Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Texas Association of Builders BBQ

The Texas Association of Builders threw together this big event. The food smells delicious, but the line is incredible. I'm better off buying lunch than waiting for a free one. There is much to do today.

UPDATE: I forgot we had lasagna in the fridge. I microwaved it and had it for lunch.

No burn

My first stop, after breakfast, was at the committee coordinator's office. Last night's recording did not burn right on the CD. I could not get the CD to play back this morning.

It's not a loss. The hearings are recorded on hard drive before burning. They can hook up to the recorder and burn another copy. Last night I noticed my keyboard was gone. I learned this morning that it was intentional to prevent problems. I don't think the keyboard and CD problem are related. I've had a few CDs fail to burn properly at home, they now function as coasters.

Dry Cleaning

Due to time constraints this week, I've had to resort to dry cleaning. Having gone home this weekend and getting out of work late has kept me from doing laundry. I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

The first of many

The first of many
The first of many,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Tonight was the first of what I expect will be many long days at work. Roughly, it was a 14 hour day. The morning was pretty exciting as we prepared for upcoming appointments and Rep Peña's activities for the day. I kind of got sucked into Committee work earlier than expected, but I suppose the need was there. We did what needed doing.

The hearing ended a while ago, but the committee work is not done. We have to start preparing for next week already. So far, we have over 200 bills in the criminal jurisprudence committee. Given the amount of time available before the end of session, there is no way we can hear all of them. Tonight, the Chairman mentioned setting up subcommittees to allow a hearing for as many bills as possible. I agree that the need is there. What immediately comes to my mind is that it will complicate the process of organizing the hearings. We would have to juggle multiple timetables to perform certain tasks on different days. In addition, the more difficult aspect would be having multiple bosses with the subcommittee chair. I've had this situation before, where there is more than one boss. It's always a recipe for problems. Nobody can serve two masters (or three or four). Still, it must be done. The alternative would be to leave many bills unheard.

In terms of my work, I find myself more and more enmeshed in the committee because of the volume of work headed our way. Consequently, I am becoming less connected with the goings on upstairs. I'm hitting that two masters issue again. If I concentrate more on one job, the other suffers.

I've already got a list of stuff to do tomorrow. If we'd got out of committee earlier, I may have put some work into getting it done. In practical terms, I could have stayed tonight to start on some work, but it is still too early in the session to start burning the candle on both ends. I need to ensure there is enough candle to last through the end of the session.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

AARP for utility Reform

AARP for utility Reform
AARP for utility Reform,
originally uploaded by shainelee.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Going to BarCampAustin II

I recently got an email from Jennifer Navarrete of the Morning Brewcast. She alerted me to an event that will be held here in Austin on March 9th and 10th. I think I'll be attending. Here are some copy and pasted details.

Bar Camp Austin II - March 9th-10th 2007

BarCampAustin II will be held around SXSW Interactive in March 2007. whurley is currently making venue arrangements and looking for sponsors. If you know any individuals/projects/companies that would be interested in helping support this event, please send contact info to barcamp at

I'm not 100% certain what BarCamp is, except it has geeky undertones. Naturally, it beckons for me to attend. It's tech related and that's enough for me.

St. Mary's

St. Mary's
Originally uploaded by darkmarty.

Questioning Faith

St. Mary's
Originally uploaded by darkmarty.

Recently, Rep. Peña posted a blog entry about the discovery of a tomb that is said to contain the remains of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary (his mother), and the son of Jesus and Mary M. If this is true, which I don't know if it is or isn't, then I think many people will find themselves questioning their faith, or not. I guess it depends on how you believe. Let's just say that we can conclusively prove that Jesus et al were in that tomb; and we can prove it through DNA evidence. I'm not saying that it has been proven or that it will be. I'm saying, let's just play out the scenario. I've had issues with this in the past.

I can see the possibilities in my mind's eye. There will be those who refuse to accept the truth and will call this a trick of the Devil. There will be those who will be devastated for having believed in Christ's death and resurrection, only to find out that it never happened. They may never believe in anything again. Then, there may be some who, like me, will continue the tradition.

