Here’s Your Sign City streets are littered by orders

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

City streets are littered by orders

THE STREET CORNER – “No U-turn.” “Left Lane Closed.’ “So is Right Lane.” “Do Not Pass Go.” “Go Directly to Jail.” These traffic signs tell us the speed limit, when to turn, where to park, why there is a God. This is most confusing. Houston has too many street signs.

Not only are the signs hard enough to read while zipping through a school zone at 50 miles per hour, talking on the cell phone and eating a James Coney Island hot dog, the situation is made more confusing because each sign requires its own pole. There is one pole for the stop sign, another for a no parking warning, yet another pole in the concrete for the speed limit sign. And, of course, Metro has to have its own signs all over town telling us which day the bus will arrive. At busy intersections with traffic lights up above, there are even more signs dangling from them. The whole display looks like an eye chart for nomads.

Not all street signs are equal. Some commercial areas, such as the Westchase District, have their own boutique street signs. Very spiffy. Or drive from Houston to Bellaire or Piney Point, and you will find different colored street signs. And there are various colored signs for different operations. Gold and maroon signs tell us about toll roads. Signs warning of road construction are orange (and show one guy leaning on a shovel and three others standing around watching).

Metro signs are red, white and blue, as are those pointing toward our interstate highways. Incidentally, the big I-H signs are the same in all 50 states and were designed by Richard Oliver, a traffic engineer with the Texas Highway Department. The feds made one change: Oliver’s version was black and white. In some places around Houston, we also have state highway signs. Don’t forget that part of Westheimer from west of the West Loop to Fulshear is a state farm-to-market road. That’s why we see so many John Deere tractors parked at the Galleria.

A growing trend among traffic signs is to show pictures instead of words. This probably has something to do with our growing population of newcomers whose English vocabulary is limited and whose French is fractured. So we have a big H to show there is a hospital (or hog farm) nearby. An airplane denotes that an airport is up ahead. There are lots of arrows. Here, on Westheimer, is the picture of a bicycle indicating that the far right side of the road is reserved for bikes. Anyone who is dumb enough to ride a bicycle along this street should keep an eye out for the nearest H. And we have the pictures with slashes through them prohibiting parking, pillaging or smoking. My own neighborhood is so Republican that its entrance sports a slash mark through a donkey.

The worst overkill of street signs that I can find is at the corner of Richmond and Barrington Road, which turns into Lampasas Street at this point, so there are signs telling us about the name change. These warnings tell us of school zones, speed limits, when and where to turn. They are on light poles, telephone poles and power poles. Some signs are all alone. One sign, one pole. On this single intersection I count 21 poles and 22 signs (not all the poles have signs and some have two or three).

A motorist could get whiplash just trying to read these traffic instructions, and there is no way any passing driver could read all the instructions.

“Didn’t you see that sign, Mister?”
“No, officer. Which sign?”
“That one right there. ‘No High-Speed Chases,’ right between the arrows pointing in all four directions and the ‘Armadillo Crossing’ warning.”

Here is a most interesting sign at a cut-through on a median of a boulevard: “No U-turn. Sat.-Sun. 2 a.m.-6 a.m.” We must ponder this for a moment. It’s OK to U-turn during rush hours Monday through Friday, but you can get a ticket if you turn around in the middle of the night on weekends. Did we really pay for such a loony sign? Why?

This brings us to the cost. No matter which government entity put up all these words and pictures, you and I paid for them. So, I have a plan to save us money. We limit each corner of each intersection to one pole, and every government from the feds to Metro uses that pole to nail up its orders to the passing motorists, who can just scroll down the list. We could save even more tax dollars by putting a single pole right in the middle of the intersection, but that sucker wouldn’t last an hour before it was flattened.

Downtown Houston does it up right. Here on the corner of Walker and Smith, for example, the city has one pole on each corner, sort of a decorator-designed pole with a street light on top, traffic light about half way up, a walk-don’t-walk sign, and the street sign reading “Walker” attached on the same pole. One corner, one pole.

Adding to the eye-sores at many Houston intersections are the so-called “pirate signs” stuck on sticks or nailed to telephone poles. They are advertising computer repairing, pest control and lawn sprinkler installation. Then, there are the filthy, bearded guys holding signs reading, “Former Enron Exec. Will testify for money.” After each election, the candidates leave their campaign signs all over the place.

