One of the Expedition 40 crew members aboard the International Space Station photographed this nighttime image showing city lights in at least half a dozen southern states from some 225 miles above the home planet. Lights from areas in the Gulf Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as some of the states that border them on the north, are visible.
Image Credit: NASA
Page Last Updated: August 15th, 2014 Page Editor: Jerry Wright
Manufactured Homes Hit Seven-Digit Milestone, in California, meaning for under $200k on the Texas coast.
Manufactured homes often sell for more than $1 million in the California coastal community of Paradise Cove, with one selling for $2.55 million earlier this year and another going on the market last month for $3.75 million. See slides-show at wsj.com/articles/rethinking-the-double-wide
Putting It All Together Making the Move to Modular Manufactured Home Industry Faces Hurdles The homes feature hardwood floors, high-end appliances, granite counter-tops, and other upscale features, but the prices also have a lot to do with the community’s location on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Wealthier buyers now are entering the market for factory-built homes, mainly as retirees look to downsize and soaring home prices in particular markets make manufactured housing a more affordable option.
Design trends have tracked those in conventional site-built homes and these are built better, many are hurricane resistant and more energy efficient.
Look for them to take off on the Texas coast soon.
A surge of military and law enforcement personnel will head to the Texas-Mexico border to combat what Gov. Rick Perry describes as a violent crime wave by “criminal alien defendants,” but criminal justice experts say certain border areas are more secure than Texas’ top cities — a view echoed by local realtors whose sales have suffered partly from news reports about border violence. Experts polled by PolitiFacts Texas were unable to substantiate crime statistics cited by Perry as support for sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border, and in fact, called the numbers “ridiculous.”
That’s good news for South Padre Island, which has seen depressed real estate sales following the economic recession and Hurricane Dolly in 2008. Sales volume is improving but prices still lag Galveston and North Padre Island, and inventory stands at a two-year backlog, according to statistics compiled by the Texas A&M Real Estate Center.
Alice Donahue, a longtime South Padre Island realtor, says sales have been steadily improving from last year at approximately 29% for the area.
“We are seeing more inventory this summer but time on the market has been reduced on certain properties, specifically beachfront homes, South Padre Island Golf Course Homes and Long Island Village,” said Donahue of Alice Donahue Real Estate. “Prices are still lower than we have seen since the downturn and it is still a buyers’ market here but I have noticed a marked increase in Mexican National buyers since the cartel crisis, which I do not believe is a threat to our area as has been perceived in the past.”
Gov. Rick Perry today directed Texas Adjutant General John Nichols to immediately begin preparations for the deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. These troops will support the Texas Department of Public Safety's (DPS) ongoing law enforcement surge, Operation Strong Safety, which is focused on combatting criminal activity in the region resulting from the federal government's failure to adequately secure the border.
Michael Stuart's insight:
"There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government's failure to secure our border," Gov. Perry said. "The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America."
Texas has already seen results from Operation Strong Safety - from week 1 to week 3 of operations, apprehensions of illegal immigrants have dropped by 36 percent, from more than 6,600 per week to 4,200 per week in the theater of operation.
Dallas Morning News Free fun in Galveston Dallas Morning News GALVESTON — Galveston has always been one of my favorite Texas destinations because of the way it manages to maintain a low-key, beach-town vibe while also offering big-name attractions...
Michael Stuart's insight:
Galveston has always been one of my favorite Texas destinations because of the way it manages to maintain a low-key, beach-town vibe while also offering big-name attractions for family fun.
Traveling on a budget and looking for some ideas that won’t cost you a cent? Galveston has you covered.
Tree sculpture tour
When life gives you a hurricane, make art. At least that’s the philosophy of a group of Galveston homeowners who decided to turn trees ravaged by 2008’s Hurricane Ike into ornate sculptures.
As you travel the island, expect to find everything from the historical (a replica of the figurehead from the island’s famous Tall Ship Elissa) to the whimsical (a pod of dolphins with a mermaid). Kids will appreciate trees turned into a guitar, a squirrel and even
Bolivar ferry ride
Warm ocean breezes. Rolling waves. A dolphin’s dorsal fin gliding out of the water. There’s nothing like seeing Galveston by boat. But if you’re short on funds or traveling with small children or others who may not be willing to sit still for an extended dolphin tour, simply hop on the Galveston Island Ferry to Bolivar.
