Monday, July 28, 2008

Tribute To Deploying Soldiers At MCC

Yesterday, while most citizens of Waco were trying to find ways to stay cool in 100 degree plus temperatures, a few hundred friends and close family members of Texas National Guard members turned out at McLennan Community College (MCC) to honor these soldiers as they prepare for additional training and a fall deployment to Iraq. With the exception of the daily bickering between Senator's Obama and McCain about the wisdom of the War in Iraq, very little is being reported in the news media about the thousands of young men and women that are still in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Among those speaking yesterday at MCC were Congressman Chet Edwards and Waco Mayor Virginia Dupree. On last night's television news, it was difficult to watch the faces of the family members of these deploying Texas National Guard forces as their eyes filled with tears while at the same time their posture showed nothing but pride. When a person is married to a member of the U.S. armed forces, there is always that sense of dread when someone they love is deployed to a far away land for months and sometimes for more than a year at a time.

It's not only the spouses and children of deploying Texas National Guard personnel that are effected when they spend long tours overseas, but also their friends, coworker and of course parents that worry endlessly about the safety of their young son or daughter in such a hostile and far away place. For me, as I watched these young men and women of the Texas National Guard preparing to depart Central Texas yesterday to train and eventually serve in the War in Iraq, all of my petty problems and issues seemed to fade away. In fact, I felt ashame that I was letting petty problems stand in the way of enjoying my weekend when just across town other families were facing real and potentially deadly consequences for family members they love.

It is the responsibility of all Americans to look after and offer support to the families that are sending a loved one to Iraq or Afghanistan to protect our freedom. Many of these family members will take a low profile and appear to be doing alright. However, down deep inside their heart and soul they are hurting and living in a constant state of worry. The right thing to do is to reach out and help these family members get through each and every day. Some people might be able to help with financial needs, while other can give of their time. Please remember that just because the mainstream media isn't covering the Iraq War as much as they use to, does not mean that there are not soldiers and Texas National Guard members facing down danger everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Title: Tribute To Deploying Soldiers At MCC
Written: July 28 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Sunday, July 27, 2008

'The Happening' Movie Was A Waste Of $1.25

While the temperature rose to above 100 degrees in Waco today, my wife and I ventured out of the house to our local dollar show to see a movie. We picked a movie called 'The Happening' and when this flick was over I really felt like I had wasted $1.25 plus the cost of an overpriced bag of popcorn and a large Coke.

Several years ago, M. Night Shyamalan became a household name when he directed a movie called, 'The Sixth Sense'. In that movie, Bruce Willis was fantastic and the script and directing of 'The Sixth Sense' was wonderful. However, like so many other good directors before him, Shyamalan seem to have drifted downward in his movie quality since he directed 'The Sixth Sense' and today's movie 'The Happening' was one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

M.Night Shyamalan showed so much promise as a Hollywood director after The Sixth Sense was one of the biggest grossing movies of all time. However, as time drifted by and the quality of the writing of Shyamalan's scripts continued to head even deeper into the weird column, from now on I will think twice before I spend a dime on one of his movie productions. Sometimes movie directors are like music artist where their first song or in this example movie is a big hit and then everything else that is released afterward turns out to be substandard. In the music business those kinds of artist are called 'one hit wonders'.

While watching 'The Happening' today, on several occasions I actually felt sorry for Mark Wahlberg as he tried his best to make something out of this poorly written movie. The part of this movie that bothered me the most was how none of the characters were introduced to the audience before the director started having people start committing suicide. I personally would like to know something about the characters in a movie before everyone starts dying in some kind of strange way.

The only good thing that came out of our attendance of this movie today was the the air conditioning in the theater was working well, so we had a chance to do something cool on one of the hottest days of the summer. However, if you are into doing something that is cool over the next few weeks here in Waco, I would recommend a visit to a local swimming pool where at least when you leave at the end of a good long swim you will know that you were entertained as well.

