My Cell Phone Is Magic!

November 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Blogs, The Glamorous Life / Jo Barrett

Last Tuesday night, something happened. I saw a UFO. I’m kidding. It was just a plane. Southwest, I think. (I could tell because peanuts rained down on my head, and I heard singing.) But something else did happen, and it was freakier than a UFO.

My Blackberry spoke to me.

It was last Tuesday night. I was asleep in bed, having my usual hot, sweaty, athletic, um, evening rendezvous with Keanu Reeves. (Tuesday night is Neo Night.) Wednesday, I reserve for Clooney, (Ocean’s Up!) and Thursday I’m booked solid with Brad Pitt. In my dreams, I’m Angelina.

But back to my cell phone. It was on my nightstand, and suddenly it began to buzz. Madly. It was buzzing so much, I looked over at Keanu, patted him on the head, and told him to please hurry up because I was about to wake — BZZZZZ!!!

I woke up. Crestfallen, of course. Instead of Keanu, my bed partner turned out to be a goose down body pillow from Bed Bath and Beyond Me. (I mean, please. That store is uber expensive. Even with the coupon.)

I pick up my cell, turn it over in my hands, stare at it, and go, “WHAT?!?”

And, I swear—as God is my witness—my phone said, “You’re getting fat.” I sat up in bed, stared at my cruel Blackberry and said in a cool as cucumber voice: “I’m not fat. This is water weight.”

At this point, my phone flashed a photo of me. “Check out your stomach,” it said. I glanced down. And I hate to say it, but my phone was right. I felt angry. Confused. A train wreck on two fat feet.

How could it have known? Had my Blackberry looked at me one day and thought, “I can’t believe she’s eating another cookie?” Was my phone becoming invaluable? Like a little personal trainer?

Now, I know some of you probably don’t believe this story. But I’ve got proof. I still have the photo. Yes, it’s the photo my Blackberry took of me in the middle of the night while at the same time telling me I was becoming a real porker.

A question soon began to haunt me. Should I upgrade?

I mean, my phone was snapping photos and telling me I was getting fat. But was that really enough? I mean, was it possible for another phone to exist out there that could do even more than my Blackberry? I stayed awake the entire next night (Clooney night, shame) researching the features of the new iPhone. Here’s what I came up with: 1) The iPhone costs a million dollars.

2) However! The iPhone brews Starbucks coffee and delivers it to your desk with a smile.

3) The iPhone drowns out Paris Hilton’s voice on Larry King. (This is why it costs a million dollars.)

4) The iPhone will fix a flat tire on any car except a Hummer—out of principle.

5) For every dollar spent on the iPhone (red!), $100 goes to Bono, $1 million goes to Oprah, and a penny goes to the African health care crisis. Whoa! Wait a sec. That was out of line. But please don’t point the finger at me.

My phone totally typed that! It wasn’t me.

In fact, my Blackberry is taking over this column as we speak …

Ahhh, stop it, phone!

I can’t—

It’s … just … too … powerful!

(P.S. If you happen to work for Apple, and want to send me hate mail, please direct it to I don’t answer emails on Friday nights. Friday is DeNiro Night. Think: “Raging Bull.”)

Lynn Ashby on Sam Houston and Bud Adams

November 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

If it needs cutting, I’ll do it.

Ashby gets historical at the mere mention of Sam Houston. He gets hysterical at the mere thought of Bud Adams.

By Lynn Ashby

The best kept secret around here is that Houston has a history. Oh, sure, it’s hard to compare our past to that of Boston or San Antonio, but we can best Dallas, Denver and Detroit without breaking a sweat. For Houston has been a national capital, survived two military invasions, on its doorstep has what historians call the ninth most important battle in history. This is where Houstonians could bump into someone who walked on the moon, been President of one country or another, or the richest man in the world.

We do not celebrate our history as do other cities, mainly because we don’t have much to point out. No Alamo or French Quarter, no crumbling ruins around the area, unless you count Galveston. In Houston, we put an historical plaque on anything that gets a second coat of paint. We consider old timers those who were here during the last smog alert. The Historical Society’s Guidebook opens with, “Our story begins in 1922 when the city’s first air conditioning was installed in the Rice Hotel cafeteria. Before that, Houston was totally unlivable.”

We live in one of the few cities which can identify the very day it was born. It was on Aug. 30, 1836, when two developers from New York, ran an ad:  “There is no place in Texas more healthy, having an abundance of excellent spring water, and enjoying the sea breeze in all its freshness.” Ads were run in German newspapers touting the glories of Houston. In Hamburg, or maybe Brenan, I found some pamphlets that had been passed around the town back then. It showed Houston with snow-capped mountains in the background. Ski the Heights.

Why is Congress Street so named? Because when the Republic of Texas capital was Houston, the Capitol building was where the Rice Hotel now stands, which, in turn, was where our Congress met. You may have read that UH-Downtown, located in that big, red building, wants to change its name to something else. How about UH-Stalag? A Confederate POW camp for Yankees once sat on that spot.

How many presidents have lived in Houston? Five. It’s a trick question, sort of. We all know that George H.W. Bush is a resident and that George W. lived here during his wild bachelor days. Lyndon B. Johnson taught public speaking and was coach of the debate team at Sam Houston High School from 1930 to ’31. The two other presidents were Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar who were presidents of the Republic of Texas when its capital was in Houston.

