Back to School: Alligator Shows Up Early at Katy ISD's Beck Junior High Ready for Class

Categories: Spaced City

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Courtesy Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office
What, no backpack?
If the alligator above had his (or her, we can never tell without lifting their skirts) way, school would be in session at Beck Junior High in Katy Independent School District. Fort Bend County sheriff's deputies found this joker loafing around, smoking cigarettes and whistling at the lady gators on school grounds, and posted the photo to their Facebook page.

We can't say for sure, but we bet he was ditching math class. We get it, gator. We hate math too.

With classes scheduled to start within the next couple weeks and in-service before that, this would be the time to clear the campuses in Katy of large reptiles. Or maybe he could stick around for show and tell.

Space Flight: Increasingly, Gifted Individuals are Opting for the Private Sector Over NASA

Categories: Spaced City


Illustration by Ellen Weinstein

Amy Hoffman doesn't realize she's tapping her boots underneath the table at Boondoggles, where she's having a last lunch with Clear Lake friends before skipping town. The boots are baby-blue Cavenders, ankle high and definitely out of season because it's the first week of July and her friends are sweating in T-shirts, cargo shorts and sandals. Hoffman is deep in conversation about her imminent move from her native Texas, the scramble to stake an apartment in a market riddled with scams and listings that don't even include refrigerators.

Hoffman (not her real name) grew up in Austin and spent the past three years working in Houston, where Boondoggles, with its spacious seating and encyclopedic beer selection, became a regular hangout for her engineering clique. She always ran into coworkers there after hours -- astronauts, too, on occasion. Hoffman recounts over pizza chips how those sightings invariably cause her to geek out intensely, yet internally. She's always tempted to corner an astronaut and say hi, but she gets how creepy that would be. A friend who has dropped by to see her off tells her she's going to be missed.

As a NASA engineering co-op student at Johnson Space Center, Hoffman trained in various divisions of the federal space agency to sign on eventually as a civil servant. She graduated from college this year after receiving a generous offer from NASA, doubly prestigious considering the substantial reductions in force hitting Johnson Space Center in recent months. She did have every intention of joining that force -- had actually accepted the offer, in fact -- when she received an invitation to visit a friend at his new job with rising commercial launch company SpaceX.


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Woman Reports Dude Banging Her Driveway (Not a Euphemism)

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Hey Paul
This woman needed a sign like this woman.
It's always fun when a media entity gets to write a headline with something silly in it. In this case, KPRC's "Man Accused of Humping Driveway" is brilliant in its humor, simplicity and, remarkably, accuracy. According to a report, a woman pulled into the driveway of her Harris County home and was approached by a man, David Michael Gray, asking for a lighter. When she said she didn't have one -- because when a random dude shows up in your driveway wanting a lighter, he is NOT to be trusted -- he left...or so she believed.

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World's First Commercial Launchpad Coming to Texas

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Photo from SpaceX.com
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is super cute in orbit.

It's been a months-long courting process complete with millions of dollars in offered incentives, but private rocket company SpaceX finally gave in to Texas' incessant beckoning to establish the world's first commercial spaceport in Brownsville.

The San Francisco headquartered company has toyed with the idea of planting a launchpad in Texas, and CEO Elon Musk's decision leaves broken hearts in runner-up Cape Canaveral, home of Space Florida.

"We appreciate the support of Gov. Perry and numerous other federal, state and local officials who have partnered with us to make this vision a reality," Musk said in a news release. "In addition to creating hundreds of high tech jobs for the Texas workforce, this site will inspire students, expand the supplier base and attract tourists to the South Texas area."


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Amazing Time-Lapse Views of the Houston Area Over the Past 70 Years

Categories: Spaced City

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Satellite view of what would become JamaicaPirates Beach thanks to Google Earth.
Anyone who has lived here for even 10 years would not argue that the city of Houston has changed a lot. Go back two decades and it is even a more marked difference. But what about 40, 50, even 70 years ago? How far has our city really come? Thanks to the Google Earth history function and a major assist from Houston Press art director Monica Fuentes (who lives for this kind of thing), we get to find out.

We took snapshots of various parts of the city dating back to the 1940s and pieced them together into animations that demonstrate the radical growth of the Houston/Galveston region and the massive changes that have taken place.

Click any of the animations to see a larger view.

