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Trinity University

Athletes against SB6

From Athlete Ally:

Dear Texas,

The love of sport is in part what makes Texas great. The passion and competitive spirit that reverberates throughout the Texas athletic community is hard to match across the United States. It’s that passion – and the storied history of Texas athletics – that often makes the state a go-to destination for major sporting events and why we love to compete in the Lone Star state.

As members of the athletic community, we’re committed to upholding the very values that sport instills in each of us. Values like fair play, equality, inclusion and respect. We believe that everyone should be afforded the same access, opportunity and experience both in sport and under the law. This is why we’re joining together to speak out against Senate Bill 6 (SB6), and the dozen more anti-LGBT bills already filed, and the harm they would do to the state of Texas, to the transgender community, and to the sports we have come to know and love.

SB6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms based on “biological sex,” and would preempt local nondiscrimination ordinances that allow transgender Texans and visitors to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Other bills filed would prevent same-sex couples from getting married, allow campus groups to reject LGBT members, nullify local non-discrimination protections, allow healthcare professionals and educators to discriminate against LGBT people, and more.

As long as bills like these remain a possibility, Texas is sending a clear signal that LGBT players, fans, coaches and administrators are not welcomed or respected, both on and off the field. This should worry Texas, as the athletic community has clearly stood by its LGBT constituents and against discriminatory legislation. We have seen this story unfold in North Carolina, and we do not want it to be repeated in Texas.

Over the next year, Texas is slated to host the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the World Golf Championships, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, and many more. A recent economic impact study showed that the local San Antonio economy will receive a boost of $135 million in direct spending as a result of hosting the Men’s Basketball Final Four. Additionally, the study predicts an influx of 71,000 out-of-town visitors to the San Antonio area, resulting in a rise in spending at local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores and entertainment venues. Texas will likely not have the honor of hosting such prestigious events should bills like SB6 become law. This would be a shame for the state of Texas, but it can be avoided.

Texas can choose to uphold the values of sport by rejecting SB6 and other anti-LGBT bills, and the negative impact they would have. These bills are answers in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. SB6 isolates, excludes, and others the transgender community and exacerbates many of the issues transgender Texans already face. The only solution that embodies the spirit of sport is to expand equality by embracing diversity. That diversity is inclusive of the LGBT community and is why we hope you will do the right thing and reject these discriminatory bills.


The Undersigned Members of the Athletic Community

There are some 55 signatories, and if I have one complaint about this otherwise fine letter it’s that the large majority of them are not from Texas. Former Baylor star Brittney Griner is the most notable Texan, and I am delighted beyond words to see five people from my alma mater on there – three coaches, one administrator, and one current student. I wish there had been more, but let’s view this as a starting point and go from there. Link via ThinkProgress.

Of more immediate interest is this:

A top Republican in the Texas House has confirmed he will hold a public debate on the so-called bathroom bill, but he said he doesn’t see any reason for it to become law.

“In all the years I’ve been on [the House Committee on] State Affairs, we’ve never seen an issue that would indicate there’s a need to address a bathroom bill,” Byron Cook, the Corsicana Republican who chairs the committee that will next take up the measure, told The Dallas Morning News on Thursday. “There’s no evidence of a problem.”


The bathroom bill has become one of the chief areas of disagreement this year between the House and Senate. Both chambers are dominated by Republicans, but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the measure one of his top priorities, just as [House Speaker Joe] Straus said it wasn’t one of his. The House speaker said it’s more crucial that lawmakers grapple with how to fund public schools and an ailing child welfare system in a tight budget year.

“Clearly, I’m not a fan of the bill that they’re discussing in the Senate,” Straus said last week when a Senate committee debated the bill.”They have their agenda; we have ours.”

Hard to know for sure what that means in practice. As the story notes, we don’t know when – or even if – Rep. Cook will schedule this for a committee hearing and possible vote. That’s what you need to keep your eye on, and it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to the State Affairs Committee members and tell them what you think about SB6.

Campus student body presidents call for veto of campus carry bill

From the Rice Thresher:

In a letter signed by 12 other Texas university presidents, Student Association President Jazz Silva called for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to not sign Senate Bill 11, which would allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on college campuses statewide, including at Rice. Abbott has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“I know that it is quite atypical of a Rice SA president to behave ‘politically’,” Silva said. “However, I feel that the letter is not only reasonable, but I trust that it is something Rice students would stand for.”

The law, if signed, would take effect on Aug 1, 2016 and allow those age 21 or above to carry a concealed handgun at Rice, unless the university opts out. A provision in the bill allows private institutions to do so if they first consult their faculty, staff and students, Rice President David Leebron said in staff-wide email.

“Should the governor sign the bill, we would engage in such consultation in the near future,” Leebron said. “Rest assured that, after those consultations, our expectation is to maintain [Rice’s current no-weapons policy] … In the coming months, we will take the steps needed to maintain [our] welcoming and secure campus.”

Silva’s letter states all Texas schools, not just private institutions, should be able to opt out should they desire.

“Not all university campuses are identical; they have different cultures, needs and beliefs,” the letter reads. “We trust that our administrators, students, and elected student representatives know how to create a safe educational environment. We should not only be enabled, but empowered to make these decisions on our own based on our individual needs, as universities.”

Silva said she and University of Texas at San Antonio Student Government Association President Ileana Gonzalez drafted the opposition letter together and gathered support from other Texas university presidents, who altogether represent over 300,000 students.

“I don’t speak directly to whether or not guns should be allowed on campus; I only ask that public universities be given the right to choose for themselves – the same right that private institutions currently have,” Silva said.


The letter is also signed by the student body presidents of Angelo State University, Trinity University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the UH Clear Lake, UT Austin, UH Downtown, San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and UT Dallas.

