4 Disadvantages of Being a Big Guy

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Steve Rainwater
Ol' Tex here probably has an easier time finding clothes that fit than some of us do.

I've always been a big guy -- I'm 6 foot four inches tall and sturdily built. I think a lot of people believe that there's an automatic advantage in being a large person, but there is a downside that goes along with those advantages. Stuff like...

4. The World Is Scaled for Smaller People.

Ducking becomes second nature (hopefully) because doorways are often too low. I have to sit down in some showers because the shower head is mounted so that water hits me somewhere in the midsection. Low ceilings make me feel uneasy and claustrophobic. I can only imagine what it's like for my friends who are even taller, but anyone over a certain height really becomes aware of how most things in this world are scaled for people smaller than they are.

3. Finding Things That Fit Can Be a Challenge.

Shopping for clothes when you're a certain size is a challenge, particularly if you are built a certain way. I am tall and while not stick-thin, I'm not overweight, and finding things like jeans that fit well can be rough -- It seems that beyond a certain height, the assumption is that a person is also fairly large in the waistline, but that's not always the case. Things like shirts and jackets can be problematic, too -- either sleeves are often too short or the chest is enormous if they fit. Sizing gets weird, as I'm an extra-large in some things and an extra-extra-large in others. It seems like the standards get pretty vague at some point along the line. Yes, there are "Big and Large" specialty stores, but it's not just clothes that don't fit you when you're a large person.

For instance, I recently bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and I also owned a custom chopper. Now, the chopper was "raked and stretched" -- its length was effectively increased from a more typical stock size. That custom-fit me like a glove, and when I went shopping for a Harley, I figured it would fit well, too; after all, Harleys are big bikes, right? No, not really. There are things that can be done to make them look and feel bigger, but most stock Harleys are not all that big, and like most things, are really designed for people falling into an average size range. Big surprise, I'm now in the market for a new custom bike again.

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Best Mystical Votive Candles You'll Find In Houston

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photos by Camilo Smith
If the public defender is starting to look useless, this might come in handy.

You don't have to be into Santeria to run into some Afro-Carribean spiritual products here in Houston. After all, while thousands in the city practice the religion --- which, yes, can include sacrificing small animals like chickens or goats --- this form of mysticism has caught on in a major way, especially in Latino heavy corners of the United States.

Santeria worship, along with the widening appreciation for the skeletal Santa Muerte, is something we told you about back in 2012. It's syncretic faith worship that's just a part of everyday American life now.

In spite of official rejection by the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico, Santa Muerte's followers only increase in number and devotion, carrying her all the way onto the fringes of the American pop-culture mainstream. She made a cameo on Breaking Bad -- Tuco's terrifying cousins light candles to her, petitioning her for success on the way to Albuquerque on their mission of murderous revenge.

See also: Santa Muerte: Patron Saint of the Drug War

Reports say there are more than 20,000 people practicing Santeria in the United States. Houston is home to thousands, behind Miami or New York.

Botanicas, or small herbal stores used to be the only place to buy special candles and tools for Santeria. The small mom and pop shops are plentiful throughout Houston, even if their products are now sold online and in mainstream places like Amazon.com, the Fiesta supermarket down the street, or Wal-Mart. Here's a list of these kinds of saints we published in our story from two years ago.

Santa Muerte from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

Go into any Wal-Mart in Houston and you're likely to find a section with candles depicting the Virgin Mary or her skeletal counterpart. There might even be dozens of other candles that promise to help with life's dilemmas or cure problems. Many people, especially Santeros and Santeras pray using these candles for luck, for money, to control people, to help get relatives out of jail, to deal with impotency, or to deal with spurned love.

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[Video] Flying Without a Plane at iFly Indoor Skydiving

When it comes to superpowers, flying is right up there with invisibility when it comes to powers that most of us wish we have. While man has conquered mass flight, personal flight is another story. Sure, we have jetpacks and other devices that can make us fly, but pulling off a Superman pose isn't easy with a bunch of gear strapped to you.

Skydiving comes close, but is skydiving really anything other than fancy falling? Maybe yes, and maybe no, but not all of everyone who wants to experience the thrill of flying also wants to be thrown out of a plane.

