Thursday, April 28, 2005

Homeowners Associations Screwing Homeowners Again

Blog Houston complains about homeowner association abuse. The Chronicle tells the sad tale

Pamela Bernhardt was close to completing renovations on a house she owned and hoped to sell. She had installed a new roof, new granite tops in the kitchen and new tiles in the bathroom.

Earlier this month, she arrived at the house on the 14200 block of Swallowfield in southwest Houston and found a small, yellow note stuck to the front door.

The handwritten note said that the house had been sold at a foreclosure sale seven months earlier. The local homeowners association had sold the house, valued at about $250,000, saying Bernhardt failed to pay a $420 assessment fee.

"It was so devastating," Bernhardt said. "I was just stunned."

Bernhardt's situation was another example of the excessive power of homeowners associations and the need to reform the use of foreclosure sales to collect fees, state leaders and activists said Wednesday.


A lawyer for the Briarhills Homeowners Association, which foreclosed on the house, said sufficient protection is on the books for homeowners and that Bernhardt was given ample opportunities to pay the debt.

Bernhardt has filed suit, claiming she never received notices alerting her to the delinquent fees. She is asking for her house back.

"I was never sent any notices," the 52-year-old real estate agent said. "I would have paid the $420, before spending about $48,000 on renovations."

Terry Sears, a lawyer for Briarhills, said notices were sent to Bernhardt by certified mail and that after the sale she had 180 days to buy her home back.

"She could have bought her home back for the amount of the past due assessment," he said. "It's unfortunate she did not respond to any of the notices."

Had the dispute been mediated in court, Bernhardt would not have lost her home, said state Sen. Jon Lindsay. Some foreclosures can be enacted without going before a judge, Lindsay said.

"I want to see judicial foreclosures," said Lindsay, R-Houston. "A judge should be looking over the shoulder of this process."

Lindsay said he would address the concern during the current session. The deadline for introducing new bills has passed, but he could still amend a pre-existing proposal, Lindsay said.

Wasn't it last year that a homeowners association stole an 83 somthing year old womens house? Her house was sold for $1600 dollars, This is a $250 - $275K house, they waited for her to complete the renovations before deciding to take possession. Apparently Ms. Bernhardt didn't get the 420 Bills or notifications, because the homeowners association mailed them to the wrong address! There is a lot of guilt to be thrown around here. There is no outcry from the other residents of Briarhills the association is supposed to be accountable to them. Their reward for voting for the thieves is that their property values have taken a sudden dip. Who in their right mind would want to buy into this neighborhood. Its bad enough when the homeowner association busybodies are nosing around about uncut lawns and the wrong color trim, but in Briarhills in Southwest Houston they will steal your home. I hope they are proud.

While I was Away

It's been a rough couple of weeks. 5 days in New York - New Jersey and 4 days in Tennesee. President Bush came and visited Galveston, and I wasn't here. Sheesh.
Oh well, It was great meeting family and frirnds in New York again, amd the Jersey Coast is beautiful in the spring. The trip to Tennesse was very sweet. It was one of those bussiness trips that had a lot of vacation element to it. I'll post more about it later.

Friday, April 22, 2005

This is at a shop in Newark's Liberty Airport. This is one of the reasons why New Jersey/New York sucks. Pretty hard to believe that in some corners of the world, some people actually like the freaken Yankees.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Beach Party 2005

I had to go out of town for a few days to NYC and the Jersey Shore, so I missed out the Galveston Beach Party aka Kappa Weekend. Apparently it went on withon without many problems, and most folks thought that the young people were polite and well manored. Galveston as usual had shown there yearly inhospitality by blocking of most roads. closed off parking on the seawall. In the name of traffic control they created a weekend long traffic jam.
At long last The Galveston Daily News has called an end for punnishing the residents and visitors by blocking off all the roads.
Beach Party Weekend is smaller than it once was. It’s no longer the big, disorderly event it once was. It’s declined slowly over about the last five years and likely will continue to decline.

However, it still is bad for most tourist-related and retail businesses, mainly because people in Galveston hunker down in their homes. We can improve on that.

It’s time to begin re-establishing normalcy on that weekend.

Of course, the police should continue working to manage traffic, to impose order and enforce the law. But do we really need all the traffic barricades? Can’t a few more businesses remain open?

And it seems to me that Galvestonians — many of them — should live their lives more normally, enjoy themselves, and give our guests a smile and a hello.

I think we owe that to ourselves. Our beautiful hometown is too great a prize to surrender. We should enjoy it, and we should share it, and we can’t do that locked up in our homes.

The Baricades need to, businesses need to open, and we need to go about our daily weekend activitys. We complained last year, maybe next year the town fathers will take the advice given by our news paper.

