Jesus Loves Hyde Park, Too


I too, am in contact with God, and I believe that he does not play favorites with developers. ("Naked City," June 11 [Vol. 18, No. 41]). Five neighborhoods, mine included, in North Austin will be affected by the Hyde Park Baptist Church expansion into the Quarries; we too, believe that it is God's will to protect our families by opposing their development push. We believe we are being good neighbors (i.e., following the Lord's command to "Love thy neighbor") by supporting those residents in the path of this expansion. Consequently, we expect Hyde Park Baptist Church to do the Christian thing and be good neighbors in return. WWJD? Maybe throw the developers out of the temple!

Georgia Corin

Food Safety Rules!

Dear Mr. Black:

We read with great interest the article entitled "When Good Food Goes Bad" by Mick Vann [Vol.18, No.40]. The article was comprehensive and presented the new regulations in a very positive light. You may know that the state rules serve as the basis for the minimum standards for city and county health departments throughout the entire state. The Texas Department of Health Retail Foods Division developed the new Texas Food Establishment Rules over a two-year period and also developed the new inspection form which served as the model for the Austin-Travis County inspection form. The Texas form, developed for use with the new rules, has been widely accepted. In fact, one other state has adopted our form and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing it for potential use at the national level.

I would also like to mention the Retail Foods Division Web site which was not listed in your article( site is extremely important for consumers and for all city and county health departments because it presents interpretations of the rules as well as other pertinent food safety information related to state and federal standards. I realize with the plethora of new Web sites on the Internet nowadays, it would be impossible to include all sites; however, this one should be on the master list.

Thank you for your interest in food safety. Please feel free to contact us at 512/719-0232 if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Steven C. McAndrew, Director
Retail Foods Division

Spare the Soap

Dear Kate [Messer, Features editor],

This letter is in regards to the article written by Roseana Auten, "Swearing Oath [Vol. 18, No. 41]." As I read your article, I had to laugh out loud. This is due to the fact that my husband and I had gone through the same situation with our daughter.

All that I can say is this: I didn't stop swearing at all. (Neither did my husband.) I taught my daughter the appropriateness and the full context of all those so-called "bad words." I also have explained to her that all the words that we use for our language were originally made up to describe something. There are no "bad words." There are "bad" intentions when using words. There are "bad" connotations of words. And at some point in time and over the decades we (humans) have altered the meanings to fit into our society.

I also feel that this should be a combined activity by both parents. Teaching your children all that you can teach them about life, people, places, ideas, etc. Even if they are different from parent to parent. Although the language correction happens to fall onto many mothers' backs, let us not forget the fathers. I do not know many fathers who are dedicated to their child's vocabulary development.

I am happy to say that my daughter has been empowered by words and the use of them. I can only hope that she continues to be empowered throughout her life. I can only hope that she may empower others by her example.

Thank you for your time and energy with this matter.

Heather A. Root

Screenwriters in the Mist

Dear Russell Smith,

Several points about your Instinct film review:

First, author Quinn didn't consent to the story's tweaking -- he, in fact, vehemently denounced it. Because of copyright agreements, any film-version say-so was out of his hands. More importantly, Ishmael (a telepathic, not "talking" gorilla) teaches that this one dominant culture (the Takers) is consuming the world, not the whole of humanity. In this distinction lies
the book's message and world's hope.

We don't have to change people or make them better. Instead, we need to overturn the mindset that the way we live is the best and only way for everyone to live. Gladly, we Takers are not humanity.

Howie Richey

Hard Road


Reading through the autopsy of Watermelon Records ["Going for Broke," Vol. 18, No. 42], I was struck by Alejandro Escovedo's quote ("I remember telling Peter Case the particulars of my Watermelon deal once. He said, 'Wow! I haven't heard about a record deal like that since Muddy Waters.'"), and I was reminded, yet again, of the incomplete picture of their employment situation that most recording artists labor (and sink) under. Any musician considering signing a recording contract should ask the label the following three questions:

1)How many records do I need to sell to break even?

