Monday, July 27, 2009

Father of the Groom = FOG

If you haven't seen the video of "Jill and Kevin's Big Day," click on this link and enjoy. This is a wedding processional that actually occured somewhere in Minnesota (the location has been kept secret, but I'd love to know the name of the wedding planner!)

At The Clanton Hacienda, the household is aflutter with final preparations being made for the wedding of our Firstborn Son. The responsibilities of the family on the groom’s side are not as severe as they are for the family of the bride…however, the shoe will be on the other foot (the garter on the other leg?) in less than 90-days as our daughter takes another name and distributes her own change of address cards.

The FOG (Father of the Groom) is an interesting position to be in: We’re responsible for the wedding rehearsal dinner. When first told we had to produce a rehearsal dinner, I quipped, “who needs to rehearse a meal?” which drew a sharp kick from under the table by the mother of the groom to the shins of the father of the groom.
Very quickly the FOG cleared.

Database management is a key area of expertise when you’re planning a rehearsal dinner. Some experience in cryptology is also helpful, as you merge your list of people with the list of peeps from the family of the bride.

We’ve also found it helpful to create a graphical family diagram, showing the lineage of various members of the bridal party. We’ve discovered through that process, and the process of marriages between cousins and friends, that if our son and his bride get any closer to some family connections, we’re all going to have to move to Arkansas to save face.
You know what I mean.

We’re learning a lot about etiquette: If you’re inviting kids to the rehearsal dinner, like the ring bearers, you include the kids’ names on the invitation: "Mr. and Mrs. Bob Brown and Missy" is the correct way to do this.

Three names on the invitation, three places at the table.
Simple math.

I think Congress' influence on the laws of mathmatics is having an effect on the general public, because we’re getting back some interesting interpretations of that concept: invitations for couples are coming back with body counts of 4 or 5.

I'm not "going George Banks," or anything, but I am thinking of hiring a bouncer. Or requiring body cavity searches.
That should thin out the crowd…

Being a frugal FOG has its rewards…especially in planning the wedding of our daughter—who’s had her bags packed since she was four. We've learned, for example, the value of one-stop shopping, securing the services of a Wedding Facility, which purports to provide all amenities at one address.
Sure makes the map inserts in the invitations simple!

I am looking for a Valet Parket service, however. Apparently, some one-stop shops are more inclusive than others!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who Does Texas' PUC Really Serve?

Did you see the piece on Channel 11 last night about how AT&T overcharged the Harris County Hospital District for the past 13-years—admitted it in court--received a judgment to pay a lump sum back to the County…and the state Public Utilitiy Commission overruled the judge, and cut the penalty in half??
Who is the PUC working to protect here?

Harris County had hired Southwestern Tariff Analysts, an outside auditor, to review phone bills, and discovered AT&T had been overcharging the county for over 13 years to the tune of $487,000--all because AT&T claimed Harris County wasn’t paying on time.

Most of us have 16-days to pay our phone bills, but under The Prompt Payment Act, governmental entities like the County Hospital System up to 30-days to pay.
Unless dealing with AT&T.
With the Texas PUC looking on.

AT&T wasn’t applying the Prompt Payment Act.
Guess they didn't think "Harris County" meant "government."
The case went to court, and Administrative Law Judge Craig Bennett recommended a “full refund in one lump sum payment.” It was obvious to the Judge, and most other rational-thinking human beings that keeping the funds would be “unjust and untenable.”

You can draw your own conclusions about the accuity of the Texas Public Utility Commission, which disagreed with the judge and ordered only a partial refund. PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman denied giving any special treatment, and on camera last night, tried to defend the indefensible: letting AT&T off the hook.

Smitherman said both he and PUC staff found Harris County also at fault, for not spotting the billing errors years earlier.

Here's a rhetorical question: If a company overcharges you, but you don't catch it, are you still owed a refund? Apparently not, if the PUC is looking out for the company charging you.

The Commission cut in half the refund, resulting in a $150,000 windfall for AT&T for cheating the County. Which flies in the face of the PUC’s core mission—to protect the customer.

AT&T has paid the PUC-ordered partial refund of $338,745, saying it has “acted in good faith all along, based on its interpretation of the law.”

AT&T took advantage of the confusion over conflicting regulations, and banked the cash, and only when they got caught with their hands in the till did they cough up a refund, reduced by half, thanks to their cronies on the PUC.

The next step that needs to be taken is the removal of Barry Smitherman from the PUC, and possible replacement of all three commissioners. Clearly, they’re not clear on the mission of the Commission.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What's in a Word?

I love the English Language.
I am glad I was born in America, and learned to speak English as child. My native-tongue is not an easy language to learn, comprised of myriad origins in Latin, French, German, Greek…and lately, additional influences from other corners of the world.

The people at Merriam-Webster have recently added more than 100 entries to the latest edition of their Collegiate Dictionary, none of which apparently hearken from behind the Pine Curtain of East Texas. Still, some of the more interesting words are worth noting, even using in polite conversation.

