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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trip Report: HEB Plus on Potranco...

Apparently all it takes is the hint of cool weather, a Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday to get HEB in the Christmas spirit. We went into the HEB Plus on Potranco for a few items Saturday, and my wife was immediately interested in a huge tree. I'm thinking something much smaller this year, but I don't see myself paying $16 for the top of someone else's tree either.We walked in through the garden department and found no garden stuff at all. Instead, it has been transformed into some sort of Christmas decoration center complete with loud Christmas music playing like it was a concert or something, perhaps to remind us that we are less than 30 days away.Once we got into the regular part of the store, the place was lined with all sorts of potential holiday gift ideas. My wife wondered if a chafing dish is for people with jock itch. I don't know, but it made me laugh.Oh, here is something interesting. Have you ever purchased milk on clearance? Hey for 50 cents, maybe if they let me sniff it first, it might be worth it. Then again, I don't drink milk so I wasn't going to seek out an employee to ask.On our way out, they had this vendor who has been selling Kettle Korn. It's Rockin', don'tcha know. Anyway, we bought a small bag last week and ate small portions during our TV time throughout the week, and it was mighty tasty. So we bought another bag yesterday. Oh, and the proprietor of this Kettle Korn Kiosk says he has been cooking it since he was 7 years old. Aren't there laws against that? All I know is it's some good stuff.Oh, and if you are wondering which one is the Jelly Belly and which one is me, I'm the one not wearing gloves.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Breakfast Report: Tink-A-Tako on Tezel...

Last weekend when we held our fantastic garage sale, I had slipped in to the new Tink-a-Tako on Tezel where the old Lone Star Grill used to reside. This morning, my wife went in to give them the tryout and I'm happy to report the state of the morning breakfast taco on Tezel is good! Do I sound absolutely presidential, or what?Breakfast taco places are a dime a dozen in San Antonio, but the truth is, most are good. No, most are really good. If you happen to visit our fair city, you need not spend big dime to get good eats for your morning fix of chorizo, bean & cheese or some tongue. Is it any wonder we do so "well" in those fattest city surveys put out by fitness magazines?But with so many good places to go, you have to narrow down your choices based on things like service, price, and of course the specific details about the taco you like. For instance, the tortillas used can make a or break a place in my book. I like soft, fresh, yummy flour tortillas, not hard, burnt or crispy. There are some extra things that go along way to sway towards a place including a good sized coffee cups and a selection of sweeteners. The little things count. I am happy to report that Tink-a-Tako meets these requirements, and apparently lots of people agree because the one on Tezel is their ninth restaurant. We are familiar with the Tink-a-Tako over by Ingram Mall and are pretty happy with it, so the only trick would be to see if they could reproduce that goodness just up the road from us.My wife ordered up a bean & cheese and a barbacoa with avocado. The barbacoa was great and she liked that they gave her avocado, not some guacamole mixture. She did have some issue with the beans, not sure if they were canned or maybe mixed with a blender. Who knows? But she still enjoyed the tacos and curious patrons at a table near us looked on as she started her little happy dance.I loaded up with a carne gusisada with cheese, a chorizo & egg, and a country sausage & egg. Really, three tacos is too much at Tink-a-Tako because they serve a good sized breakfast taco. The country & egg was standard, cooked right and I topped it off with some of the green verde sauce.I have mentioned before that I am partial to a way of preparing carne guisada. Some people do it to my liking, some folks don't. Tink-a-Tako sets the standard in my book. Oh sure, you could probably find many places (like I have) that serve a solidly prepared carne guisada, but I'm just saying if you want to try some that has been well prepared, try theirs. Oh, and don't forget the cheese.I am a huge fan of the chorizo & egg. But I don't care for potato & egg. Somehow, somebody got their potato into my chorizo. While that is a party foul, it is understandable considering all these things are cooked on the same grill, and it wasn't enough to ruin my good time. But just be careful if you happen to be allergic to potatoes or something. The chorizo had a standard taste and flavor, not too hot but good with the verde sauce thrown on for good measure.In spite of the inadvertent potato in my chorizo, the price, service, and continued quality makes the new Tink-a-Tako worth a visit, and in my book, it's a Tasty Treat every time.