Good for them. Abbott will still sign the bill, but at least they’re making themselves heard. I’m glad to hear what Rice President Leebron has to say on the issue, and I suspect that at least the non-religiously-oriented private schools will follow that same path; I certainly expect my alma mater to do so. I hope someone follows up on this in a year or two – I’ll be very interested to see what direction the different schools take. The Chron and the Current have more.

Darsh Preet Singh

Very cool.

Darsh Preet Singh

Basketball courts didn’t care that Darsh Preet Singh wore a turban.

Or that he is Sikh.

Hardwood is a great equalizer. The court’s 10-foot-high rim does not discriminate. If you can handle the rock, you’ve got a place.

Even better if you can dunk. Singh could do both.

And his turban always suited up with him.

Blessed with a 6-foot-4-inch frame and a 6-foot-8-inch wingspan, he was a lock-down defensive specialist at Trinity University from 2004 to 2008. As such, he was also the first turban-wearing Sikh to play in the NCAA.

And now, the Smithsonian Institute is displaying his No. 32 jersey in its “Beyond Bollywood” exhibit, which showcases contributions of Indian-Americans. It opened last month and lasts through August 2015 at the National Museum of Natural History.

That his jersey is in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums baffles him. He said his parents and other first-generation Sikh Americans sacrificed and contributed much more.

“When I reflect on the accomplishments of the Sikh community in the United States, I don’t feel like I did much. I was just playing basketball,” he said. “I didn’t think I was doing anything special other than doing what I loved. … I think I was just at the right place at the right time.”

I’m just delighted that it was my alma mater where this trail was blazed. I salute you, Darsh Preet Singh, as a fellow alum and as someone who respects what you accomplished. Here’s the Smithsonian‘s page about the exhibit, a WaPo review of it, and a nice interview in Faith Street with Singh. Well done, sir.

Saturday video break: Birdland

Yesterday, I mentioned how the song “Birdland” was an inextricable part of my college experience. Here are two of my favorite renditions of that song. First, the immortal Maynard Ferguson:

Maynard Ferguson was my first jazz hero, going back to the first time I played “Chameleon” back in middle school. His band just flat-out jammed. Here’s my other favorite version of this song, by The Manhattan Transfer:

As I recall, they wrote the lyrics for “Birdland” because they loved the song and decided it needed lyrics. Works for me.

Friday random ten: Reunited (And I Feel So Old)

This weekend is my 25-year college reunion. Here are ten songs to put one in the mood for reuniting with increasingly old friends. If you’ll excuse me, the open bar is calling my name.

1. My Old School – Steely Dan
2. Bright College Days – Tom Lehrer
3. Didn’t Go To College (But I Could Have) – Austin Lounge Lizards
4. Old Friends – Simon and Garfunkel
5. Be True To Your School – Beach Boys
6. The Good Old Days – The Lodger
7. The Old Days – Dr. Dog
8. Old Folks’ Boogie – Little Feat
9. I’ve Loved These Days – Billy Joel
10. Birdland – Trinity University Jazz Band

The last one is because that was our favorite song that the jazz band played. The rest I think you can figure out. Have a good, soggy-with-nostalgia weekend.

I love it when anti-GLBT candidates lose

A good runoff result in San Antonio.

Ron Nirenberg

Ron Nirenberg, once an underfunded dark-horse, secured the District 8 seat in [last] Saturday’s runoff, overwhelmingly defeating establishment candidate Rolando Briones.

“It feels good knowing that in San Antonio, the message of grassroots, neighborhood-oriented politics is still what will carry the day — not money, not machine, but the citizens of District 8,” Nirenberg said. “I look forward to working with everyone who was so passionate about this race and this community, no matter which side of the campaign they fell on.”

Nirenberg won with nearly 55 percent of the vote — almost 10 points better than Briones. Atypical of run-off elections, Saturday’s numbers exceeded those of the general election on May 11 when Nirenberg became the de facto frontrunner.

Nirenberg ran a grassroots campaign staffed primarily by volunteers, including a contingent of energized college students and recent graduates, who he calls the future of San Antonio.

Briones’ campaign was a well-funded operation staffed by several well-known political consultants. The engineering firm owner spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money and ran what’s likely to be the most expensive campaign for a council seat in the history of recent city politics.

Nirenberg, who is conventionally married and has a son, was on the receiving end of some nasty gay-baiting mailers. See BOR (twice) and Concerned Citizens for the details. Nirenberg (a Trinity alum and the general manger of 91.7 KRTU – Tigers represent!) nearly won outright in May, and we might have been spared Briones’ foolishness had he done so (Briones claimed the nasty mailers did not come from his campaign, for what it’s worth), so maybe his win in the runoff was predestined. It’s still sweet to see crap like that fail. I hope anyone else who might think to use such tactics, on their own behalf or on behalf of someone else, takes note.

Amazon has a strange idea of what constitutes “erotica”

In last week’s Texas blog roundup, we saluted Amy Valentine for successfully turning her blog about surviving breast cancer into a book about surviving breast cancer. Amy is a friend of mine from my class at Trinity University, and I’ve been following her blog since its inception, partly because I’ve cared about what’s happening with her, and partly because she’s dealt with this awful situation with great humor and courage. It turns out that the joke is on her, as her book – a Kindle download – has been classified by Amazon as something it is not.

