Friday, September 28, 2007

Insane Nutjob Phone Call

I recieved my first real nutjob phone call today about the annexations. She called to complain (not about the annexation notice) but the fact that the label on her letter had accidentally placed the word "David" on her letter. This was a minor computing error that glitched when the mail merge from the database to the label list occurred. Her correct name was on the list. She received the notice. It just had the extra "David" attached.

I received an earful that there was on no certain terms a "David" at that address and that we shouldn't be mailing incorrect information. I told her that sometimes computers make errors and that I'd be happy to check the database and make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm sure there were some errors when I was mailing out over 250 letters.

She hung up on me.

When can I have a job where I make people happy? That's kinda why I wanted to get into this planning gig. I wanted to help make great places for people to enjoy themselves. But I have little influence on the developer's side - they don't want to spend the money; little influence on the implementation side - I write ordinances which get watered down and disused.

Unbelieveable. I literally can't believe someone was that upset about something like that.


Tabloid 10 o'clock and the Harm of Children

What are we to learn about the constant information pouring into our lives of the harm of children by their parents, caregivers, relatives and other children? Are we to click our tounges disapprovingly and thank our God that our family doesn't have these issues? What is it that our media (in particular the local televison news agencies and local newspapers) is trying to tell us about these incidents? Again, I have to ask:

What are we to learn?

Every night we are barraged with images of some "intrepid" news reporter with a HD camera sitting outside of some non-descript home with a few neighbors in the background discussing how the family was either well-liked or no one really knew them. There isn't any substance. No one talks about trends in the country, or how we can help people through parental education or how through funding better family intervention programming. This is where an unleashed invisible hand hits at the most vulnerable and our media happily (but with a stern look and a quick read of the teleprompter) reports it. Harm or death of children in 30 second sound bites only an inch deep and a mile wide.

News like this MUST have context of our greater society, otherwise what does reporting the body count of our locality actually mean. "Look: a child was run over by a car. It's a terrible accident. Their family and friends are sad. Next, we'll talk to you about the new fried foods at the State Fair."

My children have hopes and dreams and laugh and cry and nurse and love. These children did also. They deserve more. Our society deserves more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

Annexation and Retaliation

My job has just become much more visible and active. The city will begin annexation processes on October 11th. We're annexing significant portions of the I-35 Corridor and some areas that were originally left out of the city as "doughnut holes" areas completely surrounded by city.

There is going to be a ton of angry people.

They all have my phone number.

Welcome Michael, Krista and Charlie to Keller

Michael, Krista and Charlie Andress are now the proud residents of Keller. We're glad to have such good friends close by. Now that the center-of-gravity has shifted to northeast Tarrant County, we need the Uggens to realize that soon, they too may feel the call...

Austin Trip

It's been almost a month since the last blog entry. I apologize to those who have read this before and are interested in reading it again. I'll try and keep things up to date a little more often.

The first part of August saw us take a real four-day vacation to the City of Austin. Our good friends the Reeves recently moved to Austin last year so that Keith could take a job as the head producer for the City of Austin's cable channel.

The Reeves let us stay in their house just south of 290 on the southwest corner of the city. Quick access to the Hill Country, quick access to downtown...its a nice location. They have a Central Market just up the street.

We drove into Austin on the west side of town skipping past the traffic along I-35 that would be taking place on a Friday afternoon, and stopped shortly in the town of Leander, where HEB Grocery stores recently built a large HEB Plus store. The company is planning on building a similar style store and retail center in Burleson, so it was an opportunity for me to take pictrues and walk around the project enough to be conversant in the planning of the future project for my job.

We had make your own pizza night with the Reeves and Keith's parents who were in town that evening.

Saturday saw Meredith, the boys, and I driving into downtown and visting the Bob Bullock State History Museum. We toured the various exhibits including a history of the space program from the perspective of Texas. Many artifacts of the raising of LaSalle's ship from the Gulf of Mexico (thanks to the Texas A&M Department of Nautical Archeology) and a great interactive exhibit on the Texas Centennial of 1936 held at Fair Park in Dallas.

Alexander's favorite part was the Texas Spirit Theater which had interactive thunderstorms, loud noises, and many moving images of stories of the history of Texas.

Afterwards, we went to the original Kerbey Lane restaurant for mid-afternoon pancakes. We went to Austin Comics and I bought a Superman T-shirt to match Alexander's. We drove around the west side of the city for a while and met up with the Reeves at thier house for a trip into downtown to the Whole Foods national headquarters at 5th and 6th Streets and Lamar. We had dinner and watched the sun go down on the second floor veranda while the kids played on the playground. We then went to the Congress Ave bridge over Town Lake (now Lady Bird Johnson Lake) to watch the bats come out. We thought it was a little too warm for the bats, as many were swooping out, but they didn't come out en masse.

Sunday we had breakfast (yet again at a Kerbey Lane) and went to Bookpeople, the largest independently owned bookstore in Texas. That afternoon Meredith and the guys and I went driving around the hill country on the west side, saw her former home in Austin, and drove out to Lake Travis. We ended up driving back through all of the new housing growth in towns like Bee Cave and had a nice dinner back at the house.

Monday was a spectacular day in the history of the Stephen and Meredith Cook family. We set out in the morning to drive to the true Hill Country by way of Marble Falls and Burnet and taking a detour at a state park: Longhorn Caverns.

I've been to Natural Bridge Caverns and Carlsbad Caverns (at least three times) ... Longhorn Cavern was the most real experience I've had in a cave. We arrived only minutes prior to the 1pm tour beginning (no wait time) and we enter into a 64° cave in 100°+ weather. Our tour guide was a local geologist and historian. The cave is an active river cave. Rather than live stalagtites and stalagmites, the cave is full of sweeping curves etched into the stone from the flow of water. Whole circular rooms with sprial ceilings exist where whirlpools eddy through the cavern when filled. The most recent flooding in Central Texas this past May closed the cave system for several days.

The cave has been the host of Comanche tribal meetings, a 1920s speakeasy, possibly a hideout, and the site of much blasting and excavation in the 1930s by the civilian work program. The trip in and out is about 1½ miles. Alexander, Ford and Meredith were troopers.

At one point they turned out all of the lights for the experience of complete darkness. Alexander, who was holding my hand at the time gripped harder, but as his contemporaries in the tour group began to cry, he held on and was ultimately fascinated by the experience.

At several points through the tour we got muddy as there were still slick areas of the cave. There were several points were Meredith and I had to duck low to get through to the next cave room, while Alexander happily pointed out that he was just the right size.

Emerging into the heat and sunlight after an hour and a half, we washed off the mud and loaded back up into the car. Alexander and Ford promptly fell asleep for most of the remainder of the trip home.

I had never before felt this unified as a family. We had a terrific family memory, in which we were active participants in our lives and not sitting by watching it pass on television.

It was a great trip.