Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hey Houston, Who Has the Best Tailgate Party?

Well, we're all going to get to find out!

This from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ entry by Priya Rao)

Who says the winner of a football game is only determined in the stadium?

According to Joe Cahn, the commissioner of tailgating at the Tailgating Institute of America, which has six employees and is based in Manhattan, the real champions are found in the parking lot. "Fans don't lose there," Mr. Cahn explained. "They may not be able to redo a kick, but they can make an awesome hot dog."

Just announced: the Bing National Tailgating Championship, sponsored by Mr. Cahn and the search engine. The competition consists of six regional challenges in Houston, Denver, New York/New Jersey, Phoenix, New Orleans and Seattle, where entrants will be judged on cooking, tailgate spirit, parking lot agility and sports knowledge. The winners from those areas will have a chance to duke it out on a national level in Dallas before the Super Bowl. (The East Coast portion will occur before the Jets and Texans game on Nov. 21 at the Meadowlands.)

"We're in an era of competitiveness," said Mr. Cahn, who founded the organization in 1996 because he was interested in the sociology of tailgating.

Conspicuously absent from his contest is drinking. "I like to remind people that water is an adult beverage, too, and the brewery is not going out of business tomorrow," Mr. Cahn explained.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Houston Makes Forbes Most Affordable Cities List

Houston was ranked No. 7 on a list, compiled by Forbes, of the U.S. cities where dollars will stretch the farthest.

Oklahoma City took the top spot followed by Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., Nashville and San Antonio.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Houston Doctor Appointments Going High Tech?

This from

NY-based appointment planning and physician review service ZocDoc has announced a new Series B round of funding today. The round of $15 million, was led by Founders Fund and previous investors Khosla Ventures also participated in the round. The company notes that the new funding will be used to, “help ZocDoc expand its network of practitioners and accelerate its nationwide growth.”

ZocDoc is one of those services that doesn’t receive press on a daily basis like some mobile services are currently receiving however ZocDoc provides real world value and time savings. You select your insurance provider, location and specialty (dentist, psychiatrist, derm, etc.) and ZocDoc spits back a list of available appointment times. It is promoted as saving a ton of time calling around to find available appointments that match both insurance provider and availability.

You can also view the ratings for a doctor – similar to ratings on Healthgrades, television, or Amazon. It’s great to read reviews of a potential practitioner versus only receiving the recommendation from another doctor or friend. ZocDoc currently serves NYC, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, DC. They allow their potential users to vote on which city should be next for expansion. Upcoming cities might include Miami, Houston, Boston, Philly and Seattle. ZocDoc generates revenue by charging fees to the doctor and provides the service free to users.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Houston Tops Forbes Ranking for Young Professionals Relocation

From via the Houston Business Journal:

Houston topped this year’s Forbes list of best cities where a recent college graduate can get a strong start on a high-powered career. The magazine placed the Bayou City at No. 1 for its “business-friendly environment and abundance of oil money,” considering it is home to 14 of the country’s largest companies. Only New York City, fourth on the list, had more big employers, according to Forbes.

Houston also had high average incomes and a concentration of graduates from elite colleges — and not just from local Rice University — but from across the country. Texas fared very well in the studdy, both Austin and Dallas also securing a spot in the Top 10 — Dallas at No. 6 and Austin rounding out the list at No. 10.

To come up with the list, Forbes looked at all of the Metropolitan Statistical Areas across the U.S., and then eliminated cities with fewer than 1 million people, and cities where Moody’s predicts job growth will be negative over the next year. Next, each city was ranked based on its current unemployment rate, then criteria was factored in such as what people earn, the ability to stretch a dollar in the city and how many public companies called that city home. Then Forbes counted how many members of the Class of 2000 at Princeton University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Duke University, Rice University and Northwestern University were currently living in each city.

Cities rounding out the list included Washington D.C. at No. 2 followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul, Boston, Seattle, Denver and Atlanta.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Carnival Cruise Line Selects Galveston Port for Carnival Magic

this from

It was big news when Carnival Cruise Lines first announced that the 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic -- the second in its brand-new Dream class -- would debut in May 2011 with a series of Mediterranean sailings. But cruisers wondered: When and where would the ship arrive Stateside?

All signs today point to Galveston, a move that would provide a massive boost to the mid-size Texas port, best known for homeporting "mature" hardware with a minimum of 10 years service at sea.

Word first came via the Cruise Critic's message boards, with readers posting actual booking confirmations -- minus personal details, of course -- for a 16-night transatlantic cruise departing Barcelona on October 28, 2011, and arriving in Galveston on November 13. Travel agents have confirmed to Cruise Critic that the ship will indeed arrive in Galveston on November 13, and, further, that space is being held for a Caribbean cruise departing out of Galveston on that date. Cruise Critic was unable to confirm additional details beyond the November 13 departure.

The port of Galveston's Web site cruise calendar has yet to include the dates, and a representative from the port was unavailable for comment. A spokesperson for Carnival told Cruise Critic, "We expect to announce her North American homeport and her itineraries in the next couple of weeks."

John Heald, Carnival's Senior Cruise Director and mischievous blogger, also teased at a forthcoming announcement from the line. "I have been promising that PA 007 our super spy would be breaking the news on where your Carnival Magic will make her home port. Well...I think this week....may well be the week..." It was Heald who first revealed Magic's European itineraries when he posted a video of himself in January reading aloud a copy of a press release said to be obtained "from a spy."

