My week in Houston

In early June, I went to Houston, Texas for a few days of business-related travel. While my business-driven schedule did not allow for much sightseeing, I did have a few nifty experiences:

  • On the flight there and back, I read a really good humor novel called Good Omens. My only regret is not reading it sooner. Judging by my total read time of 8 hours, I couldn’t get enough of it. If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide books and the film Dogma, then this is the book for you.
  • This was the first time I’ve rented a car before. I had nothing to be worried about; it was much easier than I thought it would be. My proxy vehicle, a Chevy Cobalt (which gets bonus points for being named after an element), lacked power locks and windows, and I admit that after resisting them for so many years I’ve grown attached to those features. It’s a welcome ability to roll down any window in the car for a breeze, not just the one next to you. I missed my Mazda.
  • I couldn’t help but notice that almost every single stoplight I encountered, both on the city outskirts and downtown, are all mounted sideways, with red on the left and green on the right. Weird. (Note for my Houstonian readers: The rest of the country hangs our stoplights vertically, red on top and green on bottom. What’s your excuse?) To be fair, I really dig those U-turn lanes, and wish we had them back East.
  • I killed time in a mall arcade, and tried the one functioning slot machine in the joint using some tokens I found on the floor. Two Jackpots, yippee!! I’ll take my winnings in Tootsie Rolls and Spree, thank you.
  • I trekked to a local game store, Nan’s Games and Comics. They had a large jam-packed store which was fun to browse through for hours. It felt like picking through a crazy uncle’s attic; every aisile revealed some new discovery. If you’re a gamer in the Houston area and need your fix, I recommend this place. I’d super duper recommend them if only they had in store gaming. I asked the clerk about it, and he rolled his eyes, "We… don’t do that anymore."
  • I asked the Nan’s clerk if there was any good eats in the vicinity. "Try Mission Burrito. I like them, they’re nearby and tasty." So I tried that. And that, my friends, is how I ended up eating a burrito and sipping a cool glass of real lemonade while sitting under a large tree at sunset. Tasty indeed.
  • I made it to the museum ship USS Texas… just in time to see it close for the day. I settled for some photos from the park fence, and the same for the Battle of San Jacinto Monument across the street.
  • I wandered around the downtown area, questing to photograph neat art and statuary. This week’s photo above is some anonymous statue I encountered on the way.
  • My flight back was regrettably cancelled by "suspicious equipment activity". So I got my return flight rebooked on the one nonstop flight between Houston and Washington DC. Despite the inconvenience, it felt like an upgrade.
  • I also managed to take the DC Metro bus for a change, something I’ve been meaning to do for years. It was surprisingly clean and orderly, but I won’t be doing that again without a SmartTrip card.

I’ve learned some new games recently, listed in order of preference: The Nacho Incident, Management Material (IT edition), and Democrazy (aka The Voting Game). If you’re in the mood to smuggle Mexican food into Canada, avoid being promoted to management, or want to vote on the scoring method used at endgame, then these are the games you’re looking for, respectively.

Evelyn’s become addicted to Andy Looney’s retro-arcade-esque video game, Icebreaker. Maybe someday I’ll get my PC back. (UPDATE: I must have been able to pry her away from it at some point, as I’ve obviously been able post this article.)

On the Ferrball’s Mansion development front: I’ve replaced Jork with Chuck, a character who can throw followers at other characters, while Jork has been demoted to a follower himself. Since nobody was using it, the Robotic Python has been excised altogether. Ferrball’s original move-negating ability has been replaced by one that allows him to recycle recently-trashed items.

We got some of those new John Adams dollars. Cool!

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been tempted by a handsome devil. I’ve resisted not owning a cell phone for many years, and I keep at it because I’m so stubborn and that I’m proud of evading for so long the ineffable force that is wireless telephony. I still don’t want one, but the necessity has been bearing down on me lately, exhaling it’s heavy high-frequency breath on my neck. Less draconian minutes plans… better reception than ever… cheaper than a landline…. Quick! Tie me to the mast before I surrender to that siren song!

There will come a day when those born since 2000 are going to ask us what phone books, screensavers, and mousepads are for, and what clipping coupons was all about. Mark my words.

Nifty Wikipedia Thing: The Conch Republic

Recent films: Extreme Measures

What I’m Reading:
"The Confederate Navy" by Philip Van Doren Stern
"The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer" by Doron Swade


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