Texas DMV rejects hundreds of ‘indecent, vulgar’ personalized license plates

Since 2011, the Texas DMV has rejected more than 1,600 submissions for personalized license plates.

Picking a personalized Texas license plate isn’t a free-for-all. The Department of Motor Vehicles uses very specific criteria for reviewing vanity plate requests, resulting in more than 1,600 rejected requests.

Car enthusiasts at Saturday’s ‘Classic Cars & Art in the Park’ in Mineola are very familiar with the application process. Dozens of hot rods, rat rods, sports cars and classic trucks drew admirers from across East Texas.

Show organizer Ronnie Gorman says a personalized plate captures the character of the car. Putting a custom tag on his classic car was a simple process. “Like on our Impala, we had a 1966 Impala. It said ‘TUFF 66,’ and it was a pretty sweet car,” he said. Continue reading

Volunteering: A chance to repay your “debt”

Being named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ only motivates me to work harder to live up to this tremendous recognition.

I believe one person truly can make a difference in the life of another and I hope to never ignore that calling. It’s quite humbling to think of the special individuals spent countless hours mentoring me — many of whom continue to do so. Counting myself among the extremely fortunate, I’m pursuing my “dream profession” as a journalist.

I wonder where I might be without that help and encouragement from role models. Journalism professors, seasoned reporters and anchors, and news managers took me under their wing, helping me navigate decisions that will impact my future. What a blessing they have been. With faith and family as my foundation, I also credit involvement in a fraternity as one of the influences in helping me become a productive member of society. Continue reading

Inspirational ‘Chef Jeff’ taping national TV show in E. Texas

Lane and Chef Jeff after a live cooking segment on Good Morning East Texas.

Lane and Chef Jeff after a live cooking segment on Good Morning East Texas.

A celebrity chef is visiting kitchens across East Texas this week, tasting the comfort foods that stir-up smiles. Chef Jeff Henderson is taping a new syndicated TV show, ‘Flip My Food,’ which promises to take favorite family recipes and make them better, with fewer calories.

Henderson’s rise to the top took a different path than other celebrated chefs. 18 years ago, he walked out of Federal prison after serving nearly a decade for drug trafficking. From that day, he says his life had a purpose. “I decided I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to break the cycle of poverty and the cycle of dysfunctional families and I changed my life.”

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An honor to be named to Pi Kappa Phi’s ‘Thirty Under 30′ list

I am so very honored to have been selected for Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity’s inaugural ‘Thirty Under 30′ list, among a truly impressive group of young professionals. I’ve served as a volunteer for the organization since 2008, hoping to mentor emerging leaders during their collegiate experience. As a student, I was exposed to countless opportunities for leadership development and owe debt of gratitude to those who volunteered their time and talent to mentor me. I know several of the other recipients, so it’s a tremendous pleasure to be placed in such good company!

The ‘Thirty Under 30′ selection committee took the following criteria under consideration:  the actions of each recipient reflect the values of the fraternity, especially leadership and/or service and the alumnus has distinguished himself in his career field or another demonstrable way which causes him to stand separate from his peers.

To learn more about the other recipients, click here.
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NASA unveils flashy, futuristic new look for spacesuit prototype

The "Technology" design garnered more than 60 percent of nearly 240,000 votes cast.

The “Technology” design garnered more than 60 percent of nearly 240,000 votes cast.

NASA is ready to unveil the design of their next-generation spacesuit prototype. Wednesday, the space agency will reveal the winner of a contest on their website put the decision to a public vote.

The futuristic Z-2 suit will make future missions possible to asteroids or the surface of other planets. Some of the improvements under development include: a rear-entry “hatch” that could also dock with a rover, the use of “soft” materials to cut weight and increase mobility, complex joints and a redesigned life support system. While the functional portion of the suit is left up to the expertise of Spacesuit engineers, the look of the covering is a popularity contest.

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Online contest will pick NASA’s futuristic new spacesuit design

NASA’s “Technology” spacesuit design is among three options for a planned prototype to be built in November.

NASA’s “Technology” spacesuit design is among three options for a planned prototype to be built in November.

NASA is leaving the design of their next-generation spacesuit prototype up to the public. A contest on the space agency’s website puts three designs up for a vote, with a fully-functional model to be built by November.

The NASA Z-2 suit is a follow up to the Z-1, which Time Magazine named ‘one of the best inventions of 2012.’  The Z-series marks the first major prototype developed since the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), the white suits used on space walks during the Shuttle program.

With a long-term focus on deep space missions, NASA will need a new spacesuit to replace its current stock of suits. Some of the technology used in the EMU is 40 years old. The futuristic Z-2 suit will make missions possible to asteroids or the surface of other planets. Some of the improvements under development include: a rear-entry “hatch” that could also dock with a rover, the use of “soft” materials to cut weight and increase mobility, complex joints and a redesigned life support system.

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NASA spacesuit designer reveals changes to new “pumpkin suit”

NASA is testing a modified "Pumpkin Suit" for spacewalks on future missions to asteroids.

NASA is testing a modified “Pumpkin Suit” for spacewalks on future missions to asteroids.

NASA’s aging stock of spacesuits is coming under great scrutiny as the space agency investigates the near-drowning of an astronaut. Wednesday, an investigation board released its report on the July 2013 incident involving a water leak in Italian astronaut’s Luca Parmitano’s helmet. More than a liter of liquid pooled around Parmitano’s eyes, nose and ears, before he could get to safety inside the International Space Station airlock. The report revealed that managers misdiagnosed a similar leak one week earlier.

