Thursday, November 30, 2006

Davis Rankin Show on TAKS Testing

I retrieved the recorder today and have uploaded Mr. Peña's interview yesterday on KURV's Davis Rankin Show. Davis asks Rep. Peña about the possible elimination of the TAKS test in some grades. Later, the interview goes into some of the mechanics of getting a bill passed. You can hear the interview on the player below or download it via the link. Sorry it took so long.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Valley Association for Independent Living

Yesterday, I met with the Valley Association for Independent Living. VAIL provides services to people with disabilities in the Rio Grande Valley. Their service area extends beyond the counties along the border; however, the group is able to meet the greatest number of needs at their McAllen office at 3012 McColl. At the meeting were members of VAIL and representatives Carlos Gutierrez, from Senator Hinojosa's office; and Edna Dougherty from Representative Veronica Gonzalez's office.

You may be wondering what exactly it is that they do. They do quite a bit given their small size. One of the services they provide, Social Security Work Incentives Planning and Assistance, (WIPA), helps people currently receiving Social Security benefits to understand how they can return to the workforce without losing their benefits. I can see this is a great benefit to people who are on a low, fixed income and want to improve their standard of living a bit.

By far, VAIL's biggest contributions are their Independent Living Services. These include:
  • Information & Referral
  • Peer Counseling
  • Multiple Sclerosis Support Group
  • Independent Living Skills Training
  • Advocacy
  • Informational Sessions
  • Social/Recreational Activities
  • Deaf Services

In addition, VAIL offers Community Living Assistance and Support Services (CLASS). This program is geared towards helping people with developmental disabilities before age 22 to become independent.

There are also other services provided to the deaf and hard of hearing through VAIL. These go beyond translation. They provide, for instance, videoconference services, which works like we use the telephone, except through sign language. VAIL also helps their deaf and hard of hearing consumers get reimbursement for the T-Mobile Sidekick 2. The Sidekick is a great device, having had one myself, for communicating. It offers unlimited instant messaging and text messaging. The same reason most of us have a cell phone apply to their consumers, freedom.

It is amazing what range of services they provide for being such a small group. What they do is important from two points of view. One is the perspective of their consumers. Many of them may be living in a nursing home where they receive care. Unfortunately, it may not be enough for their social/emotianl well-being. If you can imagine living in a nursing home while in your 20s or 30s, you realize that there is a wide age gap between you and the majority of the other residents. Living independently, in such a case, would mean having the ability to go out to social events, having a pet, and maybe even having a job.

The other perspective in why VAIL provides a useful service, not only to their consumers, but to society as a whole is that it costs less for a person with a disability to live on their own than to live in a nursing home. I asked to be certain about the circumstances. Their consumers still receive public assistance to live on their own, but the overall cost is less than staying in a nursing facility. In fact, it costs about $9,000 less per person each year. That is a great benefit to the state of Tcxas.

We did go over some business, such as their funding needs for the upcoming biennium. With time, VAIL is getting an increasing number of consumers due to their success in helping people with disabilities live independently. VAIL is one of only a handful of such organizations throughout the state providing these kinds of services. Of course, they depend on grants from various agencies and other public entities. They are facing some challenges in that they have a very large service area required of them, which covers over 40 counties. In effect, grants are requiring much more from agencies like VAIL for the same amount of funding. Any funding increases would go a long way in helping them meet their consumers' needs.

The longest 15 minutes

The longest 15 minutes
The longest 15 minutes,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Tonight, my wife made pot roast for dinner. It's yummy, but I thought I would stretch out the meal with some steamed rice. We usually eat meals on a bed of rice. I'm regretting it now because I'm really hungry. It takes roughly 15 minutes for the rice cooker to do its job. It must have been an hour already, and the switch hasn't popped... There it goes. See ya!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Hipster PDA

Hipster PDA

My hPDA is sitting here waiting for my next entry.

The paper clip is big enough that my hipster can stand like its docked on a cradle. This is my first day using it. I'm still adjusting to all the features. I like the always-on function. As in all systems, the initial data entry is a bit time-consuming. Currently, my hPDA has tons of memory available. I don't see the day that I would have to add a new memory card; but we shall have to wait and see.