One of the problems that "the faithful" have is that there are those among us who believe that faith alone will save them. Somehow living a good life and carrying out God's will in tending to the less fortunate take a back seat so long as they can study the bible for countless hours and talk about it with other bible geeks for even longer. One thing the Church, I mean the Catholic Church, teaches is that we have to carry out our vocation to the best of our abilities. Single people should be of service to those in need. Married people elevate their holiness by "smoothing out the rough spots" in their personalities. Running from prayer group to prayer group doesn't cut it if you are neglecting that which God has given you, like your family. It is these people who try to find holiness through brute force that will either be most disillusioned or hold on doggedly to their mistaken beliefs in spite of the evidence.

There are those who were never faithful in their hearts and finding out that Jesus actually did die would just give them reason not to go to church anymore and sleep in on Sundays.

I suspect that there are people like me who, even acknowledging the evidence, would continue the tradition of the Church. I understand that there is the possibility that all the scriptures are entirely man inspired and written. To me, however, even if this is so, it does not diminish the value of the teachings of the Church. Just as it was thousands of years ago, murder is still a bad idea. So is theft. And adultery. And so on. The Golden Rule still applies. Even the idea of having one God, even if he were to not exist (remember, I am just saying it for the sake of argument), is still good because we humans have trouble serving more than one master. If you can't please one God, what are the odds that you'll please a pantheon of them?

So, even if the people in that tomb do turn out to be Jesus and his family, my faith in the Church would not be diminished. I believe that the principles that the Church espouses are just as applicable today as they were millennia ago. If you were to find God's presence, it would be in these universal truths more than anything.

If you are one of those who would refuse to acknowledge the truth and would cling to your beliefs, you are a blind believer. If you lose faith because the rug was pulled from under you, you were never a true believer. If, on the other hand, you accept the truth and continue to believe in the principles of what the church teaches, you will not have lost anything. Even if Jesus was mortal and died a horrible death, all that we would have learned is that he wasn't divine. The principles which he brought to humanity would still hold true, Son of God or not. For 2,000 years, his teachings have, when followed, brought us peace and comfort. Nothing will change for me. So, how would this affect you?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Headed for Austin

Headed for Austin
Headed for Austin,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
After another pleasant day with my family, I'm back on the road to Austin.

Today, I spent some time helping my mom pick out a computer at Best Buy and then installing it. She just signed up for Road Runner and her old WinMe computer could not cope with the demands of broadband acess. I also networked the connection so that Mrs Mata can share the Internet connection. One of the computers is connected through ethernet; the other has a wireless connection. Once all that was done, Mom got onto YouTube, which was almost impossible on dial-up. My job was done.

I spent my last hours with my in-laws. We celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday at Danny's in Sharyland. Afterwards, i picked up some of my meager belongings from home and hit the road.

Time with my people

Time with my people
Time with my people,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
It is always a pleasure to spend time with my people. The day started slow. There was no rush to get out of bed in the morning. I spent some time with the boy and the girl. Mrs Mata and I have done a couple errands together.

The great thing about this visit home is that t weather got its act together and gave us a glorious day. We essentially hung out at home until the afternoon when we went to a family birthday party. My son had a little incident in which he got whacked in the head with a piñata stick. Poor little guy was going to cry but I distracted him with the candy that fell. He occupied himself picking up candy while I observed the lump on his head. I sent the daughter for some ice. He'll be fine.

After the party, we went to my in-laws to pick up the van. He knows a guy who did the bearings and breaks for $40. Total cost was $100. I took the van for a test drive and am satisfied with the result.

The day was so nice that the evening was obligated to follow suit. It was just too nice outside to stay in. We stayed out and chatted until about 9 pm. At that time, we went inside to watch George Lopez on HBO. We went to sleep soon afterwards.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Catching up with events

I haven't had time to blog lately. I'm off on a little personal time today, so I thought I'd catch you up on the latest.

We had our first criminal jurisprudence hearing on Tuesday. I helped in the preparation and clean-up. During the hearing, I witnessed all the testimony as I have a front row seat by virtue of operating the audio recorder and keeping a log of witnesses.

Up in the Chairman's office, things are much the same. There are many calls, many visitors, and much work to do.

I've been saving money left and right.