Breast cancer is not erotic

Amazon’s Kindle has categorized my digital breast cancer memoir as Erotica. The funniest part is that I notified Amazon of the error. After all, there is nothing erotic about breast cancer. Yet, Amazon refused to recategorize my book! They pointed out the book’s “adult content” and told me it would never be placed in a “general public listing.” I felt like I was a 12-year-old girl getting a scolding from her Sunday School teacher. I know my book’s title, Killer Boobs, can be a bit risque and the cover art, which was in the stock photos that Amazon provided, is of a naked woman’s torso, but when partnered with the overall book topic, it all works. After all, my breasts did try to kill me. And the skinny model’s torso on the cover looks more like a cancer patient in my eyes than a sexy playboy model. I don’t know who I feel most sorry for: folks hoping for Erotic literature who mistakenly buy my book, or my 77-year-old mother’s friends who purchase the digital book and then find out that other buyers purchased “Bondage Babes” and “Whips, Chains, and Lipstick.” Amazon Kindle editors will really be upset when I publish my memoir’s sequel on my harrowing and sometimes funny trip through breast cancer world: “Cleavage to Die For.”

I joked to Amy on her Facebook page that the title and art would work equally well for a Mickey Spillane novel, but there is a bit of serious business underneath all the boob jokes. Every book has a potential audience, and no book can find its audience if it’s off in the wrong section of the bookstore, whether virtual or not. If you are sent a link to Amy’s book, and see that the webpage its on contains recommendations like the ones listed above or the books that were recommended for me, you’re probably not going to have an accurate picture of what it is you’re looking at. I don’t know what Amazon’s algorithms are, but surely they ought to have some capacity for taking a writer’s word for the fact that her book is about chemo and healing and not whips and handcuffs when she tries to tell them that. A book about breasts is not necessarily a book about sex.

Observing a milestone

Thirty-five years ago today, the course of my life was completely changed.

I didn’t know that at the time, of course. Oh, I knew that my life at the time had changed, but I had no way of knowing how profound and permanent that change would be.

March 6, 1978 was my first day at William A. Morris Intermediate School, also known as IS 61. I was in the sixth grade. Before that, I had been a student at Sacred Heart Elementary School, a first-through-eighth school that had educated two prior generations of Kuffners (and employed two of them as teachers, one of whom had been my second grade teacher). All three of my siblings were at Sacred Heart. I had always assumed I would graduate from Sacred Heart. Transferring to a different school – a public school, no less – was never in the picture.

But a funny thing happened that year. I’d always been one of the top students in my class, and that was still the case. What was different was that I was bored, because the curriculum didn’t challenge me. In the sixth grade, we were still doing basic arithmetic, which I’d had down cold for years. We didn’t do any hands-on science. I don’t recall us reading any books of interest. There wasn’t anything to hold my attention.

Sacred Heart had only two classes per grade. There was one teacher for each class. I was lucky to get Sister Rita Flynn as my sixth grade teacher, because she was well-known as the better teacher of the two. The other teacher, Sister Dolores, was the kind of nun that gave nuns a bad name – in retrospect, she was basically a sociopath, who had no business in a classroom. Sister Rita was calm and low-key, and unlike Sister Dolores was not known for using corporal punishment. More importantly, however, she noticed that I was bored out of my mind.

I don’t remember how far along we were in the school year before Sister Rita started talking to my parents about better educational alternatives for me. I do remember that early on, she told me to just work through the math textbook on my own. In a couple of weeks, I had moved several chapters ahead of the class, but it was still arithmetic, and it still wasn’t teaching me anything I didn’t already know. I just know that at some point after Christmas, I was being told that it was time for me to go to a different school, one that would actually challenge me.

You’d think I’d have been happy about that, but I wasn’t. As bored as I was, Sacred Heart was what I knew, and I didn’t want to leave what I knew for something I didn’t know. It was scary, and I don’t do change that well under the best of circumstances. But Sister Rita was insistent, and her urgency on the matter convinced my parents to overrule my objections. And so, on March 6, 1978, I walked for the first time into IS 61 to get acclimated as a new student, in what we would call their gifted and talented program, though they had some other label for it.

To say the least, it was a revelation. In math, they were doing pre-algebra. The English class had just finished “Great Expectations” – I was thankfully exempted from the notoriously difficult test that ensued. We had science labs. I was put into a French class. And I was introduced to Larry Laurenzano, who decided that my impending orthodontic work pointed away from playing a brass instrument, which is how I was given a saxophone and a beginner’s guide to it. Suffice to say, I was challenged. And it was awesome.

What changed for me then wasn’t just my academic coursework, but my trajectory as a student. In the eighth grade, I did was most of my peers in the G&T program did, and took the entrance exam for Stuyvesant High School. I got into Stuy, and later on as a National Merit scholar I drew the interest of Trinity University, which was recruiting National Merit scholars. From Trinity, I came to Houston as a grad student in math at Rice. I’ve been here ever since.

I truly don’t know where I’d be today if my life had not taken that particular turn. I feel pretty confident that I would have gone to one of the Catholic high schools had I graduated from Sacred Heart. Maybe Monsignor Farrell, maybe one of the premier Catholic schools in Manhattan, Regis or Xavier. I did actually look at those schools while at IS 61, but never gave either of them serious thought once I discovered that neither of them had an instrumental music program – I wasn’t going to go any school that forced me to discontinue playing the saxophone. Had I gone to Farrell or Regis or Xavier, I feel equally confident that I’d have wound up at the University of Notre Dame. I mean, I’d have been a lifelong Catholic school student who was also a lifelong fan of Fighting Irish sports. Hard to imagine a path that wouldn’t have led to South Bend. I did apply to, and get into, Notre Dame as a Stuyvesant student, and gave it a serious look. What eventually soured me on it was that nobody told me about a scholarship offered by the local alumni association that I might have won until after the application deadline – I’d have never heard about it at all except for the fact that my dad happened to mention that I’d gotten into ND to a colleague of his who was an alum and who asked if I’d applied for this scholarship, which of course I hadn’t. Trinity’s incredibly personal and focused recruitment effort – they had the chair of the music department writing to me about their symphonic band, even though I was never going to be a music major – really stood out by comparison, and it helped tip the scales in their favor. Had I gone to Notre Dame, I have no earthly idea where I’d be today, or what I’d be doing. I find it hard to conceive of a scenario that would have led to me winding up in Houston, whether in the fall of 1988 or any other time.