One issue that is the same with my hPDA that I have with regular PDAs is that I keep losing my stylus. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Davis Rankin Interviews Bill Peacock

KURV Radio host Davis Rankin interviews Bill Peacock from the Center for Economic Freedom
at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. They discuss closing the loopholes on eminent domain legislation. I had a fresh battery on this interview, so was able to record in its entirety.

Hollis Rutledge on KURV Radio

This morning, KURV Radio's Davis Rankin interviewed the Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman, Hollis Rutledge regarding his concern over the ES&S voting machine problem during the recent elections. This is of interest to me because Mr. Peña has pre-filed a bill that requires a voter verifiable paper trail on all electronic voting machines in Texas. The interview is not complete because the recorder ran out of battery a bit into the second half of the interview. Here is what I got.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Three Options for A Capitol Blog

After my initial frenzy, we have come up with a temporary solution to the problem of a hijacked blogger site after using the FTP feature on A Capitol Blog. The new address is

To make it slightly easier, we have pointed both and to the blogger site. This seemed like the best intermediate solution until Rep. Peña decides to go full force into a hosted site.

Next Door to A Capitol Blog

We've decided to put Rep. Peña's blog at an adjacent address to where it was. If you want to update your links, we have moved the blog to until we find out what Google can do to restore the original address.

I have started work on a possible future incarnation of A Capitol Blog at temporarily. It's a dummy site until we figure out all the functions and features. Your opinion is welcome.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Evasive Action

It's right before Thanksgiving at night. My chances of getting any action to recover Rep. Peña's blog are slim. I've already contacted Blogger through their help forum and even got Google's phone number. The forum takes time to get a response and it's after business hours at Google.

What I have done to mitigate the HUGE error is I've contacted as many of the blogs that link to Rep. Peña's blog as possible to request they update their links to the temporary blog site at

Rep. Peña was NOT pleased when I told him what I did. This is probably one of the worst ways to start a new job.


Tonight, I was archiving Rep. Peña's website at A Capitol Blog. Blogger used to let you do this without losing you subdomain. However, while the blog was offline, it got taken over by a spam site and I am unable to get it back. The blog is still viewable at if you want to see his latest posts.

I'm working on getting back his subdomain. If you could, temporarily, disable the link because there is a porn ereaser website that pops up. Obviously, it's not something Mr. P wants associated with his name.


Tonight, I was archiving Rep. Peña's website at A Capitol Blog. Blogger used to let you do this without losing you subdomain. However, while the blog was offline, it got taken over by a spam site and I am unable to get it back. The blog is still viewable at if you want to see his latest posts.

I'm working on getting back his subdomain. If you could, temporarily, disable the link because there is a porn ereaser website that pops up. Obviously, it's not something Mr. P wants associated with his name.

Another Point of Adjustment - Time

If you have worked on salary in the past, then working as a legislative aide won't be a big change. I am informed that most of the legislative aides in Austin are in their 20s, i.e. very young. Therefore, given the age range and the possible jobs you can have, it's likely that you have punched in and out on a time card at other jobs. Even my best jobs had me on a time card. In those instances, it was good as I earned more than my salaried friends when you included overtime.

In my case, being on a monthly salary is a bit strange. I feel wierd just picking up and leaving or simply showing up and going right to work. When working as a teacher, I learned the value of transitions for getting children to follow what's going on. Transitions are basically activities that you do that require participation, but signal that you are about to change activities. For example, when things were getting messy, we'd sing the clean up song while picking up our toys. We also had a song prior to eating. Then, there are general transitions you do for whatever activity you want to do. It really works! Back to the point, the whole punching in and out routine is like a transition activity, it seems. Maybe I can sing a song in lieu of a punch card.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Benefits are in

Sometime during the week I received a notice that the state tested the direct deposit system on my account. Last night, I received an email that I can check my benefits online at the ERS website. It's a bit scary to be on a monthly salary for the first time. You hope that all the paperwork is done correctly because any errors could mean a delay of another month. Both of those notices tell me that things are working properly. It relieves some anxiety about being broke for Christmas.

