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Friday, November 30, 2007

River Walk Construction Update: Moving right along...

It has been a month since my last River Walk construction update so I thought I would put up a few pictures of the progress down on McCullough at St Mary's.Things are looking really good with nice winding walls going up.At this rate, it won't be long before drunken party goers are urinating along these beautiful stone walls.Hopefully, someone planned to put in a few public restrooms along the way, since after all, we have taken the time to plan this out - right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Strange in Sam's...

I'm always on the lookout for something worth a giggle and friends and co-workers seem to know it. A guy I work with used his cell phone to capture this little act of strangeness while looking for a place to park at Sam's today. Parking spots don't seem to be a problem. He just couldn't find a place to put his shopping cart when he was done with it.

* See more Strange stuff in San Antonio...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Culture Report: Witte Museum...

This morning I was reading through the Express-News and saw a story on the Lens on South Texas photograph exhibit at the Witte Museum and decided we hadn't had enough culture in our lives recently. Hey, I got the full U-Verse package at my house, but still, sometimes you have to go someplace besides your living room for a little entertainment.

If you haven't been down to the Witte or haven't been in a while, it really is a nice place to check out. It is located north of downtown on Broadway just south of Alamo Heights. We paid $7.00 each plus another $2.00 to go look at the stupid dinosaurs.
Let me save you some time. If you are not bringing a kid under the age of say, 7 or 8, skip the dinosaurs; they are those weird animatronic deals like you see at Disney or Chuck E. Cheese, but in the shape of, well, dinosaurs, and they don't sing songs or dance, they just make dinosaur sounds. If you want to donate the money for a good cause, great, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Anyway, on to what I wanted to see, and that was the pictures. I guess over the years, the museum has saved quite a collection of old photos taken in and around San Antonio and south west Texas, and here, they have put the images on display with captions. I know, sounds a lot like going through an old family album of strangers, but there is something revealing about seeing people pose at a time when photographs were not the everyday thing they have become in the age of digital cameras and cell phone shots. Back then, it was quite a treat to have some guy make your picture.

The display wouldn't be complete without a few photos of notable citizens of the time. One picture shows the famous Indian Geronimo posing in cowboy boots and a straw hat while being held as a prisoner of war at Ft Sam Houston. Another has Teddy Roosevelt posing shortly before his charge up San Juan Hill. And there are several local names you might recognize as well. Madam Candelerio apparently did some nursing of Jim Bowie at the Alamo. I assume it was medical related. Notice her portly dog and you can see that San Antonio got an early start on the Fattest City in America.
It isn't that I am some photography buff or even a student of history, but as my wife and I watched a slide show of the pictures on display set to some good ol' Texas music, we smiled and giggled at how darn goofy some of the people looked, trying to get all gussied up for the big picture moment. Oh, and lots of folks in the 1800's were cross-eyed.
There was one picture of a little Mexican girl described as being in a sort of border refugee camp who looked like the spitting image of our niece, Erica. It was amazing. And I think it is those sorts of coincidences or the humor that you can appreciate from the old pictures that makes the trip worth it.
But if not, the Witte offers much more. We wandered outside along the beautiful patio to look up a plaque that proudly displays the names of fallen San Antonio veterans of World War I where my wifes uncle is listed.They have some log cabins with interactive displays to teach youngsters how to build one as well as displays along the edge of the San Antonio River to explain how a river works, I guess.
Kids and adults will love the HEB Science Treehouse. We went inside and messed around with the KENS-TV Weather center where you can make your own weather forecast and learn how Bill Taylor does his headless weatherman trick on Halloween. All good stuff.The treehouse itself is pretty cool and I can imagine this place alone would keep kids occupied for hours. I especially liked this gate near the side of the patio donated by Frost Bank. It has lots of cool art work including a spider web. Probably looks even better from the front.

Anyway, if you feel the urge to get away from the house for a little while, I'd say this is a nice little trip that can take as little as an hour or as long as you'd like to make it last. We definitely didn't see everything in the museum, but we had a great time.

Note: I'm not sure about the legality of using the few pictures I have posted here. The sign in the Witte said it was cool to take pictures as long as you didn't use a flash, so technically, the pictures posted here are mine, but the pictures taken of pictures are property of the Witte Museum Collection and should be noted as such.

Midnight Snack Report: Village Inn...