So yes, I can honestly say that thirty-five years ago today, my life changed for good, and for the good. And I can say that the person who is most responsible for putting my life on that different path is Sister Rita Flynn. Sister Rita was close to retirement in 1978 – I think she hung up her spurs a few years after I passed through her classroom, and I think she passed away a few years after that. I don’t remember when I last saw her. I know I told her at least once that the transfer had been good for me, and that I was glad she pushed me into it, but I doubt she ever knew just how profound an effect she had. I can’t tell her now, so I’ll tell you. I’m eternally grateful for what she did for me. I can’t imagine my life turning out any differently, and I’m so glad for that. Sister Rita, wherever you are today, thank you. Thank you very much. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for you.

Get well soon, Elf Louise

If you’ve ever lived in San Antonio, you are undoubtedly familiar with the Elf Louise Christmas Project. I’m sad to say that “Elf” Louise Locker has suffered a heart attack, but thankfully appears to be recovering nicely.

The woman behind one of San Antonio’s most prolific Christmas-based charities, Louise Locker, had a heart attack Sunday evening, according to a posting on her facebook page by talk show host Chris Duel.

On Monday morning “Elf” Louise, as she is better known, wrote on her page: “3am in the morning. At Northeast Baptist Hospital. Caring staff. Comfortable. Mostly I am so thankful that I checked out what I thought was indigestion. Thank you so much for your prayers.”

The Elf Louise Christmas Project is a volunteer based organization that works to deliver gifts to children who would otherwise go without.

Locker started the project in 1969 as a student at Trinity University, when she collected gifts for children in 13 families. The organization now has close to 4,500 volunteers, an annual budget of more than $300,000 and distributes some 60,000 gifts, according to its website.

My very best wishes for a full and fast recovery, Elf Louise, and a Merry Christmas to you and your family.

More reactions to the election results

Enough about me. What are some other people saying about Tuesday’s results? Here’s a sample:

Mark Bennett
Lion Star
Texas Trib
TM Daily Post
TFN Insider

There’s a certain amount of bitterness and disgust expressed in some of those posts about the more ridiculous results from Tuesday. I understand the sentiments, but I don’t think we really understand why these things happen. Frankly, as hard as some of those Harris County results are to swallow, I’m still reeling from the lopsided loss by first term SBOE member Michael Soto, who was clubbed by a novice candidate who basically ran no campaign and had no online presence. Maybe it was being connected to my alma mater that was the reason; in addition to Professor Soto, Trinity alums Brianna Hinojosa-Flores and Leif Olson also got thumped. Makes as much sense as anything else, right?

Obviously, that’s a silly reason. What can we learn from this? I don’t believe turnout level is a factor – remember, Mark Thompson waltzed to an easy win for the Railroad Commissioner nomination in 2008 despite running against a former elected official and a two-time nominee for the office, both of whom collected all the endorsements and had actual, organized campaigns and simple names to boot. Arguably, the way to avoid these bizarre results is to have even less turnout, as long as it was the right turnout. Surely we agree that the subset of well-informed voters, however big or small that group may be, would not have nominated Lloyd Oliver and Kesha Rogers. Clearly, there were enough voters who didn’t know enough about the candidates they were presented with. What are we going to do about that?

What we should not do is reflexively dismiss these voters as stupid. As is often the case during a non-partisan election, I was asked by numerous friends for voting advice. These are intelligent, connected people, with busy lives and limited information before them. Most of them had likely not had the chance to meet a candidate in most of these races. I think the last time I was visited by a candidate was for the 2009 special election in District H. They might have gotten some mail and maybe a couple of calls – mostly of the robo variety – but there was nothing on TV or the radio or in the Chronicle. Sure, you can find some information online – if you know who the candidates are to begin with – but let’s be honest, many campaign websites and Facebook pages are crappy, and again there’s not much news coverage out there for these lower profile races. How is someone who wants to make an intelligent choice but doesn’t have the time or the opportunity to attend a bunch of campaign events to know?

For starters, I suggest we all need to come to grips with the fact that campaigns and candidates really do need money to effectively communicate their message. More basically than that, candidates need money to introduce themselves to the voters in the first place. A familiar name means a lot. More than endorsements, clearly, which brings up a tangential matter, namely that far too many endorsing organizations do a piss poor job of communicating their preferences to their presumably intended audience. Take a look at the endorsements linked on my 2012 Primary page. See how many of them are Google docs and not links? Many of them were created or uploaded by me from the email sent out announcing the endorsements. I’d often hear of an endorsement from a candidate’s email or Facebook page, and I’d have to go hunting high and low to find it online, or I’d have to send an email requesting a doc be sent to me. And usually, that would be the end of it. How exactly does that help the organization’s preferred candidates? I continue to be boggled by how capriciously these things are treated. Not all organizations are this way, of course – the AFL-CIO and the GLBT Political Caucus are two shining examples of how to do it right – but far too many are. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Every endorsing organization should at the very least have a regularly updated webpage on which it posts its list of endorsed candidates for all to see. This is an incredibly low bar to clear.

I digress. An online presence, for candidates and for endorsing organizations, should be a minimum for being taken seriously. It’s a cheap and efficient way of communicating. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that having a Facebook page with a couple hundred Likes is a sufficient communications plan. Speaking as someone who has a regularly updated webpage, getting people to actually look at your online content is not so easy. It’s a component of a good communications strategy, not the be all and end all of it. Which gets us back to money, because a candidate who tries to do communication and outreach cheaply is a candidate who isn’t doing much, if any, communication and outreach. We can gripe all we want about Texas being a big ol’ ATM for national Democrats, but what are we doing about it? We need to put our own candidates first and help them help themselves.