2)How many artists on this label sold that many records last year?

3)What are you going to do to ensure I end up in the break-even category?

I've yet to meet a local musician who could answer the above questions at the time of signing. While the routine exploitation of naive, gullible, or desperate musicians by the music industry is a matter of record, there's no need to make it easy for the weasels.

Travis Hartnett

P.S. I recall an anecdote that Keith Richards tells about going to Chess studios to record, and being shocked at seeing Muddy Waters painting the walls. Thirty years later, perhaps he would have been running the check-out register at the company record store.

Autism Article Excellent

Dear Austin Chronicle:

You recently ran an article about the difficulties faced by parents who attempt to obtain educational services for their children with autism within the Austin school district ["A World of Their Own," Vol. 18, No. 40]. A friend e-mailed me the article, knowing that I am the parent of a child with autism and have a strong interest in educational issues.

I am currently working on a paper for an honors psychology class at the University of Texas San Antonio which relates to the topic of your article. My topic deals with the stress felt by families of children with autism. I do have the text of your article, courtesy of my friend, and plan to refer to it in my paper, but it would be helpful if I had an original copy so that I could be sure of the accuracy of quotes, etc. I could not find this article on your Web site, so I wondered if it would be possible for me to obtain a copy of the article from you.

Further, I would like your permission to copy and distribute this article to the 13 other members of my class. The article did an excellent job of discussing the challenges parents face in coping with this diagnosis and I would like to pass this information on to my classmates.

Please extend my admiration to the author of this article. [She] did an outstanding job of exploring a very difficult and complex issue. It is my conviction that public awareness and accurate information are essential to obtaining appropriate services for people with autism, and I deeply appreciate the Chronicle's attention to this issue. I hope you will have additional articles on this topic in the future.

Becky Niendorff

The Tyranny of Autos


As a proponent of good public transportation, I read the weekly writings of Amy Babich each week with great interest. Although I largely agree with her writings, I also find truth in her critics' statement that cars are freedom. I know that that is correct because I live in Austin without a car. My options are greatly limited due to poor bus service: It's impossible to see a show on Sixth St., for example, because the last bus I could take to make my connection leaves before most bands start. However, I have also lived in European cities with wonderful transportation options (London, Prague), so I know that good public transportation can be even more liberating. If I know I've got a ride home, for example, I don't worry if I have a few drinks. The critics of public transportation seem to think that because current options are inadequate that all public transportation is inadequate. Either a personal vehicle or good public transportation can provide the "freedom" that they refer to. However, I recall that in driver's education in high school driving was hailed as a privilege, not a right. Austin's current system only provides freedom for the privileged. Somehow that seems undemocratic. It could also easily change if enough people got tired of the "freedom" of sitting in traffic and supported what Austin needs most: good public transportation.

Max Farr

More Caring Than Callous

Dear Editor:

As a former teacher, I read with much interest Leslie Smart's letter concerning the callousness in one AISD school. As I understand it, Leslie, your child's experiences at the awards ceremony have been so upsetting that you can understand why kids bring guns to school. That gun would be potentially used to threaten who, exactly? The list of offenders seems pretty long, but am I right in guessing it would include: childish seventh-graders who did not get awards and who made noise as their friends did receive awards; those who did get awards, especially those students who really excelled and received more awards than was seemly; teachers who spent countless hours preparing the awards ceremony and then inadvertently failed to communicate to you that it was in fact you who was being honored; people who donated snacks for the ceremony, but were so cheap with their generosity that all 300-some-odd people weren't given free food; those few teachers who do care for children but evidently stood by as your child was humiliated; callous administrators who allow such ritual humiliation ceremonies to even take place, and then stand by as those who received awards acted a little too happy; ridiculous teachers who had students doing school work on the second to last day of school; teachers who raise their voices; perhaps even you, as you were as you say, an instrument in your child's humiliation for receiving an award? Who wouldn't be outraged at all the horrible people listed above? Did I miss anyone? Thanks for understanding how kids could bring guns to school, and thanks for the warning, Leslie. Middle school is, indeed, a scary place, and your letter could not have brought that home any better.

