents of Houston's light rail project recently tried to pull in the Texas State Legislature. Having exhausted all local options to, ahem, derail the implementation of a 2003 referendum that proposed expanding the current Houston system from one line to six, opponents of the system turned to El Paso State Representative Joe Pickett.
What does an El Paso legislator have to do with Houston's light rail system? Beats me. This is what happens when you ask your mom and your dad, who both give you the same answer, so now you start asking neighbors for permission until you get your way.
Via Intermodality (I encourage you to read the entire, very informative article):
[T]his legislation would stop all property acquisition on all 5 new
lines immediately. Essentially, some guy from El Paso wants to
invalidate the 2003 vote, and he wants to do it by applying a standard
to Houston that does not apply to any other part of the state.
After what must have been a substantial public outcry, the legislation has been withdrawn. But these tactics are why, 6 years after Houston voted to expand the light rail system, not a single track has been laid down.
As an adapted Houstonian, I need to adopt one of the local sports teams as my own. And, since I'm never giving up the Yankees or Giants, and Houston doesn't have a hockey team (thank jesus), that leaves the Houston Rockets.
Only, there's a small problem there, too. The Rockets are responsible for me not watching basketball from 1994 to 2001.
Since my dad is not a sports guy, I've had no strong male sports role model in my life. As such, my allegiances to both individual teams and whole sports were shifty until I was in my late teens. Until I was about 10, I was a Mets fan thanks to the evil influence of my Uncle Bernie. I never watched football regularly until I was in college. I even spent a short time in my youth as a Rangers fan (and it was only coincidental that this was during the year they won the Stanley Cup - I swear!)
My first basketball allegiance was to the New York Knicks. You might not remember this, but 1994 was for New York sports what the last couple of years have been for Boston sports (excuse me a moment while I shove bamboo shoots under my fingernails - aaah, that's better). The Rangers won the Stanley Cup (when people still, you know, gave two shits about that) and the Yankees were running away with the American League. At the same time, Michael Jordan's first retirement had cleared the way for the Knicks to make the Finals. Except they lost in 7 games to the Rockets, with John Starks' infamous 2-18 shooting performance in the decisive game 7 (including 0-11 in the fourth quarter).
Without the guidance of a strong sports role model, I lost interest in the game. I could blame the Rockets for this, but I have decided to forgive, and continue blaming John Starks instead. To honor my commitment to the team, I am going to record my thoughts, Twitter-style, during today's Game 7 against the Lakers.
Ron Artest, you just helped force the Lakers into a game 7 despite your fellow stars being injured. What's on your mind?"
"Five Dollar Foot-long' is one of the best songs. That's a hot song. You've got the FreeCreditReport.com, and then 'Five Dollar Foot-long' comes on. When 'Five Dollar Foot-long' comes on, they should play that in the club. They should play all those in the club."
Hola y bienvenudos, muchachos! Today we will continue our exploration of cuisine inspired by Houston eating establishments that operate out of run down shacks. The inspiration for today's dish, Elote Con Crema (which I think roughly translates as "corn jizz") comes from a type of eating establishment I just learned about, called a refresqueria. Again, my Spanish is not so great, but I think refresqueria is Spanish for "creepy guy in a trailer."
The spot: The now-familiar "America Runs On Dunkin" logo appears on screen as the announcer says that, yes, America does in fact run on Dunkin. But then the "run" logo is seen running alongside the Houston light rail train. Then he runs through the fountain near the Museum District. Then he runs in front of Minute Maid Park (nee Enron Field), where the Astros play. "And now, Houston does too," the announcer says, cryptically. The ad ends with no further explanation.
I recorded this cryptic commercial off my television one hour ago. I have thought about nothing else since. IS DUNKIN DONUTS COMING TO HOUSTON?!? IS IT TRUE? An internet search turned up a story about Dunkin Donuts planned Houston expansion...from last year. There has been no news since, and, oh yeah, the economy has gone in the shitter.
