New Hobby Airport Display Encapsulates Spacesuit Evolution

May 2nd, 2019

The Exhibits team stands with the new EVA Suit Evolution exhibit that will educate and inspire visitors at Hobby Airport. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair

Travelers passing through Hobby Airport will enjoy new eye candy showcasing why Houston is affectionately dubbed “Space City.” The  recent installation of a new exhibit comparing two generations of spacesuit design will help connect NASA’s iconic past to Johnson Space Center’s next giant leap.

On the left of the Hobby Airport display, visitors will see a high-fidelity replica of a shuttle-era spacesuit, right down to the NASA “worm” logo. On the right is an identical counterpart to the suit used today on the International Space Station. For passing visitors, the exhibit serves as a bold welcome to Space City USA, symbolizing Houston’s leadership role in human space exploration. For curious travelers with a few moments to spare between flights, they will discover an evolution of engineering.

“The two spacesuits are the superstars of this display,” said Exhibits Program Manager Jack Moore of Johnson’s External Relations Office (ERO). “Using scrap materials and replica parts slated for disposal, David Hughes in the EVA [Extravehicular Activity] Office meticulously assembled the suits. He handcrafted each suit to look as though it was pulled right out of an official NASA photo from the era. No detail was overlooked—the color of the visors, glove configurations and period-specific patches—all lend credence to its authenticity.”

Assembling the display required a close working relationship between ERO and the EVA Office to get the details just right. While the ERO provided creative direction and craftsmanship to build the exhibit and safeguard the priceless artifacts within, the EVA Office was invested in ensuring the accuracy of the spacesuits and content, as well as finding the perfect home for the display.

“The case’s contemporary design was drafted by the late Larry Friend, an amazing talent and wonderful man on the COMIT [Communications, Outreach, Multimedia, and Information Technology Contract] Exhibits team,” Moore said. “The COMIT team completed his work by integrating elements to support the preservation of the suits, such as vented fans and museum-grade Lexan. Cindy Bush, our graphic designer on the project, also worked closely with the EVA Office to draft beautiful designs to convey the story. Using a visual timeline across a sloped face of the display, she highlighted major component modifications through the decades.”

The EVA Office was over the Moon about the finished display and recognized the entire Exhibits group in the weeks leading up to installation at Hobby Airport.

“We’ve worked over the last year or so with the [COMIT] team on designing displays that tell the story of EVA,” said Chris Hansen, manager of the EVA Office. “Their creativity and passion for the work they do is very evident in the products they produce. They understand that these displays are inspirational, and you can tell that they put their hearts into the work they’ve done for us. It’s great to have such a talented resource available to us—a resource that cares as much about the products they create for us as we do.”

While travelers taking to the friendly skies will be swept into a 3D visualization of explorers who have donned these types of spacesuits to explore even higher trajectories, there are still other stories to be told. The Moon is center stage once more, and generations young and old are waiting to be a part of NASA’s next big adventure.

The Hobby Airport exhibit is only one example of how we can highlight the important work done every day to support humans in space. As Moore explained, the team works with many organizations throughout the year to create exhibits that share the many facets of the center with the public.

“We have an incredibly talented pool of designers, craftsmen, project managers and writers waiting to start the next exciting project,” Moore said.

HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake launches innovative alternative to open heart surgery

May 2nd, 2019

The HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake cardiology team celebrates after the hospital’s first TAVR procedures.

This April, Houston’s Bay Area marked a major cardiology milestone as HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake launched its transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) service, successfully completing three procedures on its first day.

A relatively new procedure, TAVR replaces damaged aortic valves through a catheter in contrast to open-heart surgery in which surgeons cut open the chest to expose the heart. Typically, candidates for TAVR suffer from aortic stenosis, a common but serious valve problem in which the aortic valve opening narrows, dangerously restricting blood flow and affecting pressure in the heart.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TAVR in 2012 for patients who are considered at high risk for open-heart surgery. In 2016, the FDA approved the procedure for patients at intermediate risk. Later this year, experts expect the agency to expand its approval to low-risk patients, which will dramatically increase the number of patients who qualify for TAVR.