I'm going home again this weekend. I'm in a win-win deal where I brought a car up to be serviced and I left mine to be serviced back home. That sounds odd, but it works out well for all involved.

While I was home, Mrs Mata pointed out that I'm a little squishier around the middle. I'm going to have to practice a little more self-restraint at the receptions. All-you-can-eat is not the same as eat-all-you-can.

I have heard several suggestions, lately, that seeing the legislative process from both the member's office and from the committee side is a great opportunity. That is usually where it stops. I don't know what I could do with the experience. There is only one Texas Legislature. The only application of the experience is as a government relations worker, a lobbyist, or other similar job. Then again, what are the odds with one session under my belt? I won't hold my breath. Campaign workers have a better shot at these things as they eat and breathe government and politics. Maybe I could write about politics..., nah.

I've been riding the bus to and from work this week. This ties in to my experience at the Capitol. When you ride the bus at the same time of day on the same route, you see many of the same people and even have a casual chat with them. It becomes familiar and you feel more comfortable. The same is happening at the Capitol. I am running into the same people and meeting others through my work that I will be dealing with regularly. I'm beginning to feel more comfortable here. More importantly, I'm getting a better sense of the resources available to better do my job(s). Many times, doing something for you office is a matter of knowing who to call. This awareness is beginning to sink in. Whereas when I first arrived, I did not know anybody except my co-workers, I frequently meet many familiar faces throughout the day now. For the most part, everybody is friendly and helpful. There are a few who I sense would sell me off for a cheeseburger; but those types are everywhere. All you can do is be nice and play dumb.
Overall, I'm having a good experience working at the Capitol. I had an opportunity to eat at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse this week. I've been wanting to go for years. Now that I got to go, I wasn't hungry. I'd just eaten a couple of tacos we had stashed at the office. I guess it's just not meant to be. Life is funny sometimes.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Home for the weekend

I can feel the pace picking up at the Capitol. Things are starting to get busier, especially with the Committee. I spent yesterday getting stuff to make packets for the upcoming hearing. I spent considerable time getting a badge to allow me to purchase supplies and copies on the committee account.
Sensing the increased pace, I realize that some things will fall by the wayside if I don't attend to them now. One of them being visiting my family. I decided to take a gamble and drive home with the noisy wheel bearing. After work, I hit the road without stopping at the apartment. I topped off the tank at Wal-Mart and bought some nuggets to tide me over on the drive. Before leaving Austin, I called my roommate to let him know I'm going home lest he worry I've disappeared.
The reason I decided to gamble getting stranded is that I've often held back because of what "might" happen. I figure that if anything is worth the risk, it is seeing my people.
I am also concerned because my son was put in time out in class again. He's in pre-k. Many would think that at this age it's meaningless; but what is the cutoff? Might as well nip it in the bud before it becomes an issue. I can't do more than voice my disappointment. Parenting long distance is worthless. With my wife working full-time and spending much of her day on the road distributing the kids to their schools and picking them up, she doesn't have much time to dedicate to parenting before sending them to bed. I've learned as a pre-school teacher, that kids need structure and routine to successfully negotiate their day. While I'm away, the Mrs is, effectively, a single parent. This is not ideal.
I'll be home for the weekend, driving back to Austin on Sunday.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Getting outta here

Getting outta here
Getting outta here,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I'm heading out of the office now. I was doing a little preparation to be ready for my work on the CJ committee. Gina, our committee clerk, split up the duties amongst herself, Anne, and me. We have clearly defined duties and responsibilities.

In my case we have settled on split duties between the Rep Pena's office and the committee. I'll be doing half days at each. Talk about getting a great opportunity. The only aspect of legislation I won't experience is being a rep myself. I've mentioned before that I'd rather shoot my dog than be an elected official. Back to the point, I'm getting a well-rounded experience in this session by working both offices.


I fell asleep typing this in bed last night.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Damian stop spying on me

Damian stop spying on me
Damian stop spying on me,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I saw this note on a window while returning to the office today.

