Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Vultures Lurking At School Cause Health Hazard"

Egads! Vulture droppings may be hazardous to your health, but I think that if my kid went to this school in New Braunfels, I'd be more worried about the fact there are vultures at my kid's school!


As many as 40 Black Vultures are roosting in trees near Seele Elementary School in New Braunfels.

The trees are also near where many students walk, forcing many kids to walk through bird droppings. Principal Cris Vasquez says she's concerned about kids carrying that into the school, as well as in the student's cars and homes.

They are considering several options for getting rid of the birds.

New Braunfels is between San Antonio and Austin.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Thief Preys on Church Members"

Here's another odd thief. He has been stealing tires from a church parking lot for about a year now.


A man is now in jail, accused of preying on people in church. For months, parishioners' tires have been stolen from the parking lot at St. Jude's Catholic Church on San Augustine. ...

Church leaders say more than 15 tires have been stolen over the past year.

Some of the church members say they will patrol the parking lot during services to discourage any more thefts.

I'm a bit surprised they weren't doing that some time ago. It seems a bit late now that the thief has been caught.

"Armed Men Threaten Homeowner, Steal AC Unit"

Another home invasion nets the criminals an unusual item: a window air-conditioning unit.


SAN ANTONIO -- Police arrested two men accused of breaking into a home and threatening the homeowner.

Police said the men broke into a West Side home and asked for someone who didn't live there.

The resident told police that afterwards the men threatened him with a gun and stole his air-conditioning window unit

Even stranger: the AC unit was full of drugs. Maybe those invaders knew what they were after all along.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Car crashes into house

Once again a driver has somehow managed to put a vehicle into somebody's home.


The crash happened close to 10 a.m. Saturday on IH-35 near Rayburn, officials said.

The SUV was swerving in and out of traffic, and the driver lost control on the exit ramp, authorities said. The SUV hit a curb, flipped and then smashed into the home.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

A burning pile of mulch VIII

Now officials are saying the owner of that burning pile of mulch in Helotes didn't have the proper permits.


SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Texas environmental officials have accused the owner of an enormous mulch pile that caught fire of failing to have proper permits and other environmental violations.

The violation notice disclosed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Friday listed 13 violations at the facility in Helotes, just outside San Antonio. Among them, failing to have proper permits, creating air quality problems, discharging waste water and allowing the pile to grow larger than its permit allowed.

This is interesting. Initially the problem seemed to be that the owner was in compliance with regulations, and that perhaps the regulation process was flawed to allow this situation to develop. Now the state is laying the blame on the owner of the pile. It will probably be some time before this is all figured out, but I am curious to see whether the owner was skirting regulations all along or whether the state is just trying to find a scapegoat.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Poteet officer in snoozing case is reinstated"

Perhaps you can get away with speeding in Poteet. You just have to be at the right place at the right time.

From the Express-News:

POTEET — City leaders here agreed that fired Officer Justin Sadler violated policy when he allegedly was caught dozing off in his patrol car, but decided Wednesday to reinstate him to the police force anyway.

The City Council voted unanimously to overturn Police Chief Henry Dominguez's decision to terminate Sadler in October after the chief claimed he spotted Sadler napping while parked in front of the Police Department.

The council didn't give a reason for the decision, and Mayor Lino Donato declined to discuss the issue afterward.

Poteet is a small town south of San Antonio, and it is known for its annual Strawberry Festival.

A burning pile of mulch VII

There's a new plan for fighting the Helotes mulch fire (.pdf document here). This plan calls for clay-lined pits and water-well monitoring. And, if all goes well, the fire should be out by March.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A burning pile of mulch VI

Now the Helotes mulch fire has its own line of memorabilia.

A man who does not live far from the burning compost fire in Helotes has figured out a way to make money off of it by starting a side business of "Helotes Fire Attire,” News 4 WOAI learned Tuesday. ...

Now, you can buy Helotes Mulch Fire t-shirts, mugs, aprons, and even the Helotes fire trucker cap online. [John] Largent even created a spot on his website for folks to come up with catchy slogans about the fire.

Largent told News 4 WOAI he understands the seriousness of the situation, but he said this is his way to help. Largent said any money made will go to the Helotes Volunteer Fire Department.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A burning pile of mulch V

Things have slowed down in the fight to extinguish the Helotes mulch fire (which was supposed to be out by now), and officials are rethinking their approach.