Black Friday in Alamo Ranch: My Report...

I'm not a shopper at all. Going to the mall is rare, and then the only entertainment about it is looking at the freaks of nature who live amongst us, and their children. Unless we are talking garage sale or Flea Market, or admittedly, my seemingly daily trips to HEB, my shopping usually involves walking into a store, immediately going to the exact location of the single item I am there to purchase, hitting the self check-out lane and being out of the store as quick as possible. If you are like me, you probably wouldn't even think about participating in Black Friday. And neither would my wife.

But due to the fact that I needed a new printer, I found myself rolling into Alamo Ranch at 6:50 Friday morning. This whole thing started on Wednesday when we went to OfficeMax to have some copies made. While we were standing there, I remembered that I needed a new printer so I walked over to the printer aisle and found one that used the same ink cartridges as the current crappy printer.
I'm sure you know that ink these days cost more than printers, so to even shop around for a better deal that didn't use the same cartridges would be throwing away pure cash since we had just bought brand new ones for the printer that is jacked up. They had an Epson NX300 that has all the fancy scanning, faxing, copying and printer functions I need, and it was only $89.00, so I grabbed one and proceeded to check-out.

As the guy was ringing up our purchase, he was having some sort of official OfficeMax inter-store conversation with several other OfficeMax officials over the headsets they wear. Of course, my wife and I could hear both sides of the conversation because the other employees were all within several feet of us. But in fairness, it is cool to talk on headsets. Anyway, the gist of the story is, they determined that the printer I was buying for $89.00 was going to be on sale for an undisclosed price, but a whole lot cheaper, Friday morning at 7:00. My first reaction was, "What is a whole lot cheaper?" I'll be honest, I'm not coming back for $20.00.

There was all sorts of hand wringing and employees looking at one another and managers shaking heads to try to convince the guy not to tell me the price until the advertisement comes out, but finally the kid covered his microphone and did one of those coughs where you would normally say "Bullshit", but instead, he coughed, "$49.99." Well then, you now no my threshold for frugality. I will come back at 7:00 on Black Friday to save $40.00, just not $20.

I had seen news reports of people actually camping out with tents and such to stand in line at the Best Buy which is located exactly next door to the OfficeMax. The Best Buy was to open at 5am or so. Call me crazy, but I really didn't expect people to stand in line for OfficeMax, unless of course they had received an insiders cough, alerting them to something amazing. I figured if I got there a few minutes before opening, I'd be, what, second or third in line?
Well, as it turns out, all the people who went in to Best Buy at 5am were just getting started, so there was a line that went directly from the Best Buy exit, down the sidewalk to the OfficeMax door. What the heck, so I walked into Best Buy just to see if there was the same printer on sale. But as I walked to the computer department, I casually noticed the line to the registers that was longer than the line into OfficeMax, so I retreated and just went with the original plan.Oh, who stands out in front of PetSmart on Black Friday? Apparently about 6 people (with dogs in tow).As soon as the doors opened at precisely at Oh Seven Hundred, the line moved inward and no kidding, within about 25 seconds, the entire crowd was inside the store. I grabbed a cart and went straight to the printer aisle and there was only one of the NX300's left, and the box had a huge gash in it. I grabbed it but the deal was, I had told my sister-in-law I would get her one too. So now I was going to have to look for another cheap printer.There was a huge gaggle of people surrounding a festive OfficeMax girl in Santa hat, passing out vouchers for cameras and cheap memory disks and such, and when I pushed my cart by there, I noticed a small stack of the NX300's sitting near a table, so I swapped out the one with the jacked-up box and grabbed two fresh ones.Next on my list, I wanted to purchase a new hard drive for my computer so I wandered around to that part of the store. Didn't find what I wanted but I did come across a "situation". There was a crowd of about ten angry customers backing a store manager into a corner. From what I could gather, it seems that OfficeMax had some sort of good deal on laptops, but as is usually the case, they only had 4 at the cheap price. Then, it seems they had another 4 laptops, slightly better, for about $50.00 more. Well, the first people in line asked for the cheaper of the two laptops, but were given the vouchers for the more expensive ones. And as you can imagine, the next people in line received the vouchers for the cheaper laptops. When the people go up to turn in the vouchers and receive the laptop, the price is higher, it isn't the right laptop and they are pissed!