Interestingly, a Carnival cruise vacation specialist told Cruise Critic that the transatlantic cruise was initially opened up in error -- they intended to serve only a group booking, but briefly opened the channel to public traffic. As of now, the mistake has been "corrected," and the line has nothing in the system (for booking) beyond October 16, 2011, when the ship sails into Barcelona to conclude a Mediterranean cruise.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Texas Wealth on the Move...But to Where?

This from (

Where America's Money Is Moving
Written by Jon Bruner (edited here for length)

Low taxes, warm sunshine and deep discounts on real estate. No wonder IRS data shows the wealthiest among us are headed south. Surprise: America's wealthy like warm weather and low taxes. That's the takeaway from IRS data, analyzed by Forbes, on moves between counties. We looked for counties that the rich are moving to in big numbers.

The dominance of the list by Florida and Texas--the former has eight of the top 20 counties, the latter four-- makes sense to Robert Shrum, manager of state affairs at the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., since neither state has an income tax. "If you're a high-income earner, then that, from a tax perspective, is going to be a driving decider if you're going to move to one of those two states," Shrum says.

After accounting for property taxes, Shrum's analysis shows that Texas has the fourth-lowest personal tax burden in the country, and Florida has the eighth lowest. Shrum also points to eight states that have targeted wealthy households with extra-high tax brackets: California, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut and Wisconsin. Six of the top 10 counties the rich are fleeing are located in those states.

Here are Texas' entries in the Top 20, which all happen to be in the San Antonio region:

No. 4: Llano County, Texas, North of San Antonio
Arriving average income per capita: $44,324
Departing average income per capita: $22,541
Stationary household average income per capita: $26,201
Total arriving people: 1,192
Total departing people: 1,018
Top origin: Burnet County, Texas (312 people)

No. 6: Bandera County, Texas, West of San Antonio
Arriving average income per capita: $37,849
Departing average income per capita: $18,092
Stationary household average income per capita: $24,536
Total arriving people: 1,396
Total departing people: 1,192
Top origin: Bexar County, Texas (458 people)

No. 8: Kendall County, Texas, Northwest of San Antonio
Arriving average income per capita: $51,713
Departing average income per capita: $29,013
Stationary household average income per capita: $41,590
Total arriving people: 2,987
Total departing people: 1,711
Top origin: Bexar County, Texas (1,131 people)

No. 20: Gillespie County, Texas, Northwest of San Antonio
Arriving average income per capita: $35,890
Departing average income per capita: $22,572
Stationary household average income per capita: $30,350
Total arriving people: 1,232
Total departing people: 893
Top origin: Kerr County, Texas (170 people)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Astrodome to Learn Future Shortly

as reported by the Houston Chronicle (

Harris County officials plan next week to unveil three scenarios for the Astrodome — ranging from demolition to a multi-purpose redesign that could accommodate a planetarium, a movie soundstage and other attractions — and a revised master plan for Reliant Park that could include a new arena and hotel.

Willie Loston, executive director of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation, which operates the county-owned Reliant Park complex, said price tags for the Astrodome could range from $100 million to demolish the Dome and replace it with green space to $500 million for a full-fledged, bells-and-whistles revamped Dome, financed in part with non-public money, that could offer entertainment and technology options for tenants.

“We're not making recommendations, we're not making proposals,” Loston said. “We're saying that one of these three things could happen to the (Astrodome) building.”

The master plan for Reliant Park will include demolition of Reliant Arena, which would be replaced by a new arena attached to Reliant Center on the north end of the Reliant Park and augmented, if development partners can be lined up, with a hotel and parking garage attached to Reliant Center.

The master plan, and the three options for the Astrodome, would be in keeping with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett's charge that the county should adopt a plan for the Astrodome's future by the end of the year. How that plan would be put into action, however, is still undetermined.

“What I can tell you is that it is an almost unanimous feeling among the commissioners' court that this need to be a public decision,” Loston said.

If the Dome is demolished, it would be replaced by a park-like setting rather than parking spaces, Loston said. And demolition, he said, would be more complicated than it was for Texas Stadium in Irving, the Dallas Cowboys' former stadium, which was ringed by three freeways with no other buildings nearby.

“This (the Astrodome) is in the middle of an operating complex,” Loston said. “I've got football games I'm getting ready for (at Reliant Stadium) in two months.”

The other options start with the same premise: The Dome's outer shell would remain standing, but the interior would be gutted, removing seats, concourses and skyboxes, and a 300,000- to 400,000-square-foot floor would be installed at street level above the current Dome floor, which is 32 feet below street level.

“When you walked into the Dome, you would walk right onto this new floor surface,” Loston said. “We would be getting rid of the hole in the ground and rehabbing the building.”

Potential uses in a basic reconfiguration could include a planetarium and a institute for science, technology, education and mathematics, established through non-public funding. With portable seats, the Dome also could accommodate sports events, indoor festivals or events in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The third option — “the second option on steroids,” as Loston described it — would include space for meeting rooms, conference rooms and laboratories, built on what are now the Dome's fifth and seventh levels, plus a collection of museums and a movie soundstage.

Loston said the Sport and Convention Corporation will not recommend to county commissioners which plan, if any, to approve.

“We don't prefer anything,” he said. “We are stewards who are trying to give decision-makers a range of options.”

The proposal to demolish the dilapidated Reliant Arena, which in recent years has housed rodeo events, the last season of the Houston Comets WNBA team and the USA Gymnastics national championships, came as county officials discussed the master plan for the entire park area, not just the Dome.

“The master plan will include a plan to add space to Reliant Center to replace what was lost (with the arena's demolition),” Loston said.

That could include a new arena attached to Reliant Center along with a parking garage and a hotel tower, located on the Fannin Street side of the complex, to accommodate conventions and other events at the center.