United's 787s Make a Comeback After Grounding

Categories: Texas Traveler

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Photo courtesy of Boeing Web site

After a four-month grounding, United Airlines' Dreamliner 787s return to the air. These aircraft are supposed to be Boeing's salute to energy-efficient travel. According to Boeing's Web site, this midsize airplane can carry between 210 and 290 passengers over a distance of up to 8,500 nautical miles, depending on the size of the airplane.

The aircraft can carry passengers over international distances on 20 percent less fuel than what midsize aircraft typically use -- a fact that has received quite a bit of attention. The Web site boasts a nearly two-generation jump in technology as Rolls Royce and General Electric collaborated to advance the 787's engine technology.

These advancements in technology have made the 787 an item of great expectations, with 52 aircraft so far and a total book order of 890 planes. Last Monday marked the first flight of the 787, from Houston to Chicago.

United Airlines was happy to report the flight was uneventful.

The plan is to fly the airplanes over shorter distances in the United States, before eventually opening up the aircraft for international flights. These longer flights will demonstrate the fuel efficiency of the aircraft, and are the main reason these planes were brought into existence.

But let us remind you why these planes were grounded in the first place.

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George Bush Intercontinental Is One of the Top Hookup Spots; Who Knew?

Categories: Texas Traveler

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You thought the only action you were going to see at George Bush Intercontinental Airport was from that one airport security guard who always gets a little handsy in the pat-downs, but you've got another think coming. Turns out, if you're looking to get a little lovin', IAH is the place to go, specifically Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in terminal E, according to a study from the folks at MeetAtTheAirport.com.

In fact, the airport (ahem) dating Web site -- which touts airports as the place to go to "meet new and exciting people while you wait for your flight" -- conducted a study among its users ranking the best places to "connect" (a.k.a. knock boots in an airport bathroom stall while keeping an eye out to make sure your luggage doesn't get swiped.)

Among the top five, ranked just below The Encounter at LAX, Vino Volo Restaurant at Washington Dulles Airport and the Salt Lick at Austin-Bergstrom, was Houston's very own Pappadeaux's (located next to gate E3 for those who really want to know.) That's right, Houston. We're in the big time now as far as airport hookup spots are concerned. Also, we totally beat out Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which came in at No. 5, and let's face it, we're all proud that DFW isn't even on the list. Fun fact: A hookup in terminal E has an added bonus of possibilities since both domestic and international flights run out of there. You could be meeting some mysterious stranger from Idaho, or he or she could be from someplace way more fun like Brazil.


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Ten Years Later, and How Iraq Can Change a Generation's Trajectory

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This is how Washington searched for WMDs, and how it lost a generation.
Every day after baseball practice, my Dad picked me up. Still clad in my dirt-stained pants, still too young to have a full appreciation for deodorant, I would toss my bookbags and gear in the back of our Volvo and jump in the front seat with him. He'd ask how practice was, and I'd tell him about the double play Alex and I turned, about the two singles I hit in the scrimmage. It was fun, I'd say. He'd nod, and he'd drive, and as we'd round the final sublets before swinging onto the freeway, I'd turn to him and ask if today was the day the US had found Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

It was 2003. I was a freshman in high school. This was our routine, my father and I. I'd drop sweat across the infield, bunch my baseball socks into the lowest and smelliest confines of my bag, and, early in the ride back, ask my father if we'd yet discovered Iraq's stores of anthrax and smallpox and ricin. I would ask my dad, days upon weeks upon an eventual season, whether or not the hunt was over. Whether we'd found the reason we were there.

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Constitutional Right to Bear Arms Found in Only Three Nations -- Rest of World Smothered in Tyranny, Apparently

Categories: Texas Traveler

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American, Mexican, and Guatemalan exceptionalism.
We've known for some time that the American Constitution, that yellowed document containing all our inalienable and God-given rights, was a special slip of parchment. The first of its kind, we've been told. The example. The lodestar. The exceptional.

But recent research, publicized last week in Bloomberg, has helped shed light on how truly exceptional our founding document remains. Through the work of University of Texas Government Associate Professor Zachary Elkins and a pair of colleagues, we now know that the United States Constitution is one of only three national constitutions, out of approximately 200 extant, that guarantees the right to a personal firearm.

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Sex Slaves, Bio-Programming, and Christ Incarnate -- Now Near Laredo!

Categories: Texas Traveler

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There were some that said it couldn't be done. There were some that said that Jonestown - after the cyanide and the suicide and the doctor from Houston who helped provide both - had turned cults passé, and tired, and pointless. Cults had had their time. They flamed out, in spectacular fashion, and it was time to move forward.