Now, you have a woman who (geeze, I hope she doesn't read this), looked like she had been sleeping in a tent in front of Best Buy for several days, and she was pretty upset that she wasn't getting the cheap laptop. The crowd seemed to be made up of reasonable people - in fact there was no gun play, and based on San Antonio ordinance, no lighted torches were being waved at the manager's face - but you could see how this little screw up could cause several sternly worded letters to the company.

I don't know how it finally got resolved, but I do know that one lady who had received the voucher for the cheaper of the two laptops actually wanted the more expensive one, so she traded vouchers with with woman who had been up all night, and the two of them were happy.

I did pick up a few other things. They had some computer speaker system with the woofer that sits on the floor so our laptop can go Thump Thump Thump when I play old Hank Williams Sr. songs. That was on sale for $14.99. I also picked up 100 packs of DVDs and CD's, though now that my kids aren't here to use them all, I just may never need to buy any ever again. I think those were $17.00 regular $59 for the DVDs and $39 for the CDs.

Then I got in the line that wrapped around the store and began the 45 minute wait to check out. While there two guys in front of me struck up a conversation. The one guy was telling me his Black Friday philosophy. He said basically, he has more time than money. So in his case, he only buys stuff that he is going to buy anyway, but if he has to wait an hour or two in line to save $100 or $200, to him it is worth it. Then he started going through my shopping cart pointing out that my savings on the printer was a tank of gas; the savings on my CD's was a case of beer and so on. He told me that just that morning, between Wal Mart, Best Buy and OfficeMax, on purchases he was going to make regardless, he had saved $600. Not bad. And he looked a lot better than the laptop lady who had camped out in a tent for several days.
In the end, I was out to the van by 8am and thus ended my Black Friday adventure. Did you venture out? Tell me about it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving: Update...

I know you must have spent the entire Thanksgiving day worrying yourselves into a lather, awaiting news of how my Sweet Potatoes and Cranberry Salad were received. I can say without exception, the sweet potato casserole made from combined recipes and missing ingredients (the evaporated milk) was a universal hit amongst the group of survey participants.My mother-in-law and sister-in-law both gave thumbs up and both had seconds. I must tell you that they preferred the dish served cold. My wife and I both enjoyed it warmed up. I should have taken more than one picture because they were a lot more excited than what this photograph might depict. As Arthur Fonzarelli might say, Aaay.

Later in the afternoon, we joined neighbors for dessert and took down a plate of the good stuff, and honestly, they were either really polite, or they genuinely loved it. I even had recipe requests!

The Cranberry Salad was actually good. I think if I ever attempt it again, I'll try following the directions a little closer. I suspect I put a little too much coconut in it. The taste was fine and nobody made any discreet efforts to spit it into a cloth napkin to be found later in the laundry. In fact, my sister-in-law took some to another gathering she was attending later in the afternoon, so it couldn't have been that bad. Unless that was just a ploy to get it out of the house...

I will tell you this: In my mind, cranberry needs to be eaten mixed in with the turkey and the dressing and such. You can't simply get a spoon and start eating it like it is some sort of fancy dessert, though I confess I did just that a while ago.
Oh, the hit of the party? Meet Tristan, my nephew's new baby. As the proud parents enjoyed turkey and such, we admired the newest little family member. Good baby!

How was your Thanksgiving? Any good stories about drunken uncles or dinnertime fisticuffs? Tell me about it.

Happy Thanksgiving...

My dog Gracie and I walked out on the deck this morning and it felt incredibly calm outside. At 6 in the morning, you can usually hear the sounds of cars starting, traffic in the distance and at least a few dogs barking, but this morning, it seemed as though the fog was somehow making everything darker and quieter. I could actually hear the water from the coi pond two houses down.