Our last visit to the Village Inn left us eager to try it for something besides lunch - specifically, my wife wanted to try the waffles. So after a day full of Internet surfing, TV watching and dog bathing, we decided we should at least get out of the house for a snack. Off to Village Inn.

She had exactly what she had been craving - the Belgian Waffle with strawberries.
Not a complaint at all, though I opted not to taste it. I didn't want it to interfere with my little craving.I'm not quite sure what my obsession is with finding the perfect Reuben and honestly, I don't even know why I enjoy them. Sauerkraut is not a standard menu item in my mental selection and I pretty much lost interest in 1000 island dressing years ago. But for some reason, I need the Reuben!Unlike the one I had at Which Wich the other day, this was in the proper format. On flat rye bread, the sandwich is layered evenly so with each bite, you experience all the ingredients equally. I just don't think you are supposed to be eating it at 10pm, but who knows.Anyway, a second visit and another set of Tasty Treats for Village Inn. Eventually, I will have to try the breakfast.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wardrobe Report: Special Ghost Whispering Pants...

Is it just me or does Jennifer Love Hewitt wear some pretty weird clothes?

Just this afternoon, my wife and I zoomed through the remaining 4 or 5 episodes of Ghost Whisperer so we could clear out our DVR. My wife has the wardrobe complaint you would imagine from any wife, simply, why would you have to show your boobs off just to speak with a ghost? A valid question I'm sure, but it doesn't seem to bother me.Me on the other hand, I just wonder, who bought these pants and forced JLH to wear them on camera?
Sweet sainted aunt of Bozo the Clown, you could fit an entire circus into these pants and have room for J-Lo's ass and Beyonce's thighs.

I'm just sayin'...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Lunch Report: WhichWich?...

I don't participate in any of the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness that would require me to get up at 4am or wait in lines to get into WalMart, so there was really no suitable reason that I should even leave the confines of my house today - and my wife was in total agreement on that. We have a DVR full of TV shows that have gone unwatched not to mention the first sign of cold weather (a chilly 50 degrees is enough to warrant long johns in my mind), so sales on anything Christmas related can wait until I get through the last six weeks of Ghost Whisperer as far as I'm concerned.

But, one cannot live on turkey and stuffing alone, especially when I had a plate full for breakfast and based on the looks of the fridge, there seemed to be a full weekend worth to contend with, we decided to get out and see what was quick and new. My son suggested one of his favorites, Which Wich, which you might imagine is a sandwich place. Get it, Which Wich?
We headed over to the I-10 and Huebner location but I understand they have one being built closer to the HEB Plus on Potranco and 1604. The concept of this type of sandwich place is awesome. I have said before that we are given way too many choices and what happens for people like me is, the waiter comes around and suddenly, your mind goes nuts and you can't decide what you want and you order something you don't want or you forget what you came for etc. Even at a place like Quiznos or Subway, even if you know you want the ham and cheese sandwich, you have to decide on white or wheat, what type of cheese, what type of toppings, toasted or untoasted, dressings, seasonings, foot long or half, it is a damn nightmare I tell you, especially if some hungry guy next to you in line is practicing what he is going to order.At Which Wich, you still have to decide but they have come up with a way to let you think about your order at your own pace, mark down what you want, order it and get it exactly how you want it. No pressure at all! You put your name on the bag, grab another little card to order a shake if you like or some freshly baked cookies, and off you go to the register.The wait was not long at all. I ordered a Reuben Sandwich which was very acceptable considering the sub-type bun. Had that part of it occurred to me, I might have gone along with my son's selection, the Wicked which for a buck more, you get 5 meats and two cheeses. But even though, I was not unhappy with the Reuben.
I also ordered up some of their House Chips which appeared to be Ruffles with some awkward seasoning stuffed into a baggie. I don't recommend them - stick with the Lay's.The shop itself was no more exciting then any of the chain type places but I did notice that it was a WiFi spot and they seemed to try to get customers to make it "their" place by posting some artwork done on sandwich bags. We noticed a few bands had even used the bags as a way of promoting web pages for their groups.

Whether you choose to be a hipster or not, I'd safely choose Which Wich over Quiznos or Subway, if only for the ability to sit there and really think about what you want before ordering. It ain't fine dining, just a place to get lunch, but still earns a few Tasty Treats in my book.

A Thankful Thanksgiving...