Simple, significant trade-off

If you are a blogger and are interested in becoming a Legislative Aide, let me warn you about something. Once you work for the state, you won't be entitled to a public opinion. The way it has been explained to me is that I work for all the state representatives. Therefore, any public opinion I take, which may be insulting to somebody in our state legislature, can be construed as an opinion of the office for which I work. If, for example, another speaker finds me offensive, they could ask to let me succeed outside of the State of Texas.

As an employee of a state rep, EVERYTHING is under scrutiny. If you write something positive about somebody, his or her opponents will take issue. If you write something negative, his or her suporters will take issue. If you write your own opinion, your variance from your boss's opinion could be construed as weakness in the team. If you agree with your boss, you're a sycophant. In other words, you can't win. All you can write about is trivial nonsense or very personal, non-political stuff. You're better off not writing.

If you want to write about politics, then don't be an insider. As of today, The Huffington Post is #6 on Technorati. Daily Kos is #8. Michelle Malkin is #14. None of them works for a public official. Scobleizer, by Robert Scoble, is a blog by a guy who gets hired by companies, even though he sometimes criticizes them while employed by them. Forget such a job in the ego-centric world of politics.

So, if you are an out-of-the-box and non-conformist type, forget about being a legislative aide. There are other places where blogging candor is appreciated, just not in politics. In my case, I've decided that if I can't write what's on my mind, I just won't write. That will be my sign that everything is not kosher.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reading up on voting issues

I received a link to an article that points out a security issue with computers in general. It applies to the request for open source programming of electronic voting machines in the sense that the vulnerability would make even the most secure voting program open to tampering. I go over it with a bit more detail on the wiki site.

What I'm getting out of my research is that the more technical you get about elections, the bigger the can of worms gets. This, of course, gives ample testimony as to why we need a voter verifiable voting system versus an all-electronic system. As I look into other aspects of the issue, I'll go over the subject in a more comprehensive manner.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Town Hall Meeting with AARP Texas

AARP Texas invited our office to attend their Town Hall Meeting this morning at the Lark Community Center in Mcallen. The subject of the Town Hall Meeting was to discuss and share the retired community's experience with rising electric rates. My job, when attending events like this, is to listen and learn what is on the minds of the public.

There were some common themes that stood out in the stories of some of the individuals who spoke their experience. One theme was that their electric bill seems to be getting higher and higher. Another theme was that they are generally displeased with deregulation because it has had the opposite effect, in their experience, from what was intended. And, finally, they shared some bad experiences when switching electricity providers.

The main concern of most retired persons is making ends meet with their fixed income. I think, to put it more accurately, it is of serious concern when they are on a low fixed income. If one cost of living goes up, they have to allocate that increased cost out of some other budget item. The way it was described to me is that they had to make a choice to feel comfortable, or buy less food, or do without medication. One gentleman in his 70's told me that he has had to limit his use of air conditioning to the evenings so that he can sleep. He only watches TV to catch his favorite stories and then turns it off. One person spoke of how she signed up for the average monthly payment program so that she could budget her money. Somebody failed to explain to her that at the end of a year on the program, there is an adjustment charge to make up any variations in billing. She was charged $2,000. Obviously, when you have to budget your spending, surprises like that can cause serious problems for our retired citizens.

The second common sentiment present amongst the people present at the Town Hall meeting, is that deregulation is not working in Texas. Rather than prices coming down, they keep going up. Some of the retirees who spoke are Winter Texans. Back in their home states, they pay anywhere from 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Here in Texas, they are paying anywhere from 14 to 16 cents per kilowatt hour, about twice the rate. They agree that electric companies should make a profit; however, they have issues with electric providers making billions. Many of the people present do not see the touted benefits of having deregulation of electricity.

Finally, along the same lines, having the ability to switch has caused a lot of problems for many retirees. What often happens is that competing companies make all kinds of claims about the savings their client will have by switching over. At first, there are some savings; but, eventually, their rates start to creep up. Or, in another variation, if their rates stay the same, they see an increase in other things such as "line charges". One gentleman shared his story how he left the RGV for a month and used no electricity. His company charged him over $100 in fees at 0 kilowatt hours. One lady spoke before the audience to share her experience as an adult day care center manager. She related how many sales people will convince her clients to switch providers failing to explain all the charges or simply confusing them. She spends a great deal of time helping her elderly clients clean up the problems that ensue from switching providers. She expressed frustration that the elderly are targeted and lured with promises of lower rates, only to end up spending more. One last problem that was pointed out was that some companies have rates so low that they go out of business. When this happens, you only have 10 days to choose a new provider before being put on a POLR (Provider of Last Resort). A POLR will often charge outrageous rates in the 20 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour range. There was also some frustration that after switching companies, they were locked in by contract, even when the new company failed to produce true savings.

