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NORTH CHANNEL CHAMBER: Mattress Mack speaks at luncheon

mattress mackI’ve known Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale since about 1980, when we both arrived in Houston from “up north” — he Dallas, me Pennsylvania. Over the years, I have heard him speak dozen of times, yet I never tire of his message, and his delivery. His energy, dedication, and focus is amazing for a man with 300 employees, and major health problems.

His message is about hard work as the key to success, and the importance of the customer and his or her interests.

Over the years, his “stump speech” has been refined, and now it is not just about his life’s story of creating a successful business, but more about the trials, challenges, and triumphs he and his family faced along the way, and the importance of relationships.

Do you know anyone else as optimistic, with a big smile, who has had their building set on fire by an arsonist, undergone major heart surgery, and had a daughter with a serious debilitating disease, OCD?

Mack paced the stage of the San Jacinto Monument Room last Friday, as he told his story to an enthralled room of Chamber members and guests.

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Botsky’s

botskys hot dogThe menu speaks volumes: MacDaddy & Cheese, Slawdog Millionaire, and other fun and catchy names hint at the fun you’ll have in this downtown Lake Charles, Louisiana eatery long before the hot dogs are delivered to your table.

This unique eatery does one thing and does it remarkably well. They specialize in hot dogs.

I parked just down the block on Pujo Street and headed west towards the place and one of the first things I noticed was the simple sign hung from the vintage building’s facade. It features a mythical creature: the jackalope.

This is my kind of place.

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Quilts at San Antonio’s Texas Cultural Center

don springer headshotEach year while I am visiting with my son Dave in Crosby we make our way to several of the Texas cities and towns. We did again this year-my 15th winter to be spent in Crosby. Almost all of those years we have found our way to San Antonio, one of my favorite American cities. The winter of 2015 was no different.

We went to San Antonio last week for about five days and found our way to the usual haunts. On all of our trips we have visited two of the SA sites, The Alamo and Riverwalk. We visit the Alamo for obvious reasons-out of respect of those who fought and died there. As for the Riverwalk, I go because I have always found it enjoyable and Dave, perhaps because he knows I want to go tags along. We always take a leisurely stroll along the river, usually take a boat ride although that was not so this year, and then pick a restaurant, for a fine evening meal.

We have never been disappointed with our choice of an evening meal there nor have we ever been disappointed with our visits to San Antonio. It is a great place.

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Getting Rid of Clutter

Whether you plan to stay in your home forever or sell it and move to smaller accommodations, getting rid of clutter can make your life easier and safer.

Here are a few very good reasons to declutter:

• Fewer opportunities to trip and fall. Consider what happens when a senior falls and breaks a bone: hospital, rehab and the question of where to go afterward. Can the senior go home and live independently again? Sometimes the answer is no.

• Organizing makes things easier to find.

• Clutter can be dangerous. If emergency services have to come to your house, will they be able to get to you? Or are pathways in rooms too narrow? Taken to an extreme, holding on to too many possessions can be called hoarding, and sometimes social services will step in to deal with it. Your best bet is to declutter long before it gets to that point.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Magazines and newspapers: Allow yourself three of each. When a fourth monthly magazine or daily paper arrives, throw out the oldest one in the stack.

• Keep incoming bills or correspondence in one spot, perhaps a basket or folder on the dining-room table, until you write checks or reply.

• Instead of viewing it as an overwhelming task, work on decluttering for an hour a day.

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Grand jury indicts governor on counts

AUSTIN — A Travis County grand jury on Aug. 15 indicted Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

Count I alleges Perry, on or about June 14, 2013, intended to harm Rosemary Lehmberg, Travis County district attorney and chief of the state’s Public Integrity Unit, by intentionally or knowingly misusing public property in withholding funding approved by the Texas Legislature for the operation of the Public Integrity Unit.

Count II alleges Perry by means of coercion and in his official capacity as a public servant threatened to veto legislation funding the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned as district attorney.

Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013. She served a short jail sentence, publicly apologized, underwent counseling and returned to her elected post as district attorney and chief of the Public Integrity Unit, a division of the district attorney’s office that investigates and prosecutes criminal activity involving state government and state government officials.

Lehmberg refused to resign. Perry reacted with a line-item veto of the funding approved for the Public Integrity Unit ($7.5 million) in the state’s 2014-2015 general appropriations bill, SB 1. Perry explained the veto this way: “Despite the otherwise good work the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued State funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence . This unit is in no other way held accountable to state taxpayers, except through the State budgetary process. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.”

Mary Anne Wiley, general counsel for Perry, issued a statement saying, “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

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Change is in the air for Texans, UT, and college football as 2014 season nears

mike keeney“Change” is definitely the word in these parts when it comes to the 2014 football season.

Houston Texans fans got the change they asked for when longtime head coach Gary Kubiak was fired last December and replaced by former Penn State, and Bill Belichick acolyte, Bill O’Brien in January. University of Texas fans got the change they clamored for when Mack Brown stepped down after 16 years leading the Longhorns and was replaced by former Louisville head football coach Charlie Strong.

And college football fans finally got the change they had been asking for when the highly unpopular Bowl Championship Series (BCS) was done away with and the College Football Playoff was born. The new system will pit the top four rated teams chosen by a selection committee made up of individuals with coaching experience, student-athletes, collegiate administrators and current athletic directors. The committee will choose the top four teams for the playoff, rank them (1-4) and assign them to the semifinal games. The selection committee will choose the four national semifinalists based on strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors.

This year’s semifinal games will be held on Jan. 1 and will be the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl. The No. 1 and No. 4 seed will meet in the Rose Bowl, while the No. 2 and No. 3 seed will meet in the Sugar Bowl. Each year, the national semifinals will rotate among those two bowls and the Fiesta, Orange, Cotton and Peach bowls in coming years.

The inaugural national championship game will be played on Monday, Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Jerry World). Read on to see who yours truly thinks will be the four teams to be this year’s semifinalists and the overall national champion, along with a number of other predictions.

While University of Texas fans are hoping their team will be making the trek to Arlington for the national title game, they might be getting a bit ahead of themselves. The ‘Horns still have some holes in their team, but I have a feeling UT fans will like what they see from their new head coach. The no-nonsense Strong laid down the law right off the bat and dismissed seven players from the team during the spring and summer for violating team rules. I have a feeling Texas will be a more disciplined team in 2014 and will be much better on defense. The key to how far they go will center on quarterback David Ash, who missed a majority of the 2013 season with a concussion. He followed that injury up by breaking his foot during spring drills, but has been cleared for the upcoming season. The 6-4 Ash has talent and speed and if healthy would be a huge plus for the UT offense, which should field a strong running game led by the powerful Malcolm Brown and the speedy and elusive Johnathan Gray, who is coming off an Achilles injury but has also been cleared to play this season.

Texas should be in the Big 12 mix, but it appears Oklahoma and Baylor are the class of the league heading into the season. Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished off the 2013 season in impressive season by blasting Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. The Sugar Bowl was a coming out party for quarterback Trevor Knight and he should be ready for a big season in 2014. The offense is loaded and so is the defense as nine starters return this year.

Scoring won’t be a problem for Art Briles’ Baylor Bears, who won the Big 12 last year and return a pretty fair signal caller in Bryce Petty, who set a school passing record last season. He has plenty of weapons to call on once again, but the big question in Waco will be how much improved will the Baylor defense be? That unit was exposed in the Fiesta Bowl by Central Florida and the Bears will face much better offenses than CFU with the likes of OU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas on their schedule.

Not only will Baylor be looking to win a second straight league title, but they will also be opening a new stadium, named after former Houston Astros owner, and major Baylor contributor Drayton McLane Jr.

Please read below for how one person thinks the major conferences will shake out this year.

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Yard Work

don springer headshotI’ve been home a month today and I’m right back where I am every year at this time — behind. At least the grass has been cut twice since returning and trimmed almost all the way around the house at least once, mostly twice.

