The Insider

"I want all of you to know the precise nature of the surgery involved," wrote Smith, "and therefore I will be going into more detail than some of you might perhaps expect."

Smith said his doctor believes the cancer has been detected at a very early stage, and that it should be completely curable through surgery to remove the prostate, a choice Smith and his wife made even though there were less severe options, including radiation treatment or simply waiting and conducting more tests.

Smith's recovery from the operation is expected to take four to six weeks, during which time he will work out of the chancellor's official residence, Wortham House.

At Sea
We told you a couple of months ago about that Caribbean cruise that Dallas-area Congressman Joe Barton will be commandeering for an oceangoing fundraiser. Now we're more than happy to pass on the itinerary for the love-Barton boat, in case any of our readers are up for four days of romance, Republican rhetoric and special-interest fun in the sun.

According to the Royal Caribbean lines brochure for the outing -- which features a less-than-alluring mug of the pasty-faced, bespectacled Barton against an enticing backdrop of white sand and surf -- the January 912 jaunt on the Nordic Empress will take Barton backers from San Juan, Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands. On board, they can try to stay awake for seminars on such topics as "How can Republicans keep their congressional majority?" while rubbing elbows with such semi-notables as Congressmen Henry Bonilla of San Antonio, Sam Johnson of Dallas and Arizona's John Shadegg, as well as ex-congressman and former Texas railroad commissioner Kent Hance.

All that and so much more can be had for $2,694 per couple for accommodations in a luxurious stateroom cabin with private veranda. A single standard inside berth will set you back $1,308. Tickets to sail, of course, include a $500 contribution to Barton's campaign fund.

Barton expects to announce other special guests before the ship pulls out of port. Perhaps he'll bring Tom DeLay, Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich aboard to conduct a seminar on interpersonal relationships.

Directional Dissonance
Superintendent Rod Paige managed to confuse more than a few of the teachers from HISD's East District last week when he used an in-service training session to exhort them to get on "the northbound train." The northbound train, as we reported a few months ago, is one of the terms in the lexicography of Model-Netics, the management training program Paige purchased to train district principals and administrators. In simple English, it means "Get with the program, or get lost." (At least we think it does.)

But since the district's teachers so far have been spared the Model-Netics brainwashing, Paige's words provoked ripples of whispered questions in the audience.

"Why would we want to go north?" muttered one teacher. "We're in the East District."

Buggin' Out
A recent scholarship dinner hosted by the Houston Association of Hispanic Media Professionals featured several door prizes, including a trimline phone. The winning ticket was drawn, and it belonged to the one and only Betti Maldonado, the former port commissioner under indictment for conspiracy and bribery in the FBI's Hotel Six sting.

According to one of the dinnergoers, as Maldonado rose to claim her prize, cohort Lisa Hernandez reassured her friend by cracking, "It's not bugged."

Not yet, anyway.

The Insider can be reached at (713) 624-1483 or (713) 624-1496 (fax), or by e-mail at Insider@houstonpress.com.

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