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About Reefmonkey

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  • Birthday 01/23/1976

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    Memorial at Dairy Ashford
  • Interests
    Dining, international travel, kayaking in the Gulf and West Bay, sailing, diving, cooking, reading, gardening, wine, margaritas. Native Houstonian, grew up in Spring area, first Cypresswood, then Champions Forest.

    Schools attended: Haude Elem., Brill Elem., Kleb Int., Klein HS, SMU (college and grad school)

    Bachelors in Biology, Masters in Environmental Science, used to be an environmental consultant, doing soil and groundwater risk-based remediation for closures, Brownfields on hazardous waste-impacted sites. Now do beneficial reuse for waste chemicals, coproducts, etc.
  1. What exactly do you mean by “crystal blue lagoon development “? And what do you mean by “Hampton’s type development?” The Hamptons are a bunch of 200-300 year old towns, how do we recreate that artificially and why should we want to try to become an inferior wannabe clone of a NY East Coast experience instead of the authentic Gulf Coast town we already are?
  2. It seems unconscionable to me that the more we learn about CTE and it’s effects later in life, the more doctors are starting to see structural changes in the brain in younger and younger players, that there are still parents who enthusiastically sign their elementary age boys up for tackle football. Yet “Tully Bowl mania” seems even stronger this year. Memorial Drive from Gessner to Eldridge is littered with bandit signs supporting this or that team modeled after either an NFL or Division 1 college team. (And we had just gotten rid of all the political campaign signs). Parents have been driving around for over a week now with their SUVs bedecked with team flags and messages scribbled on their rear windows. When I did youth sports in elementary school I don’t remember the parents taking it so seriously or encouraging us to take it so seriously. Of course us Gen Xers weren’t raised by helicopter parents, and I wasn’t raised in the Memorial area, where even a high school homecoming dance is treated like a prom in importance and expense, and a prom is treated like a wedding. I wonder what will be worse for these young football players, the long term cerebral effects of tackling at a young age, or the effects on their egos of having their pee wee games given the importance of an Olympiad by their parents.
  3. Your First Starbucks