Enter the world of indoor skydiving, courtesy of the folks at iFly, who are bringing two locations to the Houston area in 2015.

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5 Infamous Cults That Spent Time in Texas

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Daniel Tobias
A ruined bus at Mt. Carmel, home of the Branch Davidians, recently.
Texas is an enormous state, and has long been sought out by people wishing to forge their own path and break from conventional life. There are a lot of places in the Lone Star State to lose oneself, and that opens up both positive and negative possibilities. Sometimes Texas has acted like a magnet, attracting free-thinking individuals of all sorts and from many different walks of life. Other times, Texas has been home to various religious cults, probably enticed by the ability to live mostly unnoticed in a state where people tend to mind their own business.

A few of these cults are famous enough that almost everyone has heard of them. Others are more obscure, and they are vastly different from one another. But they all spent some time in the great state of Texas.

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4 Things to Help Make This New Year's a Good One

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by KOMUnews
Not what most of us inside the city want to see the neighbor kids playing with.

With the clock ticking away, counting down the hours until 2014 gives way to 2015, many of us are planning our festivities for New Year's Eve, while others are planning on staying in to avoid the hassles associated with the holiday. So what are some strategies available to us to make sure that January 1, 2015, starts off on a good foot, and not with a mountain of regret?

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4 Types of New Year's Resolutions a Lot of Us Make

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Sarah_Ackerman
Explosive and booze -- Two great traditions that go well together on New Year's Eve/

A new year is upon us, and many people will be reflecting on the past 12 months, and their experiences in 2014. A bunch more will be planning on getting wasted as part of a yearly social ritual where drunken revelry is tolerated, as long as no one gets behind the wheel of a car.

And one of the standby American New Year's traditions is making a few resolutions - things we intend to do or change in our lives over the coming year. The practice has loose origins going back to pagan rituals thousands of years ago. The Babylonians and Romans made similar promises of change to their gods each year, and it would seem that those sorts of positive personal vows are a common thread across time and different cultures.

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5 Reasons Some Outsiders Hate on Texas

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Almond Butterscotch

Texas gets picked on a lot by people who don't live here. Often the butt of unkind jokes, the Lone Star State was picked as the most hated in the United States in a 2013 Business Insider poll, so it's clear that at least a few people don't have a kind view of this state or its people.

Yes, I realize that many of us don't care what these negative creeps think. That's a very Texan attitude, a sort of "kiss my ass" defensiveness that is understandable considering the crappy attitude some people have about Texas. So what are some of the reasons many outsiders seem to dislike us?

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8 Odd Things I Noticed When I Bought a Motorcycle

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Chris Lane
Certain Motorcyclists Started Treating Me Differently When I Bought This Bike.
Buying a motorcycle for the first time exposes a person to a huge new world of experiences - Some directly related to the act of riding a motorized, two-wheeled vehicle on roads shared by sometimes terrible drivers rolling through town in huge metal boxes, and others involving motorcycle culture in general. So what can a motorcycle newbie expect when they ride out of the dealership on a new bike? Let's take a look.

8. You Will Hear Lots of Horror Stories About Riding Motorcycles.

One of the first things almost anyone contemplating riding a motorcycle will hear from someone - a spouse, parent, friend, or family member is how dangerous riding a motorcycle is. Sometimes these dire warnings come from near strangers upon hearing you ride a bike (or want to). The worst of those warnings will come with a horrific anecdote or two, like "Remember when the Anderson kid hit the back of that truck and got his head chopped off?"

And it's true, riding motorcycles can be a dangerous activity, especially while navigating busy Houston streets. More on that shortly. But after a point, hearing about how dangerous something you are set on doing can be just gets tiresome. Any responsible new rider should accept that riding motorcycles can be dangerous, and then take as many steps as possible to make his or her riding safer. But yeah, be prepared to hear lots of horror stories, and the suggestion that you will surely die a fiery death mangled into pulp from lots of people you know. On that note...

7. You'll Quickly Realize That Lots of People Drive Poorly.

I don't think it's a controversial observation that a lot of people here tend to drive like irresponsible idiots, speeding 20 miles over the limit, swerving in and out of lanes, while texting or talking on their cell phones. Safely maneuvering though an environment like that can be a challenge, especially for someone without a lot of experience on two wheels. Intersections and traffic situations that seem perfectly safe from within a car start to look alarmingly dangerous on a motorcycle. The change in perspective can be huge.