These are the stories that I heard today. I have to admit that my wife and I never even paid attention to our electricity rate. We simply looked at the dollar amount and paid it. I was surprised to learn how most of the retirees present knew exactly what their rates are. I suppose that being on a fixed income leads to such scrutiny. We checked our rate, tonight. The members of the AARP who spoke are displeased with deregulation and called for some sort of government intervention. They are pragmatic enough, however, that they realize that trying to re-regulate electricity is like "putting the toothpaste back in the tube".

I received a handout with some information that could prove useful.

Power to choose website:
Power scorecard website:
PUC Customer Line: 1 (866) PWR 4 TEX

Shopping Tips
  • Take nothing for granted. Double check the terms of service before agreeing
  • Check the rate, the minimum time the rate must be in effect, penalties, and extra fees charged by the retail electric provider
  • You have 3 days to rescind the agreement. Use this right if you think you may have made a mistake.
  • Be careful signing up with small, start-up companies. Many go out of business and customers end up with POLR (Provider of Last Resort).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Rep on KURV With Davis Rankin: HB 123

KURV's Davis Rankin interviewed Rep. Aaron Peña over the phone today. The topic of the interview is The Rep's bill that requires a voter verifiable paper trail on all electronic voting machines in the State of Texas. The bill has been numbered HB 123. You can listen to the interview by clicking the player below.

MP3 File

HB 124 and HB 211 Are Also Pre-filed

Most of the press attention has been on Rep. Peña's bill HB 123, regarding the need for a paper trail on all electronic voting machines. The Rep has also pre-filed two other bills.

HB 124 is an amendment to the Penal Code that deals with impersonating an officer. Currently, it's a 3rd degree felony to impersonate a police officer. The amendment would raise that to a 2nd degree felony if you impersonate an officer in order to commit another crime. In addition, it adds "uniform" as one of the items that a person is prohibited from using to appear to be a law enforcement officer. Currently, cards, certificates, badges, insignias, and other items with insignias of law enforcement agencies are prohibited.

HB 211 would prohibit wireless phone companies from selling your call records or other personal information. It would also penalize anybody getting that information by fraudulent means. Violations would result in a $5,000 fine payable to the State of Texas.

I'll keep you posted as new bills are filed. I need to go through all the bills on file to get an idea of what is already in the pipeline and to learn the language.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Expanding the Scope and New Bill

Yesterday I spent some time doing my first press release for Rep. Peña. This morning, we were rewarded by seeing a portion of our work in The Monitor. It's fun to see something I worked on appear in the papers. Of course, it's also fun to see stuff that I do appear on the web.

There is a lot of interest, at the moment, in the legislation Rep. Peña filed. For more information, see HB 123. The gist of the bill is that it would require voting machines to produce a paper record of your vote for you to review before you press the red "VOTE" button. This way, you can be sure that what you see on the computer screen is exactly the same vote that will counted.

The main benefit of the bill is that it would make us, the voters, more confident in the voting machines. More importantly, a paper trail also gives election officials the ability to audit the voting systems to make sure that they are working correctly. And finally, having a paper receipt would also make it possible to do a manual recount if something went wrong with one of the ccomputers

The way things are right now, if you cast a vote, you don't really know for sure if it got counted right or if it got counted at all. We are to believe in God, who is perfect, but sometimes we question. Therefore, it's not a big stretch to question our faith in these voting systems. A wise man once said, "trust, but verify". At home, we trust our computers, but we all know that you need to save the file you are using and ,once done, backup your work in case something happens to the computer. That is essentially all we need, a backup system in case the electronics go haywire.