We know who’s responsible for these cardboard eyesores, the names of the company or candidates are right there. Couldn’t we have the staff from the mayor pro tem’s office, which seems to have extra time on its hands, call up the miscreants and tell them to take down these blights? I would make one exception: signs about lost pets.

Yes, there are more important matters to discuss today than the proliferation of street signs – weighty questions such as the Astros’ bullpen, which housewife is the most desperate and whatever happened to Bud Adams. I just feel we really do need to rein in our forest of warning shots. If not, in return for my big campaign contribution to the winning candidates, forget that appointment as a UT regent or, even better, the TSU presidency. I want the traffic sign concession.

Musical Medicine

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

A doctor who understands the healing powers of music

Highly regarded clinical psychologist Dr. Marian Yeager has contributed significantly to the field of mental health, as well as to the joy of music. With a private practice begun in the 1950s, she must know where the bodies are buried and what’s hidden in the proverbial closets of many a Houstonian. But she’s not telling! She is as closed-mouthed as the Jesuits who taught her in college.

Passion for music
Psychology was not Dr. Yeager’s first passion. Growing up in a musical family in Uptown New Orleans, the young girl was a gifted pianist. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in music at Loyola. “My early college years were wonderful, and the Jesuits didn’t try to convert me!” She went on to teach music at Loyola and, “had quite a career concerticizing and playing piano on the radio.” With encouragement from her aunt (the doctor), Marian’s interest in psychology blossomed, and she decided to pursue a Ph.D. The University of Houston’s renowned psychology department brought her to the Bayou City.

It was in class that she met her future husband, Dr. Nobel Enete. “He was sitting near me, and I looked at him and said, ‘I like your red shirt.’ And he said, ‘You must wear it sometime,'” she remembers. Not only did she marry the Rio de Janeiro native, but she eventually opened a private practice with him.

Coursework at the University of Houston was followed by residency training at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. After graduation, her first position was on the staff of M.D. Anderson Hospital, where she participated in the tremendous growth of the facility. “It was a thrilling time,” she says. “It was the beginning.”

Group therapy
Dr. Yeager was among the first to offer group therapy in Houston. “We went to New York quite a bit to train for group (therapy),” she says. “We had great teachers. Houstonians’ attitudes toward group therapy assisted in the growth of this treatment throughout the Southwest.”

Today, in addition to her private practice, Dr. Yeager is on the staff of Texas Children’s Hospital and is clinical psychologist emeritus at Baylor College of Medicine. She is a board member and distinguished fellow of the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the Southwestern Group Psychotherapy Society. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Foundation and is founder of the Houston Group Psychotherapy Society.

Three months ago, the American Group Psychotherapy Association honored Dr. Yeager for her contributions to the field. Hers is a field she has nurtured, but her job, as she sees it, is still the same – whether it is working with individuals, couples or families. “I assist people in understanding what is contributing to their pain and finding ways and means of experiencing relief and moving toward a healthier way of living,” Dr. Yeager says.

Healthy living
Her continuing love of music has helped Dr. Yeager with her own healthy living. “Music enhances health and contrasts the death, pain and suffering so often seen in the medical world,” she says. Dr. Yeager has served on the boards of the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet. She was honored in 2004 by the Moores School of Music and is also supportive of Shepherd School of Music.

Dr. Yeager is active with the Huffington Center on Aging, which gave her its Spirit of Ann Morrow Linbergh Award. She is a founding member of The WomenÍs Fund for Health, Education and Research, as well as a charter member of The Partnership for Baylor. She serves on the board of Cancer Counseling, too.

At home
If you can find her at home between work and charities, you will most likely find Dr. Yeager in her large sun room. It is like sitting in an air-conditioned greenhouse – here, you are completely surrounded by light, trees and plants. A piano is visible in the living room, and there are photographs everywhere. Most of the pictures are of her four grandchildren and her husband. She exudes the balance in life that she advocates for others.