I confess that I am a sucker for scenes in movies where the director has led you down a path and suddenly, almost out of nowhere, a single scene causes such an emotional stir that even the manliest of men - even me - succumbs to the Kleenex moment. I think of the John Hughes movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles where at the very end, after all the turmoil Steve Martin has gone through with John Candy he invites him to his home for Thanksgiving.

There is nothing spectacular about it, but maybe the music or just maybe that we have learned only moments earlier that the wife Candy's character has talked about the entire movie is actually dead; whatever it is, that single moment leaves you with that emotional feeling where, though you are happy for the outcome, you want to stay in the seats as the credits roll so you can make sure no one sees any evidence of your appreciation.

I mention this because as we celebrated Thanksgiving at our home yesterday, it was all a very casual affair with the usual turkey and fixings. Ordinarily, we meet at my mother-in-law's home, but this year, to help ease the stress, we suggested having dinner here. My brother-in-law has been ill for months and in the hospital and in rehabilitative care facilities. His childhood diabetes didn't end with adulthood, and now in his mid-forties, and the failure of the kidney my wife donated to him over 15 years ago, every phone call my mother-in-law gets brings on the emotional, what if this is it.

We ate and chatted and watched football. Really, it could have been any Sunday lunch, just this was Thursday and we were having turkey. Later, a sister-in-law and her family stopped by having visited the brother-in-law at his rehabilitation center for his Thanksgiving lunch. As the first game of the day ended and the official cutting of the huge pecan and apple pies commenced, we got a call from my brother-in-laws wife. She asked me if we were still eating.

My wife had called her during the week and told her that we would be meeting at our house for Thanksgiving and that if she felt up to it, she should come and bring her parents. It has been some time since she has been to our house so she was asking for street names and crossroads etc. She asked if it was alright if she brought her mother and I told her of course.

My wife quickly cleaned off a few places at the table and we brought in a few more chairs and in the mean time, we cheered on the Cowboys.

When the car pulled into the driveway, my wife opened the door and suddenly made eye contact with me and motioned for me to come over. "She brought Cosme!" This was not the John Hughes moment.

We went out front and by now my son and my nephew had come out to help pull a wheelchair from the back of the car. As his wife instructed me on how to help him get from the seat of the car to the chair, my wife's sister popped her head out of the front door to see what was going on. This was not the moment either.

When we made our way into the front door and had my brother-in-law safely inside the warm house facing my mother-in-law, she smartly lowered herself onto the couch and covered her mouth with a napkin and cried tears of joy; it was as if the half-time recap of the football game had suddenly segued into that music you hear in movies when the guy suddenly realizes that the girl who is his best friend has secretly loved him all along, and he loves her too.

I can't tell you and couldn't possibly describe the visual of seeing a woman so stressed out with grief suddenly overcome with joy - absolute and total relief for at least another moment to be with her son at home. If you've ever seen a person win the pull of a wishbone and not even have to ask what it was they hoped for only to see it come true moments later, this was it. And yes, this was it.
My mother-in-law and her oldest son.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Medical Report: Surviving an Upset Tummy...

Pulling into the parking lot at work this morning was like returning to the scene of a crime. Where I might normally be scanning the lot for an open space to park in, I instead focused on the remaining outline of stained asphalt directly next to the parking spot I had occupied just Monday.

My quick inspection revealed that, though birds and other varmints may have plucked the chunks away, it would take a good rain or a guy with a 2,500 PSI power washer to undue the incredibly huge film of phlegm left when I projectile vomited, not once, but three times as I attempted to leave work two days ago.

Yes, there is definitely something going around; and I got it. I find it interesting how these things catch up to you. You see, only this past weekend, my wife had complained of some minor tummy infraction that was of no concern to me because, frankly, I never get sick. And since I never get sick, I have no problem with breathing the same air or sleeping in the same bed, simply because my wife feels a little queasy.

I may need to rethink that one.

Monday morning, I rolled into work as happy as a clam and for some reason, the first cup of coffee at work tasted slightly off. Mind you, I had already had three or four cups of coffee before getting to work, but I don’t really start counting until I’m on the clock.

Anyway, I hadn’t thought much of it until I started in on my cup of Raspberry yogurt from HEB, complete with a healthy scoop of granola from the bulk section. (This weekend, I was able to get into the bulk health food section without the overly helpful heath food adviser trapping me into a conversation about colon cleansing or the benefits of flax. Oh sure, I've been know to sprinkle flax seed on my fruit but I just don't want to stand in the middle of HEB and discuss it with an "adviser".) Anyway, as I took spoonful after spoonful of yogurt into my mouth, something very strange began to occur in my stomach.
Or further down.