Different Mindset

I look forward to working in the Committee Office later today. It requires a different mindset from working in the member's office. In the member's office,
work is basically reactionary. Individual pieces of data come in and you deal with them individually. Different inputs require any number of different outputs.
The committee office is different. You have, essentially, the same item coming in daily and produce the same outputs. This allows for some processing efficiency. You can take random, staggered inputs and produce batched outputs. Each item gets individual attention, but in a dependable, organized fashion.
I'll be jumping back and forth between offices for now and will work with both environments. The contrast should be stimulating.

Clerk Too

That title was a pathetic attempt to allude to one of my favorite movies, Clerks II. My other favorite is Clerks. The whole point of my feeble effort is to share the news that I'll be working with the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence more closely. Due to the volume of bills expected to come through, Gina wants to be sure I'm up to speed when it comes time to have all hands on deck.
I'm glad to be able to help out. Gina, the Committee Clerk, and I share a common vision to establish a system to brainlessly get bills processed without error, much less a point of order. I am glad to have the opportunity to work with somebody who understands setting up and working with systems. I told her that it gives me a warm feeling in my heart. Gina understands teamwork.
My current job as scheduler is up in the air. I refused to call the Rep "Mr Chairman" and kiss his ring, so it's off to the salt mines for me. Seriously, we have not settled on it yet.

Being a House staffer is definitely a slightly challenging job. The volume of mail, meeting requests, phone calls, and visitors is far too much for two staffers to handle. I've been working until 9 or 10 at night this week to be able to process all the information that flows into the office in the various formats. I hate leaving a pile of unprocessed papers on my desk. Yet, when I leave, I see some office lights on at other Reps' offices too. I left early tonight, at 8:30. One can't really deal with this stuff during the day because of the constant interruptions. For me, it's awkward to ignore visitors while I'm working. As guests, I do my best to be hospitable and engaging with them. Lately, everybody wants to see our Reps in our offices, of course, including us. If you're lucky, your Rep is methodical and reliable. If you work for a free spirit, may God be with you this session.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Mission Grapefruit

Mission Grapefruit
Mission Grapefruit,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Isaac, Ed, and Gabe from Rep. Kino Flores's Office are preparing to distribute grapefruit this morning. They brought two truckfuls. Later, we had other people stop by the office with more gifts from Mission.

Caught between two systems

Caught between two systems
Caught between two systems,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Yesterday, we focused a bit on getting the first CrimJur Committee Meeting going successfully. It only took a day for a pile of work to build up on my desk. I was fried last night after the Mission Day Reception at the DoubleTree; I wasn't up to working on the pile. It's the sort of thing you do when you are full of energy.

I got to work around 6:30 this morning and started working. There is a GTD wiki I've been using. GTD is a system by David Allen that allows you stress-free productivity. This isn't some sort system you buy for $300 and use out of guilt for paying so much. Allen lays out the system in his book, Getting Things Done. It's up to you how you implement.

Going back to my original train of thought, I've been using a client-based wiki that uses the GTD methodology (it was free at It fits me very well. My only concern is that it is in one giant html file and is not usable on my phone because of all the javascript. The benefit, however, is that it is not server side. Even if we lose our Internet connection, I can use it to stay organized.

Recently, I found a web-based system that runs GTD and it is accessible and updatable from my phone's browser. You can visit To check it out. If you are not familiar with the GTD method, it may not be so easy to use.

I have loaded vitalist with some data to get a feel for it. I'll give it some use this week, but I have my reservations. The wiki I have adopted is highly customizable, which may suit me better than universal web access. At least I can print out my list for the day and access the paper anywhere I go. I'll make a decision later this week.

Mission Day at the Capitol

Veronica de la Fuente
Veronica de la Fuente,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
The photo seen here is Veronica de la Fuente. She is the Governmental Relations person for Hidalgo County. We met this evening at the Mission Day at the Capitol reception. This is the only good photo I got at the reception because the lights were dimmed in the room. My phone doesn't do too well in low light.

In any case, I am from Mission, Texas. The closest rep to where I live is Rep. Kino Flores; however, I live in Rep. Veronica Gonzalez's district. And, I work with Rep. Aaron Peña. Being that my hometown was present, I could not miss this event. It seems that several Reps could not miss the event either. We had, at last count, about 7 Reps present. Senator Hinojosa was busy in Committee, so regrettably, he could not attend. I should not be, but I still am surprised that Mission is able to attract so much attention to themselves despite being a small town. I guess I'm biased, but I love my home town.