Home Sweet Home

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

All Star Miracle Home will raise $2 million for Children’s Miracle Network of Houston

Meritage Homes broke the ground for its latest project, Houston’s own All Star Miracle Home, on March 21 in Missouri City’s prestigious Sienna Plantation community. Benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network of Houston, some of the biggest names in Houston, including the Houston Rockets, Guaranty Bank, RE/MAX¨ of Texas and H Texas, have come together to make this outreach program possible. The home’s ground breaking was celebrated with a digging ceremony, a home tour, spectacles in the sky performed by the RE/MAX skydiving team and delicious delights by Spectrum Catering. The project’s major donors were in attendance, as well as the Rockets mascot, Clutch, and members of the Houston Rockets Power Dancers. Two hundred tickets were purchased at the kick-off celebration, raising $20,000 on the project’s opening day.

The All Star Miracle Home will be a fully furnished and landscaped home, built by Meritage Homes and valued at $500,000, to be raffled off to one lucky winner. Entries may be purchased for $100 by Feb. 13, 2007. Raising $2 million for Children’s Miracle Network of the greater Houston area, 20,000 entries will be sold. Meritage Homes built its first All Star Miracle Home in 1996 in Phoenix, Ariz., and has raised nearly $8 million for the Children’s Miracle Network designated hospital in Phoenix. Houston’s home, located in the beautiful Spice Ridge Community of Sienna Plantation, will come complete with the finest upgrades, furniture, appliances, and a luxurious swimming pool in the backyard by Anthony &Sylvan Pools. The Houston Rockets will also design a custom room for the home. Tours of the All Star Miracle Home will be open to the public beginning in August.

Entries may be purchased at all Meritage Homes, Legacy Homes and Texas Big sales offices, as well as RE/MAX offices throughout the Houston area. You may also purchase your chance to win by visiting the All Star Miracle Home’s website,, or by calling 1 (866) 616-2244. All of the proceeds will directly benefit Children’s Miracle Network to assist in the health needs of children throughout Houston, as well as the Houston Rockets Clutch City Foundation, which focuses on impacting the lives of Houston’s youth community.

Creating Families

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Local charity helps children find a new family

Every day, there are more than 800 children available for adoption in the Houston area alone. Some were given up at birth, while others were taken out of abusive households and placed in foster care. The Homes of St. Mark offers hope to these children. This charitable children’s service agency delivers alternative services to aid in positive family formation, preservation and change.

Bright beginnings, bright future
The Homes of St. Mark was founded in 1955 by a group of benevolent women of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church with the intention of providing charitable children’s services. In 1957, the agency was chartered and became a separate nonprofit organization, making it no longer affiliated with any church or religion. Since then, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services licensed the Homes of St. Mark to provide foster care services to children in the Houston area. The group offers preparation to potential foster parents and provides them with on-going educational services. The staff of the Homes of St. Mark works as a liaison between foster families and the managing conservators of the children.

About the children
Many children enter foster care under the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, due to neglect, abuse or abandonment. Other times, parents recognize they are unable to care for their children. Parents sometimes temporarily place their children in foster care voluntarily. Children in foster care represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds, religions and ages. Many of the children are members of sibling groups, more than 2 years old, and have been abused physically, emotionally or sexually. They are in desperate need of parents who are able to provide them with permanent, loving and stable homes.

Forming families
Building personal relationships with adoptive families, a full range of adoptive services are available to ensure the children find a nurturing and secure home. To guarantee a safe, loving and stable home, all potential families are screened with criminal background checks, child abuse checks, references and for health and financial stability. An array of services are available to adoptive families, including pre-adoption counseling, monthly support-group meetings, birthparent facilitation, open adoption education, and post-adoption counseling and support.

Fostering love
Do you think you may have room in your heart and home to become a foster family? Being a foster parent is a rewarding and eye-opening experience. In order to prepare potential foster families, the Homes of St. Mark requires you to attend a foster care orientation meeting. This meeting provides potential foster families with a wealth of information about caring for a foster child. In addition to an application, pre-service preparation classes are required. The orientation and preparation classes serve to enable foster families to get the most out of being a foster parent.

Considering adopting a child? Adoption is a wonderful way to open not only your home, but also your heart to children in need.

3000 Richmond, Ste. 570
(713) 522-2800

Works of Art on Wheels

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Art Car Weekend rolls through Houston this month

It’s that time of year again! The Orange Show Center for Visionary Art’s Ev1.Net Art Car Weekend will be taking place May 12-14. Art Car Weekend is rooted in the creation of a “fruitmobile,” a 1967 Ford station wagon that was transformed into an extravagant work of art by local artist Jackie Harris for the Orange Show, a folk-art environment in Houston’s east end, in 1984.