Regularly scheduled ferry service between Galveston and Port Bolivar started in 1929 and has been operated by the state since 1934. It takes about 20 minutes to make the 2.7-mile one-way trip, which is plenty of time to get out of your car and take in the views. Once you arrive in Bolivar, you can go sightseeing there or turn back around and board the ferry for the return trip. The service is offered 24 hours a day; find more information at www.txdot.gov
Sea turtle tour
If you love sea turtles — and really, who doesn’t love sea turtles? — schedule a visit to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Galveston Sea Turtle Facility, which offers free tours by appointment on Thursdays. Visitors will watch a video about research being done there, participate in a question-and-answer session, and then walk through the facility to check out captive-reared loggerhead sea turtles.
Want more? Moody Gardens offers a variety of animal experiences, including a public penguin encounter ($50 per person), a private penguin encounter ($350 for four people) and a penguin and seal experience ($250 per person). Visit www.moodygardens.com
La King’s Confectionery dates back to 1927, when Jimmy King learned how to make candy in Houston.
In 1976, his son, Jack, moved to Galveston and re-created an old-fashioned confectionery in the historic Strand District. These days, it’s a must-visit destination thanks to its working 1920s soda fountain, delicious handcrafted shakes, homemade candy and saltwater taffy, which you can watch being made in store Wednesday through Sundays.
After a free hourlong taffy-making demonstration, made using antique equipment, guests receive samples. Call 409-762-6100 or visit lakingsconfectionery.com for more information.
Movie night on the Strand
No visit to Galveston is complete without spending some time in the historic Strand District, which is filled with shops, museums and restaurants.
Start the day at the Railroad Museum, which is not free but fairly cheap ($8 for adults, $5 for children, free for children 3 and younger) and offers everything a train enthusiast could want, from detailed model train layouts to dining ware displays. On Saturdays, the museum also offers train rides every 20 minutes between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. $4, www.galvestonrrmuseum.com
After a fun-filled day, head to Saengerfest Park, which hosts Movie Night on the Strand on the first Saturday of the month.
It’s a great excuse to grab a blanket or some lawn chairs and take in a free family-friendly flick. Upcoming movies include Rocky and Despicable Me.
President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a plan that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants--many of which are coal-fired-- by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Michael Stuart's insight:
The proposed rule could mean big changes for Texas, the leading carbon emitter in the country.
Critics of the EPA plan claim it has waged a war on the coal industry, and that it will force jobs overseas, drive up energy costs, and ultimately cost Texas jobs.
How much value do your guests place on the opinions of others online?
Have they lost trust in review sites or do they still form a crucial component of the booking process?
A new study looked at the way travel consumers interact with online reviews before making a purchase decision.
The findings suggest travel consumers are wising up to the prevalence of fake reviews online and getting better at how to spot them.
70% of those that used review sites as part of the booking process revealed they are prepared to read up to 20 reviews before choosing a property
85% considered a review authentic if there was comparable content online, while reviews that stood out as differing too greatly from others or came across as excessively positive were treated with suspicion.
Around 46% like to see pictures and videos, while 39% said they were most trusting of the most current reviews.
When confronted with a review that appears to be inauthentic, 35% don’t book and 18% tell their friends about the suspected trickery.
The sexy car comes billed as the fastest rear-wheel-drive electric car
Michael Stuart's insight:
The company says the car's acceleration is faster than any other American production electric car on the market. Powered by lithium-ion batteries, the Renovo has two electric motors that produce the equivalent of 500 horsepower with rear-wheel drive. Yet the company managed to hold the car's weight to 3,250 pounds. It helps, too, that the car can get full throttle response in 37 milliseconds. Top speed is 129 miles per hour.
The Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports that the coastal city’s robust housing market shows no signs of slowing, but affordable homes are in short supply. The inventory of vacant homes in Corpus Christi is one fourth the size it was just three years ago, but asking prices have climbed 19 percent over the same period, said Warren Andrich, president and CEO of the Corpus Christi Association of Realtors.
“All things point to a continued favorable housing market,” Andrich told the South Side Business Council.
There are 1,860 houses available in the city as of Thursday, down 74.5 percent from 2011 when there were 7,300 houses on the market. In that time, thousands of job seekers have converged on the Coastal Bend, lured by opportunity from the Eagle Ford Shale energy play. Economists have speculated as many as 10,000 jobs will spring from it over the next five to seven years.
And that has helped drive up home prices.
The average sale price for a home in Corpus Christi was about $190,000 in June, up from $157,000 in June 2009, Andrich said. That’s a 21-percent increase.
“It’s supply and demand,” Andrich said. “We live in a place people want to come, so the demand is high.”
#1 THE TEXAS COAST: Friendly people, cheap beach homes and many sunny days...
Michael Stuart's insight:
1. The existence of queso is reason enough to live in Texas, but we’ll give you a few more just for fun. 2. Blue Bell ice cream for days. 3. Whataburger. 4. Breakfast tacos. 5. Tex-Mex in general. 6. BBQ. 7. Frozen margaritas. 8. Drinking Dr. Pepper like it’s water. 9. Late-night Taco Cabana runs. 10. Pecan pralines. 11. Being able to eat cuisines from basically the entire world, all within the Houston city limits. 12. The delightfully confusing experience of hearing someone say “I’ll have a coke.” And then immediately ordering some other kind of soda. 13. Crunchy ice and happy hour at Sonic. 14. Homemade tortillas. 15. Home of H.E.B., Central Market, and Whole Foods. And FIESTA! 16. Freshly baked kolaches from Czech Stop. 17. Frito pies. 18. Topo Chicos, the only decent hangover cure in the world. 19. Austin being home to both the world’s best BBQ and being declared by PETA to be the country’s best place to be vegan, because we’re not afraid to contain multitudes. 20. Iced tea = sweet tea. 21. Pickle salt on all of your cheap beer. 22. Tito’s Vodka. 23. Deep Eddy Sweet Iced Tea Vodka mixed with lemonade. 24. Shiner Bock and visiting its adorable brewery. 25. The feeling of pure bliss that comes from driving under an endless blue sky. 26. Or falling asleep to the sounds of a summer thunderstorm. 27. Bluebonnets and wildflowers on the side of the road. 28. Wearing jeans and boots to any and all events. 29. Two-stepping the night away. 30. Floating down the river in the sticky, summer heat. 31. Listening to live music on any given night in Austin. 32. Exploring the unparalleled Texas Hill Country. 33. Not being limited to one type of terrain — caverns, beaches, cities, and deserts abound. 34. Southern hospitality. 35. The subtle joy of actually knowing your neighbors. 36. The men are true gentlemen. 37. And speaking of gentlemen, COACH TAYLOR lives in Texas, so there’s really no beating that. 38. Texas Forever. 39. The thunderous roar of a football game on a Friday night. 40. Fight songs and school pride. * cough * Gig’ Em * cough * 41. The Texas flag pledge of allegiance. 42. The feeling of living in a place people are proud to call home. 43. Finding a majestic state flag on literally anything that could have a flag on it. 44. NO STATE INCOME TAX. 45. NASA! 46. There’s no party quite like the Houston Rodeo. 47. Well, except maybe the Renaissance Fair. 48. You haven’t really road-tripped until you’ve been to Buc-ee’s (and used its bathroom). 49. Schlitterbahn — especially spending all afternoon going around and around in the torrent wave pool. 50. Getting to spot local celebs like Matthew McConaughey and Willie Nelson just chilling and with no one bothering them. NBC 51. SXSW and ACL. 52. Lazy afternoons sitting in one of many of outdoor bars. 53. Running/pretending to jog around Town Lake. 54. Cute boys and foxy ladies with a sugary sweet Texas drawl. 55. Strangers who smile and say hi everywhere you go. 56. Two seasons: summer and slightly chillier than summer. 57. Three of the best NBA teams in the country in one state. 