Never in their lifetimes have Houston Astro fans gone into a season with such optimism. The team that famously has never won a postseason series is all but assured of a World Series spot, if you listen to the "longtime listeners, first-time callers."

Hair Balls would never dampen those hopes by pointing out how ancient and fragile the Astros' lineup is, or how when it comes to quickly covering a vast field, Craig Biggio is a veritable Mars Rover. Or how manager Jimy Williams's baffling on-field moves are outbaffled by only his incomprehensible off-field explanations of them.

We wouldn't do that. But Lilly Roddy would. Roddy, a past winner of the Houston Press Best Astrologer award, is admittedly no baseball fan. She did study the charts of key Astros, and finds things looking grim.

There will be a major slump in May and June and, ominously, "massive changes in the team next year." Even more ominously, owner Drayton McLane is "going to take a much heavier hand in 2005 in the running of the team." (At which Shakespearean point, we guess, the fault will lie not in the stars but in himself.)

Some insights: Roger Clemens (Leo with a moon in Virgo) left the Yankees not to spend more time with family, but because "he was feeling very much like he was not appreciated." (He came to the right place for hagiography.) And we have an early leader for Imaginary Conversations That Will Never Happen: "If he'd have said, 'Oh, Lilly, what do you think I should do?' I would say, 'Take a year off.' "

Clemens "actually could have a really knockout year" as an Astro, she says.

Biggio (Sagittarius with a Virgo moon) is likely in his last year: "The injuries stuff doesn't look good." (Don't despair, Craig: "I'm sure that he'll have things to do. Like whatever they do -- coach or something.")

Williams (Libra, moon in Sagittarius) "works a lot on how things feel as opposed to logic," Roddy says, which explains Captain Hook's bullpen management. "This is his last year to prove himself," she says. (And Houston answers, "No shit.")

And new closer Octavio Dotel, a double-Sagittarius? "It'll be very tough for him in September and October. If they make it to the playoffs, he'll just be a frazzle."

Dotel and Williams, it turns out, have a flinty relationship but are connected in past lives. "But I know that's probably not what baseball people are thinking about: 'Oh, in a past life, did he hit?' " she says.

When it comes to Astros hitting in the playoffs, it can sometimes seem like a past life since it's happened.

Dirt Patrol

When Houston City Council decided to scrap a $590,000 contract to wash the police department's fleet of cars, it didn't offer much in the way of alternatives for the force.

Councilwoman Addie Wiseman proposed a variant of the old mob car-washing program, which basically consists of members going to a Bubbles, say, and mentioning how "We wouldn't want nothing should happen to your nice car wash or anything." The proposal resulted in much hand-fluttering about perceived favoritism and conflicts of interest and other heinous things. We guess Houston's not ready yet for such bold, new, groundbreaking ideas like cops getting a freebie or two from a store owner.

HPD hopes eventually to have Harris County probationers wash the 3,300-vehicle fleet as part of their community service, says Executive Assistant Chief Mike Thaler. Until then, he says, "I think [officers] are being -- what's the word I'm searching for -- innovative, I guess, in making sure their cars are maintained."

And if they aren't? Would you get arrested for writing on a filthy cop car? "For writing 'Wash Me' on it? I don't think there is any statute that prevents that. I mean all you are doing is removing a layer of dirt…Unless it's something obscene, obviously."

So keep it clean, kids. Even if HPD can't.

Capital Event

Mayor Bill White went to Austin March 24 for a fund-raiser at the home of banker Bo Baskin. Austin Mayor Will Wynn was there, as was former Austin mayor Kirk Watson, along with a rather large turnout.

And they were treated to the oratorical magnificence that Houston audiences have come to adore in our new leader. In other words, about five minutes into a monotone monologue, eyes glazed, shoulders slumped, watches were surreptitiously looked at.

"He says good things, but he's not exactly compelling, is he?" one attendee said.

No, but he's ours. Hey, after Lee "Mumblin' Platitudes" Brown, White is a damn cross between Ronald Reagan and Jesse Jackson.

Open Records

Students of University of Houston physics professor Kwong Lau strolled into class last month and heard a surprising bit of news: They should all check their credit reports.


Lau, it turns out, had mistakenly posted more than 160 of his students' social security numbers on his Web site. They'd been up there for three weeks.

There was a predictable reaction, this being physics and all. "Our privacy was unabashedly violated," student Johnson Tai said. Calm down, dude -- it's not like there's unscrupulous people or anything on the Web. And maybe your savings account could be used for something neat, liking helping a former Ugandan trade minister transfer some needed money. You'll even get a cut of the action.

School officials say Lau's site wasn't accessible to Google searchers, although anyone who had the URL could have reached it. An "information-education campaign" has been launched to prevent future mishaps.

Lau should hope he's graded on the curve.

I Voted for Who?!

If you're thinking of running for county commissioner, you probably don't want to admit publicly that you voted for a presidential candidate who claims George Bush is working with "the zioni$t$ and communi$t$…in the hope of making the USA & the world their communi$t fiefdom." (Unless you're running in one of those deep Piney Woods counties in East Texas.)

But that's what retired firefighter Randy Crow of Austin did. He voted in the Democratic primary last month and, knowing the presidential fight was over, pulled the lever for a guy named…Randy Crow.

That Crow turns out to be a native Houstonian and graduate of Sam Houston State who now lives in North Carolina. He has a Web site outlining his views, which also include the theory that the 9/11 jetliners were flown by remote control and contained atomic bombs.

Future candidate Crow wants to firmly disassociate himself from those views, which he discovered after voting. "I know, being a firefighter, that ain't right," he says. "Those planes would be enough to knock the towers down." (Oh, he also doesn't agree with the whole "zioni$t" thing: "He would go on and on about…the Jewish people being in charge of everything in our country. I know they are big in leadership, but we have plenty of Christians up there, too.")

Presidential hopeful Crow, who refused an interview request, got more than 6,000 votes statewide. Which doesn't sound like much, but then Dick Gephardt got only 12,000.

"I think some of those votes in Texas were for me," firefighter Crow says.

We can only hope so.


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