Tomorrow, Mission leaders will go out to Legislator's offices to advocate for our town. If you've never had grapefruit pie, tomorrow is your chance. I'm writing this past midnight, so I should say, today is your chance.

Oh, and Hidalgo County will be at the Capitol as well. Our County Judge and his staff will join us. We look forward to meeting with them to discuss matters that concern our county. It's late and I'm sleepy. Good night.

House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence

This is the view as I headed out of the room. I decided to take one last photo of the Committee.

Testifying before the committee

Testifying before the committee
Testifying before the committee,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I sat in on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence for a while and listened to witnesses. It was interesting, but I decided to go back to the office and watch from the computer. This was the committee's first meeting of the session.

Texas Police Chiefs

Texas Police Chiefs
Texas Police Chiefs,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
This morning while doing errands to get the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence ready for its first meeting, I came across this group of Police Chiefs from around the state posing for a photo. They were posing for another person, I just walked by and took a shot between takes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Food

This evening, Alex and I went to Dobie Mall for a bite to eat. He wanted to eat Chinese, so I remembered that there was a Chinese restaurant there years ago. The closest we found was Oma's Kitchen, which has been there many years too. Except they don't serve Chinese food. I did notice that they have kimchee soup. I don't like kimchee all that much; however, a soup made with it was intriguing. I fully expected to dislike the soup too.

This soup was served with a side of steamed rice and extra, cold, kimchee and bean sprouts. I loved it. If I weren't stuffed, I'd have finished everything. The cold kimchee was still nasty, but the soup brought a smile to my face. I love spicy, hot foods. It even made my nose athletic; it started running more than mere sniffles.

It's just a short walk to the UT Campus from the Capitol. I'm definitely going back to try more dishes. Dobie has an Indian restaurant and a Greek restaurant. There's other stuff; but those are my targets. It will take me a while to work through Oma's menu first.

I think I'm getting sick

I think I'm getting sick
I think I'm getting sick,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Today was a good day in terms of the number of visitors who came in and the quality of work I did. Even my Rep was cooperative in working with the schedule. This was a good Monday, mostly. The only downer is that I am getting sick. It started off with irritated eyes and sniffles. I've worked up to a slight dry cough and more snot. I would take pseudoephedrine, but I hear that it's tough to get these days. I will have my revenge by sharing my illness with the very people who made up the rules that make it difficult for me to feel better. I believe in fairness; we should all be miserable.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ready to Go Riding

Trek 4500
Trek 4500,
originally uploaded by GuySwarbrick.
On my last trip back to the Rio Grande Valley, I brought my bike with me. It's a Trek 4500 mountain bike. You may be thinking, are there any mountains in the RGV? No, it's a valley. There are, however, places where you can go riding to hurt yourself. I have issues with riding in traffic and prefer to ride on trails. I haven't been riding since I brought the bike to Austin because I did not bring my helmet, light, or a lock. I could have just bought the lock, but I have a prodigious talent for falling (flying?) off my bike. Thus, a helmet is useful. Also, at the time that I intend to ride, it's still dark, hence the light. If I go riding later in the morning, I'll be in the morning traffic, which is more excitement than I want.

One of my challenges for riding to work was that I did not know where to park my bike. I asked House Parking, and they told me where I could put my bike. It's near the exit I normally use and has a DPS officer nearby to allay my fears of having my bike stolen. I know bike theft is a popular sport here, I lost a bike to this passtime in Austin once.

My only remaining challenge is riding in work clothes. I may just rubber band my right pant leg to keep it from getting caught in the chain. Or, I could change clothes. If I keep my shirts at work and take them to be dry-cleaned, all I need to do is take my pants and shoes in a bag to and from work. Then I could switch riding wear with work clothes at work.

Once the cold weather has passed us, I hope to be able to start riding again. The forecast calls for a drop in temperatures this week. Riding in cold weather won't kill me, but I would live to regret it during the ride. I can't wait to go for a long ride one of these weekends.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Easy Saturday

I did nothing today. Just stayed at the apartment and watched TV. I woke up at 4 this morning and could not go back to sleep. By the early evening, I've been dragging a bit. I'm turning in early.