This is what I’ve come up with after 24 hours of thought. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Complaining may make you feel good – Lord knows, I understand that feeling – but ultimately it’s not helpful. This is where we are, and it’s not where we want to be. It’s up to all of us to figure out how to get there.

Jazzing it up

A little plug for my alma mater.

KRTU knows how to throw a public party.

The Trinity University radio station kicked off a yearlong celebration of the arts in general and jazz in particular Sunday afternoon and evening at the Sunken Garden Theater.

Designed to commemorate the beginning of the station’s 10th year of airing a jazz-driven format, the multimedia event was called “Sunday in Brackenridge Park: Jazz Family Showcase.” It featured dancers, drummers, actors, singers, Mayor Julián Castro reading to kids, the San Antonio Symphony and the premiere of the “San Antonio Jazz Suite,” commissioned by KRTU and written by KRTU disc jockey/pianist Aaron Prado.

“I think it’s great to get this kind of community involvement,” said Barbara Hill, director of programs at the Southwest School of Art, one of 20 nonprofit organizations that have teamed with KRTU for the “Year of Jazz.” “It’s great that we can bring awareness to each other.”

When I was a student, KRTU played mostly vanilla classical music during the day, and switched to jazz at night, which was largely DJ-driven and thus pretty eclectic. The switch to all jazz has been a huge success, with an increase in listeners and greater involvement in the community. It helps that Trinity has a full-fledged communications department, but it’s still a student-run station. Well done, y’all.

RIP, Dr. Eugene Carinci

Via my Trinity classmate Patrick Pringle, I just learned the sad news that Dr. Eugene Carinci, who was the band director at Trinity while we were there, has passed away.

Dr. Carinci died at his home in Macon, Ga., on July 20. He was 59.

An internationally known saxophone player, Dr. Carinci taught at Trinity for 13 years and, as the director of the Trinity Jazz Band, performed in concert in the community and on tour and recorded several well regarded albums with Trinity student musicians.

Dr. Carinci came to Trinity in 1982 and taught saxophone and supervised instrumental music education students. As director of bands, he guided the Trinity Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Ensemble. He is best remembered for energizing the Trinity Jazz Band. Under his leadership,

the band made several local radio and television appearances, opened for jazz musicians Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie, played concerts in the San Antonio community, and toured Houston, Santa Fe, N.M. and New Orleans, La. The Jazz Band, under Dr. Carinci, also recorded four albums: Trinity University Jazz Band 1984, In Orbit, Gershwin on the Menu, and Committed.

After leaving Trinity in 1995, Carinci served as artistic advisor and CEO of the Portland Chamber Players in Portland, Maine, represented the Yamaha Corporation as a Yamaha Performing Artist, and was the CEO of the Macon Symphony Orchestra in Macon, Ga.

I still own all four of those jazz band albums. They’re a little scratchy these days, but I ripped them all to MP3 last year, and even with the odd skip they still take me back. Here’s the Jazz Band’s rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon”, from the In Orbit album:

I remember the jazz band playing that at a Parents Weekend reception one year. I had casually mentioned to Dr. Carinci that it was my parents’ first dance song at their wedding, and he dedicated it to them. I was really touched by that.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had teachers like Laurence Laurenzano and Gene Carinci in my 30+ years as a sax player. To be honest, I have no idea why Dr. Carinci accepted me for the Trinity Wind Symphony as a freshman. I had the world’s worst audition, and our section did not lack for talent. But he saw something in me, and I like to think that I paid him back in hard work, loyalty, and friendship. He exposed me to music I never would have heard otherwise, and the concerts we performed, never mind the wind symphony/jazz band tours we went on, are easily some of my best memories from college. He was an enormous presence on the stage – arms pumping, sweat flying, intensity radiating from his body – but it was always about the music, and he got every last drop of effort and expression out of us. Like Larry Laurenzano, he died way too young and leaves behind a void that can never be filled, for he was truly one of a kind. Rest in peace, Dr. Carinci. You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten.

Budget cuts won’t just affect public universities

From my inbox, an email from the new President of my alma mater.

Dear Mr. Kuffner:

As you may be aware, the State of Texas faces an unprecedented budget shortfall of between $15 billion and $28 billion for the next two years. Budget proposals under consideration by the 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature include massive cuts to health and education, including a 41 percent cutback in Texas Equalization Grants (TEG). More than 400 Trinity students from Texas receive this grant because they qualify for need-based funding and attend a private college.

If you are a former TEG recipient, I encourage you to contact your legislators and urge them to restore full funding to the Texas Equalization Grants program. Even if you did not receive TEG funding as a Trinity student, I encourage you to make contact as the proposed reductions could have an adverse impact on current and future Trinitonians from Texas. As an economist, I can assure you that cuts to TEG will not save the State of Texas money but will only further increase the financial burden on families and public institutions.

A template letter is attached for your convenience and offers you an opportunity for personalization. I ask that you send the letters by mail, as most members of the Legislature immediately delete e-mail. The links provided below will enable you to identify your hometown Representative and Senator and place their contact information in the letters. Once you open the Web site address below, click on “How Do I…” and follow the link to “Find who represents me.” There you can fill in the fields with your hometown information.

The proposed reduction is serious, but I am optimistic that it will not be so severe by the end of the process. A letter from you to your elected officials will aid in Trinity’s efforts as I work with members of the Texas Legislature to restore as much of the proposed reduction as possible.


Dennis A. Ahlburg

Here’s the sample letter they’d like us alums to write. I feel pretty confident that my Rep and my Senator will do the right thing, so I’ll leave it to y’all to pick up the mantle as you see fit. I figure if Trinity is calling on its alums to get involved like this, other private universities are as well. Whether they’ll have any more luck than the public schools, I don’t know. But there’s no choice but to try and hope for the best.