Another drawback to paperless voting is that if we are auditing the machines to ensure their veracity, how do we go about doing that? Any tampering would occur during an election rather than in between. Therefore, testing the machines "off season" would be worthless. It would be much better to audit elections on actual data as it comes in.

Finally, the question of recounts. If your votes are all electronic and the person challenging the election claims that there was tampering, how do you sort out electrons to prove otherwise? You won't find any subatomic hanging or dimpled chads. With a paper trail, you could, if you had to , manually count every vote. This would take care of instances where there is a power outage or surge that wipes out the memory of a voting machine. It would deal with "touchscreen rage" in which a voter takes it out on the voting machine. It would deal with allegations of a vote-stealing virus in the machine or even programmer error. It would deal with any weird computer stuff that just loses data; as a former computer tech, I know it happens. Simply put, Rep. Peña's bill makes it possible to "reconstruct" an election if it ever becomes necessary.

To put this in the simplest terms, whenever you work on an important document on a computer, you ALWAYS save and back up you work. I think most of us have lost work on the computer, at some point, because we did not save or back up. The same is true for voting machines. The paper copy is a backup copy of your vote in case something goes wrong.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting into the groove

Today was a good day working at the District 40 office. The day started outside of the office. I accompanied Rep. Peña to E. B. Guerra Elementary in Edinburg where he was scheduled to speak for their Veterans Day program. It was a nice event. They had a choir, mariachi, a couple of inspiring veterans, and an ROTC presentation. Afterwards, the school had menudo and tamales for the guest veterans who attended.

After that, I went back to the office while Rep. Peña went to speak to STC Nursing students on Ridge Road in McAllen. Orlando took up that event. He suggested we alternate events.

About the most exciting thing today is that I worked on my first press release for Rep. Peña. Of course, I didn't do it all by myself. I solicited Orlando's help after getting the basic outline done. He showed me the basic structure of a press release and gave me some tips on how to flesh it out. In case you get a chance to read the press release, it was about a bill that the Rep. has submitted to require a paper trail on all electronic voting systems.

Overall, much of the groundwork for doing what I will be expected to do in Austin is underway. I think I will be adequately prepared to meet the demands of the job once the session starts. I really am getting into the groove.

Learning Something New

I like politics. I love business. When I was a Biochemistry major, I really did not have any respect or desire for business. I think this was mostly due to my experience with business people and ignorance of the higher-level business concepts. At its core, business is simple; provide a good or service at a higher price than your cost. It's simple enough that people untrained in business have a good shot at succeeding. As a "civilian", you mostly interact with the underlings of most businesses or deal with simple businesses that don't require advanced business training. How often does a Rio Grande Valley peasant like myself deal with senior level executives of multi-national corporations? Hardly ever.
As I started to learn more about business, I started to enjoy the subject more and more. In any case, as I advance further in my business training and the classes become more challenging, I understand more and I love it more. I am currently not taking any classes, but I can still learn something about business. Thank God that we have book stores here in the RGV that have books on business. Not only that, the Internet provides all kinds of things for one to learn. What has been occupying my attention, recently, is learning some useful software tools for business.
One tool is a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager). This kind of software allows you to view and manage multiple parts of your company. Each department has access their own section and is responsible for updating it. For example, marketing can track multiple campaigns to determine which ones yield better sales leads. The Sales department can process leads and develop them into customers. CRMs also allow you to process orders, send out quotes and invoices, and can provide customized reports on the overall health of your organization. One of the more well-known CRMs is NetSuite. They do all that and more. The cost can be pretty steep for the casual user like myself. There are other CRMs that can cost thousands of dollars. If used properly and consistently, a CRM can keep your business humming along smoothly. Even Microsoft has their own version called Dynamics. Well, I can't afford to drop a few grand to learn how to use the software, but I found a free version at After a substantial amount of tinkering, I am beginning to see how the overall structure fits together. I am impressed by what CRMs offer.
Another type of software solution that has caught my attention is Project Management. Zoho makes a project management service too, but I find it lacking, somewhat. Mostly, I've been working with a version I installed on my old 4OddJobz website called phpCollab. There are versions that install directly on your computer, but those are pricey. Furthermore, I like the ability to access from anywhere that there is Internet.
Project management software allows you to break up a large project into pieces and plan everything out to the most minute detail you can imagine. In addition, it allows for collaboration on anything from the overall project down to individual tasks and subtasks. Even more importantly, the software keeps track of milestones, percent completion, and the project timeline. If you are going through a huge project with a million details, a project management program can help you keep it all organized. Of course, it works best if you use it consistently throughout the process. Again, it's a good enough niche that Microsoft also has their own version.
So, that's what's keeping me busy and awake at nights. It's my escape from the world, for the moment. I know that these solutions will be useful sometime in the future. As soon as I am satisfied with what I have learned, I will resume a more regular blogging schedule.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day 2006

