Family and Home Tidings September 2009

Created Monday, 31 August 2009 00:08

Family and Home Tidings

September 2009
Brought to you by:
Mission Realty
210-744-4514

Easy Ways to Rediscover the Joy of Learning



Lifelong learning has been shown to preserve mental function and increase earning potential – yet many people don’t realize the options available in their own communities.

Academic, Vocational, Professional or Pure Leisure? Decide if the course will count toward a college education, professional education units or a new career or whether it’s just for pleasure. Community colleges, libraries, government agencies and others offer courses to fit the needs of every learner.

Explore New Interests. Whether you want to learn how to weld, invest in real estate or weave baskets, chances are there is a course available. Sign up with a friend or meet new and interesting people by trying something you have never tried before.

Shop Around. You might be surprised to learn that many classes are offered free or for very low cost, especially if you do not need college or professional credits. Don’t forget to consider online training – many communities offer computer training, travel or other items of interest via online classes as well as traditional face-to-face settings.

Calculate the Cost. Not only are many classes affordable, but the money you save or make often pays for the course many times over. For instance, learning how to repair your computer or lawnmower saves money for years to come – but the savings don’t stop there. Leisure courses are also fun and entertaining ways to spend time with friends or family at a fraction of the cost associated with a big night out on the town.

 

Go Green with These Alternatives to Household Cleaners


Going green is a great way to save money and improve your health, especially when it comes to common household cleaners. Harsh chemical cleaners and even air fresheners are known to cause headaches and allergic-type symptoms and even increase asthma-related illness among sensitive individuals. Fortunately, it’s easy to go green with these eco-friendly home cleaning alternatives.

Vinegar

Not only is vinegar affordable but it’s a non-toxic and easy-to-use degreaser as well as whitener. Simply add to laundry for softer clothing or use in combination with baking soda to create your own tile cleaner.

Borax

Chances are you have seen it sitting on the shelves when shopping; if you have never tried Borax, then pick up a box next time you are in the store. Borax is an all-natural cleaning product that whitens, deodorizes and scrubs. Sprinkle into laundry instead of bleach or mix with salt and baking soda for a powerful scrubbing agent.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is the secret ingredient behind many of today’s most popular oxygen-related products; not only does hydrogen peroxide clean and whiten, but it’s also a great disinfectant. Keep peroxide on hand to rinse vegetables and pretreat stains before tossing laundry into the wash.

Linseed Oil

Keep furniture looking like new with pure linseed oil. It conditions and helps prevent damage to fine furniture without the use of expensive cleaners or harsh chemicals.

Are You a First-Time Buyer? Get My Free Guide

 

Buying your first home is a big step and one that is likely to impact your financial future for years to come.

Make the process easier for yourself by asking for my free guide, “How First-Timers Can Make a Wise Buy”

Just call me at 210-744-4514 and I’ll send it right out to you.

Take the Stress Out of Moving with These Storage Ideas

Few things are more dreaded than moving day but new storage solutions can ease some of the stress. Learn how to select the right storage space for your needs, based upon your specific situation, without breaking the bank.

Flexible Time. If your top priority is a flexible schedule, a POD might be the perfect choice for you. PODs are large containers that allow you to pack – and unpack – at your own pace. Because PODs are closer to the ground, they also tend to be easier to load and unload.

Long-Term or Transitional Storage. If you are relocating for a job, downsizing or planning to move within a short period of time, longer-term on-site storage might make the most sense. Rather than selling all your belongings or buying a bigger home, shop around for a local self-storage facility within a short distance of your new home. It’s a great way to clear the clutter without sacrificing cost.

Whichever method you select, keep these tips in mind:

Ask about insurance: Don’t assume your homeowners policy covers belongings in storage. Verify it in advance or ask about a rider to ensure that your belongings are fully protected.

Evaluate on-site security: Not all storage solutions are equal – always verify the security measures are in place before making a final decision.

Climate control. If you intend to store valuable antiques, expensive electronics or other items that may be impacted by high humidity or temperature extremes, consider opting for climate-controlled units instead.

Worth Quoting

America’s first newspaper was published in September 1690. Here are quotes about the news.

“Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” — Thomas Jefferson

“The window to the world can be covered by a newspaper.” — Stanislaw Lec

“A newspaper consists of just the same number of words, whether there be any news in it or not.” — Henry Fielding

“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.”– Ben Hecht

Did You Know?

How good is your TV knowledge? (Answers below)

On what TV show could you see the Skipper and his “little buddy”?

Who said this? “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Denise Ianello is a pretty but sometimes far-out legal secretary on which TV show?

In what cartoon did Soundwave keep two buzzards, Laserbreak and Buzzsaw, in his chest?

On what TV show could you see Gopher, Doc and Isaac?

(Answers: Gilligan’s Island, The Incredible Hulk, Civil Wars, Transformers, The Love Boat)

 

Wondering How Much Your Home Is Worth?

How has the price of your home changed in today’s market? How much are other homes in your neighborhood selling for?
If you’re wondering what’s happening to prices in your area, or you’re thinking about selling your house, I’ll be able to help.
Just give my office a call for a no-fuss, professional evaluation.
I won’t try to push you into listing with me or waste your time. I’ll just give you the honest facts about your home and its value.
And maybe I’ll also give you the “inside scoop” on what’s happening in the housing market near where you live! Just give my office a call at 210-734-5590 to arrange an appointment.
Alternatively, stop by at the office. The address is on the back page of this newsletter.