No Terrorist from Canada

I had heard that some of the 911 terrrorist came into the US via Canada. I was not alone, apparently so was .Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich, former Republican speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, "deeply regrets the error," said spokesman Rick Tyler.

"That's become accepted conventional wisdom here. But he'll help to correct the record."

"He wishes he had not repeated that error and had checked it out," Tyler said from Lincoln, Va.

"We're in complete and utter total sympathy with the Canadian ambassador and all Canadians, for that matter."

Gingrich, appearing Tuesday on a Fox News Channel political show, said: "Far more of the 9-11 terrorists came across from Canada than from Mexico."

McKenna, who became Canada's top envoy in the United States last month, wrote Gingrich's comments "perpetuate an urban legend that can take on a life of its own, especially when repeated by people whose
opinions are deeply respected in the United States."

"Canadians and Americans are great friends. And great friends can tell it like it is."

"In the interest of that friendship and to set the record straight I ask
that you retract your statement." McKenna noted former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft is on the record saying: "None of the terrorists from the Sept. 11 carnage came to the United States through Canada."

A 9-11 commission report has also detailed how the terrorists entered with U.S. visas and none came through Canada.

The faulty perception began shortly after the attacks, when U.S. news reports wrongly said some of the hijackers crossed the border.

The ambassador also wrote a letter to the New York Times newspaper last month after an editorial alleged terrorists routinely cross the enter the United States from Canada.

He noted Canada has spent over $9 billion Cdn on security since the attacks, especially on implementing the so-called smart border plan.

Gingrich plans to personally reply to McKenna, said Tyler, and will do what he can to debunk the claim.

"He's a public figure and I'm sure he'll be asked about it. He'll correct the record whenever he's asked."

I've mentioned this incorrect fact in discussion concerning the borders and sealing of the Mexican Border.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Outa Town

Blogging is going to be on the light side for several Days. I'm doing the road trip thing. This time I'm combining a little bit of pleasure with business. I'll see quite a bit of family that I just don't see enough of.

This is Kappa weekend. Galveston's exersise of biggotry and sillyness. I'm hoping that they don't block off all the roads and make it not only unbearable for the residents and workers of the Island, but also for our visitors. Lots of businesses will be closed, but it loks to me like not as many as in years past. Its early but I haven't seen as many barriers set up either.

It looks like the relaxation of Galvestonian buttocks, smaller crowds and great weather will mean a great times for the visiting students.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pelican Blogging

Coco believes that cat blogging is an invasion of privacy. Pelican blogging is more interesting anyway. These white Pelicans were working the jettys at at the Boliver ferry landing.

Taiwan Tightens up on Technology Leaks - Taiwan seeks to increase penalties for technology transfers. Seems to me that the US has already let the cat out of the bag.
SHANGHAI, China — Citing national security and the public interest as reasons for acting, the executive branch of Taiwan's government is seeking to tighten the rules that are intended to control technology transfers off the island, a move that is believed to be targeted at China.

Taiwan's Cabinet approved changes this week in a draft law that would increase penalties for the transfer of "sensitive technology", which includes semiconductor and LCD manufacturing processes, as well as biotechnology and aerospace, among others. Fines levied against companies or individual violators could run as high as $950,000, a three-fold increase. Jail time would be as long as seven years, and more than 10 years for repeat offenders.

Taiwan isn't backing off, in their their message to China.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another BP Texas City Refinery Casualty

A couple of days ago The Texas City Firefighter union had some pictures from an unknown source of the Texas City Refinery on their web site. These photographs showed some of the damage and recovery efforts by the firefighters. The Photographs were on a slideshow format so I dodn't copy and past them. They hare gone now. The images while interesting, with closeups of some of the damages, weren't particularly revealing. The most revealing photographs were the close up aerials. These displayed the vehicles and portable buildings that received so much damage. There has been very litle information comming from BP. They don't want us, the affected familys and the lawyers to have any more information. Its cover their ass time. Information has eaked out as they have given it to authoritys, and investigators. Some information has been forthcoming by witnesses. Very little from BP management itself.

The photographs posted by the Texas City firefighters. Apperently were taken by a firefighter from neghboring mutual aid partner Marathon Oil. Marathons Fire Chief Greg Tonnies, took the heat for the photography. As a result he was relieved of duties for the infringement of someone (Possibly himself) taking those photographs.