I lifted Gracie up so she could peer over the fence lines just in case there might be a cat that needed to be barked at but there was none. Aside from the water feature, pure silence, complete calm. Probably still a little sleepy, Gracie draped her head over my shoulder like she might be just comfortable enough to want me to rock her to sleep.

And then the rooster started cock-a-doodle-doing, and that was it. I let Gracie down, heard the engine of a car start and several dogs began the morning symphony. Can someone explain to me why somebody has a rooster in a sub-division? Do you suppose there are a bunch of hens laying eggs on the next street over?


So I had asked for recipes for two Thanksgiving dishes - the sweet potatoes and the cranberry. Several folks left comments and sent e-mails, and I appreciate it.

Of course, this post might have been called, "I'm not Rachel Ray", because I attempted to prepare both of the dishes at the same time, and though I have not tasted either dish yet, I'm pretty sure that I get a big fat "F" in the multitasking in the kitchen department.

We'll all know for sure when I serve my finished delights later, and I'll certainly report back the result here.

Starting with the cranberry salad:
The first thing I did wrong was, I purchased a 6oz package of Jello instead of the 3oz. So right off the bat I had to decide if I was going to just use half, or use the old can of cranberry my wife found in our cabinet, apparently left over from last year, and double the recipe. I considered it, but to be honest, the can expiration date said October 10th 2008. I'm sure there is wiggle room for these things, but I just put it back in the pantry and decided to follow the recipe directions.

There is one thing about recipes that I don't like, and that is when they direct you to follow the directions on the package. Look Betty Crocker, if you want me to follow your directions, then give me ALL of the directions. Don't have me look on a package of Jello. What if I decided to go with a generic brand Jello made in Mexico or something, and the directions are in Tex-Mex? Then what?

And this is where it all started to fall apart. The recipe says, "Dissolve Jello in boiling water (as per pkg)". Okay, well the package says to dissolve it in boiling water but then to add in an equal amount of cold water. Should I do that or should I go back to the cranberry salad recipe and "Stir jellied cranberry sauce until smooth"?
So, I added in the cold water and I think that was where things got out of hand. With the Jello dissolved and now luke-warm (the mixture of the boiling water and the cold water does that), I began to stir in the cranberry sauce into the Jello. Okay. Problem is, I missed the second step of "Stir jellied cranberry sauce until smooth" so now I found myself trying to get all the lumps of jellied cranberry out before the Jello could harden.I gave up and put it in the refrigerator so it could chill and thicken.

Now keep in mind, all this time I was working on my other recipe, the sweet potatoes, and trying to keep the kitchen clean. But between looking for different utensils, wiping off spilled red Jello from the counter top and learning that sweet potatoes actually fly when they encounter a mixer, I was getting frazzled.
Okay, fast forward to slightly thickened Jello mixed with partially smoothed cranberry sauce. The next step was to fold in the orange peel, drained crushed pineapple, the pecans and flaked coconut.I've gotta tell you, it didn't look very appetizing, at all. Oh, the other thing is, I had no idea that we do not own a Jello Mold. A what? Jello Mold. What? My wife said I should use a Bunt cake pan but I thought that might be a little hard to clean out, so I found these festive plastic containers my wife bought for the 4th of July. I think we put peanuts in them.

So, there you have the cranberry salad. I'll let you know if anyone eats any of it, and further, if anyone likes it.


If you think cranberry salad is a challenge, try combining two recipes for sweet potatoes. Reader Rich sent in a a recipe for sweet potatoes which I had planned to use, but at the last minute, another reader, Janet, sent in her recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. I have tasted said Casserole, and it is what got me on this whole kick in the first place. When I started looking at the two recipes side by side, I realized that they both were fairly similar - same ingredients, but different amounts.

Example: Rich's recipe called for 2 eggs, Janet's called for 4. I went with 4. Rich's needed 2/3rd cup of evaporated milk, Janet's called for 1/3 cup of regular milk. I went with, well, I'll get to that later.
Janet's recipe said to boil the sweet potatoes in the skins, then slip them off. I had no idea how that would work out. Come to find out, they do come off fairly easy once you realize you have to pick them up and handle them. Uh, be sure to wash your hands, kids.