Title: 'The Happening' Movie Was A Waste Of $1.25
Written: July 27 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Waco Burns Under 100 Degree Plus Weather

It was very hot today and the weather man just said on our local 10pm news that tomorrow the high temperature here in Waco will be 103 degrees. For the most part, the summer of 2008 has been fairly mild. Only on a few days have we seen the temperature raise to above 100 degrees, but now that the end of July is approaching – I have a feeling that our good luck is about to run out.

This afternoon I needed to buy a few things at Walmart so my wife and I headed that way in our car. As we approached our car and opened it for the first time today, it was around 4:30 in the afternoon and when we first opened up our car doors the heat that poured out of our vehicle was tremendous. With the doors still open, I reached in and rolled down the drivers and passenger side windows before we got in.

Finally, the temperature in the car got down to around 89 degrees as we pulled up to the Walmart parking lot. I must say that I feel sorry for people that have cars without air conditioning this summer. For people that live in Colorado or the northeast part of the country it must be hard for them to imagine just how hot it really gets here in Central Texas.

A friend of mine at work said that she and her husband were going to buy a swimming pool to put in their backyard this weekend. While I'm sure they were hot putting that large above ground pool up in this weekends heat, more than likely next weekend and for the next few months they will get great enjoyment out of a cool place to spend these hot days of summer here in Texas.

When I was a kid, dad made his living farming cotton in the Texas panhandle. Every summer our family would take a July vacation either to Colorado or the northern part of New Mexico in Red River. While dad made his living by farming in the State of Texas, come July he was sick of our hot weather and wanted to vacation in a cool place far away from our Texas home.

There have been many summer where I just wanted to pick up the family and head to Colorado for the summer, but like so many other people that is easier said than done considering job demands and the financial stress that would put on us because of almost $4 per gallon gas prices.

Title: Waco Burns Under 100 Degree Plus Weather
Written: July 26 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Mills Trial Could Become Circus

On Friday, attorney's for Margaret Mills were back in court asking the judge for additional special treatment for their client. In addition to wanting the media banned from taking any kind of pictures during future court hearings and/or trial, they also want jurors to be questions apart from each other, rather than as a group, when her trial begins.

Earlier in the week, Margaret Mills' attorney's ask the judge in the case to move her trial out of Waco because of the amount of pretrial publicity this case has received in the local news media. In my opinion, Mills' attorney's are walking a tight rope right now as they asked for all of these special considerations from the judge because each time they ask for additional special treatment from the court, many people in Waco are going to believe that Margaret Mills' is getting special treatment because of her money and social standing in Central Texas.

I don't think it is going to matter whether Mrs. Mills' trial is held in Waco or some nearby city. In the end, her attorney's are going to have a difficult time convincing a jury that some how, either by accident or just by mistake that she took thousands of dollars from 'Downtown Waco Inc.' when she was in charge of that group several years ago. Most people that will make up the jury pool either in Waco or in surrounding communities will listen to the facts in this case and in the end, the jury will make it's decision on the evidence and not on what was going on in the mind of Margaret Mills' when and if she took money of 'Downtown Waco Inc'.

My gut feeling tells me that some of these new requests like banning pictures from court and micromanaging the section of jurors is coming more from Mills' demands than from her attorney's. The legal team that represents Margaret Mills' already has an uphill battle ahead of them in somehow convincing a jury that Mrs. Mills' should not be punished if the evidence against her that she took money from 'Downtown Waco, Inc' is proven in court.

Look for additional special request from Mills' attorney's as this case nears a trial. As time goes by, just keep in mind that not only does the legal team of Margaret Mills' have a big challenge ahead of them in getting Mrs. Mills' acquitted, but they also will have to deal with a client that might make demands of them that could work against her in the minds of potential future jurors. This trial should be interesting to watch.

Title: Mills Trial Could Become Circus
Written: July 26 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Friday, July 25, 2008

Baylor President Fired Because Of Unity Concerns

Baylor President John Lilley was fired this week by the Baylor Board of Regents after Lilley had failed to united the various fighting faction at the school. For years, there has been a dispute at the core of Baylor University between the schools leadership, the Board of Regents and the facility. What pretty much sealed the deal in regards to the firing of Lilley boiled down to his refusal to offer tenure to several professors that had eared that honor at Baylor University.