Yes, History ‘R’ Us. Everyone knows about the Battle of San Jacinto, but we may forget that both the Mexican and Texian armies marched across Harris County to get to the battlefield. Santa Anna’s forces came from San Antonio and the Battle of the Alamo, marching roughly down today’s I-10, through downtown and on to San Jacinto. The Texian Army came from the northwest through Hempstead cut due south to the Heights and then east to the battlefield.

There was no Houston when Santa Anna’s army passed through, only Harrisburg, which he burned, but on the broad median of Bellaire Blvd. at Second Street is a Texas Historical Monument noting that “in this vicinity” on April 18, 1836, Deaf Smith and some other Texas scouts captured three Mexicans — Capt. Miguel Bachiller, a courier and a guide. Between questioning the three, and papers they carried, Smith learned all about Santa Anna’s army, strength, position and battle plans.

On Christmas Eve of 1837 word arrived in Houston that the Mexican Army was returning here. Among those who joined the instant militia was a new arrival, William Marsh Rice. As Houston was the capital, we had embassies here. The U.S. ambassador, a Mr. Labranche who lived in “a good cabin,” offered “protection of the flag if necessary” to his Texas friends. This story may explain how LaBranch Street got its name although with a different spelling.

A Houston newspaper editor, Dr. Francis Moore, got elected to the Republic of Texas Senate and worked for an anti-dueling law. Sen. Oliver Jones labeled it, “An Act for the Protection of Cowards.” The measure became law and until 1939 all Texas officials had to swear an oath that they had never taken part in a duel.

William Sydney Porter, aka O. Henry, lived while writing for The Houston Post.

In the early 1920s, Clark Gable worked for a winter stock company in Houston, but he could not conquer his stage fright. The show’s producer recalled, “Rehearsals went smoothly enough, but performances for him were a nightmare: his jaw became rigid, he forgot his lines, cold sweat beaded his forehead.” Gable was fired.

Then there were the Camp Logan Riots, one of the worst race riots and military mutinies in American history. It happened during World War I, but you can still see the streets where the angry black soldiers of the Third Battalion Twenty-fourth United States Infantry broke from their camp in what is now Memorial Park. It was a full force race riot. The ringleaders were later court martial led, hanged and buried at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio under tombstones with no names, only numbers.

Finally in our Houston history lesson, consider a fellow named Charles Hedenberg who persuaded an uncle living in New Jersey to come here to set up a carriage shop in the 1830s. The uncle arrived one morning and transferred his bags to his nephew’s business, Hedenberg and Vedder. Charles was quite busy at the time, so he suggested that his uncle go over to the Capitol and watch Congress in action.

The uncle agreed and went to the Capitol, whereupon he heard gunshots. He rushed to a hallway just in time to see Algernon Thompson, a Senate clerk, being carted off. Thompson had been severely wounded by another clerk. The uncle had seen enough of Texas government in action, so he left the Capitol and walked down the west side of Main Street.

As he passed the Round Tent Saloon, inside, one Texian soldier shot another. The wounded soldier staggered out and almost fell on the New Jerseyian. He ran across the street and arrived at John Carlos’ Saloon. Just then a man fell out of the saloon with his bowels protruding from a huge wound made by a Bowie knife. The newcomer raced back to his nephew’s store and asked, “Charley, have you sent my trunks to the house?”

“No, uncle. Not yet.”

“Well, do not send them. Get me a dray so I can at once take them to the boat that leaves for Galveston this afternoon.”

“Why, Uncle, what do you mean? You have seen nothing; have not had time to look at the town.”

“Charley,” said the uncle, “I have seen enough. I wish to return home immediately. I do not wish to see any more of Texas.” With that, he left, never to return.

And they say Houston has no history.

High Roller Condos in Grand Cayman, Oh My!

November 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman encompasses 144 lush acres of the Caribbean’s most serene and prosperous island. Known for one-of-a-kind guest experiences, the $500 million resort features a La Prairie Spa, five dining venues including a restaurant by Eric Ripert of top-ranking New York restaurant Le Bernardin, a tennis center by Nick Bollettieri and a nine-hole golf course, designed by Greg Norman.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Ritz-Carlson announced an exclusive 20,000 sq. ft. penthouse occupying the entire 7th floor of the south tower. Overlooking Seven Mile Beach, it is thought to be the most expensive condominium in the Caribbean. As you would expect, this suite comes with all of the legendary Ritz-Carlton services and amenities. However, it also comes with a powerboat complete with a captain and crew, and a Rolls-Royce.

“We created and designed this penthouse based on the current interest of high-end properties with spectacular space and views,” says Michael Ryan, owner and developer of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

The owners will have panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, Georgetown Harbor, the Greg Norman golf course and the North Sound from 4,200 sq. ft. of private terraces. A conceptual floor plan (the actual will be planned per the buyer’s specifications and The Residences’ standards) by interior designer Frank Nicholson, includes a state-of-the-art media room, executive office, art gallery, wine cellar and six bedrooms, each with its own private terrace.

And, just in time for the holidays, the Ritz is offering a long-term rental “sample” program for vacationers and business travelers. If you’re not sure this luxury life is for you, you can “test drive” a luxury home experience at The Residences for 30 days without further commitment. The Residences’ luxury oceanfront homes within the new Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman are setting a lavish new standard of living on the Caribbean’s safest island.

Amenities include, but are not limited to: around-the-clock attention from a Residential concierge team, butler service, private entrances with elevators, 24-hour valet parking and security and privileged access to all Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman resort’s facilities, services and amenities.

To participate you must stay a minimum of 30 days. Prices range from $25,000 – $40,000 in December. Homes vary from one-bedroom with 1,655 sq. ft. to three-bedrooms covering 3,850 sq. ft.