Today, Orlando Salinas and I accompanied Rep. Peña to Veteran's Day events. Personally, I was at a ceremony organized by Sylvia Handy at Delta Park, which is north of Elsa, Texas. The ceremony included recognition of the veterans attending. I don't have too many pictures as I was working the video camera. Orlando probably got more shots than I did with the camera he had.

The next event was an unveiling of the new stone memorial for Freddy Gonzalez in Edinburg. The memorial was erected at Freddy Gonzalez Elementary. Dolia Gonzalez, mother of the local hero, was present to see her son honored.

Let us also not forget the veterans who are still amongst us, for this is their day.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lodging Issue Almost Resolved

I think I have resolved my personal lodging issue for the 80th legislative session. One of my options would have been to live at a nearby hotel during the session. The state has a deal for discounted rates. With both my wife and me working, we could probably swing the expense, but would not have much left over. Renting an apartment would have been problematic as well. Housing in Austin can be pricey, so it would probably cost more to rent than just stay at the hotel. I did, however, find a place that may be adequate. I'd have 3 roommates, probably college kids. Each with our own bedroom and bathroom, but sharing the living room and kitchen.

I understand that once the Legislature is in session that I probably won't spend much time there except to crash out. There are shuttles that go between the apartment and UT, which is just a short walk away from the Capitol. So, I'd save some money on lodging and fuel expenses on top of getting exercise. I'm going to look into the possibility of an efficiency apartment to compare the pricing. As much as I don't think of myself as old, I doubt I have too much in common with somebody in his early 20's. If an efficiency costs much more, then I'll go ahead and stay at the place I found.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Finished some training

I just finished some training about the Open Meetings Act. The state has many things online available to the public and to its employees. So, I was able to sit through the training from the comfort of home.

Next, I need to sit through the training for open records. I'll probably take care of that tomorrow morning.

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The Rep is Funny

We were going over the numbers from the election results in the office today. Obviously, Mr. Peña won his race as he was unopposed, like other reps in the area. We were curious what percentage of undervote he received. An undervote is somebody who voted in your district, but did not cast a vote in your race. In the case where there is only one candidate, the voter can either vote for you or not vote for you. So, we ran the numbers for all the reps (all unopposed, mind you) and the results are:
Aaron Peña 24%
Mando Martinez 29.7%
Kino Flores 31%
Veronica Gonzalez 36.5%
So, our boss got the lowest percentage undervote of all the Reps. This means that he's got the most secure office in the area. What's funny is that he was concerned that 24% did not vote for him. We expect that there are some Republicans in addition to some people who supported his previous opponents who simply won't vote for him, even if he were made a Saint by the Pope himself. We also explained that he had he lowest undervote of all the unopposed candidates. Once in perspective, he relaxed about that. Still, it's like getting a 99% on an exam and being upset for not studying hard enough. A que Mr Peña..

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Doing Research, Got my Logins, Almost In

I've been doing a little bit of research in preparation for the 80th Texas Legislative Session.Specifically, not too specifically, about some of the items Mr. Peña will be filing bills about soon. Research is pretty dry, but it's no different from researching information for writing. I understand that things get more exciting once the session starts. It's all preparation for the work ahead.

The good news is that our Chief of Staff was able to get my login information for the legislature's network. Now, I can communicate and keep myself organized with the state's Outlook system. In addition, there is a handy program that works like flashcards with pictures and names of all the Reps so that I can recognize them once in Austin. I'll explore the system a bit more tomorrow.