Just this April, Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger underwent TAVR for his heart valve disease, raising awareness of the procedure’s benefits, including not needing to rely on a bypass machine and a faster recovery – one to two days instead of three to five.

The FDA imposes strict requirements for hospitals wishing to practice TAVR, including successfully completing a certain number of open heart, surgical aortic valve, catheter, and percutaneous coronary interventions per year. The heart hospital at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, the only dedicated heart hospital in the Bay Area, performs more than 1,000 heart procedures annually.

Surgeons Pranav Loyalka and Hannan Chaugle worked with a team of cardiologists to successfully perform HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake’s first TAVR procedures. Patients interested in learning more about TAVR and other cardiology services should call (888) 842-3627 for more information.

Clear Lake’s Gemini Avenue to get facelift

March 13th, 2019

Houston City Council Member Dave Martin is pleased to announce Houston Public Works crews will be performing an asphalt overlay along Gemini Avenue from El Camino Real to Reseda Drive. Construction is scheduled to begin the week of March 25, 2019 and is expected to be complete by the end of June 2019, weather permitting.

The project will start in the 1000 block of Gemini Avenue and progress towards Reseda Drive. The scope of work includes resurfacing the asphalt street. This process includes milling off an approximate 2 inch layer of old asphalt, repairing the base as needed, spraying tack coat and overlaying 2 inches of new asphalt surface pavement. Crew staging activities are anticipated to occur between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., with work occurring between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

As a result of the construction activities, motorists are asked to be aware of flagmen and orange traffic cones that will be put in place on site to help with traffic flow through the construction zone as temporary lane closures are expected.

One lane will be open in each direction during peak traffic hours. Residents and businesses may experience temporary delays accessing Gemini Avenue, as well as individual driveways, and may experience an increase in noise levels because of trucks and equipment.

For more information, contact Council Member Dave Martin’s office at 832-393-3008 or districte@houstontx.gov.

Serendipity

March 4th, 2019

Photo by Michael W. Gos

By Michael W. Gos

Guadalupe River, Texas

My running buddy and I were surrounded by what appeared to be an ocean of college kids, each dragging a tube and some with elaborate beer-cooler/multi-tube floatation systems that suggested these people were not the novice river runner I was. I felt a bit out of place, but at the same time, I was looking forward to trying this classic Texas activity—even if I was bit on the geriatric side.

As we stood on the bank, the bus driver/guide told us about the four sets of rapids we would encounter and how to safely negotiate our way around each. The first was Hueco Falls and we were told to stay to the far left. When he was finished, we waded into the icy water. It was absolutely shocking on entry, but after a few seconds it felt great on this blazing August day.

Feeling like a hippo trying to mount a tricycle, I fought my way onto the tube and began my trip downstream. Seconds later, I was underwater with a snoot full of river and the rather unpleasant sensation of bouncing off rocks. The driver failed to tell us Hueco Falls was barely 100 yards from our put-in point.

After what seemed like minutes underwater, being battered repeatedly, I surfaced at the end of the falls minus my tube. It seemed my day on the river had come to an abrupt end after less than two minutes and I was going to be paying for a lost tube. I struggled over to the left bank and hung on a tree root, just trying to catch my breath.

About five minutes later I heard a young man shout, “Did anyone lose a tube?” I guess my day wasn’t over after all. I retrieved the tube, thanked him profusely and then rested a few more minutes. Finally, hanging onto the tube for dear life, I waded down to a shallower spot where I would be able to once again “gracefully” climb aboard.

The rest of the trip turned out to be much less eventful, and at the end of the day, we pulled out in beautiful downtown Gruene. I returned the tube, changed clothes and headed to the Gristmill for dinner.