The fire chief of a neighboring
refinery has resigned after photos from the site of the BP plant
explosion taken when he was there to help the day after the
disaster surfaced on the Internet.
Greg Tonnies, fire chief at Marathon-Ashland's Texas City
refinery and chief of the League City Volunteer Fire Department,
said the resignation was a mutual decision.
A series of photos taken March 24, a day after the explosion
that killed 15 and injured 100, had been on the Internet since last
week, including the Web site of the Texas City firefighters union.
Marathon Oil spokesman Paul Weeditz said the photographs were
taken by a Marathon-Ashland Texas City employee who was "no longer
employed at the refinery."
"Those photographs were entirely unauthorized and
Marathon-Ashland does not condone the activity or behavior of that
individual," Weeditz said. "We are a member of the mutual aid
organization, and our representatives were there to provide
assistance. Our purpose was not to take photographs."
The photos show BP and Marathon crews sifting through rubble as
part of the search and rescue mission. Marathon, like most other
local petrochemical companies, participates in the Texas City
industrial Mutual Aid System, in which industry fire crews assist
each other during emergencies such as the BP explosion.
Neither Tonnies nor Weeditz would say whether Tonnies took the

I know Greg, he served as my captain while I served on the League City Fire Department, and I know him well enough that he loved his job. Its really a shame that he had to take the hit for BP covering its ass. The public has a right to know what happened there, but he paid the price.

Here is what we know and can surmise from the information so far.

  • There was a high presure vapor release, that vented into the atmosphere,instead of the more traditional flare.
  • There haven't been any reports of an alarm going off between the release of the vapors and the initial explosion. There are indications that there were a few minutes between the events. Either the operators were unaware of the release, or they neglected to sound an evecution alarm for the unit.
  • It apears that there was no hydrocarbon vapor detection equipment available.
  • People were working in the unit while it was being started up. Starting a unit up is a dangerous time. Having contractors in the unit during a start-up is reckless.
  • The contractor's portable builings were were very close to the unit, this just isn't done in most places. Too many people were exposed needlessly.
  • Apparently a diesel engine in a pickup truck started racing. This is the potential source of ignitition. Why was the engine idling? Was the truck abandoned while idling?

Typically most disastors ae the results of a chain of conditions and events. Many things contribute to the disastor, and the correction of any one of the things could have prevented it. The Marathon photos weren't what got people killed and hurt. They were what told us about the damage.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It's Getting Dirty Now

I never liked Delay, and detest the the things that are being revealed about him. While I do believe he kept on the fine line of legality, He pushed the edge always keeping legal, but barely so. His morality is is not to be questioned at this point. He has none, its all about winning. He has paid his wife and family handsomely from the coffers of the well intended. Its a shame really, Tom has done some great things, but he has proven to us that he isn't above greed, and we expect more from our leaders, and even more from the leaders of our leaders. One may argue that that the democrats behave in much the same way, and that Toms ventures aren't any different than theirs, but we expect more from our conservative Republicans, and we threw out the Democrats, from the House the Senate and the Presidency, because we believed they were morally corrupt. Power corupts, and now that the Republicans have taken control they are almost as bad. Term Limits, Smaller Goverment, and Morality are not relevent topics any more.

Yet, the left has proven they are incapable of rising above all the morally bankrupt. The New York Times : attempted to bribe Livingstone to critisize Delay. To hopefully start an avalanche of disaproval amomg fellow Republicans. The Republicans are sticking with Delay, they dont want their own corruption to show through.

On March 24, former Congressman Bob Livingston was sent an e-mail by a New York Times editorial page staffer suggesting he write an op-ed essay. Would Livingston, who in 1998 gave up certain elevation to be House speaker because of a sexual affair, write about how Majority Leader Tom DeLay should now act under fire? In a subsequent conversation, it was made clear the Times wanted the prominent Republican to say DeLay should step aside for the good of the party.

Livingston in effect declined by responding that if he wrote anything for the Times, it would be pro-DeLay. But this remarkable case of that august newspaper fishing for an op-ed piece makes it appear part of a calculated campaign to bring down the single most powerful Republican in Congress. The Democratic establishment and left-wing activists have targeted DeLay as the way to end a decade of Republican control of the House.

Its a sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Priviledged One.

Martha Stuart lies to the Feds in a coverup and gets sent of to Camp Cupcake and returns to a house arrest. OK, fair is fair.
Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to federal investigators. But for lying after stealing highly classified documents from the National Archives -- in an apparent attempt to alter the historical record on terrorism, no less -- former Clinton national security adviser and Kerry campaign adviser Sandy Berger will get a small fine and slap on the wrist. He will pay $10,000 and get no jail time. His security clearance will be suspended until around the end of the Bush administration -- meaningless for a career Democrat like Mr. Berger. It makes us wonder who at the Department of Justice is responsible for letting such a serious offense go virtually unpunished.