I was going to see our Chief of Staff, James, at a gig he and the band he plays with had tonight, but I'm just not motivated to do anything.

Early this morning, I spoke with Mrs. Mata. She would like it if I go home this coming weekend. She says the kids are a bit affected by my absence as well. They would also like it if I were to go home for a weekend. It's a bad business decision to mess with the budget like that; however, I care for these people and would like to provide them the comfort of having me home for a weekend.

If anybody is headed to the Rio Grande Valley this weekend, I would appreciate sharing a ride there and back. Alternativly, if anybody knows where I can change a wheel bearing cheaply in Austin, that would also help. I don't feel comfortable taking a long drive with a bad bearing. Although, I could buy all the necessaries to do the repair myself before heading out or on the road. I'll think of my options after getting some sleep. I'll blog to you guys tomorrow when I can think clearly.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Edinburg Day

We started off Edinburg Day by meeting in the Rotunda. The plan was originally to meet on the South steps of the Capitol, but it was raining in the morning. Some of the Edinburg delegation took a tour of the Capitol while others went to see a Senate Finance hearing. Later, everybody gathered up in the gallery of the House Chamber to see the Edinburg Day resolution get adopted. Before adopting that Resolution, however, Rep. Peña adopted a resolution for Elias Longoria, Sr, a well-respected member of the Edinburg community. Some of Mr. Longoria's family was present to witness the resolution being adopted. Afterwards, Rep. Peña and Rep. Gonzalez adopted the Edinburg Day resolution.

Edinburg Leaders in the House Gallery

The Longoria Family at the Capitol
I stole a quick pic while the Senator and Reps were posing with people from Edinburg. They were posing for the Senate photog, not me. This is why they are not looking at my camera.

Setting up for Edinburg Day Photo
From the Senate Chamber, we went out for a group photo of the entire Edinburg delegation. It took some time to get everybody together for the group shot.

Afterwards, we went to the Rotunda, which was closed temporarily. Earlier in the morning, glass fell from up in the rotunda somewhere, narrowly missing a visitor. All visitors were sent to the hall on the South side. We listened to the Edinburg Mariachi for a while to kill time before the luncheon at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin. While we were there, we took some more pics and some people were interviewed for the press back home.

Steve Taylor Interviews Mayor Joe Ochoa

Rep. Peña and Elizabeth Pierson

John de la Viña and Rep Peña

This is Maritza. She is one of the House Sergeants. We see her frequently because she is also from the Rio Grande Valley. She's a nice girl.

Mariachi Playing at Edinburg Day Luncheon
Once we made it to the luncheon, we were further entertained by the Mariachi. They had a great performance. I love seeing a part of our culture continuing through young performers. In a way, it gives one hope that our way of life will continue.

Overall, it was a good day.

El Paso Day

Last night, I went to the Margarita Madness reception held for El Paso Day at Serranos. This reception was up there with the Reception for Laredo Day. It was huge! I met a lot of people who I had not met before, which is the mark of a good reception. Of course, there were plenty of the other people whom I have come to know from these events. In the previous post, the Farias boys recognized me from the blog, which amazes me that anybody reads this. So, I took their pic and posted it. In any case, the reception had a huge turnout. The margarita lines were very long.

I'm going to post some pics I took on my phone. Some aren't that great, but what do you expect from a camera phone?

Rep. Chavez
Here is Rep. Chavez. It's not the most flattering pic, and I apologize for that. She and the gentleman next to her were moving around and my other pics had blurs or looked worse.

Reps Guillen, Gonzalez, and Peña at El Paso Day
These are other Border Reps, Guillen, Gonzalez, and Peña.

Philip Song at El Paso Day
Here is Philip Song. I met him the other day at the McAllen Day Reception. Cool guy.

John de la Viña at El Paso Day
This is John de la Viña. He is a House Seargeant. When the House convenes, he attends to the representatives and carries messages or other items from the outside world to the reps. Sargeants also set up chairs in the House Chamber for special events. The rest of the time, Sargeants deliver mail and perform other errands around the Capitol. John is from the Rio Grande Valley too.