Sitting in one of the open areas overlooking the river, I enjoyed a chicken fried steak and a Corona. I planned to attend a show at Gruene Hall that night, so I just hung out there on the deck for a couple of hours watching the river run far below me and listening to restaurant’s music (which, by the way, was far more appropriate for someone my age than the people I had shared the river with that day). About an hour later, Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” came on and instantly, I was 17 again with a guitar hanging around my neck.
Like most kids in the ‘60s, I was part of a very bad garage band. We never amounted to anything, but we had a great time and dreamed of the day we would be more famous than the Beatles. One of the songs we played was this Cream hit and it led to one of my proudest moments. Well, it was at the time anyway. The song ends with a continuous striking of a single chord as the sound fades out. But the chord didn’t give closure to the song. While Cream made it work on the record by fading out the sound, in live performances, you can’t do that; songs need to end.

That open cadence drove me crazy for weeks and one practice day, as we finished the song, I just couldn’t take it anymore and I hit the chord that would give the song closure. Immediately, I, and everyone else in the band, recognized it as the first of the three-chord opening to the Who’s “I can See for Miles.” We segued immediately into that song and loved the way it sounded. Forever after, we performed those two songs together.

Back then, I didn’t understand that music was just math and architecture was frozen music. If I did, this “discovery” would have been no big deal. It would have been obvious if I just looked at it mathematically. But I didn’t know that then; I just knew that the final chord left us hanging and it drove me crazy. I had to close the loop. The way it happened was serendipity at its best—a totally pleasant accident.

Some of our most interesting discoveries have come from this kind of serendipitous event. Penicillin, Post-it notes, Viagra and even microwave ovens were all happy accidents. We are always shocked and delighted when they happen. We treat these events as if they were gifts— or even miracles—and in a sense, they are.

But I really have to wonder if these things we call serendipitous are really accidental or even all that rare for that matter. If you think about it, these “accidents” appear to be all around us, and they are happening far too often to be considered rare. A quick Google search will give you list after list of them—things like The Top 100 Serendipitous Scientific Discoveries. I wonder if they just might be the norm, rather than special events.

If they are indeed as common as I suspect, perhaps the thing that turns these everyday events into serendipity is our ability to see them when they are right there in front of us.
How many do we miss just because we aren’t open to them, or more important, are not expecting them? I wonder if it is possible to not only expect these happy accidents but, more importantly, to make a concerted effort to look for them. Maybe it is somewhat like hunting for morel mushrooms. They seem to be rare and very hard to find, but once you get “in the zone,” you realize they are everywhere. It may take two hours to get there, but once you do, you can gather a basket full of them in five minutes.

I experienced two “accidents” on this day, one not-so-pleasant one over Hueco falls (which I later learned was actually a Class III rapid; I guess I was lucky to just get a little bruised) and another in remembering my “discovery” of the connector between two songs. Yet I can’t help but wonder, how many other happy accidents didI miss on this, and every other day of my life.

How much more could we accomplish if we just made a concerted effort to be open to, and more importantly, to expect these events and be prepared to act on them when they occur?

UHCL, Freeman Library partner to foster reading and writing skills in small children

January 15th, 2019

Educators are always looking for new, creative ways to help small children become comfortable with reading and writing. For Elaine Hendrix, Heather Pule and Roberta Raymond, all professors in University of Houston-Clear Lake’s College of Education, facilitating a partnership with Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library so that future educators can help parents of small children fall in love with books is a step toward making that happen.

“The Freeman Library is such an excellent resource, and after meeting with (Assistant Branch Librarian Youth Services) Elizabeth Hunt and (Branch Manager) Christina Thompson, we decided to find a way to work together,” Hendrix said.

“Parents have already been bringing their children to the library to introduce them to reading,” she said. “We teach future educators reading methods classes. Students need the hands-on practice in the field, doing community-based, experiential learning. Setting up workshops for parents and our students to work together seemed like a perfect fit.”

There is so much information about how best to help a child learn, it can become overwhelming. “We often get questions from parents and caregivers who want to help their child along as they grow and learn, and they’re not exactly sure how to do that,” Thompson said. “As a library, our goal is to connect our community with the resources and information they need. We also believe that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher.”