While I have never attended Baylor University, it is pretty easy to see why there would be problems for any person that is selected to be the President of that school. Several years ago, Baylor decided that it wanted to start more resembling an Ivy League school than the honored Baptist University it had been known as for generations. Part of this transformation involved bringing Baylor up in nation university ratings, especially in the field of research. Along with raising academic standards, a full fledge building boom has hit the Baylor Waco campus, in recent years, where millions of dollars have been spent on new buildings and complete renovations of existing structures.

Of course, along with this tremendous change effort called Baylor 2012, has come tremendous financial pressure on Baylor University and the people that work there are charged with finding new sources of money, mainly from getting increased contributions from Baylor alumni. While most of this new money has been raised by increasing the pressure put on former Baylor graduates to increase their annual giving to the University, new students are also being hit with higher tuition fees which already were high compared to other Texas schools.

While President Lilley is no longer in charge at Baylor University there is little doubt that the next person that is selected to run Baylor University will also face the same kinds of problems that President Lilley was unable to solve. Maybe the powers that be at Baylor University should rethink their grand plans of university expansion by the year 2012. It could be that the written ideas of where the Board of Regents want the university to be by 2012 is not a realistic target. While their idea of an Ivy League school on the Brazos River in Waco might be a good one. It could be that their timetable is too short and they are putting too much pressure on the administration of Baylor. It might be a good idea to push the time horizon for change at Baylor further into the future than 2012 and develop a more realistic timetable for major change to the school.

Title: Baylor President Fired Because Of Unity Concerns
Written: July 25 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tropical Storm Dolly Could Bring Rain To Waco

Most people in Texas are hoping that Tropical Strom Dolly does not became a hurricane as it approaches the Gulf Coast near Brownsville tomorrow. However, a strong Tropical Storm could be just what the doctor ordered for extremely dry parts of Central Texas, including Waco. While it has been hot this summer, only a few days so far have seen the high temperature rise above 100 degrees which is unusual for this time of year. However, even though the temperatures have not exceeded 100 degrees that often this summer – the lack of rainfall in the spring and through the first half of the summer has made lawns dry and dead instead of green and thriving.

My hope is that Dolly remains only a Tropical Storm and when it hits the Texas Gulf Coast sometime on Wednesday that the damage caused to coastal residents will be minimal. However, the fact that Dolly is bearing down on Texas is a good thing for the rest of us that live further inland because our weather needs some kind of kick start in order to get the clouds rolling and the rain falling this summer. Old timers have always been fond of saying that 'if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait 15 minutes and it will change'. While that is sometimes true, so far this summer we have not seen a change that brought us much needed rainfall.

Tonight, the people of Waco and the rest of Texas wait to see if Tropical Storm Dolly brings rain to our area. So much changes from one year to the next here in Waco when it comes to weather. Last year, we had more water than we knew what to do with as several feet of rain fell within a few short days. I remember Lake Waco going from a drought condition to filled to overflowing within a period of a week in 2007. Those days are now only distant memories as another regular summer where hot and dry conditions are the norm are back and in full swing in 2008.

I certainly hope that Dolly brings us some much needed rain later this week, but I learned a long time ago that even the best train weather minds cannot accurately predict a major storm like Dolly for more than a day or two in advance. Mother Nature will eventually decide where Dolly makes landfall and also where the buckets of rain will fall once it comes ashore.

Title: Tropical Storm Dolly Could Bring Rain To Waco
Written: July 21 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Waco Theaters Full As 'Black Knight' Opens

It was difficult to find a place to park this weekend as the new Batman movie, 'Dark Knight' opened at both the Starplex and Hollywood Theaters in Waco this weekend. Of course, it was not just in Waco,Texas where record audiences showed up to watch this latest chapter in the Batman series – but in theaters both large and small nationwide, 'Dark Knight' broke box office records because this movie will be the last the late Keith Ledger will appear in.

