Rice University is known for a lot of things, but political passion ain't one of them. The engineers and other career-minded types at the school have never quite embraced the taking up of great national causes that other students do.
So it was a little surprising that Bill Clinton rocked the house there February 8.
It might have had more to do with celebrity than with politics, but then again Rudy Giuliani couldn't draw a big crowd when he spoke at Rice just three years after 9/11. Clinton's speech, on the other hand, had to be moved from the 781-seat Stude Hall when 1,200 students RSVP'd to the initial e-mail invitation.
After some last-minute scrambling, the event was moved to the campus gym, 4,250-seat Autry Court, where the worries then shifted to whether the former president would be introduced to an embarrassing sea of empty seats.
Not to worry; the place was pretty much filled. And students like freshman Anna Roberts were waiting in line more than five hours ahead of time. She said the event was probably "the only chance in my lifetime to see Clinton," which obviously means she has no plans on ever becoming a big-bucks donor to the Democratic Party. (It's not her first time to meet any Clinton, though; she met Hillary in 1992 when -- get ready to feel old if you're not in college -- the future first lady visited Roberts's pre-school class.)
Clinton didn't break any new ground in his speech, urging students to meet the challenges of the global interdependency of the 21st centur--zzzzzzzz. But things livened up with some interplay between him and his host, former Secretary of State James Baker.
If you're a Democrat, remember how you absolutely hated Baker's guts for stealing the 2000 election in Florida? You'll be pleased to know all is forgiven.
Clinton spoke for free instead of his usual six-figure fee, but said, "I got the biggest speaker's fee I've ever received. Not one red cent, but I got Jim Baker's solemn promise that in the event of an election challenge in 2008, he will not represent the Republican nominee."
In the Q&A portion of the event, one questioner pressed him on the Florida fight. "Look, [Baker] did a better job than our side," Clinton said. "And I never made the mistake of underestimating people on the other side when they need to fight."
Take that, Al Gore.
Blogging without Precedent
If you look at the Houston Chronicle's Web site, it's easy to believe that every semi-sentient human being within 50 miles of Harris County has a blog. That turns out not to be the case.
Up till now, as far as we can tell, the blogging world has been missing one thing: a state district judge, throwing out into cyberworld his or her thoughts on various and sundry matters.
Filling that void: Susan Criss, for eight years the judge of Galveston's 212th District Court. Her blog, www.AsTheIslandFloats.com, is up and running. She talks about mental-health issues, but also about things like the time she wore the same blouse as a defendant.
There are no plans, unfortunately, to liveblog a murder case. "I'm not going to write, 'Hey, I'm in a trial and the state's winning,'" she says.
And she doesn't have the knack required for successful bloggery: She's not throwing in hot words like "sex" or "Anna Nicole Smith" or anything that will drive up traffic.
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"That stuff's all over my head; I'm still learning," she says. "I only learned how to use a computer seven years ago."
For her sake, we hope she eventually has a trial that includes Jessica Simpson, Star Wars, Google, Dick Cheney and upskirt videos.
You might have heard of NASAs Lisa Nowak. She won the award last week for Person Most Grateful That Anna Nicole Smith Died. Nowak became the buzz of the Lifetime Networks movie division with her fun-filled escapade to Florida to talk with a romantic rival. Talk with her while wielding a BB gun, rubber tubing and plastic garbage bags. Oh, and there was something about diapers. Click Here