58. Homecoming mums are the prettiest and how do other high schoolers do homecoming without them? 59. BIG HAIR. 60. A little bit of Spanish in everyone’s English just makes everything sound prettier. 61. Proof that there’s a ton of life in the desert. 62. Townes Van Zandt. 63. The late-night sounds of screech owls among the trees. 64. Giant live oak trees that remind you how small you are and how big and old the world is. 65. Exploring some weird and wonderful underground caverns and feeling like you’re on another planet. 66. This is the same place that both GEORGE STRAIT and BEYONCE are from, so you know it’s special. 67. To fully understand that “y’all” just makes sense and everyone should use it. 68. Awesome trucks. 69. Passing lanes on the interstate that are actually used as passing lanes. 70. Summer night dances at Garner State Park. 71. Knowing people that are actually just like the characters on King of the Hill. 72. Jackalopes. 73. Seeing authentic Texas blues in Deep Ellum in Dallas. 74. Living in a magic economy that keeps on truckin’ when the rest of country is flopping. 75. Texans of all political stripes are usually super serious about their freedom and think everyone should be able to do whatever the heck they want as long as it’s not hurting anyone. 76. The stars at night are big and bright. 77. The Marfa lights, not to mention all of their cool art museums. 78. Selena (RIP). 79. A chance to be an extra in movies like Dazed & Confused and Machete. 80. Houston rap. 81. The spring break parties along the Gulf Coast. 82. Learning that armadillos give birth only to identical quadruplets, which somehow makes them even cuter. 83. Watching the old couples at Gruene Dance Hall. 84. Cooling off in the Frio River, God’s true gift to mankind. 85. Spending a weekend antique shopping in historic Fredericksburg. 86. The blissful feeling of having absolutely nothing to do on a Sunday. 87. Nolan Ryan played for both of Texas’ baseball teams and he’s the best pitcher ever. Coincidence? I think not. 88. The Texas State Fair is the best in the country (deep-fried Oreos, anyone?). 89. The sweet beards and indie rock of Denton. 90. Luckenbach, Texas. Population: 3. 91. Romantic evenings walking along San Antonio’s Riverwalk. 92. The Houston Galleria is one of the best and biggest malls in the country. 93. Finding out that bats aren’t so bad (they eat all the damn bugs!). 94. Cadillac Ranch, where a bunch of art cars are buried in the desert because Texas? 95. Real authentic country music, not the pop radio stuff (see: Waylon Jennings). 96. Being so close to Mexico that you can basically say you’ve been there even if you don’t have a passport. 97. Camping at Big Bend national park, the most peaceful place on the planet. 98. Looking at the stars through the giant McDonald Observatory telescopes in Fort Davis. 99. Chilling on the beach in Port Aransas because Texas has beaches too! 100. Living in the state with the most state pride. 101. And finally, knowing for a fact that everything is actually bigger and better in Texas!
The summer heat can be a beast, but even more so if you live in a congested city. If you want to get away to cool off and relax, Texas has more than 350 miles of wild coastal beauty waiting. True, when you think of a beach vacation the Texas coast may not be the first to come to mind. But if you know where to look, you’ll find the Coastal Bend full of beautiful locations ripe for summer fun.
This list from Texas Monthly discusses in detail fifteen of the best places to relax in nature along the Texas Coast. As a native Texan, I’m sorry to say I’ve only visited a handful of places on this list. This awesome list even has several places I’ve never heard of. To think, the Laguna Atacosa Refuge is close enough for a day trip, and I’ve yet to go watch for ocelots! (Yes, real ocelots. The Laguna Atacosa Refuge is a 97,000 acre wildlife refuge is home to over four hundred species of birds and myriad other creatures.)
Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels, Texas was award a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. The award recognizes the consistent outstanding traveler reviews Schlitterbahn New Braunfels has received from Trip Advisor travelers.
Michael Stuart's insight:
Corpus Christi's Upper Padre Island (formerly North Padre Island) has a Schlitterbahn opening in a few weeks.