 

 

 

Why Smart Homebuyers Work with an Agent

 

When it comes to selling a home, almost everyone understands the value of working with a knowledgeable real estate agent.

But buyers can often benefit even more than they might expect.

Find out the top reasons more buyers than ever choose to work with an agent when searching for their next home or investment property.

Saves Time

Undoubtedly one of the most commonly cited benefits of working with an agent when buying a property is the ability to save time. Real estate agents do the hard work for you by obtaining all the details and then showing you only those properties that meet your preestablished criteria.

Saves Money

Not only does working with an agent allow you to focus efforts on properties that meet your needs, but research also shows that it actually saves money in the long run. Sellers view agents as more objective during the negotiation process, and buyers that work with agents have access to the best deals. Remember, even in a buyer’s market, the best deals go fast. Many properties are already under contract by the time they make it into the magazines or online MLS listings, whereas many agents send out weekly or even daily updates of newly listed properties.

Reduces Stress

Real estate agents are able to work with lending officers, appraisers and others to streamline the entire transaction and keep things moving along by providing a single, reliable point of contact. Should anything go wrong, agents are able to access their network of contacts and expertise to assist every step of the way.

Access

Some of the best buying opportunities never even make it to the MLS listings; instead, foreclosures, bank-owned properties and even government repossessions are often handled by specific agents. Likewise, agents are often aware of creative finance options or specialized programs that may benefit veterans, first-time buyers, investors or even small-business owners.

 

 

Four Ways to Beat Distraction


Whether you call it multitasking, procrastination or simple distraction, the fact is that people are trying to do more in less time. Research shows that distraction leads to increased stress, higher rates of accidents and inferior results. Learn how to stay on task with these four simple steps:

1.        Schedule. Give yourself ample time to get the job done right. If you must multitask, plan in advance and bring along the right tools that will help you remain safe and on schedule.

2.        Limit Input. Minimize the amount of exterior stimuli including outside calls, email and even music when working on complex information.

3.        Relax. Build in a little R&R time to allow your mind to decompress or even take a catnap. Once relaxed, the mind is able to focus on problems that may elude you under pressure.

4.        Avoid Duplication. Technology allows us to be in instant and continuous contact with co-workers, family and friends, but that isn’t always conducive to productivity. Pick one method of communication, then stick to it.

 

 

Ask the Agent: This Month’s Question

How can I use landscaping to make my home more attractive to buyers?

You don’t have to spend a lot to make big improvements in your home’s curb appeal. Keeping your lawn manicured and trimming bushes and trees is an inexpensive way to make a positive impression on buyers. You’ll also want to remove any dead or diseased plants and ensure that beds are weeded and freshly mulched.

Use color to create visual interest, and select a variety of plants that bloom or change color throughout the year so your yard will be attractive in every season. If your yard is open to neighbors’ yards, a street or public areas, consider screening to create a more private space. This can be done with evergreen trees and bushes or with an attractive fence.

If the front of your home is obscured by overgrown trees or bushes, remove them or trim them back to help buyers get a clear view of your home.

 

Birthdays to Remember This Month


Rocky Marciano, born September 1, 1923, remains one of the most famous heavyweight boxing champions ever to hit the ring. To this day, he is the only boxer that won every fight in his professional career.
Ferdinand Anton Porsche, born September 19, 1909, is the world-famous engineer associated with one of the most desirable names in vehicle history…the Porsche.
Harland David Sanders, born September 9, 1890, is best known as Colonel Sanders, responsible for the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise and the best “finger-licking good” chicken in the world.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born September 24, 1896, was an American writer known for works such as The Great Gatsby and others.

Mission Realty September 2009 Crossword Puzzle

Recipe: Chicken in Wine and Mushroom Sauce

 

Serves 4
Ingredients
· 2 tablespoons butter
· 4 chicken breasts
· 4 ounces canned or jarred button mushrooms, drained
· ¼ cup dry white wine
· ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
· ½ teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
· 1 teaspoon fresh chopped parsley

Directions
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook six to eight minutes on both sides or until golden brown.
Add the mushrooms, wine, thyme and tarragon to the skillet. Cover and lower heat.
Gently simmer for about eight to10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and no pink remains in the center.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley before serving.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to tell us what you think about this newsletter, or if you’re thinking of buying or selling real estate, please get in touch.

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Small Town Texas Photography Exhibit – Dr Ricardo Romo – President of UTSA

Created Sunday, 30 August 2009 16:39

Small Town Texas

by Mamie Carter

Not so long ago, first-class postage cost three cents and a loaf of bread was a nickel.  When you pulled your car up to a “filling station,” the owner came out with a squeegee in his hand. “Howdy there, stranger.”  Beneath the red-roofed station stood glass-topped gasoline pumps and a familiar Texaco sign with a red star. (“You can trust your car to the man who wears the star.”)