Next, you need to mash the potatoes with a masher. Yes, we have one. No I couldn't find it until my wife came in and found it in the drawer where it is supposed to be.
Both of the recipes called for 1 cup of sugar and both of them asked for 1 tsp of vanilla. I added in the 4 eggs and then started looking for some butter. The only real butter we had was frozen, so I had to take time to melt a stick in the microwave. You know how that could take, I don't know, a minute?

Well, during that delay, I was doing something with the cranberry salad and washing dishes, and taking pictures and stuff. Something very terrible went awry, but I would not realize it until later.
So once all the sweet potato mixture was smoothed out from mixing it and dodging the flying chunks that apparently weren't boiled quite enough to make them squish nicely between the blades of the mixer, it was ready to go into the pan we bought for it. Okay, maybe I used more that the 4 cubs of sweet potatoes, because the pan was full. Oh, and Janet's recipe said to bake it in a 2 quart casserole dish. Rich's called for a 13 x 9 pan. Who knows?I had actually placed the pan in the oven when I went back and looked at both recipes and realized that the topping mixture had to go on the sweet potatoes before it was baked, not after!Janet's topping called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar, Rich's for 1 cup. I went with a cup. Janet's called for 1/4 cup flour, Rich's 1/2 cup. I used 1/2 cup. They both needed butter and chopped pecans and I had that.Now, I did not realize the difference in cooking heat or time until literally this moment while writing about it, so this may be an issue. Janet's recipe said to set the oven at 350 and bake for 55 minutes, which is what I did. I now see that Rich's said to cook at 325 for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Good Lord! This may present a situation. But when the sweet potatoes were pulled from the oven, they really smelled good.Oh. And as I was cleaning the kitchen, I happened upon this little gem. Yea, my sweet potatoes contain neither Janet's 1/3 cup of milk, nor Rich's 2/3 cup of evaporated milk. Maybe that would have helped in the mixing process.

Either way, let's just keep this little piece of information between us girls. If anyone starts to get sick from eating the sweet potatoes, I'll just give them a glass of milk and offer them the cranberry salad.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Texas House Bill 218: My View...

I have a neighbor and fellow neighborhood volunteer who is very good about sending me information regarding various community activities that may be of interest. He passes along things such as invitations to Meet the Candidates nights, town hall meetings and information on classes being given by the city. I try to post the messages on the GNWatch Blog so people interested in the information can find it.

Several days ago, he sent me a notice about a Texas State Bill being sponsored by our representative, Jose Menendez. You can find the entire text of the bill here, but the short text is:

Excerpt: REGULATION OF SALE OF AEROSOL PAINT; SURCHARGE. (a) A county by order or a municipality by ordinance may require a person who sells aerosol paint to: (1) require proof of identification from the buyer before making a sale to that buyer; and (2) record the sale, including the identification information, in a log and maintain the log for at least two years after the date of the sale. (d) An order or ordinance adopted under this section may require a surcharge not to exceed one dollar on each ...

I have had the pleasure of meeting (if you consider shaking hands and briefly chatting, “meeting”) Representative Menendez several times over the years. First when he was running for the District 6 City Council seat at one of those candidate debates at Anson Jones Middle School, and another time at Westwood Terrace Elementary School. During those times, I was really impressed with him, especially when another candidate questioned his resume, and Jose was quick to whip out a certificate showing the degree being questioned.

Later, as he was walking the neighborhood campaigning, he happened upon my wife and I working in the garage of the house we had just purchased in Silver Creek, and he told us how we had bought the house right out from under him! He was a good sport about it, but really, what do you say? Uh, sorry.

So long story short, though I’m sure there are issues that I wouldn’t agree on 100 percent, like when he was among the group of legislators who left Texas to avoid having a quorum, I have repeatedly voted for Jose Menendez because I think he is an overall good representative and means to do positive things for our district.