In what some movie critics are calling an Oscar performance, the late Keith Ledger plays the 'Joker' in 'Dark Knight'. While driving past the Starplex and Hollywood Theaters this weekend, I was reminded of another movie that also had Waco movie theater parking lots filled to capacity for weeks. That movie was called, 'Titanic' and because of the repeat attendance of teenage girls, every showing of that movie was sold out for weeks at both of Waco's large movie theater complexes.

Now the latest big movie of the summer of 2008 is 'Dark Knight' and according to late estimates it will earn a record breaking $165 million plus in U.S. receipts in it's opening weekend. The success of 'Dark Knight' as well as 'Iron Man' and the new Indiana Jones movie called 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' are making 2008 a record breaking year at the movie box office both here in Central Texas and around the country.

While there is no doubt that this summers movies are well produced and they are enticing both young and old audiences to visit a local theater, the real reason that the 2008 movie season is going so well is because of record high gas prices – which are causing more Americans to look for entertainment closer to home. That said, my wife and I are more than willing to wait for all three of these blockbuster movies to reach the Starplex Dollar Theater, here in Waco, sometime in the near future. We are middle aged and I use that term loosely, so we have more patience than many young folks that have to see the latest and greatest new movie at full price. That said, we will probably be the first in line when all three of this big summer movies hit the Waco dollar show and I for one am looking forward to seeing each and everyone of them.

Title: Waco Theaters Full As 'Black Knight' Opens
Written: July 20 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Sunday, July 20, 2008

100 Degree Temp Causes Weekend Suffering

This weekend we had one and possibly two days where the temperature here in Waco was above 100 degrees. Both Saturday and Sunday my wife and I had to get outside to do some shopping and on both days it was so hot in our car that it was almost impossible to sit in it until we opened the doors for a few minutes to let the hot air out.

Today, we visited Red Lobster for lunch because we found a $3 off coupon in the local paper. In order to beat the after church crowd, we decided not to go eat lunch until about 2:30pm. As we approached our car that was not under a car port or in a garage, we noticed that it seemed not only hot outside today, but also humid for a day when it was close to 100 degrees outside.

Then came the magic moment when we unlocked our car, opened the door and felt heat similar to opening a kitchen oven coming out from inside. I ask my wife to just leave her door open for a few minutes, along with mine, so some of the tremendous heat that had built up inside could escape before we climbed in. After a few minutes we did get into the car and it was cooler, but not by much.

That trick of opening the car door and letting some of the excess heat that has built up inside, out, is a technique an old friend of mine that use to be in the car business taught me. He told me that air conditioning systems only blow out cool air that is about 16 degrees cooler than the air that is being taken in inside the vehicle.

Considering that the inside of a car can reach temperatures of 130 to 140 degrees after being closed off for a long period of time on a summer day, it is no wonder that if we don't let our cars cool off a bit before we leave and turn on the A/C we will suffer for longer during our drive.

BTW, the lunch at Red Lobster was great and we meet a new friend that just started working there only one week ago named Nathan. It's always nice to enjoy the weekend, but for me it is much more enjoyable in Waco when those weekends take place in March or October, rather than in the middle of July.

Title: 100 Degree Temp Causes Waco Weekend Suffering
Written: July 20 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Darren Williams Found Dead In Lake Waco

A Crawford man died last night after he was reported missing from a houseboat on Lake Waco. Around 8:30pm authorities were notified that Darren Williams from Crawford Texas was missing from the boat and a search started for him shortly thereafter that lasted until around midnight, but then was called off and restarted again first thing this morning. Around 3pm, the body of Darren Williams was discovered near the Waco twin bridges.

As of the writing of this post, there are no other details being released about Darren Williams – including his age and manner of death. Mr. Williams is just the latest person to die on an area lake this summer which is definitely the downside of living a life of fun in the sun and water. More than likely there will be an autopsy preformed on Darren Williams in Dallas this week and hopefully there will be more details to report at that time.