Scenes from the by-gone days of “Small Town Texas” are captured by Dr. Ricardo Romo, President of the University of Texas at San Antonio. They are on display through Oct. 4 at the Witte Museum at 3801 Broadway. The exhibit is free with regular museum admission. The show is part of Foto Septiembre USA, an international photography festival.

The filling station photo, which is the most memorable of the group, records two signs, Waring General Store, on the front coupled with Welcome to Waring. A red, hand-lettered sign out front reads STEAKNITE.

Romo, a historian, and his wife, Dr. Harriett Romo, a sociologist, drove through more than 75 towns during the past year to photograph the remnants of a fading way of life. He says they drove from Abilene to San Antonio, “speeding through all these little towns, feeling a little guilty about not stopping to appreciate what these towns are about. We need to stop in these little towns and find out what’s going on.”

 

“The towns seemed to be something out of the 1950s,” he continued. “If we don’t capture this now, it won’t be here in five to 10 years.” Patriotism is a strong aspect of small Texas life. In Baird (pop. 1623) Romo photographed a waving American flag attached to an empty bench. Another photo shows a row of windmills.

Reaction from people viewing the exhibit involves nostalgic memories. One man said of one of the photos, “I saw something in it. I just wanted to step in there and be there.” A woman viewing ranchland confirmed to her husband, “That’s Charlotte. I know. I’ve been there.” Romo said, “Some of the vestiges of small-town life have already disappeared. For instance, a rancher saw a photo of a farm implement and asked, ‘What is that?’ ”  The tool had long been abandoned in a field and replaced by more modern equipment.

Another man saw a photo of a new flea market near Devine and remarked, “Boy, I got to go over there.”

In Cuero a railroad car was converted into an office, which interested Romo because of the transition of something old into something new. One Sunday when the Romos stopped their car in front of an old building, they attracted the attention of a patroling policeman. He looked at the couple suspiciously until the photographer held up his camera. The policeman nodded and drove off as if to say, “Oh, a tourist.”

Romo, who grew up on San Antonio’s west side, said as a youngster he traveled all over south central Texas visiting family. “I can’t do (photograph) all of Texas because I’ve got a full-time job,” Romo said. “But there’s more with the same theme. Other places.” And someday soon, a book of his small-town photographs will be published.

The Small Town Texas photo exhibit is on display at the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX from Aug 22 – Oct 4, 2009. The exhibit is free with Museum Admission. The museum is located at 3801 Broadway; San Antonio, TX 78209. Phone: 210-357-1900.

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Adventures in the Hill Country

Created Friday, 28 August 2009 21:35

 

 

Adventures in the Texas Hill Country

The Hill Country, that tract of rolling, lightly wooded hills north of San Antonio has always been South Texas’ Lake District, our Berkshires, our Mackinac Island, or Yosemite; a cool, green refuge in the summer, a well-watered orchard oasis in the dusty barrens of the Southwest.. Rivers run through it— the Guadalupe, the Pedernales— and it is dotted with edibly charming small towns, like Wimberley, Johnson City, Kerrville, Comfort and Fredericksburg. Visitors like my mother often say it reminds them of rural Pennsylvania, a resemblance strengthened by the coincidence that large tracts of the Hill Country were settled in the mid 19th century by German immigrants, who built sturdy, two-storey houses out of native limestone blocks, houses adorned with deep windows and generous porches and galleries. Myself, I think it’s more like Provence, that lovely, scenic and hilly bit of southern France, from which comes all sorts of good things to eat.

There have always been artists, and eccentrics, and hobby farmers – and while the Hill Country may not superficially look all that much like Provence,  the underlying geographic bones are similar, the climate is (at a squint) similar and the very same kind of things Provence is famous for (at least in popular imagination) are emerging from the Hill Country, even if we still have to catch up on the art. Alas, Vincent Van Gogh was a one-off.  But artisans, wine-makers, brewers and perfumers are catch up, everywhere else. All within an hours drive of San Antonio.

Starting with wine – and some very good wine at that, for all of that, at the Fredericksburg Winery. Even their labels are works of art – literally, and they are right on Main Street. More good Texas wine?  Try the Becker Vineyards, whose annual “Grape Stomp is coming up this weekend and next. Seriously, Texas wine is getting better and better all the time, and besides, it can be a heck of a lot of fun – prove it to yourself this weekend at the Grape Stomp, and even dress up like Lucy and the Italian women to stomp grapes. Seriously, how can you go wrong for an event whose motto is “Stomp me, crush me, make me wine?” But if you don’t want to drive a long way, check out your local HEB grocery. Most of them will have a section for the local output – you don’t necessarily have to go all the way to Fredericksburg.

 

More Provence food goodies? What about goat cheese, made from the real milk of real goats?   Try the Pure Luck Farm and Dairy, in Dripping Springs, the home of real, farmstead cheese. Well, all those hobby farmers, trying to find a useful outlet for what started as a herd of pets had to come up with something to do with all the milk. The Pure Luck Farm is not offering any more tours this year, but the cheese can be savored everywhere.

Olive oil, the gift of the Goddess Athena to the Greeks in ancient time, the staff of life and good cooking, all around Southern Europe and the Mediterranean? Got that at the Bella Vista Ranch – although they seem to have Tuscany in mind, not Provence.  It may take a bit, the odd couple of hundred years or so, but our descendents will have the benefits of acres of nicely gnarled, bearing olive trees – scenic and health-wise.