Thankfully, we have an Executive Men's Room near my cubical and off I went. I'll spare you further detail, but trust me, this is not the type of thing you want to handle in a public restroom with the potential of some senator widening his stance nearby.

So a while later I emptied my nasty coffee out and got a fresh cup and decided to go for my cup of fruit. I know, it probably sounds like all I do at work is drink coffee, eat and crap; I do more but it isn't quite as interesting.

For some reason, it was taking me a really long time to finish off the fruit. And even though I had a fresh cup of coffee, it just didn't seem right. So, let's fast forward to later in the afternoon but suffice it to say I had paid several visits to the men's room, but most of them, all bark and no bite if you get my drift.

I opted for an old trick and decided a nice Sprite would have somewhat of a soothing effect on my stomach by creating an Alka-Seltzer like environment whereby I could burp a few times and get on with the day. I got about 4 sips of Sprite down my gullet before I really started to feel achy and bad.

Honestly, I was convinced I was experiencing PMS or at least the physical parts of it, because, as bad and crampy as I felt, I had no desire to kill men or yell at anyone.

At about 2pm, I decided I had had enough and thought I would go home and lay down a bit. I think the walk out to my van in conjunction with the Sprite had created some other sort of disturbance because when I sat down in the seat, I first thought I was having a heart attack. Don't worry, I feel this way a lot, especially when I have to take a few hours of PTO for something silly like being sick.

Anyway, as a huge sweat overcame my entire body, I instinctively swung open the door and in a single motion unstrapped my seat belt and unloaded a wave of Sprite, coffee, fruit, and I'm going to assume yogurt along the bottom of my inner door and by ricochet, onto the pavement below.

I try to avoid embarrassing scenes so I quickly jumped back into my seat and contemplated laying my seat all the way back and taking a 30 minute nap in hopes that if anyone had witnessed my little fire hose action, they would think that perhaps they were imagining things, after all, the only guy in that van is taking a nap. I know, not very bright thinking, but it was all I could come up in the two to three seconds before I was reaching for the door handle again. This time, the torrent of goodness included a few strands of undigested steak from the night before, and quite possibly, portions of my testicles.

Of course, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man dressed nicely in a suit walking several rows away from me and though I'm sure he wanted to make contact with me to inquire as to my condition, he knew the man-rules well and continued on his way as though this were a private matter, and in fact, he had never even seen anyone else in the parking lot, especially a guy who just unloaded with a third wave all over his tie, slacks, a bright yellow shirt and some fancy shoes.

By now, I stood outside the vehicle for some strange reason reaching for my comb. I know it makes no sense but if this is to make the paper, I'd like to at least have combed hair to go along with my stained shirt and one of those long hanging snot-like strands of goo that shoots from your nose and mouth following an especially violent purging.

Call me a model, but I felt a lot better. Honestly, I contemplated going right back into the office and finishing the day had it not been for, well, the throw-up all over me.

So, I drive home and when I get to the house, I walk in and my wife looks at me. I don't recall the conversation but I know she said, "You didn't take pictures did you?" And that was it, I was out for the count. When I woke up later in the evening just in time to go to bed, I had made the mistake of trying to drink several bottles of water in just a few minutes to recover the lost fluids. Big mistake.

So, before I brushed my teeth for bed, I spent several minutes throwing up in every possible drain in our bathroom. Yep. Why stick with the toilet when you can use the sink and the tub? And then, once I had that wonderful just finished blowing chunks feeling going, I started from the other end. In the toilet, not the sink or the tub.

After a really restless night where I ended up in the living room sitting upright on a recliner watching re-runs of Fox News programs, I got up to get ready for work. I never left the house and with good cause. That was Tuesday.

So this morning just when I got up thinking things were back to normal, I had one last little "incident". My kids like to use the term "Sharted".

But, through the judicial use of Saltines and tiny sips of Gatorade, I was able to manage my situation well enough to make my way to work and to park far, far away from the scene of that horrific incident on Monday.

In 18 hours or so, I may be ready for a huge serving of Thanksgiving turkey. I'll just keep a clear path to the parking lot.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

My HEB Commercial...