Don Ruisinger

Buyer Beware


I recently remodeled a home in Austin and $35,000 later, there are parts of me that wish I had never begun. Available Austin contractors are few and far between due to the building boom -- but moreover, they know that they can get away with almost anything, including theft, without repercussions. A contractor damaged my home by his negligence to the tune of $7,900 in additional repairs, while walking away with $800 of my own tools; and I cannot even mention his name or his business name for fear of slander and a lawsuit filed against me!

The BBB can attempt to mediate a claim against a bad contractor, but they are limited in their negotiations.

The district attorney's office can also attempt to mediate a claim, but their mediation is not binding -- they cannot force the guilty contractor to do anything.

A lawsuit in the courts against them cannot take away their homestead, tools of the trade, their truck, or any moneys, etc. etc. etc. (This includes a small claims court case, too. Don't be so secure.) These are covered by the laws: Texas is a debtor's state.

The police cannot go after him for taking the tools -- because no one actually saw him pick up the tools and put them in his truck; though they were there minutes before he left, and not there minutes after he left. I would have to know which person in his crew took which tool, and go after each separately.

(In addition, after contacting Southwestern Bell about the hundreds of dollars' worth of telephone calls made on my telephone to Mexico, they said they are not willing to assist us because I invited that crew into our home! I guess I was supposed to unplug all the telephones and hide them in a locked box every day.)

Austin buyers beware: The boom may be a blessing to those laborers; but to the buyer, it is a true nightmare. I think the best revenge would be a sort of flipside of the "Austin Homes Tour"; a group of victims of this type should get together and show off the quality of work in their homes. No negative comments, just some simple signs posted throughout the house that say "So-and-so's company is responsible for this."

There has got to be someplace out there to assist cases like this, someplace the contractors have to answer to; they know we can't catch them now. Therefore, until that worm turns, all I can emphasize is "Buyer Beware."

Kirk Addison

Bush Blunders


Now that Texas' Yankee Carpet Bagger Governor is running for the presidency, let the reality checks begin! It has been claimed that he speaks Spanish, but I am convinced that he does not. At his last victory gathering, he thanked his "Hispanic" supporters by saying: "Gracias por tu ayuda." "Tu" is the familiar form of the second person singular! Not knowing his pronouns shows that he hasn't learned the most basic elements of the language.

His English also seems to need improvement! At the end of the last session of the Legislature, he stated on the news, "We did what we can"! I was taught early on not to shift tense, mood, and voice in the same sentence.

In Iowa, he mentioned "compassionate conservativism." I checked with my old buddy, Noah Webster, and was informed that the word "conservativism" does not exist. It should be: conservatism.

In New Hampshire he said: "I like to talk about me." He should have said "I like to talk about myself." A reflexive pronoun refers to another noun or pronoun that denotes the same individual or individuals. He flunks English!

Shouldn't we expect that a guy running for the highest office in the land be a lot more articulate in his native language? Now we know why the elder Bush chose Dan Quayle as his running mate: He reminded him of his son, George W. Bush!

Memo Torres

Back in the Saddle


Recent action by the American Psychological Association (APA) remind me of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with McMurphy and the other inmates laying seige to the asylum with short-lived impunity.

In 1973 the APA announced homosexuality was no longer a disorder. (You know the details ...) Now the APA says it might be OK to be a pedophile. (No, I'm not making this up.) This is for real (depending on your definition of "real").
The Austin Chronicle and its minions had better take a strong and public stance against such "sexual orientation" because when the pedophiles come "out of their closet," they had better be hauling ass at at least 1,100 fps.

It's been said prison may be the closest thing to "hell on earth," but even there pedophiles are not tolerated. That's pretty bad when "hell" won't put you up for the night. I'm lying. ... Actually, in hell you'll never have to worry about another six-month lease.