Every spring, city and state officials try to get people to pay closer attention to lake safety when they are out on the water, especially at night. However, every year there are people that do not pay attention to these warnings and turn a fun time at the lake into a tragic death. While I have no idea if alcohol had anything to do with the death of Darren Williams, it is not uncommon for people to become drunk while trolling around Lake Waco at night on a houseboat.

It gets so frustrating for city officials and the parents of young people to watch as kids sometimes get drunk and take risked in water that could result in the loss of their life or someone else they are friends with. While it is easy for me to see this recklessness now as a middle aged man, back when I was 18-20 years old – I also acted in the same reckless way and only through the grace of God was I able to survive my youth to become a man.

Title: Darren Williams Found Dead In Lake Waco
Written: July 20 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Bush's Crawford Ranch Not That Interesting Anymore

President Bush is finishing up another holiday weekend at his Crawford Ranch just outside of Waco. One thing is for sure and that is President Bush must like hot weather, because this weekend we have had a bunch of heat in Central Texas. From the early days of the Bush administration, President Bush has made annual vacation trips to Crawford, usually in the month of August.

Mind you, most of us that live in Waco never see President Bush in town because he spend most of his time on his highly protected ranch just outside of town. Over the past almost eight years I have learned that President Bush is in town more so from hearing those huge military helicopters flying over our house than I have from learning about his trips from the news media.

Now that President Bush will be leaving office soon, his regular trips to his Crawford Ranch are proving to be almost non news events for most of us. While there is always in increase in the number of people that migrate to Waco during President Bush's visits, the numbers of people that don't have to travel with a sitting President of the United States has dwindled considerably.

Even in recent months, some of the small businesses that got their start in Crawford Texas after President Bush became our leader are also seeing a marked decrease in the number of tourist that make detours off of I-35 in order to see President Bush's home town. With each presidential visit to Crawford fewer people are following the movements of President Bush and as his term ends next January – he may not even visit his ranch that much anymore, either.

Well placed sources say that George and Laura Bush will relocate to a full time home in the Dallas area, most likely in Highland Park, to live close to his presidential library that will be built on the campus of SMU. More than likely President and Mrs. Bush will visit Crawford on the weekends and spend their workweek at their new home in Dallas.

Title: Bush's Crawford Ranch Not That Interesting Anymore
Written: July 19 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Friday, July 18, 2008

Waco Car Thefts Are Increasing?

On Monday, one of our family vehicles was broken into and someone tried to steal it by braking the steering column. Fortunately for us, this car theft was unsuccessful – but none the less it cost us over $500 to get the vehicle repaired. After this car thief tried and failed to steal our vehicle, he went a few cars down in the parking lot and was more successful at stealing someone else's car.

Since this almost car theft happened to us in the heart of Waco, Texas on Monday – I have been asking other friends and coworkers about this problem. Much to my surprise, there have been people breaking into and stealing old models of cars trucks and SUVs in Waco for years. Apparently, vehicles that are a certain age do not have the same anti theft features on them as newer models of cars and truck.

There is a tremendous sense of anger that overtakes a person when they wake up in the morning to go to work only to find that their window is busted out of their car and to make matters worse, that car cannot be started after some thief tried to break into the vehicles steering column. Most people I have spoken to about the problem in Waco say that they believe most of these car thefts are being perpetrated by only a few young people that use these vehicles for nothing more than joy rides and abandon them shortly after they run out of gas.

I know the Waco police department has their hands full, but the constant breaking into cars either to steal stereos or even worse to steal the vehicle for a joy ride needs to be stopped. The best chance of catching the people responsible for these car thefts in Waco is for someone to catch them in the act and for a Waco Police Officer to be close by to make the arrest. However, just because these criminals get caught does not mean they will stay in jail long. With violent criminals rightfully taking up our shortage of jail space – more than likely a car thief will be released in a short period of time because our local jail is filled to capacity on most days.

Title: Waco Car Thefts Are Increasing?
Written: July 18 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Waco PD Taser Guns Draw Controversy

In the City of Waco, there is a big discussion going on about the use of Taser Guns by the Waco Police Department. Like Waco, thousands of other police departments around the country are debating the wisdom of the Taser Gun as a less lethal form of police control than a firearm. While there are pros and cons regarding the use of Taser Guns, my personal feeling is that anything that keeps a Waco police officer from having to shoot and kill a suspect is a good thing.