After receiving much hype around the Bayou City, the Orange Show organized a road show to display the “fruitmobile” and 11 other artistically altered automobiles at the Orange Show monument. In 1987, the Houston International Festival asked the Orange Show to organize an art parade to launch the opening of the annual event. Thus, the Art Car Parade was born in 1988 and became an instant hit throughout the Houston community.

Today, Everyone’s Art Car Parade, sponsored by Everyone’s Internet, consists of more than 500 decorated parade entries on wheels that include everything from lawnmowers to cars. The once-tiny showcase, appealing to the art community, has now transformed into a three-day celebration that attracts a live audience of some 200,000 and a television audience of more than 170,000 homes. Local organizations, communities, schools and professionals have all become participants in the annual parade, which has no pre-selection process, but has grown to become artistically competitive and equally impressive.

Ev1.Net Art Car Weekend begins on Friday, May 12, with the Main Street Drag, an outreach program that gives art car artists the opportunity to visit thousands of children in area hospitals and schools. The world’s largest and oldest art car parade rolls through the streets of Houston on Saturday, May 13 at 1 p.m., followed by the Orange Show awards ceremony on Sunday, May 14, that honors the winning wheels in 17 categories.

Since its humble beginnings, Art Car Weekend has become an integral part of Houston’s art society and the city, itself. As it continues to grow in popularity, this out-of-this-world attraction in Space City brings visitors from all over.

Orange Show Center for Visionary Art
2402 Munger St.
(713) 926-6368

Discovering Mother Nature

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

New museum offers a look into our weather

With the recent weather disasters, everyone has paid a bit more attention to Mother Nature. At Houston’s new Weather Museum, you can learn about the science behind weather formation and the development of storms. We never know what type of severe weather we may encounter, so this museum offers a look at them all.

A project of the Weather Research Center, a nonprofit organization hoping to curtail lost lives and property due to severe weather and poor communication to the public, the museum opened its doors last month. In addition to teaching the public about weather formation and patterns, the museum aims to teach students how math and science are used in the real world. The goal is that more students will realize the advantages of learning about math and science – and the fun and exciting things you can do with them.

Severe storms
The Weather Museum recognizes that knowledge is the best protection against the dangers of severe weather. In the Touch A Tornado area, you can see a 6-foot-tall tornado form before your eyes. The Hurricane in the Round exhibit exposes the dangers of hurricanes and their nature. Even common thunderstorms can produce dangerous conditions. The Lights-Sounds-Action: Lightning-Thunder-Wind-Hail exhibit educates visitors about thunderstorm safety. Interactive computers will show the growth and maturity of thunderstorms, as well as their power.

Back to the basics
In the Weather Wizards Corner, you can learn about how weather works. This interactive exhibit features a local meteorologist performing various weather experiments. At the Rain, Rain Go Away! exhibit, you create a flash flood on a tabletop and are taught how to protect yourself if you ever find yourself in one’s path. Storm surges are also explained in this exciting area. Don’t miss the It’s a Scorcher! and the It’s Cold Outside! exhibits, which expose the dangers of extreme heat and cold, as well as the ins and outs of heat indexes and wind chills.

The past and the future
Take a look back at weather forecasting’s infancy. The Weather Forecasting Through History area explores the tools of weather forecasting of generations past, including a room replicating a World War II weather office.

Ever consider being a TV weatherman? At the Be Your Own Weatherman exhibit, you can stand in front of the blue screen and give it a go. It even includes a camera to record your weather forecast. Not all meteorologists are TV weather personalities. In the What Do Meteorologists Do? exhibit, you discover the many careers available to meteorologists and what different universities have to offer.

Ways to learn
The Weather Museum and Weather Research Center offer a variety of educational programs for children and adults, alike. Summer weather camps, special talks and various demonstrations offer an array of opportunities. High school and college students studying meteorology can benefit from internships that the Weather Museum offers. Adult tours and programs designed for teachers are also available. – Christi Phillips

5104 Caroline
(713) 529-3076

Fraser Island, Australia

May 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Blogs, Edit, Travel Blog

Touring Australia’s environmental masterpiece

Mother Nature has a way of reminding us that she is in charge. Some reminders are horrible, such as hurricanes or tsunamis. Other wonders of nature are awe-strikingly beautiful, such as the Queensland area of Australia on Fraser Island. In fact, the aboriginal name for the island is “K’Gari,” which literally translates to “paradise.”