Sure, Heaven's Gate, Aum Shinrikyo, and Scientologists have all attempted to resurrect the myth and marketing of the cult. Branch Davidians even offered a bit of local fare. But none have landed the lasting emphasis of Mr. Jones and his Kool-Aid Gang.

Fortunately, news out of Nuevo Laredo may yet shake cultists from their doldrums. There's no Kool-Aid - or "Flavor Aid," if you're a stickler for historical accuracy - involved, but a combination of Jesus, sex slaves, and something called "bio-programming" may yet bring the cult back into the vogue it once enjoyed.

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Houston Airports Have New Artwork and Ways to Help You Avoid Travel Woes

Categories: Texas Traveler

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And stop calling me Shirley.
I was driving out to Bush Intercontinental Airport one night last week and noticed those really odd lit displays that sit at the entrance to the area on JFK Boulevard, and I wondered why exactly the lights were moving the way they were. Then I realized they were supposed to be simulating fireworks, which brought me to my next thought, which was, "Is it a great idea to show people simulated explosives on their way to the airport?"

Well, if that art isn't really your speed, no worries because both airports are sporting some new flava this holiday season. According to a release from the City of Houston, nearly two and a half million people will pass through Bush and Hobby airports between December 16 and January 4 and they'll get to feast their weary eyes on ten new art pieces installed in the Hobby lobby (HA HA!).

But if you really don't care about the damn artwork and you just want to get on your plane and get the hell outta here (or get off your plane and get the hell backa here), they offer some tips for streamlining your airport experience and links to help you through.

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Five No-Nos on an Airplane That Have Nothing to Do with Terrorism, Bomb Jokes, Mile High Clubs or Alcohol

Categories: Texas Traveler

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People do a lot of traveling during the holidays. From Thanksgiving through the beginning of the New Year, the airports are packed with people going home to see their families or just trying to get home where they left their eight-year-old boy alone to fend for himself and set up elaborate booby traps for would-be robbers. It's crazy!

Planes are a very convenient way to travel, obviously, but they are often cramped -- unless you're sitting in first class, big spender -- and filled with all sorts of annoyances. For the sake of your fellow passengers, if you get on a plane, you should follow some unwritten rules. We all know not to make jokes about bombs, and I recommend against drinking so much you puke on the pilot as you get off the plane.

These are simpler, easy-to-follow rules that will make traveling a lot nicer for everyone.

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Cheap Flights to Disney World Start in February on Spirit Airlines

Categories: Texas Traveler

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Spirit Airlines, an ultra-low-fare airline based in Florida, announced it will begin daily nonstop flights between Orlando and Houston on Valentine's Day this year. Hair Balls did a quick check of the cost for a round-trip ticket to Orlando in February and found a fare of $118.79. By comparison, the same ticket on Southwest using its Wanna Get Away fare was $166.

If you are feeling like taking the clan to Disney World, don't bother with the Wagon Queen Family Truckster and that awful smell coming from the back seat. You're safer taking a flight, especially so you don't get suckered into hauling dear old Aunt Edna with you.

Spirit also offers nonstop service to Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

So, hop on a flight there, Rusty, and don't leave the dog tied to the bumper.

Houston History: Finding Camp Logan Ruins at Memorial Park

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Marc Brubaker
Louis Aulbach, John Rich and Linda Gorski look at a hand-drawn map of the area. See more pictures of the ruins and hike in our slideshow.
A hidden part of Houston history resides in the underbrush at Memorial Park, and every year a group of amateur urban archeologists sets out to see as much of it as they can find. Yesterday, the group, led by Louis Aulbach, found the foundation of latrines and bathhouses built in 1917 for the 130th Infantry at Camp Logan, the World War I-era Army training facility after which Memorial Park is named.

Aulbach is a publisher of Texas River Guides and has a personal website that is an excellent resource for stories about Houston's history. The group was joined by Aulbach's writing and research consultant Linda Gorski and J.R. Gonzales, who writes the Houston Chronicle blog Bayou City History, plus a handful of history buffs.

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Texas Traveler: Stonehenge II on the Move

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Flickr photo by mlhradio
Stonehenge II, the worse-for-the-wear roadside attraction Texas Traveler visited early last year, is getting a new home and a new coat of paint, thanks to a local arts organization.

The replica, two-thirds the size of the prehistoric original, was built in a corn field skirting the Guadalupe River just outside the small town of Hunt by neighbors Al Shepperd and Doug Hill. Hill, a contractor, had finished building a patio on his property when he was left with a single, large slab of limestone he offered to Shepperd. Shepperd, oddly, decided to stand the slab upright in the middle of his land. It reminded him of Stonehenge, so he soon set about, with Hill's help, to create other pieces made out of plaster to complete the monument.

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