Work some of these into your water-cooler talk today, and amaze your friends:

Carbon footprint—defined as “the negative impact that something (as a person or business) has on the environment; specifically: the amount of carbon emitted by something during a given period.”
So far, the closest synonym (which most accurately describes those who are constantly concerned about carbon footprints) is “gasbag.”

Cardioprotective, obviously calls into mind something “serving to protect the heart.” You will not hear this word used in any episode of “The Bachelorette.”

Earmark has found its way into the dictionary as “a provision in Congressional legislation that allocates a specified amount of money for a specific project, program, or organization.”
By way of practical example, earmarks may be used to promote industries or behaviors that impact carbon footprints, as defined above, and are one of the primary focuses of gasbags.

Frenemy is “one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.” I think this is a stupid and uneccessary word. Just as “the friend of my enemy is my friend,” an enemy who acts as a friend is still an enemy, and doesn’t deserve a special word; much less a special entry in a dictionary. Any questions?

Green-collar, which describes a job “of, relating to, or involving actions for protecting the natural environment,” must be legit now. It’s also in the dictionary. Such jobs will most likely be funded by earmarks advocated by gasbags, which may be masquerading as economic frenemies.

Haram—a newcomer from across the ocean: pertains to foods that are forbidden by Islamic law. Not to be confused with Harem, which are forbidden everywhere except in some parts of Utah.

Locavore is “one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible,” which could arguably be applied to denizens living behind the Pine Curtain who never venture beyond HWY 59 for forrage (look it up.)

Memory foam is (duh!) “a dense polyurethane foam that becomes more pliable when in contact with heat.” We need a dictionary entry for this? Can memory foam develop Alzheimer’s? Why don’t they put memory elastic in waistbands? Obviousy, issues for next year’s Dictionary edition.

Missalette is an older word, which is defined as “a shortened form of a missal published periodically for congregational use.” Not to be confused with North Korean weapons of minimal distruction.

Shawarma is another entry into the food category—it’s “a sandwich, esp. of sliced lamb or chicken, vegetables, and often tahini wrapped in pita bread.” Can’t wait to see Jack don a sari or a burqua and start hawking these on TV.
Or Subway: “Five. Five-dollar. Five-Dollar Sha-war-maaaaahhhh…”

Staycation is “a vacation spent at home or nearb,” typically with a laptop perched between your thighs, a cold beverage within arm’s reach, and the TV remote closeby. We Americans are so predictably descriptive.

Vlog is simply “a blog that contains video material.”
The next pop content critic will likely be known as “Vlog the Impaler.”

Waterboarding has been a popular term in the news of late, referring to “an interrogation technique in which water is forced into a detainee's mouth and nose so as to induce the sensation of drowning.” Congress is upset the CIA may have been using this technique on our enemies and frenemies. The truth is, taxpayers have been experiencing this sensation for years.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs...

There’s a new sign ordinance going into effect in September that will change the way Houston area businesses display their marquees, while allowing existing signage to remain.

This is a plan that has been vetted by a cross-section of community leaders…seems to be a common-sense approach to keeping our town from looking like a tacky town…and also acknowledges and addresses new signage technologies. There are some nattering naybobs of negativity who believe the changes in regulations for roof top signs, signs on the sides of buildings, and even the brightness of some signs, will cost jobs and initiate a make-over that’s not needed.

How might this ordinance, which will grandfather existing signage, and only effect new signage, cost jobs? If anything, it’s going to create a few more jobs at sign companies who are going to have to alter the dimensions and configurations of sign offerings.

Does Houston need a make-over?
Drive up I-45 north and tell me what you see.
Drive it both directions—especially from the Beltway into down town—which is a route many first-time visitors take from Bush Airport into the central business districts. What kind of first-impression are we making along that sign-riddled corridor? If you're into furniture, used cars and titty-bars, it's nirvana.

A few years ago there was a flap about selling signage on the sides of buildings in downtown Houston. There was a need to raise revenues, and selling signage was proposed as one way to do it. Metro has always eschewed signs on its busses, opting for the clean, red, white, and blue look at the expense of ad revenues. I don’t know if that’s a correct path or not—let’s see how Metro manages its money.

Cy-Fair schools recently introduced signage on its school busses as a means to raise money to augment budgets in that public school district. I don’t think we’ll see ads for “gentlemen’s clubs” on the sides of school busses, but I don’t have a problem being reminded things go better with Coke…or Pepsi…or Dr. Pepper on the sides of ol’ Bus #55 if it means kids have a ride to school. It’s all about good taste, good sense, and sound management.

But back to Houston’s signs ordinance: This is the first change in 30-years. Take a hard look around at our town and see what the current rules have wrought on our landscape-- I believe you will agree this is a change we can believe in.

While the city fathers and mothers are at it, let’s include language to require property owners—businesses and private—to keep trees and shrubbs trimmed away from the smaller signs so that the can be seen.

An example of an overly restrictive sign ordinance can be seen in The Woodlands, where you almost need a GPS to find a business sign. Of course, if you have a GPS, you might not need signs to mark your destination—but I’ve been lost in The Woodlands at night many times because you cannot see signs as easily as you should.
Here's a hint--signs are made to be seen.