But is Dunkin Donuts forging ahead? Is our long national nightmare over? Is Houston about to be invaded by Dunkin Donuts? My head swims. My heart sings. Do not toy with me like this, Dunkin Donuts.
The head proctor. Dude, those three people spent 4 hours this morning taking an exam that is important to their professional future, and you don't let them back in because they were 2 minutes late to the afternoon session? What a dick. The guy two seats down from me. What kind of dick shows up for an important exam and doesn't bring a calculator?
The guy next to the last guy. No-calculator guy asked if he could borrow one of your calculators, because you had two calculators. AND YOU SAID NO. Wow.
Everybody else who brought 2+ calculators. These aren't fancy graphing calculators with high battery demands. These are solar powered multi-function calculators. In the end times, when all resources on earth are gone, and we toil in the fields to scratch out a living without technology, we will still be using a TI-36x to calculate grain yield. But you think that one is going to give out during your exam? What makes you so important, you dick?
My co-worker who left without telling us. We waited for you for 45 minutes before we realized you were gone. WTF?
The dude running the hamburger stand. Taking advantage of captive engineers who don't have time to get anywhere because the test starts again in an hour is not cool. $10 for a hamburger is not cool. You are not cool.
Consider, for a moment, a pair of infrastructure projects, each competing for stimulus funds. One project has completed all of its required environmental studies, has acquired all necessary right-of-way, and has signed an agreement with a contractor who will design, build, and operate the project. This project promotes reduced motor vehicle use and denser urban development, both necessary steps to reducing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
The other project has been kicked around for 25 years with no movement. No environmental studies have been completed. Right-of-way has not been acquired, because no final alignment has been settled on. The project, when built, will serve a small number of people, promote continued exurban sprawl in an area already suffering from unending traffic jams, and pave over acres and acres of some of the last greenfield prairie within 100 miles of a major metropolitan area.
Three questions: which project do you think meets the criteria of a "shovel-ready" project? which project meets the criteria of promoting the environment, green-energy technologies, and less dependence on foreign oil? and, of course, which project got more stimulus funding?
The first project in question is the proposed expansion of the Houston MetroRAIL Light Rail system. The second is a segment of the proposed Grand Parkway, a 4th (!!) loop of highway around Houston. The Grand Parkway will get significantly more stimulus funds, because it is considered "shovel-ready", where the light rail project is not. The answer to why can be found here, on my favorite Houston-related blog, Intermodality. (That's right, suck it Swamplot!)
The short answer is rail and roads are funded by separate agencies, which hold their respective projects to different standards to determine what is shovel-ready, and what ultimately gets funded. For rail, there is an exhaustive process of evaluating your project against potential alternatives, evaluating the risk of going over-budget, and evaluating your project against other proposed rail projects. Then, after all that is done, the Federal Transit Administration can decide it doesn't like your project for absolutely no reason at all, and refuse to fund it. For highway, on the other hand, the process works like this:
Group of 5 dudes appointed by the governor: "Hey, let's build some highways!" Federal Highway Administration: "Sounds good, let me write you a check!"
In case you can't quite tell what's going on, let me explain: I am standing under an elevated highway. Directly in front of me is a four-lane highway. In the medium distance is a highway that, for some reason, is elevated an extra 100 feet off the ground (this is very common in Houston, by the way). Oh, and behind me? A four-lane feeder road.
This picture could have been taken from just about anywhere in Houston. In fact, here is the view out of the window of my apartment.
Billions of dollars are being funneled through a broken system. The system needs to be changed. Change. I swear I've heard something about that somewhere.
Why is that picture so dark? Well, legend has it that a few years ago, when the new Westpark Tollway was being built, the Texas Department of Transportation had purchased all of the right-of-way they needed except for one little plot at the end of the road. On this plot stood a little burger shack. TxDOT tried and tried to get the little burger shack to sell, but they weren't interested. "Sell us your plot," TxDOT cried, "or we'll build the highway right over you!" "Go ahead," replied the burger shack. "Build the highway over us. People will still come to our burger shack, and they will eat in the shade."