After receiving the e-mail from my neighbor, I read through the proposed legislation put forth by Rep Menendez and I had to send a response back telling him that I totally oppose this effort. Yes, graffiti and specifically tagging is a problem. Not just in our neighborhood, city or in the state of Texas; it is everywhere. I applaud the efforts of people to address the problem, but seriously, this proposal is nothing more than “feel good”, “look at us, we are doing something” crap.

Let’s think this out. They want places like Home Depot or Lowes to check your ID when you buy a can of spray paint. Then they want them to log your name and keep a record of the transaction for 2 years. Then they want you to pay up to one dollar per can. Attention foes of the Patriot Act: feel free to pipe in now.

Forget the extra tax on the paint (to be used for what?); now people at hardware stores have to go through all this extra nonsense just to be in compliance with the law, when the fact is, it does nothing to stop tagging. I'm sure that will lower prices in a tough economy.

Think about this: The police show up to the crime scene. Someone has sprayed black paint on a fence. Does the officer call out the CSI people to come and do an analysis of the paint to determine where it came from? What store sold it? Let’s say hypothetically that the tagger leaves the can of spray paint on the ground and it actually identifies the Home Depot brand. Which Home Depot does the officer go to, and then, what does he look for once he has the list of all the people who purchased a can of spray paint in the last two years? Now, count the number of times there is a new fence tagged in San Antonio everyday. And times in the state of Texas, every day. Keep in mind; we are still talking about a misdemeanor.

I’m sure Rep Menendez means well, but this is bad legislation and does nothing, zero, notta, to solve the problem. So what do we need?

For starters (and there are other efforts underway to pursue this), we need to put first time offenders, regardless of age, in jail, even if it is only for a few nights. We need to make the offender (and parents of juveniles) liable for the damage. We need to tie the amount of that damage to all of a taggers combined offenses, not just the one he was caught doing. In other words, if a guy is known as “Joe the Tagger” and he has marked up buildings and fences over a period of a year with a JTT symbol and is finally caught, he should be required to be held accountable for all the damage that can be reasonably proven to have been caused by him. This is why I always take pictures of the graffiti in my area. And I have a huge collection.

I am a fan of community service, but I oppose community service being tied to anything that the offender would otherwise be doing. For example, I have heard that some judges will assign a number of hours of community service to an offender, to be carried out in that offender’s church. Really? If a kid is in the Scouts, don’t give him community service that will help him get a few more merit badges. Community service must be meaningful and pay restitution to the community harmed.

I think convicted taggers including first offenders should have their pictures displayed on a web page. Adults and Minors. If the newspaper can print the picture of the student of the week, there is simply no excuse that we should not know which teens amongst us are convicted taggers. More importantly, we need to know which parents have kids that are convicted taggers. In the same way you can go online and do a search by Zip code to find out who the registered sex offenders are in your neighborhood, I want to be able to go on-line and see a picture of the kid who tags, and what his known tagging signature is. That way, if it shows up again on a fence, everyone knows who did it. I suspect that will create a far better deterrent than paying a dollar extra for a can of spray paint.

I am a huge fan of peer pressure. I would like to know what our schools are doing about ostracizing the taggers in the same way they teach children about how bad their parents are for smoking or drinking? If a tagger is caught defacing a school, in addition to whatever other trouble the kid gets into, his face needs to be plastered on the wall as a vandal. For some, this will surely be a badge of honor, however, this type of thing can motivate parents to keep an eye on their own kids. Not that most of these parents attend PTA meetings, but if as part of one of those meetings, the school police officer listed a who’s who of taggers with associated markings, other parents might recognize similar tagging in the neighborhood and be prompted to let the parents know about it. The last thing a parent wants is the neighbor coming over to tell them that Little Jimmy has been tagging the fence again.

