By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Ingenuity for hire: I graduated from Rice with a BS in electrical engineering in May 2002 and found your story to be eye-opening ["Taking the Plunge," by Jennifer Mathieu, June 19]. I was in the same situation as Rob and Saad a year ago. However, I decided to handle the situation differently.
With the help of my friend and fellow Rice graduate Emmie Chang, I co-founded Wonder-Space Computer and Technology Enrichment. Wonder-Space aims to teach creative thinking and problem-solving to children seven to 17 years old through the use of technology.
The downcast job market and economy actually served as the catalyst for the inception of Wonder-Space. I may not have made $70,000 this year, but I have invested wisely in my future. We let society create a timeline for our lives, and some of us scramble if we are thrown off-base. I am not criticizing Rob, because I felt like him for a while. But I think sometimes we fail to realize the abundance of opportunities we have around us. Success does not necessarily entail getting a job from Boeing after graduating from Rice; achievement does not even require a degree. Success is the result of hard work, determination and perseverance. Thank you for your story.
Save the Ridley: I just wanted to compliment you and your writer for the excellent story on the need for additional volunteers to monitor the nesting of Kemp's Ridley sea turtles in Texas ["Ridley's Recruits," by Wendy Grossman, June 5].
I have been covering this story occasionally for the Voice of America for more than two decades. It is truly one of the great, but least reported, conservation success stories of our time. The animal was virtually doomed just a few years ago. It is also one example of a friendly, cooperative and successful effort between the U.S. and Mexican governments. So any press this story gets is important, and well worth it. I just hope the city and county officials in Galveston rise to the occasion and protect this turtle, now that it is expanding its nesting area back to beaches it traditionally visited 10,000 years ago.
Texans deserve a lot of credit for what they have already done, but the turtle can't be protected by Donna Shaver and her volunteers headquartered on Padre Island National Seashore when they're nesting 250 miles away.
Wages and Reason
But it was only five paragraphs: The box titled "Paying Their Way" [by Craig Malisow, June 26] within the feature on the homeless was obviously cheap innuendo that the salaries of top officials ($71,000 to $126,500 per year) at the Star of Hope ($13 million annual budget) were out of line. You withheld until the last paragraph the fact that these salaries are well within the range of a United Way survey of salaries for similar positions at other organizations.
I suppose a more accurate title, "Agency Salaries in Line with Others," would not have been quite so titillating.
Lay Off the Parks
Cutbacks are warranted: Your article on the parks department [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, June 26] is yet another demonstration of a shoddy and mean-spirited brand of "journalism." Through all the petty gossip we are exposed to in this article, nothing of substance emerges. You sound the alarm that the department is laying off its graphics group.
Perhaps the more alarming question is, Why do the taxpayers need to support a team of "acclaimed" graphic designers in the first place? And the department is laying off lighting technicians to be replaced (in the miniscule print of this article) by private contractors. Exactly why is this so terrible? After all, these folks are not likely needed eight hours a day, 365 days a year, are they?
Apparently no city job could possibly be cut without the gravest consequences, according to Mr. Fleck's column. Of course, the greatest fault of the parks director apparently consists in hiring a consultant to, horror of horrors, design a logo. I know we are in rough fiscal waters these days, but is this the best Fleck can do? Is this the kind of top-of-the-line investigation of the city's fiscal waste that the Houston Press is capable of? Spare me and your readers your private vendettas, please.
Roger M. Soto
Miller time:Perhaps Mayor Brown should have done more research before appointing such a ruinous person to parks chief. Roksan Okan-Vick's concern does not seem to be on the beautiful parks we have in Houston, it seems to be more on getting her way.
Miller Outdoor Theatre is one of the most wonderful things. The opportunity to see art and performances is available to everyone in Houston -- the performances are free! And as for the culture it provides, Houston is such an ethnically diverse city, and anything that would lessen the expression of that diversity is a damn shame. I don't know much about parks department appointments, but can citizens call for removal of parks chiefs based on their apparent disinterest in the park system? Or perhaps there's a better way to balance the parks budget -- cut Okan-Vick's salary to reflect her poor performance.
Designing woman:I seriously doubt the $24,500 was for "just" a logo design. Did you attempt to inquire about the nature of all the charges included? Just like an architect or an accountant, quality graphic designers do not work for free. Your comment that the new design appears as "the sort of basic image that the artistically challenged might create using a cheap stencil" shows you have no understanding of good communications.
One of the best images in the world is the Nike swoosh. The simple elegance of that design is recognized all over the world as a powerful symbol. More "elaborate" images do not equal more value or cost; they usually equate to unskilled attempts to illustrate the message.
Pros and Chron
Editorial shift: I appreciated the report on happenings at the Chron[Hair Balls, by Richard Connelly, June 26]. Personally, the business about performance evaluations and all the rest of that stuff isn't of much concern. It sounds like the new version of Management 101 used by most employers. But I do commend new Chron editor Jeff Cohen for one major accomplishment: The editorial page no longer blindly supports George W. Bush, whom the previous editor unabashedly endorsed.
I've lost count of the number of Chronicleeditorials that have been critical of the implementation of the same policies Bush said he intended to follow when he was running for office. Hopefully, the Chron -- and the American people, for that matter -- won't make the same mistake next time around.