Thompson said the library jumped at the opportunity to share Freeman Library’s resources with UH-Clear Lake’s expert faculty and rising educators. “We have already heard feedback that our families are finding the information they learned about child development to be very empowering,” she said.

“We have done three parent trainings, including a writing workshop for children ages 3 to 5,” Raymond said. “We explained to parents what emergent writing looks like, and gave them information packets. We suggested ways to encourage writing and let them know that those scribbles they’re seeing really mean something.”

Assistant Professor of Reading and Language Arts Heather Pule presented a workshop to parents about oral language development. “We discussed how oral language starts developing at birth and how it continues through everyday talk, through a baby’s environment, and through reading from birth,” Pule said. “It was wonderful to be able to talk with parents about something so important for their child’s development.”

Hendrix added, “We have done a reading workshop for 18 month to 3-year-olds, sharing a book and doing hand games to go along. We demonstrated how to be dramatic when reading aloud, and how much it benefits children to have something read over and over again.”

She said that they’d also discussed how much can be taught from a simple picture book, and how to go deeper than the story to encourage verbal interaction.

“It’s the goal of the Children’s Department to support families, child care providers and communities to help every child enter school ready to learn to read,” Hunt said. “Our partnership with UHCL connects local families to experts in early literacy that they might not otherwise have access to. Any community connection the library can make that supports families as they raise their children is a useful one.”

Raymond said creating the connection between future educators and the librarians at Freeman helps tap into each other’s resources. “We are certifying our students to become early childhood-6th grade teachers, and they have to be prepared to work at all levels since they’ll be certifying at all levels,” she said. “Both sides can benefit greatly from this experience.”

 

For more information about UHCL’s Interdisciplinary Studies B.S. with Core Subjects EC-6, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/interdisciplinary-studies-bs-ec-6-early-childhood-concentration. For more information about UHCL’s Reading M.S. with Reading Specialist Certificate, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/reading-ms-reading-specialist-certificate

COM students to perform with Texas All State Band

January 15th, 2019

College of the Mainland musicians, Thomas Austin, left, and Austin Kelton have been selected to perform with the Texas Community College Band Directors All-State Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Band next month.

Two College of the Mainland students will perform with the Texas Community College Band Directors All-State Jazz Ensemble and Symphonic Band next month.

Austin Kelton and Thomas Armstrong, both music majors at the Texas City community college, auditioned and were chosen to play during the Texas Music Educators Conference on Feb. 16 in San Antonio. Armstrong, a clarinetist, is part of the Symphonic Band while Kelton, a trombonist, is part of the Jazz Ensemble for the second year.

“I am really happy for them” said Sparky Koerner, chairman of the Fine Arts Department.

“They both put in lots of practice on the audition music and it has paid off.”

Kelton will rehearse and perform under the direction of Rick Condit, director of the Lamar University Jazz Ensemble, and a former member of the Stan Kenton Orchestra.

“That will be exciting for him, considering that Mr. Condit has an international reputation as a jazz educator and performer,” Koerner said.

Kelton is part of the COM Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band and Armstrong is a member of the COM Concert Band. Both students are from Texas City and were part of the Texas City High School band program.

Being a part of the All-State ensembles has become a tradition at COM with 32 students having performed in the All-State and All-Star jazz and symphonic bands in Texas and around the United States.

Age-Adjusted Philosophy

January 2nd, 2019

Photo by Michael W. Gos

By Michael W. Gos

McKinney, Texas

We were in McKinney all weekend for a wedding and all the parties that go with it. In between the festivities, we had an afternoon to kill. As a married man, I knew what the agenda was going to be—shop till you drop. Fortunately, my sweetie and I have a system that works well for both of us. She drops me off at husband day care (the nearest bar) and she goes about her business while I read, talk with other oenophiles or just watch the world go by. McKinney is the perfect place to do this since the old courthouse square is surrounded by outdoor cafes and one very nice wine bar, the Landon Winery. It was a perfect autumn day, so I had no complaints.