Connor Nix at El Paso Day
I think all the Reps know this guy, Connor Nix. He reads things, like Resolutions, for the Reps. Anybody who watches the House on the Internet has seen Connor.

There are other people with whom I interacted last night, but I did not take pics of them. Perhaps later. I am starting to know people. There is a big difference between now and when I first got here. It's not so lonely.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Farias Boys

The Farias Boys
The Farias Boys,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I met these gentlemen tonight at the El Paso Day Reception. It was Margarita Madness all the way. Seen here are Clifton Walker, roger garza, and David Shank.

Highs and Lows

Highs and Lows
Highs and Lows,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I'm starting this post on the low note because I'd rather end on a high one. There's no sense feeling bummed out after blogging. So, here goes.

This morning, I dropped the ball on a couple of things. I won't give you the details because it involves more than just me. Furthermore, the details don't add anything more to the basic fact that I messed up. Some people can't admit to making mistakes, which makes it impossible to learn a lesson and do better. In my case, I'll accept that I messed up. In my experience, leaders don't shift the blame to their team. Having been a boss, I know that when we fell short of expectations, it was my fault for not doing a better job of preparing us for the task. I consider myself a leader of sorts in this session, so it is incumbent upon me to accept responsibility. You know the rule, share the glory and take all the blame. Leadership is about serving your team (not to be served by them), and I did them a disservice. Mea culpa.

Here is what I could have done better. I could have called people and asked probing questions. I could have set up a more systematic approach to getting the task done. I could have asked for suggestions, ideas, and guidance. I could have verified that I had the information I thought I had. In short, I could have done more to ensure success. Now I know what can be done in the future to ensure our success. Lesson learned.

Moving on to the high note, I had a great time at the McAllen Day Reception. All of my favorite people at the Capitol were there. In addition, many great people from McAllen were there. McAllen is such an organized and professional city. The feeling I get from the McAllen people is that they just want to get the job done and to do it well.

At the reception, we got to hear some august speakers. I got to meet Steve Taylor of Rio Grande Guardian fame. I met another staffer from the RGV I had not met. Of course, it's always a pleasure to see Reps again, like Speaker Craddick, Rep Gonzalez, Rep Toureilles-Gonzalez, Rep Noriega, Rep Lucio, Rep Flores, Sen Hinojosa, and I can't remember who else. It was a great turnout.

Today was also insane in the number of groups making the rounds at the Capitol. We had people coming by the office almost non-stop. Everybody and their sister had a day at the Capitol today. It was a lot of fun to meet so many people. I did not get any work done, mind you. This is why I'm posting this at all hours of the night. I just cought up with many of the items on my desk.

I also had a special treat today. I got a visit from one of my favorite podcasters, Jennifer Navarrete of The Morning Brewcast ( and her sons. If you have not heard the show, I recommend it. She and her sister Jackie Adame are hilarious when they are wired up on coffee. That was the highlight of my day. I'll end on that high note.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

McAllen Day

Alex and James
Alex and James,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Today is McAllen Day at the Capitol. Many McAllen leaders are up in Austin to share McAllen's Legislative Agenda. We had the good fortune of attending a Luncheon they put together and will rejoin the group tonight for their reception.

Here is our intern, Alex Hernandez, and our Chief of Staff, James Lampley. They are holding a frame given to the office by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, we think.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bringing the Family With Me

originally uploaded by shainelee.
Mrs. Mata and I were chatting on the phone the other night. We do that because we are married and, even after 12 years, we fancy each other. I raised the topic that our being apart this time around is different from the one time years ago when we were recently married and I came back to Austin to go to school at UT. What is different this time around is that we used to talk on the phone once a week, ten years ago. Long distance calling was expensive. The best rate was from Sprint at 10 cents per minute. So, for a one hour talk, I would spend a bit over $6. We did a lot of letter writing because paper and postage were cheap.

This time around, we chat a great deal on the phone because we both have mobile phones. We could probably survive without them, but they have become so convenient for getting things done. There is one drawback to being so connected, however. The only record of our love and devotion to each other is the number of phone calls that show up on our monthly statement. Furthermore, it's so easy to stay in touch that our communication isn't as meaningful as our letters were. I think, more than what we talk about, the most meaningful thing is simply the fact that we bother to call each other. I do it to hear her voice more than having anything to talk about. What does she care about bills and resolutions? As long as I'm not helping raise her taxes, what I do here doesn't matter at home.