Dear Mr. Butt,

Please don't sue me.


If you have read this blog for more than a week or so, you can pick out at least one or two patterns in my life. First, I keep a digital camera with me at all times (except in my office - don't ask), and second, I shop in HEB about 5 out of 7 days in a week.

I keep the camera with me because you never know when something goofy is going to happen and I want to make sure I get a picture of it when it does. Like the time I was outside of the HEB parking lot and saw some guy who had cut a hole in the hood of his car rather than purchase the correct sized radiator.Or there was the time my wife and I were driving around and some lady was pulling a guy in his car backwards. Good times for sure.

I'd like to be present with my camera when a meteor falls out of the sky and safely smashes into a Hummer or at least an H3, just because I think it would be a cool picture. No offense to Hummer drivers - your coolness speaks for itself.

But more often than not, my photos end up being weird cloud formations or pictures of my lunch or some other everyday occurrence that, the recording of costs nothing, but just maybe one day, someone will find the same enjoyment I have in recording that moment and that place in time.

On the other hand, my wife just thinks I'm a nut and you are free to share her view.

So, we were visiting our favorite HEB Plus over on Potranco and 1604 when upon entering, I was asked to participate in some sort of study. The kind chefs wanted me to sit down and enjoy some specially prepared fish, rate it, make comments, cleanse my palate with a refreshing Dixie cup of water, then try another piece of fish seasoned differently, then repeat the evaluation process. For my time, I would get a piece of candy! I know, whoo hoo.

So, I sat down - anything for my HEB Plus - and pulled my camera out of my pocket and handed it to my wife and told her to capture me in action eating free fish. That's something to remember when I'm in my 70's, thanks.

Strangely, the HEB (or survey company lady dressed as an HEB employee) lady cautioned my wife that photos were not allowed inside HEB - a company policy you know.

As I took my first bite of fish I calmly looked up and told the nice lady that I take pictures in HEB all the time. Then I asked my wife to get a shot that doesn't make me look fat.
I think this frustrated the lady a little, but not enough for her to call security or stop feeding me fish. I was frustrated that this camera seems to add about thirty pounds of girth to my waist.

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you a few of the pictures I took and to show you why HEB is such a great place. I'd like to think of this as, My HEB Commercial...

This is me posing with the original ladies on the center cooking stage. This photo was actually autographed and posted on the stage but it isn't there anymore. Carol now works in the beer and wine section - she is really nice.

This is me riding some little Chupacabra character outside of HEB. I don't really like this picture but it makes some people giggle at how goofy I look. I'm not that fat in person by the way.

Here is where I purchase my fresh fruit and veggies.This is a crowd of people seeking out the biggest possible turkey and the smallest possible ham. You see, for a limited time, if you by a ham, you get a free turkey.

A buddy and I were talking one day and he mentioned to me that depending on which particular HEB you shopped at, you could find some pretty hot looking women. He went on to opine that HEB would have a pretty good marketing ploy if they were to create a calendar called the MILF's of My HEB.
I know, that might be in poor taste, but the truth is, most shoppers in HEB look more like this guy.Sometimes, I get frustrated because they run out of Raspberry flavored yogurt. I need 5 of those a week to live, yet today, they were sold out. Luckily, there is also an HEB by my house.Finally, if you ever have to pee really bad, HEB does a good job at maintaining their restrooms. In fact, this is the urinal I peed in right after eating my two servings of fish. The Dixie cup of water made me have to go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mobility Report: Where are the Sidewalks on Culebra?

A few years ago, San Antonio had this mayor named Ed Garza in office and he had two big issues as I recall. One was to ban smoking and the other was to get some soccer fields. At the time, I traded e-mails with him regarding more important pressing needs in the community such as sidewalks, drainage and potholes.

Anyway, several years have passed and I was reminded yesterday about the time that I was coming home from work driving up Culebra toward the intersection of Ingram Rd, and a man in in a motorized wheelchair had been hit by a car.
What happened to all those federal persons with disabilities acts or the promises to get some sidewalks going? And don't businesses have any responsibility at all to provide sidewalks along the frontage of their property?

Just a thought.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

GNWCIA Meeting Report: My Notes...

I made the short trip down the street to attend the meeting of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association board of directors this evening. Herewith my notes, but first, I really need to make something clear to those folks that live in the community who read my take on things.