Monday emergency crews met at Helotes City Hall to talk about a new plan to get the massive fire out. Tuesday was the deadline to get that fire put out, but late last week two water wells in the area showed contamination. ...

There are a lot of options being talked about, including installing drains in the fire pit or putting a clay like material down to help protect the well water, with the biggest concern being the Edwards Aquifer [San Antonio's primary source of water].

"Perhaps change the kind of construction equipment we're using... [sic] perhaps changing the way our operators are working. The idea is to use less water and make sure the aquifer is protected", said [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality]'s Terry Clawson.

That thing may actually end up burning for a year, as was initially speculated. I bet, by then, Helotes residents are really tired of smelling like barbeque.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A burning pile of mulch IV

Ken Rodriguez, columnist for the Express-News, takes on the state and local authorities who told the owner of that burning pile of mulch that it was all square with regulations -- and that it posed no danger -- for so long.

Nineteen months before a mountainous heap of compost began burning, an inspector from the county Fire Marshal's office said the 60-foot high pile could not burst into flames.

"There is a recurring complaint about that place (on Henry Zumwalt's property), but it is not a fire hazard at all," inspector Kevin Walton told Express-News reporter Amanda Reimherr on June 22, 2005. "The pile is about 75 percent dirt, so that prevents any fires."

The heap that couldn't catch fire has been burning since Christmas, 28 days ago.

I bet the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality changes some of their regulations after this.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Icy night

This is definitely strange in San Antonio:

Earlier this week we had a bit of an ice storm here in the Alamo City. Since icy conditions are not that common, and snow even rarer (the last significant snowfall was in 1988), we San Antonians just don't know how to properly deal with the frigid stuff. We don't have the equipment to abate the ice by any appreciable amount, and not many people really know how to drive on the frozen streets and bridges.

So we shut down the town. We huddle up and enjoy the cold weather, and we take lots of pictures. Here are a few more:

"Man Sues After Truck Crashes Into Home"

On this blog I've pointed out several times where a vehicle has crashed into a house, apartment, or some other kind of building, mainly because it seems to happen quite often in this town. That seems strange to me, and I don't know if this is common in other cities.

But, lest you think that these cars are destroying homes with impunity, here is a man who has decided to fight back. With a lawsuit.

A year ago, a delivery truck slammed into a house, barely missing a man sitting on his front porch. The truck crashed through the garage and a wall collapsed. Now the homeowner, a retired Vietnam veteran, says he felt like he was back in combat.

“Suddenly there was this explosion, and there's a wall behind him that's collapsing. It triggered a flashback and he really thought he was back in Vietnam,” Frank Gasca’s lawyer, Fernando Cruz, told News 4 WOAI’s Aubrey Mika. ...

The recently filed lawsuit claims that the truck driver, Samuel Ellis, didn't put on the parking brake of his Schwan's delivery truck. The company and the driver are now being sued for negligence.

That sounds pretty scary. The crash, I mean.

Though I guess a lawsuit is scary, too.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A burning pile of mulch III

That mulch fire that has been burning in Helotes since Christmas is getting popular. Even more popular now that it's on (

The Express-News has the story here.

"The mulch fire has made enough enemies, maybe it is time to start making some friends," said Vanessa Macias, a local TV personality listed on MySpace as a friend of the mulch fire. ...

Macias, who lives downwind from the burning pile, said she's not one to belittle mulch madness. Her dogs are wheezing and she's emptied bottles of fabric freshener trying to kill the smoky stench settling into her curtains and couch. But that doesn't stop her from having a chuckle at the fire's expense.

"The situation is here, you might as well make fun of it," Macias said. "You can't stay mad at (the mulch) forever."

Mighty strange.

"French envoy to talk trade, Mideast in S.A."

The French ambassador is coming to San Antonio. Hooray!

From Gary Martin's article in the Express-News:

WASHINGTON — Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, will discuss France's perspective on the Middle East and the trade climate between America and Europe in an appearance today in San Antonio.

Levitte is meet [sic] with South Texas business leaders and students at the University of Texas at San Antonio during a daylong swing through the city.

I'm not sure what prompted Mr. Levitte to make an appearance in San Antonio. I can't think of any obvious connections to France that this town has.

