From its founding in 1912 until 1965, Houston's Rice University was free to attend; but today, Rice has joined other US universities in saddling its students with ghastly, inescapable mountains of debt, with annual attendance costing $61,350, $40,000 of which is tuition.
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Comcast has found a new way to stem "cord-cutting" (cutting off your cable TV subscription in favor of subscription services like Netflix, or, as in my case, in favor of giving up on watching TV altogether); in markets where they are a monopoly or duopoly, they will reserve their highest-speed internet offerings for customers who agree to pay extra for cable channels that they don't want or need -- if all you want is internet access, Comcast will relegate you to its slow lanes.
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At a followup visit a year after Elizabeth Moreno had a disk removed to successfully treat her crippling pain, her doctor asked her to leave a urine sample; a few months later, Sunset Labs LLC of Houston sent her a bill for $17,800.
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Pablo writes, "In Houston, half-a-million undocumented immigrants, many of them victims of Hurricane Harvey, fear seeking help from state and federal relief efforts." Read the rest
El Bolillo's late shift bakers found Houston's streets impassable during the hurricane, but since the power was still on, they got to work turning two tons of flour into pan dulce for the two days they were stuck inside. Read the rest
Startling before-and-after images from Houston, where hurricane Harvey dumped a trillion gallons of water after tearing up much of coastal Texas. Read the rest
Thanks to everyone who turned up last night for a stellar event at Austin's Book People! I'm about to head to the airport to fly to Houston, where I'll appearing tonight at 7PM at Brazos Books, before heading to Scottsdale, AZ for appearance at Poisoned Pen (with Brian David Johnson) Read the rest
When Marlene Yazar's husband Kemal experienced a psychotic episode, she was so scared for her safety and the safety of her children that she called 911. A paramedic arrived on the scene, but fled after Kemal threw a Bible at him. The paramedic called the police, and Harris County, TX Deputy Brady Pullen arrived on the scene. Ten minutes later, he and a colleague shot Kemal ten times, killing him. Then, he sued the Yazar family, naming Kemal's mother-in-law (who wasn't at home when the episode took place) because, according to him, the family were negligent in describing the threat the dead father, husband and breadwinner presented. Now, the family must not only mourn the passing of their dead loved one -- they have to defend themselves against a $100,000 lawsuit brought by the police officer who shot him dead. Read the rest
Scene from a Houston grocery store, courtesy of a touring author's life. I did not buy any of these things.
Junk food, grocery store, Houston, TX, USA Read the rest
Remember the potential weirdo sex-dungeon in Houston's Hotel ZaZa? A reader with inside knowledge writes,
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That "two-way mirror" in 322 hangs on the bathroom wet wall for the more spacious suite 321 next door. So in the "secret voyeur room" case, you'd be standing in the bathroom next door and looking through a piping chase full of sanitary and domestic water lines. The bricks are a veneer that they decided to stop at the frame of the mirror. It doesn't seem like this room was specially built for secret sex shows or whatnot. At least, no more than any other hotel room with potential for pinhole cameras and so on.
I think it really is just an awkwardly placed and sized room, dictated by adjacent suite and service elevator lobby/shaft requirements. (See attached snippet from floor plans.) The associated balcony sits in a corner, so it is in fact larger than the balconies in the adjacent conventional rooms, as the ZaZa rep claims. I have no explanation for why some owner, architect and/or interior designer thought this would be a good theme for a room, though.
Hey, Houston! I'll be at Brazos Bookstore tonight at 7PM with my new novel Homeland. Tomorrow, I'll be in Austin at Bookpeople and then a benefit for EFF-Austin, and then I'm heading north to New Hampshire where I'll be at RiverRun Books and the Liberty Forum. And there's still many more cities! Read the rest
A redditor called joelikesmusic reported that a friend of his had been checked into a weird, narrow dungeon-like theme room at the Hotel Zaza in Houston (it's got lots of theme suites -- I once stayed in their awesome space-themed one with my family, on the way to my honeymoon). When he complained, the front desk apparently told him that it was a mistake -- no one was supposed to use that room.
The ZaZa's management told the press that it was a "prison" themed room, and that there was no mystery, but intrepid redditors have been examining the pictures (especially the portrait of Jay Comeaux, a banking exec from the disgraced Stanford Banking Executive, and have been spinning out theories about secret societies and rituals in the comments.
However, one commenter called lejefferson makes a plausible case that the room is a sex-dungeon with a one-way voyeur's mirror, used by rich weirdos:
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What person that you know keeps a creepy picture of a guy over their television. This is obviously a secret room either personal or for a small group of people for sexual liasons/ S&M prostitution or worse. The mirror and small space of the room also indicates there is a good chance that the mirror is two way and that people could pay to come watch the sexual/S&M events occuring. The photo of a Stanford Banking Executive, (Jay Comeaux), on the wall further indicates that this is a high society sex room. The fact that the clerk said, "This room isn't supposed to be rented out" indicates that there was a big mistake and they didn't want anyone to find out about the room.
Back in August, I blogged about a presentation at Black Hat, where a security researcher named Cody Brocious presented a paper on a vulnerability in hotel-door locks made by Onity, showing a method for opening many hotel-room locks with a simple, Arduino-based device.
Now comes the first reported case of a hotel-room break in using this technology "in the wild." A Hyatt in Houston's Galleria district was broken into using this method, according to the hotel, which had not replaced its locks even though it knew about the vulnerability.
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In a statement sent to me, a White Lodging spokesperson says the company became aware of the vulnerability in its Onity locks in August, based on reading one of the stories I wrote about Brocious’s lock-hacking technique over the summer. But White Lodging says Onity only implemented a fix for that flaw in its locks after the September break-ins at the Houston Hyatt, around two months after I first alerted Onity to Brocious’s work.
Following those September incidents, White Lodging resorted to plugging the port at the bottom of its Onity locks with “epoxy putty,” according to the letter it sent to guests at its Houston location. The hotel company says it’s now working with Onity to put a more permanent solution in place, either plugging the locks’ ports or replacing their circuit board at every location it manages. “We sincerely regret that these thefts occurred, and hope that measures we have taken satisfy your concerns,” reads the letter to guests from White Lodging vice president Thomas Riegelman.