If people want to spend tax money on something beyond arresting these offenders, why not spend it on MTV? Better yet, why don’t MTV and other youth oriented media have ongoing campaigns to deglamorize this vandalism? Instead of “Rock the Vote”, how about, “Beat the crap out of the tagger!” I’d approve of that message. I know that the city of San Antonio has Graffiti eradication programs to try to get youth to move from tagging toward art. That’s fine, but much of the problem is not artistic in any way at all, it is pure vandalism and marking of gang (or wannabe gang) territory. Why no public service announcements on local TV showing taggers to be the losers they are?

When do we stop simply painting over the vandalism and start doing something about it? I have learned that this type of vandalism isn’t something that the police are going to send multiple squad cars, blaring sirens, and sealing off streets and neighborhoods as helicopter flies overhead doing a search with K9 units going house to house. Yet, this vandalism is systematically creating the appearance of a deteriorating neighborhood and lowering the values of homes. Many good families are opting to leave rather than stay. Many homes are purchased as investment properties and rented out increasingly as Section 8 homes, bringing in people who often do not have the financial wherewithal to maintain a home beyond the minimal rent they pay.Meanwhile, I call the city of San Antonio at least once a week (usually several times) to report that Oscar Perez Memorial Park has been tagged again. The city Parks Department sends a crew out, the tagging is painted over and more often than not, the next day, some new tagging is present.The city built some sort of small baseball diamond park right next to Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium on Callaghan Road near Hiway 90. I pass this place on my way to work each morning and after over a year, I notice that they still have one of these surveillance systems installed. This system is monitored and it will light up with spotlights, sirens and verbal warnings if someone trespasses. You see these things in use at a lot of construction sites. Don’t you think it is time that the city start installing these things in areas, like Oscar Perez Memorial Park, so we can begin to identify the taggers, or heaven forbid, deter them from tagging the park in the first place?

I’m sure there are many other productive ways to deal with this growing problem but I got a suggestion from my brother who is a big fan of caning. We are reminded of that kid in Singapore several years ago who was caught and convicted of tagging and vandalism. The punishment: caning. I suspect that kid never tagged there again.

My brother’s idea is slightly different. What is missing from the current process is the punishment factor. A kid is sent to see a judge for truancy or maybe even tagging. The judge orders the kid to go to school and perform some community service hours. My brother suggests that each courtroom be assigned a professional spanker. That is, a guy who is certified to assess body size, weight, muscular structure etc, and then equipped to deliver an exact, certified paddling to the offender, in front of courtroom spectators. The first appearance in court would result in two solid whacks. Each subsequent appearance would add two more whacks. If a kid gets up to 8 or 10 whacks, he is surely ready for some jail time. Just a thought. I know, the days of corporal punishment are long gone, but we can dream.

My wife will tell you that I am overly passionate about this subject. I tend to be long winded and my blood pressure tends to elevate each time I talk to a person about the problem of tagging in our area and in our city. In truth, I could simply turn a blind eye to it like many others have. I could pretend that the little scribbling along fences I drive past adds a sort of artistic urban flavor to the place. After all, these are just young people looking for an outlet, right? I don’t mean to pick on Rep. Menendez’ attempts to do something, but I’m afraid he has neither researched this topic adequately, nor added anything useful toward the fight.

I do not believe that most of the taggers get their paint at Home Depot. I believe it comes from art stores, via the internet and in local stores that have nothing to do with hardware. I’m sure some of it comes from the garages and sheds of unsuspecting parents, grandparents and neighbors. Putting yet another requirement on businesses that ultimately will yield very little change is in my mind, the wrong approach. I encourage you to do a little research on your own. Google is your friend; type in “Graffiti Supplies” and learn more. And do like me, and take a minute to send Representative Menendez your thoughts on how we might better handle this problem.

And of course, you can tell me your ideas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Views of Bandera Road...*

Okay, I haven't really even been on the construction end of Bandera Road in quite sometime, but I found myself coming up from downtown this afternoon and decided to take a few pictures of what I saw.The gist of it is, (in case you didn't know), Bandera Road feeds an assload of traffic onto Loop 410. The intersection was and is a nightmare. So, they are building elevated on and off ramps that extend on both sides of Loop 410 for probably half a mile, and a center lane ramp directly over Bandera Road.
*With due props to KeithAlanK!

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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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