Lavender and perfume? Got it. Becker Vineyards also does lavender, but personally I love the scent of a perfume called St. Fiacre, made by The Fredericksburg Herb Farm;  it’s in my perfume wardrobe, right next to the Chanel Number 5. They have a vast garden, plants for sale, a shop full of ornaments and goodies, a spa and even a little restaurant, and now they are getting ready to offer Bed and Breakfast accommodations.

If you don’t care for wine, and all that and much prefer beer, don’t pass up on the Fredericksburg Brewing Company – likewise on Main Street, which also offers all the good food to go with the beer. Including the desserts, which are perfectly splendid, but very rich; best split them between two diners, or get them to take away.

And finally, in the spring, in April and May the hillside pastures and highway verges are splashed with great vibrant sweeps of color— red and gold Mexican Hat, pink primroses, and the deep, unearthly indigo of bluebonnets, acre after acre of them. Wildflower meadows are an ongoing enthusiasm in Texas, more notable here than any other Western state I have ever traveled in. A visit to Wildseed Farms may start you off on building your own wildflower meadow next spring – after all we are coming up on planting time.

Now, if we could only get Red McCombs, and a couple of other local millionaires to build some fortified villages and artistically ruinous castles on some strategic hilltops – the Texas Hill Country might really have a chance at being “The New Provence”

 

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Existing Home Sales Prices Rise

Created Friday, 28 August 2009 19:19

TEXAS’ EXISTING HOME SALES DROP, PRICES RISE

TEXAS (Real Estate Center, CNNMoney.com) – A total of 22,511 existing homes were sold in Texas last month, a 4.8 percent decline from July 2008, according to MLS data compiled by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. The median price increased 0.6 percent to $153,800 during the same period, and the state finished the month with a 7.4-month inventory of existing homes.

Here is how select Texas cities fared in July (data current as of Aug. 28, 2009):

 

Sales Change from
Last Year
Median
Price
Change from
Last Year
Months’
Inventory
Amarillo 254 down 21.6% $124,600 up 1.2% 7.2
Austin 2,288 down 0.2% $189,700 down 0.6% 7
College Station-Bryan 304 down 15.1% $151,000 down 2.3% 6.8
Dallas 4,815 down 6% $164,800 up 0.8% 6.5
El Paso 478 down 4.8% $135,200 down 2.4% 9.1
Fort Worth 840 down 12.3% $118,700 down 1.1% 6.6
Harlingen 78 up 20% $95,000 up 13.6% 28.7
Houston 6,393 down 4.8% $161,900 up 1.3% 6.8
Killeen-Fort Hood 257 down 6.2% $124,800 down 0.9% 10
Laredo 91 up 11% $122,800 up 2.3% 9
Lubbock 348 up 0.9% $110,300 up 0.3% 5.5
Palestine 21 down 16% $102,500 down 2.4% 10.1
San Angelo 125 down 5.3 % $121,700 up 10.6% 5.6
San Antonio 2,040 up 7.9% $156,900 up 2.3% 8.4
Waco 213 down 14.5% $114,600 down 1.4% 8.4

 

Additional home sales data for these and other major Texas cities are available on the Center’s website.

Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes last month were up 5 percent from July 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Real Estate Center Online News August 28, 2009 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Material herein is published according to the fair-use doctrine of U.S. copyright laws related to non-profit, educational institutions. Items attributed to sources other than the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University should not be reprinted without permission of the original source.

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Toyota Tacoma Production Line Relocation to San Antonio

Created Friday, 28 August 2009 00:11

Statement by Governor Perry on Toyota’s Production Line Relocation to San Antonio, Texas

August 27, 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today made the following statement regarding Toyota’s announcement to relocate their Tacoma production line to San Antonio, Texas

“Today’s announcement reflects the depth of the ties between Toyota and Texas while underscoring the strength of our state’s workforce and job climate. Even in the midst of a national economic downturn, major employers continue to bring jobs and investment in Texas.

“While we are sympathetic to the hardship of the NUMMI workers in California, we know that Texans will continue to benefit from policies we’ve pursued that have made our state so attractive to employers.

“Following on the heels of major jobs announcements from Caterpillar, Farouk Systems, Medtronic and other employers, the good news from Toyota affirms my unshakeable belief that Texas is the best place to do business.”


Key Points


  • Toyota’s announcement follows major job announcements by Caterpillar, Farouk Systems and Medtronic

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Medicine Man – Early San Antonio Medical Practice

Created Wednesday, 26 August 2009 21:56

Dr. Herff, Medicine Man – Or Ferdinand and Hermann’s Excellent Frontier Adventure.

by Julia Hayden

The practice of medicine in these United States for most of the 19th century was a pretty hit or miss proposition. Such was the truly dreadful state of affairs generally when it came to medicine in most places and in all but the last quarter of the 19th century – patients may have been better off having a go with the D-I-Y approach. Doctors trained as apprentices to a doctor with a current practice, or read some books and hung out a shingle. Successful surgeons possessed two basic skill sets at this time; speed and a couple of strong assistants to hold the patient down, until he was done cutting and stitching.