Friday random ten: The top 500, part 10

Continuing on with the songs in my collection from the Rolling Stone Top 500 list.

1. All The Young Dudes – Billy Bragg (#253, orig. Mott The Hoople)
2. I Can See For Miles – The Who (#258)
3. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley (#259, cover of Leonard Cohen)
4. Sail Away – Randy Newman (#264)
5. Sunday, Bloody Sunday – U2 (#268)
6. Sloop John B – Lager Rhythms (#271, orig. The Beach Boys)
7. Somebody To Love – Unknown (#274, orig. Jefferson Airplane)
8. Born In The USA – Bruce Springsteen (#275)
9. Money (That’s What I Want) – The Beatles (#288, orig. Barrett Strong)
10. Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles (#289)

To me, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” is a top-ten all-time song. I have no idea why Rolling Stone rated it this far down on the list. Yes, I somehow have a version of “Somebody To Love” whose artist is unknown to me. No, I don’t know how that came to be. As for “Hallelujah”, for which the Buckley cover and not the Cohen original is on the RS list, I’ve linked before to this essay about the song’s evolution from the Cohen original to one of the most-covered and used-by-TV-and-movies songs around, but apparently the domain on which that appeared is now offline. Thankfully, someone created and uploaded a document of that post, so you can still read it. Which you should if you haven’t before, it’s well worth it.

Entire song list report: Started with “Stolen Car”, by Bruce Springsteen. I apparently have two versions of this song, one from “The River” and the other from “Tracks”. This is the sort of thing you learn about your collection when you play it all in alphabetical order. The version from “The River” is listed first, so it’s what I began with. Finished with “Sukiyaki”, by Big Daddy, song #5103, for 63 tunes this week. Among them were the five movements of the Suite of Old American Dances, by Robert Russell Bennett, performed and recorded by the Trinity University Wind Symphony circa 1987, which included yours truly on the alto saxophone. Thankfully, the other, more talented, members of the ensemble largely succeeded in drowning out my contribution. What are you listening to this week?

Friday random ten: Talk the talk

If you follow this blog for things other than random music, you know that I do a lot of candidate and officeholder interviews around election time. In honor of all that talking, here’s ten songs about talking:

1. Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love – Van Halen
2. Girls Talk – Dave Edmunds
3. I Talk To The Wind – King Crimson
4. If Music Could Talk – Steve Wynn
5. May I Have A Talk With You? – Stevie Ray Vaughan
6. National Talk Like A Pirate Day – Lambchop
7. Talk To Me – Southside Johnny and The Asbury Park Jukes
8. Talkin’ Bout A Revolution – Tracy Chapman
9. Talking Myself Down – The Go-Gos
10. Talking Old Soldiers – Bettye Lavette

What’s talking to you on your iPod this week?

I should note here that today is the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Stevie Ray Vaughan. I considered doing an SRV Random Ten, but decided instead to honor the occasion in tomorrow’s video break. But I wanted to mention that here so no one thought I’d missed it.

Entire Song List Report: Started with “Lodi”, by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Finished with “Love Rollercoaster”, by The Ohio Players, song #3113, for a total of 137 tunes this week.

Ripping vinyl report: More old school this week, as I re-committed my four Trinity University Jazz Band albums (one for each year, naturally) to digital. They had been done early on after acquiring the USB turntable, but before the right input volume level had been determined, and before the turntable manufacturer had released a version of their software that automatically separated tunes into tracks. Now I just need to haul the albums over to a Kinkos to scan them in for cover art – the scanner we now have at home can’t handle anything as wide as that.

Interview with Michael Soto

Michael Soto

It’s time to start up the interview machine again, as election season will be on us before you know it. (Fun fact: We’re less than 90 days out from the start of early voting.) I’ve got a trio of SBOE candidates to get things started, beginning with Michael Soto, the Democratic candidate for SBOE in District 3, which is primarily San Antonio and points south. Soto is a professor of English at my alma mater and is running to replace the unreliable Democratic incumbent, Rick Agosto. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

As before, I will keep a list of all interviews on the 2010 Elections page. Let me know what you think about the interview, and if you have any suggestions about that page.

What’s in a diploma?

My alma mater doesn’t make the news very often, so when it does, I take notice.

A group of students at Trinity University is lobbying trustees to drop a reference to “Our Lord” on their diplomas, arguing it does not respect the diversity of religions on campus.

“A diploma is a very personal item, and people want to proudly display it in their offices and homes,” said Sidra Qureshi, president of Trinity Diversity Connection. “By having the phrase ‘In the Year of Our Lord,’ it is directly referencing Jesus Christ, and not everyone believes in Jesus Christ.”

Qureshi, who is Muslim, has led the charge to tweak the wording, winning support from student government and a campus commencement committee. Trustees are expected to consider the students’ request at a May board meeting.


The debate started last year when Isaac Medina, a Muslim convert from Guadalajara, Mexico, noticed the wording while looking at pre-made diploma frames in the Trinity bookstore. When Medina applied to Trinity, university staff told him it wasn’t a religious institution and that it maintained only a historical bond to the Presbyterian Church.

So the godly reference “came as a big surprise,” said Medina, who graduated in December. “I felt I was a victim of a bait and switch.”

At first, Qureshi and Medina sought a change only for students who desired it. But university staff told them the school would not print custom diplomas, so they requested dropping the words “Our Lord” from all diplomas issued.

That sound you hear is millions of heads exploding. I can’t wait for this to become talk radio fodder, if it isn’t already. Nothing quite stirs pride in one’s old school like the prospect of it being turned into a caricature by a bunch of ignoramuses.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I looked at my diploma – it may have been five minutes after receiving it; I’m just not that sentimental – so I don’t really care if it says “in the year” or “in the year of Our Lord” in that fancy gothic font. Seems to me the obvious answer is to allow for a custom diploma for those who want it. I mean, if textbook publishers can handle special orders, so can whoever prints these things. My advice to the board of trustees is to recognize that sooner rather than later so the nattering nabobs can move on to the next outrage du jour before they get too attached to this one.