When selecting Certificate of Excellence winners, TripAdvisor uses a proprietary algorithm to determine the honorees that takes into account reviews ratings. Businesses must maintain an overall TripAdvisor bubble rating of at least four out of five, volume and recent posting of reviews. Additional criteria include a business’ tenure and popularity ranking on the site.
President Barack Obama will propose cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from the nation’s power plants by an average of 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030
Michael Stuart's insight:
Obama dismissed complaints that the rule will hurt the economy by driving up electricity prices, and told the Democrats listening: “Please go on offense” to promote the plan’s benefits.
Sounds like another way to fund their political agenda, using energy as the scapegoat, who will pass the cost onto consumers.
The Good News for Texas - we lead in natural gas and wind power. The EPA is counting on coal plants being operated more efficiently and states shifting to natural gas from coal to get modest cuts in the next four or five years.
Waiting until the last minute to pack for a trip isn’t a problem, unless you don’t know what to take.
Baggage Dept (Photo credit: Noël Zia Lee)
Don’t check a bag.
Keep a list in your bag or on your phone.
Be strategic with what you wear.
Roll your clothing to save space and avoid wrinkling.
Learn to bundle.
Bring an extra bag.
Know the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Each liquid must be in a 3.4-ounce bottle (or smaller); all of the bottles must be in 1 clear, quart-sized plastic bag; and each passenger can have only 1 bag. If you travel often, consider investing in some 3-ounce, reusable containers. Or just buy the travel-size shampoos and soaps.
Keep electronics and liquids in a convenient place.
Demographic data shows that Texas’ major metros have been receiving a flood of disaffected Californians is excellent news for the Texas coast – with Apple, Exxon and eBay collectively investing more than $1 billion and bringing thousands of jobs and the cities kicking in an equal amount of infrastructure investment going on.
With that much wealth so nearby, there will be a component of new residents in San Antonio, Austin and Houston who will want a second home. It is up to coastal communities to convince those residents to invest in the coast instead of its biggest rival – the Texas Hill Country.
While metro residents love to rent our beach homes, there just isn’t enough reason yet for second home shoppers or investors to buy here. That’s because of problems we have with infrastructure and the lack of comprehensive zoning and development plans for some areas. No one wants to invest in a $20 million high-rise that could be next door to a shabby fast food restaurant, or that has to ask residents to dodge cars to get to the beach. And cities have to insist on modernizing — widening roads, regulating signage, burying power lines and investing in better connectivity for high technology.
The city of Corpus Christi has taken a good first step with its plan for the Upper Padre-Schlitterbahn area, and I think other communities should take note. The Texas coast has an image problem every time a hurricane or oil spill strikes, and we need to project a unified front to show these new investors that we are a resort-quality area that is here to stay with our local government’s backing.
A new National Association of Home Builders survey shows that more than 65 percent of home buyers want green houses, but only about 15 percent are willing to pay extra for such features. This is not particularly surprising – most people like the idea of doing something good for the environment, but only a small, fixed number of them are ever truly motivated. It has always been this way — and here’s why:
Although this environmentally conscious group tends to be relatively affluent, it’s not really their wealth but their level of disposable income that determines whether they actually go green. Home-buying consumers have to scale the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need before they can aspire to a self-actualizing concept like going green. That’s why, as long as it costs more to be environmentally conscious, green buyers will always be a small percentage of any consumer group.
I consider travel an enlightening experience, but it never occurred to me that beams of light might change the way we travel. Recently, lighting scientists (yes, they exist) have dissected the specific wavelengths of electric light to better understand how they affect our bodies.
Michael Stuart's insight:
Fortunately the Texas coast has long known about the energizing effects all the sun and ocean waves has, and now others are seeing the light.
Seeing Travel in a New Light (we always have on the Texas coast)
“Hotels will offer guest rooms with lights that help us to get over jet lag in a few hours instead of days, spas will introduce treatments using lights to strengthen and heal our immune systems, and airport ‘Light Lounges’ will use spectrums that promote mental alertness, to get work done, or relax the body for rest,” says Fred Maxik, the founder of Lighting Science, a company that is behind some of the recent discoveries.