There are in fact a few factions of homeowners who attend the meetings, belong to the board and are former board members or want to be board members. I fall into none of those categories. That is to say, I do not turn away from conversations with anyone at the meetings nor do I take cues from anyone when I write these notes. Yet, I have been told to my face by members of both groups that they know I am secretly for the other side. The funny thing about it is, if someone was keeping track, I routinely agree with and write about positions supported by a faction and a paragraph later, poo poo the ideas of the same group. But in my opinion, the bizarre part isn't that people are convinced I'm part of one faction or the other, the bizarre part is that there are different factions of people who attend these homeowner meetings.

When my wife and I attended meetings and we were the only residents in the audience, we sat there and reacted to things the same way we do when the audience is packed - we either roll our eyes and laugh when we hear something stupid, or we shake our heads in agreement when we hear something we agree with. The strange thing is, when we were alone in the audience, there was no one there to tell us which side we were supporting when we had our little reactions. And frankly, there still is no one telling us how we should agree or disagree with the things the board of directors say or do.

Having said that, read on and hopefully I'll write something that falls into your faction!

This was the first meeting with the new Community Manager officially present, and Mr. Darin Laracuente set the tone from the beginning. As the directors began to find their seats complete with the new awesome sounding audio system in place, the projection screen behind the board alternated a logo of the Great Northwest and guidelines for participation in the meetings. The bottom line was, if you fell to show respect, follow the rules or get out of hand, you'll be asked to leave. If you don't leave when asked, you'll be escorted out. Bravo Mr. Laracuente!

Residents to speak included a guy concerned about his filthy neighbor who never mows his yard, has a back yard that looks like a city dump, has junk yard dogs assembled in the city dump-like backyard barking and howling and when the dogs aren't barking and howling, they are howling and barking. He asked the board to look into efforts to do something about it.

The same gentleman went on to lambaste a writer to the Passages who called for doing away with the GNW Security staff. Good Call.

Next up, senior Silver Creek Resident, Ms. Olivia queried the board about a rumor she heard regarding the management of pools. Chairman Lee Besing nipped this in the bud, stating that yes, the board had looked at some options but found that our staff does a much better job for a lot cheaper.

Finally, Mrs. Rodkey had two points to make to the board - her first was to offer praise to Director Richard Garcia for his continued graffiti abatement efforts. As I wrote previously, Director Garcia is out and about painting over graffiti and fighting the good fight to keep the neighborhood free of the stuff. Kudos!

Mrs. Rodkey also asked the members of the board to please work together and vote their conscience, and not necessarily for or against other directors based on which faction they seem to be aligned with. I have it on good authority (Mr. Joe Martinez) that every current board member has been aligned with his Sentinel faction at one time or another, so I'm not quite sure how they line up now, but regardless, I believe Mrs. Rodkey was quite correct in her observation.

I should tell you at this point that the continuing display of the "Rules" must have been working as there were no real outbursts by audience members or board members alike.

As they moved into the agenda, Director Besing introduced Mr. Laracuente to the group and reported that there has been some minor restructuring of office personnel. Mr. Laracuente announced that the office would now be open from 8:30AM to 7PM Monday-Friday, and he hoped to soon open as early as 8AM to accommodate residents.

Chief Roger Burton did recommend yours truly to fill the vacant GNW Watch Coordinator position (which my wife will surely help me with) and the board approved my selection.

Maintenance and Recreation directors gave some updates and then the new business started.

Director Sigrid Long who is part of the GNW Scholarship Committee gave a report and provided a letter and information to the directors. In probably the only real fireworks of the evening, and I should say that it was extremely civil compared to previous meetings, Director Garcia asked a few thoughtful questions regarding the Scholarship Committe.

He asked if the board had oversight. Director Long responded yes.

Director Garcia asked if the names or the applications of the past winners were available to review. Director Long reported that there were some hard copies somewhere but added that they may have been destroyed to protect the privacy information of the applicants.

Director Guy Pucci then asked if the scholarship money was drawing any interest? Chairman Besing responded that the program was actually operating in the red.

Director Long stated that it was not actually in the red, but not drawing interest and that in fact, the account was losing $5.00 a month due to some banking penalties.

Director Garcia then asked if there was any criteria that would disqualify a board member from the committee as a conflict of interest. Director Long replied that none of her kids had applied for the scholarships.

I think several suttle points were made and the meeting moved on to the next item.