When we wrote letters, we could go back and read our favorite sections over and over again. There are other things you can do in a letter, like draw pictures, or show signs of fatigue when your writing is all messed up. We were also able to write, pause, and write again later, anywhere without having to sit at a keyboard. We could, technically, shoot emails at each other and attach photos, but it lacks the personal touch you get from a hand written letter.

One thing I do think is better is that on my Flickr account, I can see my family photos anywhere. The photo above is of my son when he was a baby. He's 5 years old now. My point is that I would have to bring a family album with me to be able to see my family. With the Internet, and Flickr, I can see them from my apartment or from work whenever I feel the need. Mrs. Mata is also able to send me pics from her phone, which was unheard of a decade ago.

It's strange. Things have become less personal, yet more personalized. My people are as far away as a computer terminal anywhere in the world and as instantly reachable as a quick phone call to burn up an insane amount of minutes on my phone plan. Distance is no longer a great barrier as it is a damned inconvenience. Although my family is not with me physically, I see them and talk to them anywhere I go. I'll be home soon, and we'll have much to catch up on, oddly.

No Hanging Folders

originally uploaded by shainelee.
I got fed up with the hanging folders in my desk drawer, so I took them out. They make it more cumbersome to keep files organized. Without them, I don't have to keep shifting folders around every time a hanging folder gets full. In addition, when you add up the room that the hanging folders use up, they create more clutter than they help alleviate. They just had to go.

Over the weekend

Desk View
Desk View,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
I haven't been posting, lately, I know. Usually, I'm a quasi-religious blog poster. I don't know what's got into me, or out. I've been unplugged lately. I went to Wal-Mart a few days ago and bought a bluetooth earpiece to use with my marvelous new phone. I thought that it would drain the battery because of the dual radio use. In all, the phone has three radios, I think. There is the GSM radio for phone service, the radio for WiFi, and the radio for bluetooth. The opposite has happened. My battery actually lasts longer. I think I know why.

When you use your hands to make phone calls, you think about your phone and play with the features. When you are hands free talking, you don't mess with your phone hardly. I think that may be why I haven't posted. As a result of not fiddling with the phone, I don't drain the battery with processing and turning on the backlight. I'm also not reminded to post.

So, to make up for my failure, let me tell you what I did this weekend. After I came back from Wal-Mart, I tested the bluetooth earpiece. The next day, I got a haircut at the Mane Express in Dobie Mall. From there, I stopped at the Bob Bullock Museum to watch a cowboy movie on IMAX. I came to work again and took care of organizing the million little details that bunch up on you during the week. I emptied my inbox on the desk and on my Outlook. I grew comfortable with the earpiece and forgot about the phone during one call. I walked out and noticed that my call started breaking up. When I realized what I'd done, I went back to the office to get the phone and take it with me.

Because I have such an exciting life, I went to Wal-Mart again and bought paper clips, highlighters, and a wallet. I can buy supplies on the House account, but I'm picky about my supplies. Plus, they don't have wallets at the House store.

I went home and took some of the reference material that some of the advocacy groups brought. I don't understand why people bring us books to read about X, Y, or Z topic rather than a summary with people we can contact for more details. We don't have time to sit around reading stuff. We're too busy sitting with them listening to their issues every 30 minutes. I swear I tried reading 3 books, but I stopped on the third. Maybe there's Cliff's Notes for it somewhere. That was Saturday.

Sunday, I vegged out in front of the TV and watched History Channel all day until the Super Bowl. After the game, I watched more History Channel and then went to bed. Talk about an easy Sunday.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Senator Hinojosa and Alex

Senator Hinojosa and Alex
Senator Hinojosa and Alex,
originally uploaded by shainelee.
Here is a photo of Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa with Humberto "Alex" Hernandez. The Senator had a get-together for RGV staffers at Serrano's on Red River. I enjoyed meeting his people and seeing people from the other Reps offices.

Our intern, Alex, took the opportunity to ask the Senator for a photo, which he graciously agreed to do.