It just doesn't seem right, but I guess it explains how a president can commit perjury and get away it. Justice in America is about where you stand in wealth status and power. A young black man can go to jail for smoking a little marijauna in Texas. The Rich and powerful can even get away with murder if he can afford the right lawyers. If on knows the right people one can just about get away with stealing and destroying classified goverment archives. Something is wrong, and there doesn't seem to be any importance given to getting it fixed.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

2 Gig Gmail

Gmail has upped the anti to 2 Gigs with promises of more increases to come. The enhancements keep comming and its turned into a pretty nice product. While still in Beta, its pretty reliable and complete. So far the features I like best are:
  1. 10 Meg attachments, photo's small movies, and zipped files are easily sent and received.
  2. Searching for an old email is real easy and intuitive.
  3. PDA friendly checking of email.
  4. Spam detection is the best I've ever had, and I've tried everything. My email address is proudly posdted on my website and throughout usenet, yet I rarely see spam. There are very few false positives.

Gmail is still only available by invite only. Drop me a line and I will send an invite to you. Just give me a first and last name.

The TTC issue

Texas is like the rest of the country, is ruled by Republicans. The Executive, both halves of the Legislature are run by the Republicans. They must be credited not only with good bills and laws, but must be held accountable for the lousy spending, budgets and bills. We put in the Republicans in power to make make our government smaller, and to reflect our values as voters.

Our Governor has sponsered and supported the Trans Texas Corridor This program is massive but isn't getting much attention. This program is about sending Texas dollars to Spanish Business.
Without advance public notice, and announced late on the last day for legislative bills to be filed without the Governor's approval, TxDOT Officials joined by Governor Perry and Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters signed a 342-page agreement with Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA (Madrid, Spain) to create a master plan to finance and build the TTC-35 Trans Texas Corridor generally parallel to IH-35 from the Valley to the Red River. Despite growing concerns over the TTC project, Governor Perry and state officials are charging ahead as quickly as possible to build the first 600-mile segment of the 4,000-mile Trans Texas Corridor. Portions of this agreement are being kept secret under the guise that they contain proprietary business information.

The problem is that they don't feel accountable. Us Texans are not about to start voting for liberal Democrats, and the Republicans know it.

Texas Governors are pretty useless, they don't have a lot of constitutional power. Perry is no exeption, He has one main power, and that is as a spokesman. He is one of the early proponants of this insane Govenment takeover. One strength that a governer does have is that of a spokesman. He/ she has a voice and a puplit as governor. He has the ability to put the Texas Legislature under the spotlight and focus on the idiocy.

Along comes Kinky Friedman an outspoken Jewish country singer. He hasn'' said much about the TTC but has spoken about big money and influence in Austin.
Today, Texans have no choice for their leadership except paper or plastic.
Political parties are for sale to the highest bidder, and lobbyists control the
Texas Legislative agenda. "A fool and his money are soon elected. " - Kinky

If Kinky becomes a loud critic of the TTC he'll likely get my support. I believe that as governor he is the best choice to serve the people of Texas as governor, and a spokesman for the the people of Texas. Outsiders have served the people of Minnesotta and California well, perhaps it is our turn.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Intel Doubles Up

Intel is releasing a dual core processor that will require no special software to take advantage of its multithreading capabilities. This will give added speed and reliability to those of us that run multiple demanding programs simultaneously.

All of today's desktop processors are single-core, which means each processor only has a single processing core. Dual-core processors have two processing cores on each chip, which allows the processor to handle more processing "threads" at the same time. You'd think that dual-core processors can do twice the work of a single-core CPU, but the overhead associated with dividing the processor workload makes it difficult to achieve that kind of efficiency.

The real benefit of multicore processing is that it allows you to run multiple processor-intensive tasks at the same time. You could, for instance run a game and a PVR program at the same time and experience minimal performance degradation. Running those programs on a single-core processor will likely result in choppy frame rates or poor video recordings.

This progression is not without cost.

Documents released to system builders specify the Thermal design power (TDP) of Smithfield processors at 130 watts. This represents an increase of more than 13 percent over today's Pentium 4 5xx (Prescott) and the upcoming 6xx (2 MByte L2 Cache), which post 115 watts. Maximum supply current climbs from 119 ampere to 125 ampere. The new chips also consume more power than Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.46 GHz processor (116.7 watts) and Intel's most demanding chip: The Itanium 2 1.6 GHz consumes 122 watts.

Considering that Smithfield chips integrate two processor cores, a power consumption of 130 watts may sound acceptable. But the fact that the Pentium 4 560 (3.6 GHz, 115 watts) already runs at the processor's thermal limits, it is likely that Smithfield processors at least will require more powerful cooling solutions than the conventional cooling fans we are used to at this time.

This puppy is hot, and consumes a lot of current. John Dvorak thinks this might not only be the firt dual proccessor but the first dual purpose processor.
The big drawback to these things is that the power required for the chip may be around 130 watts! This is an awful lot of heat to dissipate. I'm thinking that the best design would have the chip on the outside of the box on top where it could serve as a coffee warmer. A true dual processor—as in dual use. And practical, too!