The university printing business


An experiment at Rice University to make scholarly research available to anyone with an Internet connection is trying to change the world of academic publishing.


“The costs of publishing are reduced by digital dissemination, but they are hardly eliminated,” said Charles Backus, director of the Texas A&M University Press, which produces as many as 70 books a year, including some available electronically.

Rice goes further: Every book may be read online for free; none are printed until an order is placed, with the payment covering the cost of printing and delivering the book. There is no sales staff, nor warehouses to hold unsold books.

“It’s unbelievable how expensive it is to produce and distribute these academic titles (in traditional press operations),” said Fred Moody, the sole employee at the Rice press and an evangelist for the digital future. “It’s a model for hemorrhaging cash.”

There is little disagreement about that.

Doesn’t seem like a propitious time for Rice to be investing in such a thing, but at least they’re doing it in a relatively low-cost way. My own alma mater revived their press a few years ago, via the more traditional means of a foundation grant. I wish Rice luck in its venture.

Blog Stars

The Houston Press surveyed the local blog scene and picked out ten “Blog Stars” to highlight and profile. I’m pleased to say that they did me the honor of including me and my blog on that list. I always find it a little embarrassing to talk about myself like this, so since you’re already reading my blog, I’m going to talk about the nine other folks on their list and why you should be reading them as well.

1. Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess

The Bloggess is the funniest damn thing on the Internet. Seriously, you should stop reading this right now and go click the link and see for yourself. Just don’t be drinking any beverages while you do, or your monitor may regret it. I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny a couple of months ago at a Planned Parenthood event at which she and I and a couple other bloggers got to meet Joan Walsh, and you if you’re still here reading this you should now go read what she wrote about that experience, which she cross-posted to Open Salon and got a comment from Walsh about it. Are you still here? Go read The Bloggess.

2. Robert Boyd, The Great God Pan Is Dead

I’ve been a fan of Robert’s blog Wha’ Happen?, especially his posts where he rides his bike through an old neighborhood and takes lots of pictures of what he sees. One of the flaws of reading blogs via RSS feed is that I hadn’t visited his main page recently and thus did not know about his newer blog, which looks excellent. I’ve now added it to my subscriptions. (I’ve added all the blogs of which I was previously unaware of to my subs.)

3. Gus Allen, Swamplot

Easily the best thing to happen to Houston real estate since Michael Pollock went off the air. I’ve been a fan of Swamplot since its debut.

4. Stephanie Stradley, Texans Chick

Stephanie is one of two people on this list whom I knew in real life long before “blog” became a word. She and I went to Trinity University, and we reconnected in recent years through a mutual friend and the blog of her late sister, Debutaunt. Reading her blog has actually helped make me somewhat of a Texans fan. I can only hope to ever influence someone else’s opinion that much. You want to read some solid and entertaining football writing? Steph’s your blogger.

5. David Cobb, Houston Calling

I am not familiar with this blog. But I will be now.

6. Mark Bennett, Defending People

Mark is the other person I knew back in the day, as we were both in the MOB circa 1989 or so. We both now have kids in the same school, and I’ve run into him at a PTA meeting or two. You want to learn something about how the criminal justice system operates from someone who lives it every day, go read Mark.

7. Laura Mayes, Blog Con Queso

I met Laura at the same Planned Parenthood event where I met Jenny. I had not been reading her blog regularly before, but I will be now.

8. Albert Nurick, H-Town Chow Down and
9. Nishta Mehra, Blue Jean Gourmet

I’m not a foodie. My tastes are, sadly, rather pedestrian. Maybe reading these two will help with that.

So there you have it. My thanks to the Press for including me in such good company. Happy reading, and congrats to all the well-deserved honorees.

Budget cuts coming for Rice

It’s going to be a tough budget year for Rice University.

Rice President David Leebron set the stage for the coming year in an address to faculty this fall, warning that coping with endowment losses is one of the most critical issues facing the school.

University officials say no decisions have been made about next year’s budget, or even how deeply to cut.

“There are way too many variables in the planning process,” said B.J. Almond, the school’s chief spokesman. The final budget must be approved by trustees.


Rice draws about 46 percent of its operating budget from its endowment, which lost $838 million during the year that ended June 30.

When money drawn from the endowment to bolster school operations is added in, the total drop was close to $1 billion. The endowment was reported at $3.6 billion in June.

Pretty scary. No wonder folks are worried about the potential merger with Baylor College of Medicine, which is a huge financial question mark. I just hope they know what they’re doing.

Seeing a story like this makes me wonder how my alma mater is doing on this front, as it too is a small private school with a sizable endowment, but I haven’t seen anything about it. Let’s hope no news is good news.

How green is your website?

Here are two thoughtful and interesting posts about data centers and carbon neutrality from my friend and Trinity classmate Robert Nagle; a postscript with some added thoughts is here. I’m glad to see that my webhost does pretty well in this regard, though it’s purely by accident from my perspective, as I’d never really thought about this before. But I have now, and I recommend you check out what Robert has written and give some thought to it as well. And maybe if we can’t get data centers to be much greener than they already are, we might be able to come up with some creative ways to blunt their impact.

Saturday video break: Lateral!

I’ve shown this before, but in honor of the college alumni weekend I’m not attending, here’s the greatest highlight ever from our athletic department:

I’ve watched that video a bunch of times from a couple of different angles, and I still can’t believe it.

Friday random ten: Old school

Three weeks ago was my 25-year high school reunion. This weekend is Alumni Weekend at my university. I couldn’t attend either, but I could put together a school-and-nostalgia oriented Friday Random Ten.