And eat in the shade they do. The place has it all - buffalo meat, Boylan creme soda, an incredible run-down shack, and an off-the-charts burger patty melt. Rye bread, buffalo meat, American cheese, fried onions and jalapenos, and special sauce.
They also have an incredible jalapeno potato salad. This recipe marks my first attempt to reproduce it at home. But it will not be the last.
And if you are asking, "But Jesse: the burger shack is so close to where you live, and the jalapeno potato salad only costs 99 cents. Why not just go there and buy it?" The answer is this. You cannot go to Bubba's Texas Burger Shack just to buy jalapeno potato salad. You might think that's what you are doing, but the next thing you know you have a half-pound of burger crammed into your face, and you weigh 400 pounds. Be warned.
Through her job, Suzi scored box seats to the Houston Rodeo. It is the biggest, richest rodeo IN THE WORLD. And box seats! That means you get all the food and drink you want, plus parking, all free of charge. I love getting free food. I love it so much. I have done some shameful things in my life for free food, and it wasn't even free food at a rodeo. Eat free dinner tonight while watching cowboys chase down and corral your dinner for tomorrow. Plus, their was a performance by dreamy, dreamy Brad Paisley.
Doesn't that sound great? Well, the sound is all I get, BECAUSE I COULDN'T GO. I had class last night. Stupid stupid class. This is how much fun going to the rodeo was
Instead of going to the rodeo, I got to sit in class in front of two
college students who decided that it was more important for them to
have a conversation than to let me hear the professor teach the class
I'm paying hundreds of dollars to take. Not only that, but when I told
them to be quiet so I could hear, they looked at me like I had just
walked up to them in a restaurant and spit on their dinners. Yeah, I
told you to be quiet without saying please. Yeah I gave you the "talkie
talkie" motion with my hand. You know what I wanted to do? I wanted to
stand up, slap you in the face and say SHUT YOU GODDAMN MOUTHS I A
MISSING THE RODEO FOR THIS SO YOU WILL BE QUIET AND LET ME LEARN YOU
COCKSUCKERS. So all in all, I think you two got off pretty easy.
This is how much fun not going to the rodeo, and instead getting to wear the plastic pink cowboy hat that Suzi ate FREE ICE CREAM out of, is.
As the Fox News helicopter films traffic on a highway west of downtown Houston with a large swath of grass to either side...
"Thanks Don for those images from SkyFox, looks like there's alot of green around those highways if they need to expand them..."
And with that, Erin Anthony, Fox 26 Houston morning traffic reporter, became part of the problem.
What's that you say, Don? There is still some green space left in Houston city-limits? Quick! Call the Mayor! Tell him to get his head out from in between Obama and MLK for a second! Somebody needs to put a highway on that shit! We can't defeat the terrorists until every square inch of America is paved over!
Maybe we should be concerned with more important things, Erin Anthony, like why you feel the need to give us your awful, uninformed opinions on transportation infrastructure. Or lwhy you insist on being a fat unattractive woman on my television in the morning. Why can't you be more like NBC local news anchor Dominique Sachse?
Oh my yes. If her face is pulled that tight, can you imagine the rest of her? And she doesn't have opinions on ANYTHING.
But not you, Erin Anthony. Nothing about you is tight, including your assessment of Houston's infrastructure needs. You are part of the problem, Erin Anthony. You. Are. Part. Of. The. Problem.
(Okay, I have to say one more thing about Dominique. In addition to being a stone-cold news fox, she takes part in what may be the best/worst thing I have ever seen in a local news broadcast. Watch the video below, and skip to the two minute mark. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: THE WHEEL OF JUSTICE. And yes, there is an actual wheel.)