A glass of French wine in front of me, I was watching two police officers saunter by on horseback when a waiter brought a woman to the next table. She immediately ordered a Cotes du Rhone. The waiter laughed and pointed out that this wine was seldom ordered there. And now, here were two strangers, sitting at adjacent tables requesting the same thing. He said it was “too weird” and walked off. Of course, that started the conversation.

She told me about her daughter, now in her early 30s, and the attitude she had that the future wasn’t worth devoting any of her time or energy to. She wanted to have fun, to do things, to live now while she was young and could enjoy it. As you might expect, Mom was not pleased with that mindset.

It is a universal human trait for each generation to complain about the younger one. I know I often find myself thinking things like that about my students. (I have solid evidence of the decline; student performance on college admissions tests has crashed and burned in the last 50 years.) But then, I also keep getting slammed by memories of my dad saying exactly the same things about my generation and how we were going to hell in a handbasket. (Okay, he might have been right.)

There is a lot of research that suggests the woman’s daughter may not be so far out of the norm, especially for her generation. I think there is a lot of energy being put into indoctrinating us into that way of thinking, especially by pop culture and self-help gurus. You know the claims. The past is dead; the future doesn’t exist. All we have is today, so you’d better make the most of it.

The problem is, I can’t really say this is such a bad way of looking at life. It seems to me, in the end, we will probably regret the things we didn’t do more than those we did, so why not use our time, and money, doing exciting, fun things? After all, we might not ever have a chance to do them again; we might not even be here tomorrow.

But then there is the other side. When I was young, I thought about life in much the same way as that girl. I was well into my thirties before I started seeing this issue differently. The fact is, regardless of the catchy phrases and persuasive arguments to the contrary, the here-and-now is only one third of the whole picture. If we buy into the usual definitions of time and space, life is a long chain of events. To understand life, we have to see it all. The problem is most people never see the entire chain, only the closest link.

Photo by Michael W. Gos

First, there is the obvious problem, the one I think the Cotes du Rhone mom was most worried about—the future and the obvious issue of finances. When do you start planning for buying that house, having that kid, or for retirement? I think the lack of attention to this matter is what most people see as the problem with living only in the now. In fact, most see it as being irresponsible.

But there is a more important issue regarding the future than finances. Those who don’t look to—and plan for—the future, stagnate. You can’t move forward into a future you didn’t plan and expect good results. Life will always be a series of “accidents” and you will never feel like you have any control over what happens to you.

And then there is the other direction. Fewer people consider the downside of ignoring the past, but it may have even greater consequences for our lives than not thinking about, and planning for, the future. Looking back, I can see how dumb I was about life. Like many young people, I made a lot of stupid decisions. But I learned from them; they made me what I am today. However, this learning always happened long after the fact. Only by looking back later could I understand the events and why they were important. Mistakes are a necessary part of life, but if I had not spent some time looking at the past, they would have remained just mistakes. I would never have received their gifts.

There is nothing wrong with making the most of today. But if we are going to excel in life, our world view should include learning from the past and planning for the future. For a happy future, we must look beyond the closest link and see the entire chain. It only makes sense.

And yet, I can’t deny that there is that other issue; we never know what day will be the last, so obsessing over the past or working diligently for a future could turn out to be a total waste of life. If you are thinking I can’t make up my mind which approach is better, you are exactly right.

Winston Churchill once said, “Any man under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man over 30 who is not a conservative has no brains.” Perhaps we can apply Churchill’s logic to the question of how to live life; I wonder if the answer to this dilemma might be age-dependent.

When young, it is certainly prudent to study past mistakes and plan for the future. But there comes a time when our futures are fairly secure, and we have life pretty well figured out (at least we hope we do). Usually by then we become aware of our mortality and recognize that we are indeed running out of sunsets. It seems to me that maybe this is the time when living for the now is appropriate.

A friend of mine once referred to his retirement as “selfish bastard time.” Maybe he had this thing figured out and he was trying to show me the answer.