But in San Antonio, beginning from 1850, there was doctor-surgeon who became a legend, for his skill and advanced ideas. Doctor Ferdinand Ludwig von Herff, who dropped the aristocratic ‘von’ almost immediately upon arriving in Texas, well-trained and exquisitely skilled – and also an idealist, one of those rare sorts who are prepared to live their lives in accordance with the principals they publicly espouse. He came to Texas in 1847 as part of a circle of young men called the “Forty“, who had a plan to establish a utopian commune along the ideas espoused by social critics of the time.

Lke the 1960s variety, most of Ferdinand Herff’s companions were students of various German universities. Hermann Spiess had already toured through the United States and Texas before returning to Germany with all kinds of ambitious plans. Originally they planned to establish their community in Wisconsin, but when one Count Castell, an original member of the Mainzer Adelsverein heard of it, he offered them funding and support if they come to Texas instead. In mid-summer of 1847 the “Forty” arrived in Texas, led by Herff, Spiess and Gustav Schleicher, a trained engineer who would eventually oversee building of the rail system throughout Texas. They had brought along a huge train of baggage, supplies and equipment, including seeds and grapevines, mill machinery, a small cannon, many dogs, one woman – a cook/housekeeper named Julie Herf (no relation), Doctor Herff’s complete collection of surgical impedimenta, and a good few barrels of whiskey. By late fall, they had moved all this and a herd of cattle to a site near present-day Castell. They set up tents, built a long building to use as a sort of barracks and common-room, planted crops and named their little town Bettina, after a leading star-intellectual of the day… and settled in to live their dream of communal living close to the land.

It didn’t last beyond a year, of course – being long on ideals and enthusiasm, but short on relish for back-breaking agricultural labor. The community foundered on the rocks of human nature and self-interest, but not before Doctor Herff performed a single amazing feat of surgery. This took place within weeks of his and the “Forty’s” arrival, during that halcyon period when Meusebach’s peace treaty with the Comanche held between the two peoples. A Comanche with an advanced case of cataracts appeared at Bettina, asking to be healed. Dr. Herff had already been treating various Indians who presented themselves, and would eventually become fairly fluent in the Comanche and Apache dialects… but this was a tall order and a touchy situation. They did not dare turn the Comanche away. Amazingly enough, Dr. Herff had brought the latest in ophthalmologic instruments with him and had performed cataract surgery – in Germany.

There were certain other challenges to be met; they would have to use ether to anesthetize the patient, and Doctor Herff would have to have sufficient light to operate. Ether being flammable, there was no way to light the surgical site with the usual sorts of lamps and candles with reflectors. He would have to operate outdoors. Being a fastidiously tidy sort of man, he insisted on it being a clear, dust-free, windless and insect-free day, and boiling the water used to irrigate the eyes of his patient. A dozen of the commune members stood by, armed with palm-leaf fans to keep flies away… and Dr. Herff set to work, probably knowing that this was an operation that could not be botched.

Fortunately, the primitive surgery was wildly successful, the patient was ecstatic at being able to see well again, and as he departed, promised the doctor the most generous reward at his command – a woman. One can imagine a great deal of jollity at Dr. Herff’s expense over the next three months from the other young men of the “Forty” – but at the end of the time, the Comanche appeared again, with a young Mexican girl in tow, and handed her over to Dr. Herff. Who promptly handed her over to the care of the only other woman in Bettina, the housekeeper/cook, Julie Herf. The girl’s name was Lena, or Lina; she had been a long time with the Comanche and was never able to recall enough about her original family to return to them. Eventually, she married Hermann Spiess.

Dr. Herff practiced medicine tirelessly for most of the next sixty years, establishing San Antonio’s first hospital and several medical associations and serving on the Texas Board of Medical Examiners. Generally, if there is a surgical “first” anywhere in Texas during the last half of the 19th century, he was the surgeon responsible. There is a historical marker on the San Antonio Riverwalk, about halfway between Las Canarias and the Texas Land and Cattle Restaurant marking the site of one of his homes.

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Texas DPS New Traffic-Criminal Laws

Created Monday, 24 August 2009 20:59

New traffic, criminal laws set to go into effect Sept. 1, 2009 in Texas

Information for the News Media, Media Relations Office

August 11, 2009

From the Media Relations Office of the Texas Department of Public Safety

HB 2730 is the DPS’s Sunset Legislation, and many of the DPS-related bills this session were included in HB 2730. Notable traffic and criminal laws that go into effect on Sept. 1 (unless otherwise indicated) include*:

Seatbelts:

HB 537 requires all occupants of a vehicle, no matter their age, to be secured by a safety belt, no matter where they are seated in the vehicle; changes the definition of a passenger vehicle to include a passenger van designed to transport 15 or fewer passengers including the driver; removes the current exemption for third-party Medicaid transportation provisions regarding the use of child passenger safety seats; and prohibits a motorcycle operator from carrying a passenger under the age of 5 unless the child is seated in a sidecar attached to the motorcycle.