    I remember before Starbucks made it to Houston, a few of the malls had locations of a chain "gourmet" coffee store going back to at least the mid 80s, was it Gloria Jeans? I just remembered how good they smelled when you walked by them, and unlike Starbucks, their stock in trade was not selling beans from Sumatra or Tanzania, but coffee beans flavored with various flavorings, chocolate, hazelnut, "irish coffee" with artificial whiskey flavoring, etc. I think people had become so used to "gourmet coffee" being coffee with added flavors, that I remember when Starbucks first started popping up in the Houston area, they had to have signs explaining why they did not offer flavored coffee beans, that the flavorings can migrate over to unflavored beans nearby, and are often used to cover up inferior bean flavors, but assured customers they could have a shot of flavored syrup in their coffee if they wanted. Oh yeah, here's an article on Gloria Jeans in 1991 - "Gloria Jean's Leads the Specialty Coffee Stampede". If only they knew what the next 5 years had in store for them. Americans have been sipping fewer cups of coffee over all in the last few years, yet sales of specialty coffees like Hawaiian Kona and Jamaican Blue Mountain are surprisingly strong. Also surprising has been the success of a small company called Gloria Jean's, a chain of shops that sell exotic coffees, coffee-making equipment and, in some stores, cups of hot and cold brew. The Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean Corporation, based in Buffalo Grove, Ill., opened for business in 1979 as a single shop. Seven years later, it started expanding through the sale of franchises and now has 110 stores -- all with a hardwood and forest-green decor -- in 26 states. The company offers more than 60 types of imported coffees from countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Colombia as well as a wide selection of flavored coffees like chocolate raspberry and french vanilla, as well as chocolate-covered espresso beans. These specialty coffees sell for anywhere from $6 to $25 a pound. Gloria Jean's is not the only coffee seller that seems to be thriving through franchises. Another concern, the Coffee Beanery Ltd. has 67 units, of which 47 are franchised. With sales of about $14 million in 1990, the Coffee Beanery specializes in Guatemalan coffees and also carries a selection of varietals. JoAnne Shaw, the chain's president, said sales have been growing about 50 percent a year. By the end of this year Mrs. Shaw and her husband, Julius, expect to have 77 stores open. Continue reading the main story Advertisement Continue reading the main story Gloria Jean's story is a tale of a small family-owned business carving a niche for robust coffee at a time when many consumers have turned to decaffeinated brands and some have forsaken the drink altogether. Even the company's founders, Edward and Gloria Jean Kvetko, admit that the company's good fortune has come almost by accident. "At first the business was just a hobby, not intended to be a money maker but rather a tax write-off," Mr. Kvetko said in a telephone interview. But Gloria Jean's is much more than that now. The privately held concern does not disclose its earnings, but the company said it had sales of $32 million in 1990, up sharply from $18 million in 1989. Its franchising affiliate, the Gloria Jean's Coffee Bean Franchising Corporation, earned $600,000 last year in franchising fees. Mr. Kvetko expects those fees to almost double in 1991. Last year, 30 stores were opened and an additional 35 are scheduled to open by the end of this year. The specialty coffee market has grown by more than 30 percent in each of the last three years, according to Find/SVP, a statistical research firm in New York. In fact, specialty coffee and decaffeinated brews are the only categories that have increased sales in the last three years. Retail sales of specialty coffees have more than tripled in six years and now account for nearly 10 percent of sales in the $6.5 billion coffee market. WHEN bean prices rose in the mid-1980's, the big manufacturers turned to lower quality beans that tended to produce less flavorful coffee. "For a time, coffee became dark hot water," said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark Inc., a food and beverage consultant in Los Angeles. "Specialty coffee has turned the coffee business around, and Gloria Jean's is riding the crest of a real strong wave." National brands are acknowledging the change in tastes and Maxwell House, Taster's Choice and Folgers have made modest attempts to tap the market by introducing "premium" brands with names like Rich French Roast, Colombian Supreme and Gourmet Supreme. To be sure, there are other specialty coffee stores like Starbucks Coffee and Peet's Coffee and Tea on the West Coast or stores like Zabar's in New York that also serve consumers craving a cup of pure Ethiopian Harrar or Jamaican Blue Mountain. What sets Gloria Jean's apart is that it is in the business not just of selling coffee but also of selling a business. The Kvetkos opened the first Gloria Jean's store in 1979 in Long Grove, 26 miles northwest of Chicago. Mr. Kvetko, who quit school after the eighth grade, is a self-taught coffee connoisseur. "I would read books about coffee from Brazil and Indonesia and became fascinated," he said. That fascination rubbed off on Mrs. Kvetko, who operated a beauty salon before the couple bought a small gift shop that sold imported coffee. "We liked the way the coffee tasted, and we thought this would be a great opportunity to save the store, which had been unprofitable," Mr. Kvetko said. In 1986, they decided to expand by selling franchise licenses. Advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. magazine and franchise trade publications draw about 300 inquiries a month from potential franchisees, according to Roger Badesh, a spokesman for Gloria Jean's. Through franchising, Gloria Jean's has seen its stores sprout up in more than 100 malls and shopping centers in California, Illinois, Arizona, Texas and Virginia and many other states. AT Gloria Jean's, nearly everything is handled for the franchisee, including lease negotiations, site location and advertising. To guarantee uniformity, Mr. Kvetko, formerly a construction contractor, has designed all the store fixtures while Mrs. Kvetko has created the interior look. All materials are shipped to the site at one time on a Gloria Jean's truck. "The cutbacks within corporations have sent a lot of people looking for career alternatives," said Mr. Kvetko, who will celebrate his 50th birthday this week. "Owning a franchise enables many to continue to use their corporate experience." Mr. Kvetko says it takes $180,000 to $220,000 to open a store. Franchisees pay a royalty fee of 6 percent of gross sales and receive sales-and-management training (a course called Coffee 101) at the parent company's sprawling new corporate headquarters. Richard J. Gorecki and his wife, Bonnie, opened their coffee store in the Hawthorne shopping center in Vernon Hills, Ill., in June. Mr. Gorecki said Gloria Jean's offered "a strange, and delightful continuity" in all its stores. Sales have been "unexpectedly robust," he added. Gloria Jean's has decided to test the market abroad and is negotiating with a British investor group to make the its name visible in London. "The main coffee market in Europe is instant, and Europeans tend to like a stronger cup of coffee so the roast would have to be different," Mr. Kvetko said, adding that "the biggest challenge is to teach them how to prepare coffee properly." But for now, in the summertime in the United States, Gloria Jean's is taking full advantage of the popularity of iced coffee drinks. There has been aggressive promotion of a variety of cold drinks like Praline Parfait, which is made with vanilla yogurt, espresso coffee and pralines. "It's not just espresso and cappuccino anymore," Mr. Pirko said. Agreed. "We don't tell our customers how to drink coffee," Mr. Badesh said. "We simply offer a wide selection of imported and flavored beans and tell the customer to enjoy." The company's dedication to broadening its selection is shown by a recent trip by Mr. Kvetko to Indonesia, where he negotiated an agreement that will enable Gloria Jean's to import an Indonesian bean called Celebes Kalosie into the United States. Gloria Jean Kvetko says that as more people learn about specialty coffee, the growth in the market will continue. Specialty coffees are made solely from arabica beans, which generally have less caffeine and are more flavorful than robusta beans. Arabica beans are grown at higher mountain elevations in countries like Colombia for long periods of time. Despite their rapid growth in recent years, Gloria Jean's and other specialty shops are not guaranteed continued success. Mr. Pirko, the beverage analyst, said the small shops have done well in part because big companies like Procter & Gamble and General Foods have not made substantial investments in the specialty market. "A company the size of Nestle can blow the small companies away," he said. Timothy J. Castle, president of the Specialty Coffee Association, a trade group in Long Beach, Calif.. said the revival of the international coffee agreement, which had limited the amount of coffee imported into the United States and which expired in 1989, would reduce the access of the specialty stores to gourmet coffees. "THE prices of imported coffees would obviously be higher," said Mr. Castle, who is the author of "The Perfect Cup, a Coffee Lover's Guide to Buying, Brewing and Tasting." "When you have greater competition, the bigger companies generally prevail," Mr. Pirko said. "So it's commendable that Gloria Jean's has done so well."
  4. The loss of Ed Emmett

    Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones acknowledged the impact: "Straight-ticket voting was unprecedented in Harris County. More than 75 percent of Harris County voters used the straight-ticket option. And when Democrats had an 11-point advantage over Republicans, 55 to 44 percent, that made it virtually impossible for most down-ballot Republicans to win," Jones said, "That’s why we saw all 59 Republican judge candidates lose, all 59 Democrats win." Studies like Bonneau and Loeppe (2013), Alter (2005) have found straight party tickets and the lack of have significant effects on turnout and election results. First, it's going to deter the lazy partisans who just want to go in to rubberstamp their parties from voting. It's not just the increased time in the booth that would deter them, that increased booth time will result in longer lines at polling locations, which would further deter them. Second, for those voters who do take the time to go down the ballot, name recognition and positive associations with that name often trumps party leaning: "Ed Emmett, I forgot/didn't realize he was running this time, I like him even though he's a Republican," eg. Will the loss of a straight-party option reduce voter turnout? Yes, it will, but again I'll say we don't need more people voting, we need more-informed people voting. Do I realize that especially in states like Texas, eliminating the straight party option is likely to help Republicans more than Democrats, at least in the short term? Yes, I do. But as I am not a member of either party, I put principle above short-term outcome, and what I would ultimately like to see is an end to both parties' duopolistic stranglehold on our American political system. Eliminating straight party ballots is a necessary first step (one that Texas is behind the 8-ball on, as it's one of only 8 states that still has one as of this year), and it also cracks the door for independent and third-party options. The next step is to divorce state and local governments' election infrastructure from how political parties decide which candidates will represent them (ie primaries).
  5. The loss of Ed Emmett

    And I do blame a system that requires multiple tens of millions of dollars for someone to be elected, and requires someone to spend half their time on job they're elected for out fundraising and campaigning to get reelected. It calls for a radical change to the way we elect people, including how we hold primaries, how we allow funding and spending in campaigns, etc, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this thread. TBH, I'm not a huge fan of "get out the vote" initiatives. People who have to be cajoled and guilted into showing up to vote probably aren't going to be very well-informed, good voters, and when you turn the act of voting into virtue signalling so that people can post selfies with their "I voted" sticker on Instagram, that's not a great thing. We don't need more people voting, we need more-informed people voting.
  6. The loss of Ed Emmett

    I will blame voters for not being able to differentiate between DC politics and county business, and not taking the time to think through each race on the ballot for themselves, instead of just being kneejerk reactionaries. It's not like Emmett or his position is some obscure person and office with no name recognition that would understandably be swept up in voting Ds, the man was on our TVs and radios in this county nonstop for at least a week just 14 months ago. Anyone who lets themselves get so swept up in partisan hatred that they mindlessly vote out a proven, experienced administrator for a young dilettante with absolutely no applicable experience is no better than the partisans on the other side, is part of the problem. What you're talking about is a pendulum swing, and we all know what happens after a pendulum reaches its maximum angle. And 10 years isn't all that long for a county judge, Emmett's predecessor served as long, and his (Eckles') predecessor (Jon Lindsey) served twice as long. Being a county judge, especially of a county like Harris, is a complicated position with a long learning curve, it's kind of like being the Chairman of the Fed in that it takes a lot of experience to consistently do it well, especially when the SHTF, so when you find someone who has amassed the kind of experience Emmett has and demonstrated he can do it well, you want to hang on to him, and not swap him out "just because."