Kurt Standiford

Sweat of Many Benefits Few


Mark A.Edwards, from Virginia, was preselected in secrecy as AISD superintendent. He's best amigo of Mack Brown's, not a Texan either, who just got a $1 million pay raise in less than a year as UT football coach. If the board decides so, he's going to get his bucks over an institution made strong by the local hard working people, and just skim off the product of their sweat. In both UT and AISD, there are a lot of underpaid teachers and workers, who have been there for decades, but without access to the goodies of a system, like UT, leaving the field wide open for swingers like the Edwards, Browns, Cunninghams, Sanchez, but also the Knees, Williams, Barnetts, Todds, Dells, Watsons, etc. It's sad to look at this city being subtlely raped in the name of progress for the benefit of a few. Just look at your governor, who, instead of coming down to my barrio, went to Israel in search of inspiration for the presidential run. Wake up, pendejos!

Paul Avina

An Uncivilized Society


I am writing to express my deep concern at reports of worsening conditions for women on death row in Texas, and would be grateful if anyone in authority at the prison could assure me that such reports are either exaggerated or untrue, given that I find it difficult to believe that such treatment can be meted out to offenders in any society calling itself civilized.

My information, summarized, is that:

ïStrip searches are carried out six times daily, even eight times on occasions, even though women on the row never leave the building in which they are housed and usually remain in their cells;

ïWomen who cannot or will not work are reportedly moved to the Administrative Segregation and Psychiatric Center, recently renamed the Multi-Purpose Facility. Whilst it is scarcely surprising that no payment is made for long hours of demeaning and repetitive work, it is astonishing -- if true -- that women who fail to work for health reasons (e.g., severe migraine) may be disciplined, as also may those who do work but fail to achieve a predesignated output level;

ïWomen on the work program are reportedly locked in a huge cage-like facility and are permitted to use the bathroom once every four hours;

ïVery recently, it is alleged that all segregated death row women will henceforth be brought out of their cells handcuffed, wearing panties and bra only, and made to dress in another area outside of their cells.

I sincerely hope that someone in authority will rebut all of the above allegations. It is difficult to believe that even in a society that so enthusiastically embraces capital punishment whilst the trend worldwide is in the opposite direction, prisoners can be maltreated in so draconian a manner! In no way do I condone the crimes for the commission of which the women incarcerated at Gatesville were tried and found guilty, and I am strongly persuaded that severe punishment is justified for the most heinous offenses, but I draw a line at the seemingly sadistic pattern of treatment that is tantamount to torture manifest in the above-listed reports.

I would courteously request a reply to this letter, and meanwhile remain,

Yours very sincerely,
Brian Crowther
United Kingdom

Guns Mean Freedom

Dear Editor,

In the past two years there have been six highly publicized shootings at high school campuses. These have taken the lives of 29 and wounded 70. The ages of the killers in those incidents ranged from 11 to 18 years old. It is the shock caused by these shootings that led to the recent gun-control legislation. However, any call for the restriction or prohibition of firearms, in any society, is a call for fascism, since firearms are nothing other than the tools by which a dispossessed people can guard and secure their scanty liberties. Such calls are foolish, short-sighted, and engineered out of a sincere but misguided sense of progressivism.

What has kept America from becoming a fascist dictatorship is the right to bear arms and the great numbers of its citizens who cherish that constitutional right. Americans who champion the right to bear arms are always depicted by the liberal media as "redneck," racist, white supremacists, etc. The media takes advantage of isolated shootings in schools to intensify and heighten the fears of the citizenry so that public opinion can be swayed toward supporting a kneejerk, reactionary, anti-gun legislation that has been proposed by their agents in Congress.

While everything from guns to video games hasbeen blamed for the recent shootings, the two main problems have hardly been addressed by the popular media: irresponsible parenting and the influence of drugs. Indeed, nothing has been mentioned about the medication of the killers when in fact three of the recent shooters had been treated with common mind-altering over-the-counter drugs -- Springfield's Kip Kinkel with Prozac, Littleton's Eric Harris with Luvox, and Conyers' Thomas Solomon with Ritalin.

Zafar S. Choudhury

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July 9, 2004

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