SB 61 amends the existing statute regarding child passenger safety seats. The bill requires that any child younger than 8 years of age be restrained in an approved child passenger safety seat unless the child is at least 4 feet, 9 inches in height. The fine is no more than $25 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense. The law also creates a new court cost for conviction of an offense under this section to be collected and used by TxDOT to buy safety seats for low income families. The law becomes effective on Sept. 1, 2009, but tickets for this offense cannot be issued until June 1, 2010. Police officers are allowed to issue a warning before that date.

Driving:

HB 55 makes it illegal to use a wireless communication device in a school zone unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is used. Cities or counties wanting to enforce this law must post a sign at the beginning of each school zone to inform drivers that using a wireless communications device is prohibited and the operator is subject to a fine. It is a defense to prosecution if the operator was making an emergency call.

HB 2730 increases the penalties for driving while intoxicated with a child passenger by adding an automatic driver license suspension period for first-time offenders and an increased suspension period for repeat offenders. The driver license re-instatement fee for completing an education program will rise from $50 to $100. Closes a loophole so a person who commits an offense as a minor cannot circumvent the driver license penalty if the person turns 21 before their court date.

HB 2730 allows a new Texas resident to operate a vehicle without a Texas license for 90 days instead of the current 30. (This provision went into effect on June 19, 2009.)

HB 2012 creates two new punishment enhancements: a Class B misdemeanor if a person drives with a suspended license and without insurance; and a class A misdemeanor if the person driving without insurance or a valid driver license has an accident and someone is seriously injured or dies as a result of that accident.

SB 129 authorizes neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) to be operated on roads with a posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour or less. The bill authorizes driver license holders to operate NEVs without having a motorcycle endorsement, clarifies that drivers and passengers in such vehicles are not required to wear helmets and specifies that enclosed three-wheeled vehicles as described in the bill are authorized to operate in preferential lanes.

 

Concealed handgun:

HB 2730 amends numerous provisions regarding concealed handgun licenses (CHLs), including eliminating student loan defaults as a disqualifier, to clarify that DPS must suspend or revoke a license when the licensee becomes ineligible and mandating that a magistrate suspend a CHL held by the subject of an emergency protective order.

HB 2664 provides a defense to prosecution if a concealed handgun license holder carries a concealed handgun into an establishment that gets 51 percent or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic beverages, but has failed to post the statutorily required notice that it derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic beverages. (Under current law, a concealed handgun licensee can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for doing this.)

HB 2730 removes DPS authority to suspend a concealed handgun license (CHL) for the holder’s failure to display the CHL to a peace officer on demand. It removes associated penalties and suspensions for the failure to display.

 

Driver license:

HB 2730 requires that all applicants under the age of 18 take the driving skills exam to receive a driver license. The law also requires that a provisional driver license (under 18) or instruction permit expire on an individual’s 18th birthday, removes the requirement that a provisional driver license or instruction permit be renewed annually and increases the fee for those licenses from $5 to $15. It also extends the current phase-two restrictions for holders of a graduated driver license from 6 months to 1 year. These restrictions include limited night driving, prohibited use of wireless communication devices and a limited number of passengers.

HB 339 increases the total hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction a teen receives from 14 to 34 after TEA develops criteria for curriculum. (Goes into effect May 1, 2010)

HB 1317 creates a six-hour driver education course required for driver license applicants 18 years of age or older. It also mandates that applicants 25 or under must submit to an approved driver education course. (Goes into effect March 1, 2010.)

SB 328 gives DPS the power to suspend a minor’s driver license if they fail a breath or blood alcohol test while operating a watercraft. Chapter 524 of the Transportation Code also clearly defines the suspension period for an individual who was under the age of 21 at the time when the offense of boating under the influence or driving under the influence of alcohol occurred. The law also increases the reinstatement fee for a license suspended under sections 49.04-49.08, Penal Code from $50 to $100.

HB 2730 increases the driver license sanction from a one-year CDL license disqualification to a lifetime disqualification if a person uses a motor vehicle to transport, conceal or harbor an alien. If a child is engaged in conduct involving a severe form of trafficking persons, a judge at a juvenile hearing is required to order the juvenile’s driver license or permit to be suspended.

HB 2730 prohibits DPS from issuing a driver license or identification card to a person who has not established a domicile in Texas. The law specifies that an applicant may receive a driver license at a post office box only if the applicant’s residence address has also been provided, with some exceptions.

 

Crime:

HB 558 allows minors to be charged with public intoxication.

HB 2386 allows courts to immediately seal juvenile criminal records if the juvenile successfully completes a drug court program, or another special program ordered by the court.

HB 1282 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to steal a driver license, commercial driver license or personal identification.

SB 554 makes it illegal to own or possess dog-fighting equipment and establishes that such equipment and property where dogs are found to be engaged in dog fighting is contraband and is subject to forfeiture. The law also makes dog-fighting subject to the elevated penalties authorized in the Texas Penal Code, Section 71.02(a), in an effort to deter organized criminal activity.

HB 1813 makes it a third-degree felony to tamper with forensic, medical, chemical, toxicological and ballistic reports, as well as reports of certification, inspection or maintenance of instruments used to examine or test physical evidence. (Currently, someone who does this can only be charged with a state jail felony.)