    100% agree.
  8. Modern Houses

    Drive along Westview between Gessner and Voss, and you'll see a decent number of McModerns along with all the "Mediterranean" McMansions replacing 50s ranch style houses.
  9. The loss of Ed Emmett

    I am not a Republican by an means, am very pleased that Fletcher beat Culberson in my district, but I do have to lament the loss of Ed Emmett. He has been a stable hand on the helm, especially during Ike and Harvey. His loss this year appears to be directly attributable to straight ticket voting. Glad this will be the last year the partisans and the lazy have that option. Trading an experienced, proven fair-minded hand for a 27 year old medical interpreter for such an important and far-ranging county position that handles everything from infrastructure to emergency management is not great news.
  10. Why is Houston so dirty?

    I worked for a Japanese company for 10 years, with at least a dozen prolonged trips there. Spent most of my time in Chiba, but still made it to Tokyo quite a lot. What I found fascinating with anywhere in Japan, but especially the big cities like Tokyo, is how litter on the streets and sidewalks in unheard of, despite it being practically impossible to find a trashcan anywhere. The one thing I didn't find so tidy about the streets of Japan is having to dodge the puddles of vomit from salarymen who had too many Suntory whiskeys the night before on my morning walk to my train. The other thing I noticed is that even with nice hotels, like the KKR right by the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, where I stayed several times, it's neat and clean, but the interior tend to be allowed to get pretty dated, to the point of starting to look shabby.
  11. My annual bump of this topic for Halloween.
  12. Grand Texas Theme Park - New Caney

    I don't know about how having a mediocre theme park would affect our chances of getting a decent one, though I'll take your word for it, but I do agree with you that the plans for the park kinda suck. For one thing, beating the whole "Texas" theme to death. I think about all the successful theme parks out there, from Magic Kingdom to the various Six Flags, Animal Kingdom, the Universals, etc, a big part of what makes them successful is the theming that transports you somewhere other than the place you are. I've been all around Texas, and if I want to see it again, I can get in my car and go see the real thing, so I'm not interested in a cheesy facsimile of it. Considering how poorly managed the planning and development and marketing of this park has been, I think it's pretty safe to assume that they didn't do their due diligence on planning the theming to make sure it would create a sustainable draw of visitors, and you know the execution is going to suck, too.
  13. Grand Texas Theme Park - New Caney

    Good grief, looking at the Grand Texas website's projections for opening the actual theme park part, it's going to happen (if they can be believed after all this time) pretty much exactly ten years after this thread was started. Remember, it was originally supposed to open in 2010. Then 2012. Then 2013, then 2015.
  14. Let's talk about Craft Beer in Houston...

    I can’t imagine purposefully consuming something you have to take a prophylactic dose of medication before drinking. That seems like nature telling you you’re not supposed to drink it. With fermented food and drink, there is a thin line between transformed and just spoiled.
  15. Let's talk about Craft Beer in Houston...

    So since we're on the topic, does anyone here do any homebrewing? I don't brew any beer, but I do make muscadine wine from vines in my backyard, and in early summer I go blackberry picking and make both a dry and a sweet blackberry wine. In early september I tried my hand at hard cider for the first time. I'm not such a fan of the superdry pale yellow clear ciders with no apple flavor, or the sweet pale yellow clear alcopop grocery store ciders. Crispin makes some varieties I like - hazy, just enough sweetness, and lingering apple flavor. I used a gallon of pasteurized unfiltered organic apple juice from Whole Foods, added brown sugar, and a cider yeast. When I first tasted it, I was disappointed, but now that it's bottle-aged about a month, it's really grown on me. Despite the addition of brown sugar, its not sweet, it's just slightly off-dry (initially I considered back-sweetening, but glad I didn't), the increased sugar mostly just drove up the ABV. Now I wish I had made more, I'm down to my last few bottles.