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Updated: Breweries and Distributors Say Beer Fest's Organizers Owe Them $100,000

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Francisco Montes
Beer Fest, in happier times.
Updated (July 25, 10:33 am): An early version of this story attributed a quote to Geoff Marolda. It should have been attributed to Walter Gordy III.

Nearly two months after the fourth annual Houston Beer Fest, brewers and distributors say the event's organizers owe them more than $100,000.

Although an estimated 30,000 people poured into Sam Houston Park for the two-day festival in early June, the event's director, Timothy Hudson, said unforeseen problems, including staff theft, had delayed the payments. Hudson and others who helped promote the event have also blamed money woes on headlining entertainer Rick Ross's last-minute cancellation, an assertion that makes no sense. We feel Beer Fest's promoters are serving up a frothy pint of craft-brewed bullshit.

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Houston to Ban Smoking at Parks, Pools, Golf Courses

Categories: Spaced City

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That includes parks, golf courses and pools there, smokey.
Following a trend that is occurring in numerous cities across the country, the city will extend its ban of smoking already enforced in most public indoor spaces, outdoor stadiums and within 25 feet of buildings to larger outdoor areas as well beginning September 2. The downtown library facilities will actually be the first to enforce the outdoor ban starting today.

There are 36 other cities in Texas and numerous others throughout the country that have implemented similar bans. The report in the Houston Chronicle pointed out that Houston's ban on smoking has lagged well behind that of other major cities. Houston banned smoking in indoor establishments including bars and restaurants in 2007.

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New Home Buyers Being Priced Out of Houston's New Construction Market

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Sarah de la Rosa
Rent too damn high...and so are new construction prices.
For nearly two years, the Houston residential real estate market has been booming and shows almost no sign of letting up. As a result, home inventories have been at all time lows in many parts of the city and surrounding area. It is not uncommon for a desirable home to go on the market and have multiple bids over the asking price on the first day. With the extreme demand for real estate comes not only a rise in housing costs and low inventory, but an increase in the cost of the land driving up the cost of new construction.

Making matters worse for first-time homebuyers, construction companies are all but abandoning "starter" homes that run less than $150,000 according to a recent report, and instead opting to build "move up" housing that starts around $300,000.

Of course, this is for new construction and does not include the purchase of resale homes, but with resale home inventory dramatically low, builders are rushing to add new homes to the market, just not homes most first-timers can afford.

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Sale of Tile Plant Means Expanded Development Between Washington Ave. and the Heights

Categories: Spaced City

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Aerial view with the tile plant area highlighted in yellow.
For decades, the area between Houston Avenue, Studemont, Interstate 10 and Washington Avenue was a tangle of warehouse, industrial plants and a smattering of wood-frame homes. It has only been in the past ten or 15 years that the area, which is home to numerous art complexes, began to see significant development as there became more of a desire for urban living. The first such domino to fall was when a Target, something the entire Heights area lacked after Kmart on 19th Street closed its doors (along with all the other Kmarts in Houston), opened. Eventually, a Kroger Signature store followed just west at Studemont. Now, one of the last industrial holdouts is finally clearing out.

Texas Tile Manufacturing, located smack-dab in between Target and Kroger, has finally decided to vacate its huge facility that now represents prime real estate along Interstate 10.

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Save the Dome: Judge Ed Emmett Calls Rodeo/Texans Green Space Plan "Silly"

Categories: Spaced City

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Photo by Jeff Balke
In better days.
According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, County Judge Ed Emmett has no desire to see a recent plan put forth on the part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans put into place. The plan would demolish the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and replace it with an open green space and a Hall of Fame surrounded by a "fence" made of pieces of the existing Dome's structure. They even provided some nifty renderings including a Photoshopped ESPN set and hosts with the, let's call it an Astro Park, in the background, clearly hinting that a decision needs to be made quickly with the 2017 Super Bowl to be held at NRG Stadium.

It would have helped if the person doing the Photoshopping had not just superimposed an NFL logo on the set of ESPN's College GameDay, but whatever.

Emmett called the idea "a silly plan" and even quipped that it would haunt him after he retires. Emmett no doubt remembers the one tarnish on former Mayor Bob Lanier's record, allowing Bud Adams to move the Houston Oilers to Tennessee. Adams wanted to contribute half to a downtown retractable-roof stadium (sound familiar?) that would cost around $250 million. NRG Stadium cost nearly twice that, with taxpayers footing the lion's share of the bill.

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