But here's an odd bit from Mr. Martin's article that I did not know:
The United States and France share extensive trade ties, which, along with direct investment, has integrated the two economies.
Integrated? The economies of France and the U.S. are now one unified whole? I highly doubt that. We may have important trade ties to France, but I don't think our economy's well-being is entirely dependent on the French economy. I could be wrong, but I am skeptical, to say the least.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"Missing SA Baby Found In California"

What's stranger than a woman who, for some reason, thinks it's a good idea to give her child away? The other woman who apparently thinks it's a good idea to receive a baby as a gift.


Buena Park Police Department officers in California informed the San Antonio Police Department that they found Isiah Ramirez in Buena Park, Calif.

Police said a woman told the Buena Park police she was given the child by a woman in Texas.

Even odder is that Isiah's mother -- after driving to a distant small town in Texas to complete the transaction with the woman from California -- tried to play it off by saying she did not know what happened to the child.

There's a lot more to this story than what has been reported so far.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Don't really have much to contribute today, except maybe this picture of Grave Digger driving through the Alamodome after losing a wheel.

Strange or not, I leave you to decide.

Friday, January 12, 2007

"Sgt. Relieved Of Duties After Posing Nude For Playboy"

I know this has already been all over the place today, but I thought I would point it out since the woman is stationed at Lackland Air Force Base here in San Antonio.


SAN ANTONIO -- An Air Force staff sergeant who posed nude for Playboy magazine has been relieved of her duties while the military investigates, officials said Thursday.

In February's issue, hitting newsstands this week, Michelle Manhart is photographed in uniform yelling and holding weapons under the headline "Tough Love." The following pages show her partially clothed, wearing her dog tags while working out, as well as completely nude.

"This staff sergeant's alleged action does not meet the high standards we expect of our airmen, nor does it comply with the Air Force's core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do," Oscar Balladares, spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base, said in a statement.

Well, I'm not sure what to make of this. She thinks she is standing up for her rights, but she has been in the service long enough to know that certain behaviors are probably frowned upon, especially if it appears that she is representing the armed forces in some way. I don't think she has a leg to stand on, and I haven't yet decided whether I come down on her side or on the Air Force's side in this.

But, she is pretty hot.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

"Fight over Compost Fire Costs Going to Court"

I knew this was coming: the state of Texas is sending a bill to the owner of the mulch pile in Helotes that has been burning since Christmas.


The state sent a letter to the property owner, Henry Zumwalt, saying it is up to him to pay for the clean up costs, Zumwalt’s attorney said. Zumwalt has filed a lawsuit claiming he is not responsible for the bill, News 4 WOAI learned.

The latest estimates show the fire will be out by the end of the month at a cost of $1.75 million dollars.

“This was not Mr. Zumwalt's fault,” Zumwalt’s attorney Michael Black said. “He's been a good guy in trying to protect the citizens and property in Helotes in trying to put this thing out.”

Zumwalt’s attorney said his client has already paid up to $150,000 to fight the fire. His lawyer claims Zumwalt is not responsible for that bill as well.

“This is a compost fire that was started by arson.” Black said. “Mr. Zumwalt is as much of a vicitm as anybody else.”

I feel for Zumwalt somewhat. If this was indeed arson, then I think he's getting a raw deal from the state. After all, the San Antonio Fire Department doesn't seem to charge for putting out house fires, no matter how they start. And, it seems like Zumwalt was doing all he could to fight the blaze himself. I'm not sure the state of Texas should be charging him for an emergency response.

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Turkey spill

Truck driver tries to beat train at rail crossing. Truck driver doesn't quite make it. Result?

A road full of frozen turkeys.

From the Express-News:

A slew of frozen turkeys were spilled over a South Side road this morning after a train hit a truck carrying the frozen food.

At least no one was hurt. And, it gives me the opportunity to once again recall Les Nessman's turkeys.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A burning pile of mulch II

The state of Texas has now declared that it will pay a contractor to put out that giant burning mulch pile in Helotes.


[Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] officials are hiring a Pasadena, Texas-based company called Oil Mop to put out the compost fire, officials said.

According to the company's estimated timeline, crews will spend this week prepping the site with its equipment and workers. Oil Mop crews will begin dismantling the stock pile January 14th and will continue that process through the following nine days. They hope to have the fire extinguished by January 24th, according to the timeline.

Cost to the state: $1.7 million. Let's hope Oil Mop does what it claims it can do. This fire looks to be a bit out of their field of expertise, but they are probably better qualified than the owner of the pile to tackle the situation.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Floating banana

Coming in summer 2008, high over the skies of Texas--a giant banana?