In recent month, there have been stories both here in Waco and around the United States where some suspects have died after being stunned by a Taser Gun. From the limited research I have been able to do in regards to this subject, it appears to me that in most of these incidents where death occurred after a person was shocked with a Taser Gun, there were other underlying factors that contributed to those deaths in a addition to the use of the Taser.

There is another important reason why Waco police officers should be given the option of using a Taser Gun instead of a firearm where they shoot to kill and that reason involves the long term mental health of the police officer. While most people look at the police as somehow being different from the rest of us, in reality they are the same as the people they protect. Every year, hundreds of police officers are haunted by the fact they were forced to take the life of another human being and if these Taser Guns could prevent that added trauma on police officers then so much the better.

I would bet that the number of people that die from an officer involved shooting with a gun are much higher than the few that end up dead after being stunned by a Taser Gun. While some liberal nut cases try and take some non lethal tools away from police officers, these same people would be the first to complain if officer involved fatal shootings went up dramatically if Taser Guns were taken away from police. Sometimes I wonder which side some of these people that are always criticizing police are on? Is it the police or the people that are out to do us all harm?

Title: Waco PD Taser Guns Draw Controversy
Written: July 18 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Waco Is Filled With Hot, Humid Weather This Summer

Like so many other years, the summer of 2008 is proving to be another long hot one with little rain in the forecast. The past week we have seen some some clouds in the sky, but in the end very little rainfall occurred here in Waco. About mid week I was talking to a local mechanic who lives in Riesel Texas and he told me that on Tuesday night he and his wife got about one inch of rain at their house.

2008 is so much different than what we went through here in Waco in 2007. For anyone that lived in Waco during the early spring last year you remember the tremendous rain that we received. From being in a drought condition where water rationing was being discussed for the upcoming summer months to a massive amount of rainfall that fill up all area lakes including Lake Waco all happened within on a few short weeks.

The summer of 2008 is more of a normal weather year here in Central Texas. Sure it's hot – but it's always hot in the summer time in Waco. If there is any good news about the summer weather in Central Texas in 2008 it is the lack of 100 degree days we have been forced to endure so far. What most of us really need right now in Waco is a slow rain that lasts for several hours.

Title: Waco Is Filled With Hot, Humid Weather This Summer
Written: July 18 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat

Margaret Mills Wants Change Of Venue For Trial

Looks like defendant Margaret Mills might get a change of venue in her upcoming trial for stealing money from an organization she headed called Downtown Waco, Inc. In the charges filed against Mrs. Mills – she is alleged to have stolen over $250,000 from that organization and depositing the money in her own bank accounts.

Most people around Waco were shocked when news first surfaced about this alleged theft of money by Margaret Mills. Rather than appearing as a poor person that needed to steal money in order to survive, Mrs. Mills is a well known Waco resident with a prominent attorney as her husband. Until the trial gets underway, some time and somewhere in the next few months – anything I or anyone else has to say about this case will be loaded with speculation, but so far – most people in Waco have dozens of reason why they think Mrs. Mills allegedly stole the money.

My personal feeling is that some people just have a difficult time keeping the money of other people and organizations in the proper prospective. More than likely if Margaret Mills did steal the money that is alleged in the indictment against her, down deep inside she always planned on paying back that money at some future date.

The main reason that Margaret Mills is facing such severe charges in this case is because rather than allegedly taking only a few hundred dollars, instead she is accused of taking well over $200,000 from Downtown Waco, Inc in a fairly short period of time. I think a change of venue in needed in this case because our local paper and television stations have been covering this case now for years and I don't think there are twelve people in Waco, Texas that have not already formed an opinion on whether Mrs. Mills is innocent or guilty.

Title: Margaret Mills Wants Change Of Venue For Trial
Written: July 18 2008
2008 © Waco Newsbeat