Fraser Island is made completely of sand, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The land is lush and full of fresh-water lakes and forests. It is, in fact, the largest sand island in the world; and elevations may look like hills, but they’re not, they’re dunes. Sound weird? You’ve got to see it to believe it.

To really explore the island, take a private four-wheel-drive tour led by a park ranger. (If you’re lucky, your tour will be led by the head ranger.) Prior to 1991, many of the roads on the island were used by loggers. Thankfully, environmentalists put a stop to the logging.

Barreling through the forest, the first stop is the look-out point for the sand blow, a vast expanse of sand. (If you’ve got an active imagination, you might be able to make out the characters from “Star Wars” walking across this desert.) With vegetation all around you, it’s easy to forget that you are on an island of sand. The guide explains the abundance of vegetation despite fertile soil, saying that new sand with new nutrients blows in daily on the northern and southern currents. The sand is deposited here, and the plants absorb the nutrients to sustain themselves.

This is the first stop, and the guide offers tea and cookies – nothing like touring the forest in style. A heron pops by to check out our snacks and becomes the first of many bird sightings on this journey. Australia has approximately 700 species of birds, and nearly half of them live on Fraser Island.

The forest here is full of amazing plants and foliage. The squiggle gum tree is interesting because moths hatch under the bark, eat away at it, and leave squiggle marks behind. The paper bark doesn’t burn, so, it’s no wonder that it is used in food preparation here, such as bark-wrapped barramundi fish. You’ll also see hop, which is used to make beer, as well as a male and female wedding bush. They bloom only two weeks out of the year and are a good sign that spring is coming.

One side of the island boasts serene sandy beaches. The ocean is many shades of blue and turquoise while the surf is pretty rough – but there are no surfers here. The sand is so smooth; it appears to be a groomed beach. Closer inspection reveals tiny balls created by sand crabs that eat nutrients from the sand and dispel these little balls. The plants that grow in the sand are called salt bush – crispy like a green bean, natives use them for salt and water. They are a zesty addition to any salad.

Looking toward land from the surf, there are many freshwater springs streaming down like little rivers. There are more than 100 freshwater lakes that spring up all over this island, even as you are descending to the beach. Because the sand here is hard enough to contain the water, lakes are found in abundance.

The most famous lake here is Lake McKenzie. You’ve never seen such white sand. Some days, it’s full of backpackers from the local hostel who don’t seem to mind the cold temperature of the water. Swimming here is said to be medicinal, due to the water’s pH – great for the hair and skin.

After a long day of touring, guests head back to the only resort on the island, the Kingfisher Bay Resort. Everything at this resort revolves around one goal: to live at peace with nature. In fact, when you arrive via ferry, you can barely see the estate through all the greenery.

The whole resort is designed to be just like a Queenslander’s house, which means it’s elevated on poles for easy wind flow. The tin roof curves to resemble sand dunes, and all the rooms and villas have large porches, since most of the time in Queensland is spent outside.

Getting to your room is almost like traversing a tree house with the elevated walkways. Native plants growing inside are from the rainforest, and there is even a bird nesting in one of the trees. The raised ceilings evoke a nautical theme with stainless-steel beams holding the roof up like a ship’s mast and rigging. Classes are even held to educate guests about the environment. One such learning experience is the bush tucker class, which introduces guests to the native tastes of the island.

Step outside, look up and you have a chance to see the Southern Cross constellation. For thousands of years, it led people south. Tonight, it leads you to a great dinner.

Dinner is created using as many indigenous ingredients as possible. In fact, some of the items are grown on the property at the recycling center. Focusing on natural sustainability, the resort has a waste recycle center that combines waste with paper and feeds it to worms. Then, the compost is used to grow herbs. Continuing with the circle of life, the chef draws from this supply of herbs daily.

Kingfisher Bay Resort, Mainland Terminal, Buccaneer Drive, Urangan, Hervey Bay, 4655,