An ex's vex: You got it right with "Pimpin' Ain't Easy." At the Chronicle, the ever-corporatized daily is a joyless journal, with reporters viewed not as writers but as production units. Section and assignment editors have little authority; my old features department has no autonomy. Survey pushers and bean counters -- the latter because the place is so understaffed -- run amok. Decisions are compressed by the numbers/demographics, and there seems to be a limited exchange of ideas.
Ain't saying the Chronicle, my love of 22 years, didn't need a swift kick. But this is degrading. This is a dictatorship. The little big man -- whoever said it was his paper, did he buy it? -- has good people jumping at his shadow. Second-guessing is rampant. Proven performance and loyalty mean nothing.
I bailed because I rejected an ultimatum to move back to Hous-town full time, to be in the starting blocks downtown, Monday to Friday, primed to spin a feature off the news -- which is to say, take two aspirin, call a few experts and cobble together a quickie; reflective feature-craft is passé. Chronicle readers have no attention spans, we are told.
I am now a free agent, writing politics, sports and features for the Ruidoso News, whose main competition is the county's other newspaper, not TV (there's a concept), plus music for the local arts/entertainment monthly. It's back to the minors. The crowds are small, but the ticket prices are right.
Capitan, New Mexico
Defending the feeders:Thank you for telling this story ["Catfight," by Wendy Grossman, June 19]. The Chronicle would never print this kind of story, and I feel it is an important animal rights/people rights issue that is ignored. It seems government and corporate entities would rather see animals destroyed and their heroes manhandled and discredited.
I applaud Dorothy and her son for their efforts to help these animals. It was man, after all, that domesticated cats and made them dependent in the first place, and it is an admirable thing to see people taking responsibility for cats that have gone feral.
Anyone who has ever tried to catch a feral cat (as I have) knows it is not easy, and for this older woman to catch one every Sunday and have it fixed is quite an accomplishment. Please do a follow-up; I would love to be in the courtroom supporting Dorothy if it comes to that.
A Dong Delight
Great discoveries: Best meal I have had in a long time ["Jammin' Jellyfish," by Robb Walsh, June 19]. A Dong's a great recommendation. I go to a lot of Vietnamese restaurants but stick to soup, spring rolls, and grilled meat and vermicelli. But this was a great switch.
This is why I pick up the Houston Press every Thursday. You can't get reviews like this in the Chronicle.
Keep the Cactus
Boycott threat: Regarding Weingarten Realty/Kaldis Properties' forcing Cactus Music and Video to take down its sign (and our local landmark) [Racket, by John Nova Lomax, June 19], the answer to me is very simple. If I see that sign has been removed, I will officially boycott PETsMART, Bookstop and the Royal Tokyo Steakhouse. It would be no problem for me to get my pet food, books and steaks from other establishments. In fact, it would be the least I could do to protest such insensitivity to our community.
More than memories:I have known the Alabama Theatre center area since Ye Health Seekers first occupied the corner. I recall when Whole Earth opened there, and I watched the first Star Wars on opening day at the Alabama. I enjoyed eating at Butera's, and I remember when Whole Foods eclipsed Seekers as Houston's health food store. The Alabama bookstore turned out to be the best bookstore in our town for browsing. Cactus was always there -- always, as I remember.
Great new buildings are competing for consumer dollars, and it makes investors nervous to embrace traditional icons, nostalgic art and creative neighborhood character. But these are the very things that have always made this area and center so appealing, even to those who moved to the suburbs.
Take away that and the individual eclectic appeal and replace it with nice, new, modern, stamped-out suburban beauty -- and the appeal to make the trip into town is lost. In Houston, there is little understanding of value other than formula-based consumer appeal. Not realizing the intrinsic value of this place to longtime residents is a recipe for well-earned disaster.
I ask you to consider this logic when considering the future of the Cactus sign and all other renovations. No one wants to see this landmark center become the next logical step in the formula-based strip center business, "Storage for Less."
Togetherness: This is to apologize for comments in the June 12 Letters section ["The Beaten Path"], in which someone close to me took it upon themselves to use my name to write on my behalf. Within this letter, harsh comments were made about the band F.Co, whose debut CD was that week's featured local release. The letter was submitted under my name. I am deeply sorry and truly embarrassed by the misunderstanding this incident has created, and extend my apology and regrets to every member of the band.
Since my return from Tennessee, I have met, mingled and performed with some very talented and promising artists who like myself have the determination and the drive to make something of their music. The country scene in Houston is perhaps the toughest in the entire state and can do without bands struggling against bands. We should all work together in the hopes that if one of us makes it, it might well open the door for the rest of us. Once again, please accept my sincere apology.
Tolerating intolerance: I found your article ["Waves of Fascination," by Darren Keast, June 19] lacking in tolerance, and this from a publication that tolerates and promotes perversion in its advertising.
This really illustrates the myth of the whole politically correct tolerance argument. No one really believes in tolerating those things they find offensive. What people tolerate depends on the philosophical view that they hold.
If your morality allows that homosexuality is normal, then you will not tolerate those who say it is against nature and an abomination before God. If your political persuasion finds it acceptable to take from some persons what belongs to them and give it to other persons to whom it does not belong, then you will be intolerant of the idea that socialism is legal plunder, a great evil.
In case you've already relegated me to the lunatic fringe, I must confess I don't have cable or dish TV, Internet access in my home, a digital camera or a shortwave radio. But I did type this on a Macintosh computer, and years ago I did listen to shortwave at a friend's house who told me IBM-compatible PCs were the only way to go.
P.S.: As a cat owner, I love your logo for the Hair Balls column.
William S. Sutherland