HB 358 allows law enforcement authorities to store only a small part of gambling machines that have been seized, instead of storing the whole machine. They would be able to remove and store just the computer chips in gambling machines, which are the core of the machines and contain the information necessary for prosecutions to go forward.

 

Registered sex offenders:

SB 689 restricts Internet usage by certain registered sex offenders, and requires registered sex offenders to provide information about their e-mail addresses when they register.

 

Motorcycles etc.:

Senate Bill 1967 requires that applicants for an original class M license or class A, B or C driver license (including commercial driver licenses and permits) with authorization to operate a motorcycle, provide evidence of completion of an approved motorcycle operator training course. It also repeals the helmet exemption sticker program. Current law requires a person be covered with a minimum of $10,000 in health insurance for injuries incurred in a motorcycle accident to be eligible for an exception for the offense of operating or riding a motorcycle without a helmet. As of Sept. 1, the minimum amount is removed. The bill requires the Texas Department of Insurance to prescribe a standard proof of health insurance for issuance to persons who are at least 21 years of age and covered by an applicable health insurance plan. The law also increases the penalty for failure to yield the right-of-way if there is a crash that results in injury to a person other than the motorcycle operator.

 

Miscellaneous:

HB 2730 increases the fine for a parking violation at the state Capitol from $10 to $25, and increases the late fee from $2 to $5.

SB 1188 authorizes a Texas resident to buy firearms, ammunition or firearms accessories in any other state, not just those contiguous to Texas, to reflect updated federal statutes.

SB 589 requires that window installers place a vehicle equipment safety compliance label on a windshield, side or rear window stating that the window tinting complies with the appropriate provisions of the Transportation Code. Failing to place the required label on the vehicle could now lead to a $1,000 fine for the window installer.

* Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list of all laws passed in the past legislative session.

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My Son got a Job, San Antonio Unemployment

Created Monday, 24 August 2009 14:24

My Son got a Job! San Antonio Unemployment

by Mamie Carter

My son found a job, Yee-haw! and he starts this week, Whoopee! He worked for San Antonio’s largest financial firm for four and a half years until his job ended April 30.

Then he joined 69,599 other unemployed San Antonians. “I felt bummed out but liberated,” he said. “I didn’t have to show up for work every day.”

According to the San Antonio Express-News, our city’s unemployment rate is 7.1 percent. That was a 10-year high in July and the lowest rate of Texas’ largest cities. The national average is 9.4 percent. San Antonio, which employs folks from eight counties, has a work force of nearly one million. Of those, 912,200 are employed, and the rest are looking for jobs.

The newspaper quoted Keith Phillips, senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, as saying, “There are some straws in the wind suggesting things are going to turn.”

Straws indeed. If you’ve noticed, a few storefronts display signs reading “Now Hiring” and “Help Wanted.” Classified ads advertise service jobs for makers of beds and sandwiches. A couple young men on busy street corners wear cardboard signs that proclaim, “20 to 30% off” for stores’ going-out-of-business sales.

With copious time on his hands, my son placed his resume on four internet websites. He attended three job fairs and interviewed by computer, telephone and in person. But he couldn’t find a job that fit.

So my son and his girlfriend, who also became jobless two months later, cultivated obscure “ghost” peppers, swam in San Pedro Springs swimming hole and walked Austin. They rode their bikes because it was cheaper than driving and borrowed the library’s movies. My son enrolled in a free Texas Department of Agriculture cooking class and learned to make vegetarian hamburgers. My offer of a recipe for beans and rice soup was declined.

“You don’t eat out as much,” he said. “You reuse things. You make a dollar go a bit farther using coupons. I cut corners anywhere I could.” By and by, he missed cash jingling in his pocket and a health plan that paid for doctor and dentist’s visits.

Recently an international package shipping company offered him a job in internal sales. He accepted with pleasure.

“It feels good to be a productive member of society again,” he said. “”I am happy to wake up in the morning and have somebody looking for me at work. They’re enthusiastic about my showing up.”

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The Breakfast Taco or Aztec Warrior Food

Created Friday, 21 August 2009 21:17

An Ode to the World’s Most Perfect Breakfast Food

By Julia Hayden

Sing, Muses, of nature’s – and San Antonio’s most perfect breakfast entree, the food of the Gods, infinite in variety and nourishment! Unhappy mortals in less blessed locations may sing of their croissant and cafe au lait, the mixed breakfast grill, or toast with honey, jam on bread, even disgusting concoctions like sausage gravy, as vomitous in appearance as in taste … but little do they know of the sublime perfection in the simple breakfast taco!

By the breakfast taco, I mean the real thing, the honest, southwest concoction served in thousands of little eateries scattered along the San Antonio highways and byways, painted in bright pink, aqua, yellow or lavender, with a Virgin of Guadalupe painted inside or out, hand painted advertisements for menudo and barbacoa, and a corrida blasting out of the radio in back. This is not the fake, processed muck wrapped in something that might be white cardboard and oozing orange grease, foisted off on those deprived mortals who have never, ever tasted a real breakfast taco, oh no.

This is fluffy scrambled egg and a scattering of browned country sausage, enfolded in a tender, home-made fresh tortilla, irregular as to shape, two delicate layers baked swiftly on a griddle, a spoonful of roasted tomato and jalapeno chile salsa dribbled onto the eggs. There is the potato and egg variant, the chorizo version, the egg and bacon variety, the sub-category of chorizo-bean-and-cheese, infinite diversity in infinite combinations, all wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla. With salsa on it, you have the major food groups in one simple package.