Houston Metro is due to receive as much as $180 million
over the next 12 months from a huge economic stimulus bill to help
jump-start construction of two light rail lines, a House committee
chairman said Wednesday.
The long-delayed rail lines on the city's north and
southeast sides are a "very high-rated project," said Rep. James
Oberstar, D-Minn., who heads the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee. The project, he said, is ready to go and has
cleared all but one step of a federal review.
Kit Bond (R-Missouri), who has previously discouraged Congressional
attempts to address climate change on the grounds that doing so would be
bad for business, will propose an amendment that would redirect the
$5.5 billion of competitive grants (which are currently available to
both highways and transit, at the discretion of Ray LaHood) so that
those funds would apply only to highways and bridges; Barbara Boxer
plans to endorse this amendment. Kit Bond may also propose another
amendment that would redirect $2 billion high-speed rail allocation to
-- you guessed it -- highways.
By redirecting the $5.5 billion to the highway program, it becomes
nearly impossible to secure funding for new transit projects (New
Starts program) or modernizing old rail systems.
Didn't Democrats win this election? Why are Republicans being allowed to dictate the terms of infrastructure development in this stimulus? And this has nothing to do with any conservative fiscal opposition to stimulus - he isn't proposing the funds be stripped. He's just redirecting it from mass transit and rail to highways.
Bipartisanship does not mean letting the minority party walk all over your face. It means that you allow them to participate in the process. The voters have rejected Republicans, their ideas, and their philosophy, but Democrats are still so fucking whipped that they are letting them run roughshod over legislation.
Hello? Obama? I was believing in change here? If this amendment passes, I won't have to go to the bathroom anymore, because I will permanently lose my shit.
Houston Mayor Bill White is so white, his name is actually White. So does somebody want to tell me who thought it would be a good idea to make him the cream in an Obama/MLK Oreo?
Sorry about the horrible image quality but it was the best one I could find. I couldn't use the one from the newspaper in the office because I spit my coffee out all over it when I saw this. In case you can't read it, the caption above the world's most awkward Mt. Rushmore is "The Dream, The Hope, The Change."
It gets better. This ad was run in a local African-American newspaper, The Defender. The ad was also designed by staff at The Defender. The intent of the ad is to promote Mayor White and his run for the US Senate.
From what I have learned in my short time in Houston, Mayor White is actually a good guy. He's also a Democrat running for a Senate seat in Texas, so I understand he's going to need the African American community to come out and vote for him. But seriously, guy: you might as well have done this ad in blackface.
The Israeli consulate in Houston is across the street from the movie theater. A group was there protesting the latest round of violence in Israel. I heard something about rockets or whatever, but, honestly, I tune it out whenever I hear it. Who can get worked up about this anymore? Israel is blaming Palestine, and, as we can see from these photos, Palestinians are blaming Israel.
A group of three girls draped in the Palestinian flag got around this car and sassed the driver, who probably sassed them back. Afterwards, their point made, they went into the movie theater and purchased tickets for a matinee.
So lets say you are a city. As with many American cities, you have a small homeless problem. All your highways have feeder roads, so there are lots of underpasses with traffic lights - what a perfect place to live and work if you are a homeless person (and by "work" I mean hold up a "United Negro Pizza Fund" sign and a cup).
What do you do, city? Well, you want to make it clear to the homeless that they should not be living under the overpasses. But you can't put up a bunch of signs that say "Go back to New Orleans", right?
I would like to take a break from reciting democratic talking points and aggravating the French by bringing you this reminder:
I live in Texas now.
Okay, so you already knew/didn't care. I also already knew that. Here's the thing: for the most part, Texas feels exactly like everywhere else I've ever lived. It's a little warmer, and I need to go to a sports bar to watch the Giants, but other then that, there just isn't anything particularly... Texas-y about living in Houston. At least there wasn't until yesterday, when this cow happened.