Happy Labor Day! Houston Has More Workplace Fatalities Than Other Texas Cities

Categories: Spaced City

Jens Schott Knudsen
Friday marked the end of the national Labor Rights Week, which takes place every year during the last week of August leading up to Labor Day. But Houston as a city isn't in the best position when it comes to worker safety.

Labor Rights Week -- organized by the U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with various embassies, consulates, worker rights groups, community and faith-based organizations, and local unions -- aims to "increase awareness and inform workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities under U.S. labor laws."

Houston itself has the worst record in Texas, and Texas the worst in the country, when it comes to workplace fatalities or catastrophes. According to a recent Dallas Morning News investigation, Texans are significantly more likely to die on the job than workers in other states. "More workers die here than in any other state," according to the report. "On average, a Texas worker is 12 percent more likely to be killed on the job than someone doing the same job elsewhere...That translates to about 580 excess workplace deaths over a decade."

So far this year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Houston has seen more than 3 times the amount worker fatalities than Dallas, the second most fatal city for workers in Texas.

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Latest Astrodome Proposal: World's Largest Indoor Park

Categories: Spaced City

Ballpark to actual park.
After the seemingly endless string of ideas for what to do with the rotting corpse we used to call the Astrodome, ranging from novel (leaving just the roof and putting a park under it) to the downright ridiculous (indoor snow skiing?), that latest from County Commissioners Court is said to harken back to what Judge Roy Hofheinz intended when he dreamed up the world's first indoor stadium: keeping things inside.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who called the most recent concept from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans to build an expansive green space surrounded by buttresses from the Dome "a silly plan," decided to bring his own vision before the people on Tuesday, unveiling the concept of an indoor park complete with green space, a pavilion, areas for music and exercise, as well as educational activities for kids, something being touted by Commissioner El Franco Lee who presides over the Astrodome's district.

For once, I can't use this space to level heavy-handed criticism at an actual idea regarding the Dome because, quite frankly, from the perspective of Houston, this might actually make sense.

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SpaceX Rocket Explosion Keeps Space Community on Edge

Categories: Spaced City

Photo from SpaceX

A SpaceX rocket exploded in the skies above McGregor, Texas, during a test flight on Saturday. Though a nonchalant Elon Musk waved the mishap with a short tweet acknowledging that "Rockets are tricky," the fact remains that explosions are scary and tend not to reflect well on companies.

SpaceX is a leading commercial spaceflight company with plans to shift business to Texas with the ultimate goal of launching humans to the International Space Station. Its successes are hailed as steps toward the next generation of aeronautics. Its failures, such as Saturday's destruction of a new version of the Falcon 9, routinely generate outcry from industry workers questioning whether SpaceX should ever stake human lives on its drive to work "faster, cheaper, better."

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BARC Is Bursting at the Seams and Needs Your Help

Categories: Spaced City

Courtesy BARC/PetHarbor.com
Charles asks, "What are you waiting for?"
If you've ever considered adopting or fostering an animal, listen up: Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care has taken in nearly 600 dogs and cats in the last week, busting the shelter's capacity. These furry dudes and dudettes need your help, stat.

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Real Life The Purge Hoaxes Hit The Woodlands Social Media

Categories: Spaced City

Thumbnail image for purge2-0718.jpg
Going viral.
The day before Halloween in 1938, a rather young Orson Welles took to the radio airwaves and scared the living hell out of people. The broadcast was part of a re-enactment of the H.G. Wells book War of the Worlds, but innocent, unsuspecting listeners were duped into believing aliens had landed on Earth. This was during a time when America was ramping up for World War II in a post-depression economy.

Today, people tend to be a bit more savvy about the potential for hoaxes, particularly on social media, though people have even been fooled by the video of a monkey shooting at African soldiers who had taunted it that was a promotion for the new Planet of the Apes joint. Sometimes fakes can be pretty convincing, which is why a recent spate of hoaxes surrounding the latest installment in The Purge films have led to worries in cities across America and even investigations by police and the FBI.

Those include posts to Facebook regarding similar purge-like conditions predicted for, of all places, The Woodlands. Personally, the only thing I imagine residents there purging is the Olive Garden, but someone seems to think it was worth the threat and authorities have taken it seriously.

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

Categories: Spaced City

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

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

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

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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