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - A Canadian artist hopes to make the Texas sky his canvas by sending a 1,000-foot-long helium-filled-banana to float overhead next year.

"I want to bring some humor to the Texas sky," Montreal artist Cesar Saez, 38, told the San Antonio Express-News for its Sunday editions.

If the plan works, the giant bamboo and paper dirigible will be launched from a site in Mexico in summer 2008. It will then drift eastward over Texas at a stratospheric altitude of 20 miles before disintegrating.

If that project ever comes to fruition, and if I can see that banana in the sky, you can bet I will post pictures here. Of course, that's a year and a half away. A lot could happen between now and then.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Pig Stand update

The Pig Stand is back in business!


SAN ANTONIO -- The San Antonio landmark restaurant Pig Stand was forced to close late last year, but the restaurant chain has now reopened one of its locations. ...

In November, the restaurant and drive-in was forced to close because it's [sic] owner owed the state several hundred thousand dollars in back taxes.

A former car hop who had worked in San Antonio for 40 years brought the Pig Stand back to life, leasing the building from the liquidator.

That's good news for lovers of this quirky restaurant. Here is my previous post on this situation, and here is a picture of the place taken by Thiên at San Antonio Daily Photo, a nice photoblog that focuses on the Alamo City.

The pig is back!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

"Uke can do it"

The art of playing the ukulele is alive and well in the suburb of Leon Valley.

From the Leon Valley Recorder:
An instrument that once seemed the sole province of the late Tiny Tim and a host of Hawaiian islanders has a flock of Leon Valley youngsters making a joyful noise as they strum and sing along with their teacher, Joyce Flaugher, who leads the Leon Valley Ukulele Club under the awning of the Leon Valley Public Library (right). She says the instrument is “enjoying another resurgence.”

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Man Stabbed While Giving 2 People Ride"

Would you give a ride to two guys who called you at two o'clock in the morning, especially if you did not know them very well? If you would, be careful.


SAN ANTONIO -- A 24-year-old man was stabbed early Wednesday while he gave two other men a ride.

Police said the pair called the man at 2 a.m. and asked him for a ride.

When he picked them up, the two other men starting stabbing him as they reached their destination. ...

The victim told police that he didn't know his attackers, who fled the scene, very well.

The victim is in critical condition. I hope he pulls through, and I hope next time he will stay in bed when someone calls him for a ride.

A burning pile of mulch

Out on the nortwest edge of San Antonio, there's a fire, and it could be burning for another year.

That's because it's a pile of mulch that is on fire. A big pile.

KSAT-TV reports:

HELOTES, Texas -- A giant mulch pile smoldering near Helotes would burn for at least a year if left alone, while dousing it would require as much as 100 million gallons of water over a week's time, according to a contractor's assessment. ...

"We have had the pile for at least 15 years and have always done what we were required to do," said Lennie Turpin, general manager for Zumwalt Construction. "We are doing all that we can right now to stop the fire by pulling the pile apart with backhoes." [emphasis added]

I think it's a little odd that there's a need for such a pile in the first place. A 15-year-old pile at that.

By the way, they suspect arson. There's a reward for information.

UPDATE: The owner of the pile now says that he will extinguish the fire in 45 days.

UPDATE II: The state wants immediate action. (from the Express-News)

State officials have demanded the owner of a massive pile of slow-burning mulch that has billowed smoke for nearly two weeks produce a written plan by Monday explaining how he'll snuff the blaze.

At the same time, they're contacting a private firefighting firm in case they need to step in and take over the job, said Richard Garcia, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regional director for the San Antonio area.

Sounds like a big job.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

"Animal Care Services revises cat trapping policy"

Interesting. I didn't even know this town had a cat-trapping policy.

Draining the river

It's that time of year again: the annual draining of the San Antonio River. They do this at the first of each year to clean up a little, and visitors to the River Walk should expect to see a little less atmosphere than they might be used to (from KSAT-TV).

City officials said the first week of the new year is the best time to conduct the cleanup.

"There's never really a good time to take down the river," said Paula Stallcup, director of downtown operations. "But certainly, we work around the existing conventions and all of our visitors. This is the time to do it because this is the slowest time, if there is a slow time for San Antonio."

Up next, the annual Mud Festival, complete with a ball, a parade, a coronation, a pub crawl, and an arts and crafts show. All to celebrate the draining of the river.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, San Antonians will hold a party for just about any reason.