This is the breakfast of the 21st century, combining solid nourishment, gustatory satisfaction, and unmatched ease of consumption. Until you have eaten a real breakfast taco, you cannot say that you have really, really had breakfast. Every major avenue in San Antonio has at least three places serving breakfast tacos in every block, and at least one of them will offer drive-through service.

You will know them by the construction pickup trucks parked out front, by a gathering of automobiles at every hour, by hand-painted signs in the windows, by the delicious odors wafting forth, and by the people departing them bearing away paper sacks bulging full of the bounteous and sacred tacos, each wrapped in a square of tinfoil, and accompanied by handful of little plastic cups, each containing a spoonful of thin red or green sauce … oh, be careful of the sauce, the home-made variety is nuclear-fission in a cup, but it wouldn’t be a breakfast taco without the sauce.

 

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San Antonio Arts District – First Friday

Created Thursday, 20 August 2009 00:00

Southtown – San Antonio Arts District – First Friday

By Mamie Carter

First Friday is like a huge block party with contemporary art as its centerpiece. On the first Friday evening of every month, several hundred mostly college-age people and a few families swarm the Blue Star Arts Complex for a free evening of gallery hopping. Located on the corner of South Alamo Street and Probandt in San Antonio, Texas, It’s an occasion to see and be seen at exhibits of contemporary and beyond-funky art.

Grab a pale ale at the Blue Star Brewing Company, lean against one of the cars parked on the six-acre campus and watch the passing scene. A three-piece band on the brewing company’s deck includes a xylophonist who loves a good riff. See that guy with the dreadlocks below his shoulders? Wonder where he works? Maybe he’s one of the artists. Maybe he created that coffee table with meat-shaped neon under glass. It’s entitled “Neon Porkchop,” and it sells for $1,200. In the same space you can score a photo of a tropical flower for $10.

Speaking of flowers, what about the brunette in her LBD (little black dress), zebra patent handbag and black patent heels? Maybe she attended her sorority sister’s rehearsal dinner earlier this evening. And those wicked tattoos on that guy’s arm…

Years ago the site housed the downtown warehouse terminal of the MKT Railroad. The warehouses were purchased and renovated to house contemporary and non-traditional art workshops and galleries. Some artists are well-known, while others are lesser-known locals and students.

Outside the galleries sits a one-story-tall expression of an artist’s devotion to painted bricks and terracotta drainage tiles precariously banded together by black wire. You wouldn’t want to lean against it.

Inside one gallery are wall-sized paintings of cubes in chaotic formations. Another gallery features colorful paintings of swoops, swirls and darts. If it was in your living room above the sofa, it probably would grow on you. Galleries holding opening receptions serve wine and nibbles to assist your envisioning their art in your home.

The Bike Shop attracts attention by showing an outdoor film of a bicyclist riding through an urban area and encountering mishaps when he doesn’t watch where he’s going. Inside are bicycles designed to look like the originals from the 1950s. The bikes are painted bright pastel colors and decorated with flowers or stripes. Those on display cost $500 to $700. A young man with a lightning bolt shaved in his hair sits on a bike and nods with approval.

Nearby, glasses tinkle over conversation from Joe Blue’s Contemporary Cocktail Lounge. A man driving a River City Pedi cab jingles a bell to attract passengers to his empty seat. A Southern Pacific train passes behind Blue Star on its way west. Folks who live in rented studio apartments above the complex are sitting in chairs on their balconies and crowd-watching for entertainment. The smell of beer wafts through the air.

The breeze, still sweltering in the night, reminds you of your need to try a Blue Star amber beer. There’s a nearby bench. Your memory drifts to an exhibit you saw here some time ago. The artist placed hundreds of individual slices of Velveeta cheese on the hardwood floor of a gallery. Some art never changes its form. The cheese, however, first developed small, white pools of sweat on top of its slices. Next, some slices grew hard, crusty edges that curled upward. Others resembled crumbled-up pieces of yellow paper. You could actually witness art responding to its environment!

A number of galleries are closed this evening. A middle-aged woman in a black and white polka dot dress cups her hands around her eyes to look through the glass door of the Joan Grona Gallery. Inside, an artist displayed random objects on an oriental rug, but the woman can’t quite see what they are. “I don’t get down here very often,” she says to a stranger, “and now that I’m here, some spaces aren’t open.”

Policemen are noticeably present at the complex and on south Alamo Street throughout the event. At 9:50 p.m. they start shooing the crowd out of the Cactus Bra Space and other galleries. People file past the Jump Start Theater, which stages avant-garde or alternate-style performances. Showing August 20-30, 2009 is Uncle Vanya, a theatre comedy by Anton Chekhov, but tonight the theater was dark. (Performances Thursday – Sunday)

Across the street, blue light from the Pioneer Flour Mill Tower guides the departing crowd. They migrate on foot north toward Southtown, where the party stretches along several blocks. Lighted tents house vendors selling clothing, political buttons, jewelry, canvas art and more cold libations.

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