Houston Methodist Clear Lake Pledges $500,000 to expand Leader in Me program

November 1st, 2018

Joining in to celebrate the CCISD Leader In Me Houston Methodist announcement at the Clear Creek Education Foundation Kick Off Breakfast were Armand Bayou Elementary students, from left to right, 5th grader Miller Skowron, 4th grader Sophia Tamayo, 5th grader Carmen Evans, and 1st grader Violet Van Haaren; along with Port Commissioner John Kennedy, who serves on the Houston Methodist Board of Directors; CCISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith and attorney Levi Benton with Mahomes Bolden PC and on the hospital Board of Directors and CCEF Board of Directors.

Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital has committed half a million dollars to the Clear Creek Education Foundation in support of the Clear Creek School District’s planned expansion of The Leader In Me program in 14 schools over the next five years.

The announcement was made at the Clear Creek Education Foundation’s Community Kickoff Breakfast held at the CCISD Challenger Columbia Stadium Fieldhouse.

Clear Creek ISD is in its third year of progressively implementing The Leader In Me program at its schools. The Leader In Me program is a whole school transformation process that teaches 21st century leadership and life skills to students and creates a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child can be a leader. This mindset leads to tangible improvements in the academic, behavioral and social wellbeing of participating students.

With funding made possible by the Clear Creek Education Foundation, Falcon Pass Elementary and Armand Bayou Elementary schools were the first two CCISD campuses to introduce The Leader In Me program into their school culture. Both campuses have seen the trajectory of their school’s academic performance rise along with student achievement and positive behaviors.

Over the next five years, the Houston Methodist Clear Lake contribution will have the power to substantially increase the footprint of The Leader In Me in CCISD and positively impact an additional 13,000 students in grades pre-k through 12 throughout the District.

“The impact of Houston Methodist’s generous commitment will be both measurable and immeasurable for years to come,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith. “Our students will be even better equipped to achieve their full potential, build the skill-set necessary for success in the 21st century and access more opportunities for a better life.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a similar commitment of $60,000 over three years by Space Center Rotary Club to begin the program at Space Center Intermediate.

Based on Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Leader in Me allows administrators, faculty, staff and students the opportunity to practice and celebrate the 7 Habits daily, learning how to be proactive, set goals and collaborate with others.

The Leader In Me is aligned with many national and state academic standards and the process teaches students the skills needed for academic success in any setting. These skills include critical thinking, goal setting, listening and speaking, self-directed learning, presentation making and the ability to work in groups.

“The Leader In Me cultivates the qualities and attitudes employers look for in today’s highly competitive environment,” said Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital CEO Dan Newman. “Self-management, independent thinking, problem-solving and other important skills like these empower our students with the tools they need to achieve success. I applaud CCISD’s innovation and its commitment to adopt The Leader In Me. Houston Methodist Clear Lake is proud to play a role in providing this unique opportunity to potential future leaders.”

The District plans to continue to expand the program into even more schools until every CCISD campus and student has the opportunity to experience The Leader In Me and unleash their full potential. Business, government and community organizations interested in becoming a Leader In Me underwriter and partner may contact Deborah Laine, executive director of the Clear Creek Education Foundation (a 501c3 organization) at 281.284.0031 or at dlaine@ccisd.net.

Harvest Moon, Hurricanes, and that particularly bad boy, Harvey

September 1st, 2018

By Andrea Todaro

The Harvest Moon Regatta® is probably the best known sailboat race on the Texas Gulf Coast, although even many participants do not know its history, or the role that hurricanes have played in its evolution.

The first HMR was the brainchild of three sailors from Lakewood Yacht Club. As John Broderick told the story, one Friday night at Lakewood the bar conversation turned to the need for more opportunities to sail and in particular, opportunities to get offshore. Sail maker John Cameron offered “the best sails I’ve had were late in the fall in the Gulf after the summer doldrums are over and the winter Northers haven’t started.” Competitive racer Ed Bailey agreed, saying he missed the old Texas Offshore Race Circuit (“TORC”) sailing events. Broderick, a dedicated cruiser and, at the time, Lakewood’s commodore, agreed and said, “why don’t we organize something?”

