Moovin' On Up

Dairy Queens are so ubiquitous in the Lone Star State that the familiar red logo is sometimes referred to as a Texas stop sign. So naturally we were interested when the company sent out a release saying customers would get a free sample of their new frozen drink if they brought an actual, live cow to a Dairy Queen on August 24.

Initially we had two thoughts: 1) Who brings a cow to a place that sells hamburgers? Is this some kind of "Scared Straight" program for bovine juvenile delinquents? And 2) Isn't it kind of unhealthy having an animal dropping cow patties all over a place that serves food?

The city's department of health confirmed that it would indeed probably violate a passel of laws; a DQ spokesman said farmers use the drive-thrus every day with livestock in trailers.

So instead we focused on the new drink -- the MooLatte. Which to our ears sounded a lot like "mulatto," which is a tired racial epithet we really hadn't heard since the last time we watched the movie Mandingo. Or, to be classy, Roots.

We're not the only ones. "Doesn't Dairy Queen have any black employees?" asked Timothy Noah of the online magazine Slate. "Or at least someone who's seen Show Boat?" (Show Boat was the Mandingo of its time.)

We figured there was a vast, untapped treasure chest of archaic racial names that DQ was missing out on, so we contacted the spokesman listed on the bring-a-cow press release. Chad Durasa was most helpful:

Q. This drink, it's not the "Mulatto"?

A. No. No. No. "Moo," meaning cow, and then "latte," meaning --

Q. OK. We were thinking of some other possible items, and I just wanted to run them by you. How about the High Yellow Butterscotch Sundae?

A. I'm not sure if I understand what that is.

Q. Just like a sundae with butterscotch topping, but this would be High Yellow butterscotch.

A. You mean like a higher quality?

Q. Yeah. That's just something to consider. We were also thinking -- the MooLatte has three separate flavors, but if you took eight flavors and combined them, you could call it the Octoroonie.

A. Octoroonie?

Q. Yeah.

A. Actually -- wow, that's actually a pretty good idea.

Q. And then one more here...Sambo's Extra Dark Triple Chocolate Shake. How's that grab you?

A. Actually, Dairy Queen doesn't make shakes. They make Blizzards.

Q. OK -- Sambo's Extra Dark Triple Chocolate Blizzard.

A. [Writing it down] What would that be?

Q. I would say you would find the blackest cone you could find and fill it with chocolate ice cream. And go from there.

A. All right. Interesting.

Q. Well, it's just something to think about.

We can't wait for DQ to introduce these. And hey -- everyone who drives up in blackface gets one free!!

A Home of Their Own

The Houston City Council passed a law August 4 banning anyone from sleeping overnight on the streets of Midtown, that pricey new development just outside the Pierce Elevated. The law echoes one passed in 2002 to ban such practices downtown.

So if it's such a great idea, why not do it everywhere? There appears to be some confusion on whether the city can.

Councilmembers are under the impression, apparently by the now-retired attorney who wrote the 2002 law, that no-sleeping bans only can be enforced neighborhood by neighborhood once each area files a petition indicating residents think there's a problem.

Which means the homeless will get shuffled around until they find a paradise where citizens have a phobia about signing petitions.

But Don Cheatham, the assistant city attorney who wrote the new law, doesn't quite understand why councilmembers think the ban has to be done piecemeal. "This is something I'm missing. I don't know where that's coming from," he says.

And Cheatham says the council can impose such bans without a citizen petition; they only need to consult with the police department.

All right, Cheatham -- now the rest of us never will have to face the liberal-guilt moment of truth when presented with a petition to screw the homeless. And we won't have to walk over them at night, either. It's a win-win! Except for the homeless, of course.

Piece of Cake

Being a parent of a kindergartner or a first-grader brings with it many touching ceremonies, not least of which is the huge, majestic rite wherein the young Birthday Boy or Girl brings in cupcakes for everyone in class. With the largesse that can only come from the nobility inherent in being the center of attention at a birthday party, the honoree doles out the treats to the less fortunate and humbly accepts their thanks.

Unless you're in the Houston school district, where the watchword this year is "No cupcakes for you!!!"

HISD's interpretation of the state's new nutritional guidelines has led them to ban any and all attempts by kids or parents (or PTOs) to bring in cupcakes or other sweets to sell or give away. Cafeterias can still occasionally sell cupcakes -- but not if those cupcakes have sprinkles, believe it or not.

"It's a brave new world we're in, and it'll be a big change for a lot of folks," says HISD spokesman Terry Abbott.

Abbott says kids celebrating birthdays will still be allowed to bring in a cupcake...for themselves.

So instead of the sharing kind of nobility, kids will master the nyah-nyah kind of it's-my-birthday-and-not-yours feeling of royalty.

But at least the others will get their revenge when Birthday Boy grows up to be a cupcake-addicted porker.

Three Cheers For the Bus Driver

The Houston school district has famously sold the "Taj Mahal," its white elephant of a headquarters, and plans to build a new complex on the site of the bus barn near Delmar Stadium.

Which has some residents worried about what the district is going to do with all those buses.

Nowhere are they worried more than in Oak Forest, where rumors have been swirling -- and seemingly confirmed by city officials -- that the site of the former Acme Brick Plant (which, we're guessing, supplied Wile E. Coyote with all his brick-related materials) will house the new bus barn.

Having hundreds of clunky, smelly buses tearing up the neighborhood streets somehow doesn't appeal to residents, who prefer the golfers using the driving range currently on the site.

"Not only would there be environmental pollution, traffic and noise pollution, but paving 50 acres of grass makes us wonder how they plan to mitigate the flooding effect," says homeowners association president Greg Ryden.

HISD spokesman Terry Abbott says the residents shouldn't be concerned. Yet.

The Acme location is "one of many sites we're looking at," he says. No final decision will be made without surveying residents who would be affected "to get their comments and thoughts about it."

Somehow we don't see a big "We Want The Bus Barn!" campaign.

At least HISD knows where its buses are going, for the most part. Parents in the Fort Bend school district who recently got their bus schedules have been noting a whole bunch of strangeness -- like some high schoolers, whose classes start at 8 a.m., being scheduled for pick up at...8 a.m.

One parent who called was told that the schedule was ridden with typos and mistakes.

Associate FBISD superintendent Lee Petros said there are always last-minute changes to the schedules, but acknowledges that "there are clerical errors" in the printed skeds. He advises parents to check the district's Web site for corrections and updates.

Damn. Another fine excuse for being late for school drops by the wayside.

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