The only thing left to complete the whole picture, as far as being a state employee, is to get business cards. The ones I've seen look nice. I am hard pressed to think of who would want one or care to contact me. I suppose things will become apparent once the session starts. I'm sure networking at the capitol will demand I hand out a few cards. I think I'll be conservative in my use of them.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery

Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetary

The team accompanied Rep. Peña to the opening of the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery today. This is the first opportunity I've had to be in a place where representatives of all levels of government are present at the same time. We had a U.S. Senator, a Congressman, State Senators, State Representatives, the County Judge, and the Mayor all present. Off the stage were City of Mission employees, particularly Mission Police and Parks & Recreation.

Lately the weather has been cloudy and a bit cool. However, on this day, the weather turned perfect. The sun was out; there was a nice breeze that was just strong enough to make all the flags wave to show their full designs. We could not have asked for a more perfect day.

When I first got there, Orlando called me and we met so that he could hand me the video camera. I set up the camera and tripod near the band up front. It's funny, I was trying to figure out how to use the camera on the spot. I finally got it on and managed to pop in a DVD as the event was starting.

Mari, another team member, joined us a little while later. She took pictures with my camera while I recorded the event. She got some nice shots in.

Afterwards, we left to grab a bite to eat and to critique Mr. Peña's speech. He likes feedback after a speech so that he can make improvements. One thing that Mr. Peña has is that he is sincere when he speaks to people. Consequently, he doesn't adorn his speeches with flowery words. That really just leaves his presence and delivery to critique.

Listening to some of the other speakers, there are occasions in which you become overwhelmed with emotion knowing that there are veterans and the families of veterans in the audience. It's a feeling of ... I can't describe. Let me just say that the new cemetery is made to honor those who have served their country and who have died. From this point on, there will be veterans buried in the 75 acres. Imagine knowing that you are honoring the dead and those who are living now. That's the feeling, knowing that some of the veterans in the audience will be buried there soon; and they have come to see what their country, state, and city have done to honor them for their final rest. It's a mixture of happiness and sadness for the veterans. Obviously, to take advantage of the cemetery, they must leave us.

Being present at such events, I think, makes this a great job.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Walking with Veterans

Today, I did not do any session work. The Rep and I did some district work by walking with local veterans to bring attention to the need of a Veterans Hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. As it's more of a local issue, I wrote about it at RGV Life.

Funny Story

One of the challenges of walking with the veterans is that we need to park our vehicles ahead of the group.

In one instance, Mr. Peña was telling me how he likes to simply blend in and be just another guy without being recognized as a State Rep. This way he knows what people are really thinking. This seemed a reasonable thing as he was in sweatpants and a long-sleeved shirt, very undignified compared to how he usually dresses for work. So, we were headed back to meet the group of veterans waiting for us to resume walking. The little pickup was full, leaving only the bed for The Rep and me to climb into and sit. Those of us who live in the Rio Grande Valley often see pickups going down the expressway with laborers sitting in the back of trucks. So, here we were, sitting in the back of the truck like a couple of grapefruit pickers going down the expressway at 65 mph. Halfway back, a driver recognized Mr. Peña hunched in the back of the truck. He honked and rolled down the window to greet The Rep. So much for blending in. We had a laugh about that.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

First Day at Work

Today was the first day at work for the District 40 office. Overall, I think it went well. I picked up some pastries in the morning to share with my new co-workers. They shared stories about working in Austin during the legislative session. I got tips on how to do some things. I got advice on what Mr. Peña expects from his employees.

Speaking of Mr. Peña, he was out with America's Last Patrol marching from Brownsville to San Benito today. Ultimately, they will make their way to Rio Grande City. Poor guy, you can hear the suffering in his voice at the end of the walk. It's admirable that he's willing to give so much of himself to our veterans.

I also took advantage of the lunch hour to explore Edinburg. I was specifically looking for the Public Library. No, I wasn't looking for the next piece for blogging. I actually need to become a member so that I can conduct personal business. The state computers in the office are strictly for state business. I occasionally have research or personal business to conduct that must be done during business hours. With no Kinko's, or whatever it's called now, in Edinburg, the public library is the next best thing. By the time I found the library, it was time to go back to work. There will be other opportunities.