Every year I think I’m returning earlier so I will be in step with my neighbors on outside house and lawn care but it never happens. I think of the colder temperatures here in March and decide the Houston area is more appealing to me. Now, everything is nice and warm here and Dave tells me you have had some really hot and humid weather there already.

Saw in the paper where the temp. hit 106 in Brownsville a few days ago. Hottest April day in history I read. I’m ready to submit to the gods when it gets that hot and humid. Experienced a lot of those hot temperatures the two years we were in Saudi, but never the humidity.

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Cat-Dog relationship

don springer headshotHave you ever seen a dog kiss a cat? No? Neither have I. Why would I ask such a question?

I am currently reading columnist Charles Krauthammer’s new book “Things that Matter,” which I find most interesting. It is a compilation of his columns from the Washington Post, Time, etc. over the past three decades.

In the early part of his book, Krauthammer, talks of a dog that had been in the family for a few years and suddenly died. His pre-teen son had a friend that visited often and upon hearing of Chester’s death (the dog’s name) he said he was sorry Chester had died as he was the only dog he had ever seen kiss a cat. Krauthammer dropped that subject there and didn’t explain, if he knew, how that kissing scene came about. Most of his columns are far more serious and deal with national government, politics, and relationships that fit that ilk.

Back to the dogs.

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Back in Crosby

don springer headshotThe Christmas and New Year celebrations are over and we should now be back at the old routine of winter. I always regret the end of the holiday period and that we just finished is no exception. This was however a little different for me. This was the first time in more than twenty years I wasn’t at home at Christmas time with most of my family, which is growing smaller as the year’s progress.

For the first time in my life I spent the Christmas holiday with David here in Crosby. He and I had a good celebration for a few days before Christmas and sometime later. I arrived in Crosby this year about mid-December which is some three weeks earlier than usual. While this was my first time away from home on Christmas it was the first Christmas in about twenty years that David has had a family member to celebrate Christmas. Unfortunately being a chemist in a chemical plant he has had to work on Christmas day about 17 out of the last twenty years.

It doesn’t seem possible but this is my 14th winter in Crosby and about 17 or 18 visits here during that period. Linda and I started visiting Dave in Crosby in 1999, right after he moved to this fine community. Another thing that doesn’t seem possible is that he has been a Texas resident for more than 30 years. Time does fly! I still think of him as a West Virginian but he has lived in Texas at least five years more than in the Mountain State.

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Bowl Game previews

Florida State hopes to end SEC’s run of BCS title run

The bowl season is well underway, but the big games begin on New Year’s Eve when Texas A&M faces Duke in the Chik-fil-A Bowl in what could be Johnny Manziel’s final game for the Aggies.

Locally, both Rice and the University of Houston will be bowling this season as the 10-3, Conference USA champs Owls will face Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl on New Year’s Eve, while the 8-4 Cougars will also be facing a SEC team when they face Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 4.

The Big 12 champion Baylor Bears will be playing in their first BCS bowl ever when they face 11-1 Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl.

But the game everybody is waiting for will be the BCS Championship game, which will pit No. 1-ranked Florida State and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston against No. 2-ranked Auburn and their potent run offense. Auburn was one of the best stories of the 2013 season. The Tigers were coming off a 3-9 season in 2012 and had a new head coach in Gus Malzahn. Malzahn installed his run-happy offense and the Tigers piled up gaudy numbers en route to an 11-1 season, which included two last-second wins over Georgia and Alabama that saved their season.

While Auburn was pulling out heart stoppers, Florida State pretty much dominated every team they played on their way to a 13-0 season and the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Winston was a threat with his arm and his legs, but this team is not a one-man show. There is talent on both sides of the ball and it appears head coach Jimbo Fisher has brought the Seminoles back to being one of the top teams in college football as they were for decades under former head coach Bobby Bowden.

There should be a lot of good games to watch  over the next week for college football fans, but before we take a look at what’s on tap, let’s review last week’s record. A 5-4 record brought the season record to 116-61 (66%).

Now, let’s see what the bowl season has to offer.

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