The bar talk led to discussions with members of other area sailing clubs, some of which were held at Frank’s Shrimp Hut, which is now Hooter’s in Seabrook. The first regatta, in 1987, was planned as a four race event beginning with a skippers’ meeting on Friday, Sept. 25, and a kickoff party on Saturday, Sept. 26. Racing started on Thursday, Oct. 1 and ran through the 10th with race segments or “legs” from the Galveston jetties to Port Isabel, back up the coast to Port Aransas, back to the Galveston Jetties, and then up to Marker Two at the Clear Creek channel leading into Lakewood’s homeport, Seabrook.

The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is known as the “harvest moon” and is characterized by a bright orange color; it is followed by a “hunter’s moon. The “harvest moon” can occur as early as September 8th or as late as Oct. 7 which was the date of the “harvest moon” in 1987. Thus, in October 1987, with the races occurring between October 1st and the 10th, the Harvest Moon Regatta® was born. Seventeen yachts sailed that first year, with several bikini beach parties along the way.

In 1988, the “harvest moon” fell on Sept. 25, so the race start was scheduled for Thursday, Sept.22, but on Sept. 8 Hurricane Gilbert destroyed the Queen’s Point Marina at Port Isabel. The race start was delayed three weeks to Oct. 14 and the destination was changed to Port Aransas. Thus began the tradition of sailing to Port Aransas under a magnificent full moon, sometimes a “harvest moon” if it fell during the first seven days of October, otherwise a “hunter’s moon” if it fell on or after the 8th of October.

Mother Nature and Hurricane Gilbert are credited with the growth of the Harvest Moon Regatta® which grew steadily from the 17 yachts of 1987 to over 260 yachts in later years. The growth was due in large part to the perfect destination, Port Aransas. As John Broderick described it: “This ideal Texas port allows yacht owners and sailors to use minimal days from work to join in on what can be a most memorable overnight sail down the Texas coast during traditionally the best offshore sailing time of the year. And we can all do this in relative safety shared by some 200 other yachts.”

The race, open to sailors with no club affiliation as well as members of other area sailing clubs, became a bucket list item for many Texas sailors, many of whom had little or no offshore experience. The growth of Harvest Moon Regatta® also resulted in the formation of a charitable organization, Bay Access Sailing Foundation. Bay Access now serves as the regatta’s organizing authority, with race management provided by volunteers from Lakewood Yacht Club.

In 2015, Hurricane Patricia was forecast to envelop Port Aransas in a “catastrophic rain event” with the worst conditions forecast for Sunday morning when sailors would be required to leave the relative safety of Port Aransas City Marina for the trip back to Houston and various other home ports. Numerous warnings from weather officials eventually prompted race organizers to cancel the race for the first time in its history. Despite the race cancellation, the party in Port Aransas went on, and some of the more seasoned sailors sailed the course and were able to obtain slips in the City Marina harbor to ride out the gale force winds that arrived as forecast on Sunday morning.

In 2017, when the actual “harvest moon” again fell in October, on the 5th, Hurricane Harvey put a new twist on the story. Hitting the Texas coast near Port Aransas on Aug. 25, the storm devastated “the ideal Texas port” and dumped torrential rain on the entire Houston area. This time, instead of canceling the race or rescheduling it, race organizers decided to reformat the race as a triangle race, similar to Lakewood’s TORC event, the Heald Bank Regatta, which is traditionally held in April. Beginning and ending at the Galveston Jetties, the Regatta was followed by an awards party at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, where regatta volunteers put a special focus on raising money for the devastated Port Aransas. Port Aransas city officials were surprised to receive a check for about $20,000 from the regatta, and they are looking forward to the return of the regatta this year, although it will be many years before Port Aransas recovers to pre-Harvey prosperity.

Prairie Dogs

September 1st, 2018

By Michael W. Gos
Caprock Canyon, Texas

We came to Caprock Canyon State Park up in the panhandle with the intention of seeing the State of Texas buffalo herd. We spent the better part of a day driving and hiking to the various spots where the park rangers told us the animals tended to frequent. However, it was already nearly sunset, and it was looking like that wasn’t going to happen for us. As we made our way back toward the visitors’ center, we had a stroke of good luck. While still not finding buffalo, we did stumble across a prairie dog town.