Motorcyclists routinely encounter terrible drivers on the road, and it tends to make a person cautious. Pulling alongside a huge truck with a bunch of dents on one side? My mind always assumes that person keeps hitting stuff, and I immediately try to put distance between myself and him. And when you know that a bad encounter with a car and a motorcycle is probably worth a trip to the hospital instead of just a mild fender bender, it tends to change a person's perspective.

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6 Strange Things I Learned Working in a Bookstore

Photo by Kenny Louie
My idea of Heaven.

I love books. I always have and always will. I have, at last count, something in the neighborhood of 7,000 of them, and a whole room in my house set aside for them. So when I got a job at a large chain bookstore several years ago, I thought I was in heaven. The pay was almost embarrassingly low, but at least I would be around books and the types of people who enjoy reading, I told myself. It'd be fun!

But as with every retail job I've ever had, I learned quite a few things working at that place. Some fairly surprising stuff, too.

6. People Steal a Lot of Books.

I was initially put in the Receiving Room, which, at that store, was the area where trucks delivered merchandise, and those items were sorted and stored until they could be put out on the store shelves. It was my duty to do all of that sorting and storing, as well as a few other things, and one of my jobs was to randomly place little magnetic anti-theft tags into some books. This policy was in place for a good reason. Something like 15 percent of the books that came into the store would eventually be stolen. With such a shocking amount of "shrink," it's no wonder that the store had me putting little alarm tags in every tenth book that I sorted. It also made me start looking at customers with a slightly cynical "Is he a book thief?" level of scrutiny.

5. People Steal a Lot of the Same Kinds of Books.

There were a few guidelines on which books got the anti-theft tags. Anything over $50 got one, for the most part, but I was also told to distribute them more liberally in certain kinds of books.

The most often stolen books were in the religious section, something I found sadly hilarious. Bibles and religious books of all types were the most heavily pilfered items in the store, and not just that store, but chain-wide.

Following that category were travel guides. Turns out a lot of people don't plan on using them more than once and don't really want to pay for them. Or maybe they funded their world travel by stealing books, I don't know. Next were college prep materials and reference books. More on college kids shortly.

And then there were the pricey art books, followed by erotica, both of which were stolen frequently. I assume that most of the thieves stole books to get reading material without paying, but occasionally another store would call us to warn us that a small group of thieves had just left their store, and usually that same group would make their way to us later in the day. They'd basically fill up backpacks, so maybe there's more money in reselling them than I previously thought.

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5 Things Houstonians Experience When the Weather Gets Cold

Categories: Random Ephemera

Photo by Cortney Martin
Houstonians Might Believe Ash is Falling From the Sky Before Realizing This is Snow. It's That Rare Here.

Houston's weather is famously manic. One day might be warm and humid, the type of day which will make almost anyone wonder if the proper term for our local climate should be "swampy." But that won't work, because our weather can change within hours, and the next morning might present us with a dramatically different forecast.

While it doesn't happen often, sometimes, during this time of year, the mercury dips dramatically, and Houston is faced with its own version of a winter weather. Generally more of an Icy Slush Fest than a pretty example of a snowy "Winter Wonderland," but it's what we get on our coldest days.

It's during these almost always brief periods of frigid weather that many Houstonians encounter familiar but nearly forgotten cold weather scenarios. For instance:

5. Many of us Don't Really Have Cold Weather Clothing.

Or not much of it anyway. My current winter weather wardrobe consists of a handful of hoodies and one light jacket. I don't think I'm alone in this, judging from the other guys I see similarly dressed, scurrying as quickly as they can from their cars to whatever source of heat they're running for. It just doesn't usually get THAT cold here, so buying a few heavy coats just isn't on everyone's must do list. On the four or five truly cold days out of the year where it seems like your bones might freeze on the stiff legged run from the front door to your car, that lack of foresight becomes obvious. As a side note, some people don't have warm clothes because they don't have the money to buy them, so donating clothes to shelters is a kind thing to do.

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