Director Long questioned why an article she submitted for publication in Passages was not included in the paper. Chairman Besing responded that they ran out of space and that the article will be in the next issue.

The meeting got to the budget discussion at which point in apparent protest (or not - I don't know for sure) several residents (or members of a single faction if you choose) got up and left. Too bad. The fact is, in just a short period of time, the new CM and (once again) temporary accountant have gone through and weeded out a boatload of items that were either mis-categorized or wrong. The budget looks a lot better than it did a few weeks ago. And, because there were hardly any procedural disruptions from the peanut gallery, the department heads were able to address questions the board and other audience members had.

Only one point I care to address and that is salaries. I overheard several audience members questioning the amount of money the staff is paid. We have a staff of between 18-24 employees supporting one of, if not the largest homeowners associations in Texas, covering over 5,000 homes and multiple community facilities, and apparently, many of you would like to hire people for minimum wage or less.

I was talking to my parents and my aunt and uncle this past weekend and they laughed when I told them people are bickering over an assessment fee of $235.00 a year. They pay that a month for their associations. Don't get me wrong; I'd like to see the board lower the yearly assessment if only to send a signal to the residents that they are trying to keep fees under control. But please don't tell me that you want to run the facilities of this association with illegal immigrant wages.

And with that, I welcome your comments. I don't always get it right and I may miss a few things, but I promise, you'll get more information from my notes and sooner than you will otherwise.

NOTE: Regarding the strike through of comments about the Sentinel group, Mr. Martinez advised me via e-mail that he did not recall the conversation I mentioned and further that at least two board directors, Mr. Sharma and Mr. Miflin have never been part of his group. I have no issue with making the correction and setting the record straight.

2nd NOTE: I received a second update indicating that Ms. Long also has no affiliation whatsoever with the Sentinel group. In other words, apparently very few members of the board have any affiliation with Sentinel. I apologize to any board members who may have been wrongly identified as being associated with the Sentinel group.

Construction Report: Tezel Road Update...

Just a quick follow-up to my previous complaint about the slow going on Tezel Road...

My neighbor Gus forwarded me a response he got from a TxDOT representative when he wrote in to complain about the mess, and the gist of her reply was that, though they apologize for the inconvenience, the real issue is with delays caused by CPS, SAWS and other utilities.

I promptly e-mailed the TxDOT lady and essentially asked her to expand on the response that, in my opinion, was taking no blame for delays whatsoever and putting it all on the City of San Antonio (COSA) and the various utilities.

The spokeslady responded in part:
First of all, Tezel Road is a city roadway and the City of San Antonio
did the original planning for this work.

During the planning process, TxDOT (and COSA) consults with all utility
agencies prior to construction in order to get the best (and I emphasize
the word "best") blueprint of all utilities. It is a misconception that
comprehensive as-built plans exist. Many companies can check their
records and TxDOT receives the best possible location to include in
design plans. But, once crews dig underground, it is anyone' guess what
will be found — gas or electrical lines that were not on the plans,
water and sewer lines that are not where crews expect them to be,
abandoned lines that forces crews to stop and determine who the
responsible utility company is and whether these lines are active or
not, etc. The work then stops until the appropriate utility company
comes in and lets TxDOT know what is to be done in that instance.
She also responded to another concern:

"This poor planning does not give us a whole lot of faith in TxDOT's
ability to manage the roads" — Mr. Stone, the planning and the design
on Tezel Road was done by the City of San Antonio engineers and/or their
engineering consultants. Through an agreement with the City and because
of use of federal money for the project, TxDOT provides oversight of the
construction to make sure that the work is done according to plan
specifications. Tezel Road is not on the state highway system and will
return to the City of San Antonio for maintenance.

Though TxDOT does have plenty of construction projects that are
designed and construction under TxDOT's authority, to be judged for work
that was designed by another entity is not right.
In other words, City Plans it, TxDOT manages the work while taking no responsibility for the poor design or planning, then hands it back over to the city when they finish (assuming it does get finished). What is the value added to that to the taxpayer? Seriously, at least if the city was managing this abortion, we could complain to them. As it is now, the city can simply shrug their shoulders and say, "TxDOT is managing the project and trying to convince you to support toll roads."

In fairness, the lady who e-mailed me was very nice and extremely professional, but frankly, her answers seemed to avoid any responsibility or solution, other than to apologize for any inconvenience.


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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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