Most people think a prairie dog town is one large unit with lots of connected tunnels and numerous entrances that houses the entire colony. The fact is, the typical town is more like a subdivision full of single family homes. The prairie dog family generally consists of one male and four or five females. (Should I be jealous?) In some cases, there may also be a kid or two living at home till the old man decides they are old enough to make their own way in the world.

From the outside, what we humans see is a collection of cute little critters that pop up out of holes, look around, and then pop back down. It is a non-stop frenzy of activity not unlike a game of “whack the mole.” Nothing is ever done, however. They never pick anything up and seldom stray more than an inch or two from the hole. It is just a mass of non-productive up and down energy that we humans find both cute and fascinating.
Even if you have never seen a real prairie dog town, you are probably quite familiar with this concept. One need only look around at our fellow humans to see this behavior modeled. Next time you are in a crowded atrium of a large office building, a shopping mall or any place people congregate, watch what is happening. You will see non-stop random movement, constant energy. But what are these people doing? More important, what are they accomplishing? This seems to be a universal trait of the human condition: non-stop frenetic energy spent with little or nothing to show for it.

I have been a writer for more than 40 years. In the early days, my work habits resembled the prairie dogs’. I would begin by writing the first sentence, in hopes that by the time I had it down on paper I’d have an idea for a second sentence. Needless to say, before a piece was ready for publication, it went through dozens and dozens of revisions. In the process, I was particularly bothered by the fact that I often spent a lot of time revising sections that wouldn’t even make it into the final version. It was time and energy expended with little to no result. But, nevertheless, I felt good about it. After all, I was getting something done.

But still, I was uncomfortable with the process. I was busy, sure, but was I really accomplishing much with all that activity? It seemed I was spending an incredible amount of time and effort given the magnitude and quality of the final product that was produced. I felt there just had to be a better way.

One day, it hit. What if, instead, I did all that planning and revising work in my head while sitting outside in my rocking chair next to the fountain? What if I didn’t get anywhere near a pen, paper or a computer in those early stages? What if I just sat, smoked my pipe and thought? I spent a good deal of time analyzing that idea and, in the end, I was still uncomfortable with it. It didn’t even seem possible.

But I found I couldn’t put the idea out of my mind. Its implementation seemed inevitable, so eventually, I gave it a try. I admit it was uncomfortable at first and I felt guilty just sitting around and calling it work. But eventually, it all came together. I began to understand how this work thing is really done.

Today, I don’t put a single word on paper until I have the entire piece worked out. I know the beginning, the end and everything in between in great detail. I even know what photos I will use. The result: far fewer revisions and much less time and work expended. Best of all, I can enjoy a certain smugness when I am sitting in the sun with my eyes closed and someone asks what I’m doing. When I reply that I’m writing, the looks I get are priceless.

I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with a “go-get-em” work ethic. After all, in those early years, that process did lead me to some limited success. And today, if a student comes to me with a great work ethic, I can overlook a lot of shortcomings. It takes hard work to get to the point where you start to understand how to do any task well. No one plays concert-level piano on first sitting down to the instrument. But at some point in time, we need to realize that so much more can be accomplished if we just slow down and think things through before we take any action. That not only means less work for the same results, it also makes us less likely to become victims of the calamitous law of unintended consequences. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could teach this to our politicians?

Life is a game. We keep score by results achieved, not by effort expended. Most people confuse activity with accomplishment. When judging their progress toward success, they are often measuring the wrong parameter. I now realize it was obvious all along; I just didn’t see it. The secret to success is to work less but accomplish more.

While all of that frenetic energy is wasted in us humans, it does have some real value for prairie dogs. It provides us two-leggeds with great entertainment and, after all, the little critters are awfully cute. But frankly, I’m not that cute. You might not be either. And I don’t think entertaining others would be high on my list of goals in life. I prefer to use my rocking chair method.

By the way, we never did see the buffalo.