1. Schoolhouse Rock Medley – Lager Rhythms
2. My Old School – Steely Dan
3. School’s Out – Alice Cooper
4. Bust The High School Students – Austin Lounge Lizards
5. Smoking In The Boys’ Room – Motley Crue
6. Bright College Days – Tom Lehrer
7. The Good Old Days – The Lodger
8. Didn’t Go To College – Austin Lounge Lizards
9. Old Friends – Simon and Garfunkel
10. Beer – Asylum Street Spankers

Ten songs about beer would have been a pretty good summation of my college career, but I thought I’d be a bit broader here, just for the heck of it. What are you nostalgic for this week?

San Antonio moves forward on streetcars

Last month, the city of San Antonio announced it would form a citizens advisory committee to help guide the creation of a starter streetcar system. It has now done so.

The commission’s prime task will be to advise VIA’s board of trustees whether or not to move forward with a streetcar project. It will also study how the project would impact the community, [VIA Metropolitan Transit board Chairman Henry] Muñoz said.

The group will look at potential funding sources and quality-of-life issues. Its work will also help finalize a streetcar feasibility study, which is due later this year and was jointed funded by VIA and the Downtown Alliance, a group of center-city property owners.

Appointing the commission is the right next step in determining the feasibility of rail in San Antonio because it will couple the technical expertise of engineering consultants with the viewpoints of stakeholders, Muñoz said.

“I think it is an incredibly diverse group that represents the kinds of perspectives that a community like ours needs to look at on a project of this importance,” he said.

I’ll be very interested to see what they come up with. Something that runs along Broadway into downtown, which would serve Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, and potentially both Trinity and Incarnate Word Universities, could do very well. Maybe on the downtown end it could also serve the AT&T Center and/or the Alamodome, I don’t know. Hopefully the commission will take all of that into account. San Antonio is a tourist town, and its downtown gets a lot of visitors, so a decent system could be a real boon for that industry.

They’ll get support from the Mayor as well.

“It’s time for San Antonio to make a significant investment in mass transit,” [Mayor Julián Castro] said. “The details of that need public input and planning, but there’s a resolve not just to plan but to act.”

Though details on funding sources are scant, the mayor signaled that the city needs to position itself to receive whatever federal funds might become available.

“I think that’s particularly true now that you have the Obama administration now focused on infusing cities with stimulus dollars for transit, particularly transit that is linked to development,” he said. “San Antonio right now is a non-starter on that issue, and we could remake the urban core of the city by investing in mass transit.”

Castro’s remarks on Wednesday were his strongest and most pointed yet, that rail must connect the city center to its outer areas — and spur economic development along the way.

I think he’s right that there’s no better time than now for San Antonio to take this on. I wish him best of luck in getting it done.

The Texas Tribune

Very cool.

The longtime editor of Texas Monthly magazine will team with an Austin venture capitalist to form a nonprofit news Web site devoted to government and politics in the Lone Star state.

With a large bankroll, a staff at the outset of about eight journalists, and the cachet of Evan Smith, the Texas Monthly editor, the new venture, called the Texas Tribune, hopes to be an immediate force on the state’s political landscape, much as Politico became two years ago in national politics. Many local news organizations have cut back on statehouse coverage, and the creators of the Texas Tribune plan not only to post news on their own site, but also to supply it to newspapers around the state.

“This is not about horse race politics, primarily,” Mr. Smith, who will have the title of chief executive, said in an interview. “It’s going to be a lot of deep-dive policy stuff. We have the lowest voting turnout in the country. We have a number of major issues that get no attention or insufficient attention by the people we elect.”

My congratulations to Evan Smith and to former Houston Chronicle reporter Matt Stiles, who will be joining Smith on staff at the Texas Trib. I’m excited to see what kind of coverage they will produce. Just one question: does this mean that Eileen will finally be in charge at Texas Monthly?

The chairman of Texas Tribune is John Thornton, general partner of Austin Ventures, a venture capital firm, who said he has given $1 million to the project and has raised $2.2 million, and plans to raise $4 million from individuals and foundations by the time it begins, possibly in November. Other nonprofit local news sites in places like the Twin Cities, San Diego, St. Louis and Chicago started with significantly less money behind them.

“We want to have at least two years’ runway, even if there’s no additional revenue, and preferably three,” he said.

An active supporter of Texas Democrats, Mr. Thornton, 44, who is based in Austin, said he is giving up partisan politics for the sake of the Texas Tribune. He said the new venture has quietly approached reporters and editors about joining, and that with many journalists unemployed, and others worried that their employers will keep shrinking, “talent ain’t the issue.”

Thornton was a year ahead of me at Trinity. He’s been blogging about the changing face and realities of media and its finances for some time now, so the fact that he launched something like this is no surprise to me. I wish him and his crew good luck with this venture, and will be very interested to see if it can be as successful as they hope.

Friday random ten: The whole enchilada

Finally, a Random Ten based on a shuffle of every song in the collection, not just a slimmed-down-to-fit-on-a-Mini playlist. What will the new much-bigger-than-a-Mini Touch give us?

1. The Mosstrooper’s Lament – SixMileBridge
2. Jim Malcolm – Losin’ Auld Reekie
3. Steamsville – Trinity University Jazz Band
4. Jim and Jack – Carolyn Wonderland & The Imperial Monkeys
5. Gobbledigook – Sigur Ros
6. The Star Spangled Banner – Eddie from Ohio
7. Split Decision – Steve Winwood
8. Be Bop I Love You – The Bobs
9. Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye – Ceili’s Muse
10. Worlds Apart – Bruce Springsteen

I should add that the song that came on next was “The Will”, by Maggie Drennon, who was the lead singer for both SixMileBridge and Ceili’s Muse. I think the new Touch is trying to tell me something. What’s your iPod telling you this week?