With an ongoing presence aboard the ISS, plans for capturing asteroids, the first mission to Mars and even a return to the Moon, NASA will need a new spacesuit to make the journey. The space agency won’t have to look very far for ideas, according to NASA engineer Cody Kelly. Last week , he spoke to a room of science and math students at Tyler Junior College, explaining his ongoing work as part of the Crew Survival Engineering Team. Kelly said NASA is modifying its Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) for future missions of the new Orion spacecraft, relying on time-tested technology to ensure the survival of astronauts.

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Next-gen NASA spacecraft to visit E. Texas on cross-country road trip

A test version of NASA “Orion” spacecraft being lowered onto a flat bed truck in Virginia, before setting out on a four-week trip to California.

A test version of the Orion capsule left NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia early Thursday on the bed of an 18-wheeler, headed for California. The four-week road trip will make stops in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before an early January arrival in San Diego, California.

A map showing the convoy’s planned route takes the Orion mock-up through East Texas, before connecting with Interstate 20 in Dallas and heading west. Dates and specific locations of planned stops were not immediately available, however a NASA spokesperson said those details would be released at later time. The route was selected to accommodate a wide load truck. Continue reading

‘Name the Shuttle’ contest gives Texans chance to name space history icon

1065024_466218043462439_1097396518_oTexans now have the opportunity to name a high-fidelity replica of a NASA Space Shuttle, the centerpiece of a new attraction set to open in Houston.

In early 2015, Space Center Houston will unveil an exhibit featuring the Shuttle replica seated atop a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet that ferried the now-retired shuttle fleet on cross-country trips.

The $12 million, six-story attraction will allow visitors to tour the SCA, as well as the flight deck and payload bay of the full-size Shuttle mockup.

The free, online naming contest launches at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 4 and ends September 2 at noon. Original names for the Shuttle will symbolize “the spirit of Texas and its unique characteristics of independence, optimism and can-do attitude,” according to a news release. Continue reading

Up close: West Texas storm chase intercepts tornado

West Texas Storm Chase 1

The KLTV Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle is equipped with a Davis weather station, National Weather Service radar, wireless high-speed internet, and a half-dozen cameras.

Chasing funnel clouds through the rolling hills of Rusk County to being pummeled with hail on the interstate in Harrison County, the KLTV Mobile StormTracker vehicle has already been put through the gauntlet. Wanting to test some modifications to the camera system on the chase vehicle, Meteorologist Grant Dade and I set out to track storms in West Texas.

Our journey began Thursday, May 23 with live reports on Good Morning East Texas as we drove toward Wichita Falls. Grant and I explained to viewers that the conditions were ripe for development to our west later that afternoon. After several hours behind the wheel, we came to a stop in an area known as the Caprock, separating the high plains of the Texas panhandle. Watching radar in the vehicle, Grant let me know the chase was on. At more than two-thousand feet in elevation, we found a lookout northeast of Lubbock that was the perfect perch for watching the skies. Almost immediately, a thunderstorm caught Grant’s attention. Winds were whipping as we set up video and still cameras in the vehicle to capture bolts of lightning, flashing in the distance. Continue reading

Storm chase heads straight into path of destructive East Texas tornado

Waskom Tornado 1

The Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle endured a beating from hail & heavy rain before tracking a tornado’s path through Harrison County.

The threat of severe weather was looming and I got the call from KLTV 7 meteorologist Grant Dade that our latest chase was hours away. After filling up the Mobile StormTracker chase vehicle, Grant spent some time checking models, radar and forecast discussions to pinpoint the ideal place to watch storms fire up. An impressive wall cloud moved through Marshall, signaling the prime time to move east. With his eye on live radar data, Grant warned that we were about to drive into some strong weather along Interstate 20; he was right. In all of our previous chases with me at wheel, this was certainly becoming the most nerve-wracking. Continue reading

Texas lands massive piece of Space Shuttle history

An artist’s rendering of the completed Shuttle Carrier Aircraft exhibit at Space Center Houston.

Space Center Houston is adding a “jumbo” piece of space history to its already impressive fleet of retired spacecraft and aerospace vehicles.

Thursday, NASA announced the transfer of ownership of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, to the official visitor’s center of the Johnson Space Center.

The SCA, one of two modified Boeing 747 jumbo jets, were used to ferry NASA’s fleet of Space Shuttles from coast to coast, beginning in 1977. Space Center Houston’s SCA flew under the tail designation “SCA-905″ and was decommissioned in 2012 after the retirement of the Shuttle fleet.

Space Center Houston plans to mount a full-size replica of the Space Shuttle atop the SCA in flight configuration, as part of a 12-million dollar educational complex. According to a news release, “The Shuttle and 747 Carrier will give visitors the world’s first and only all-access pass to an authentic and realistic journey through the inside of the  Shuttle Carrier Aircraft as well as an unforgettable experience aboard the full-scale, Shuttle model.” Continue reading

Communication restored to International Space Station after computer glitch

International Space StationCommunication has been restored to the International Space Station after a computer glitch Tuesday morning left crew members unable to reach ground controllers for more than two hours.

Around 8:45 a.m. Central Time, the ISS lost contact with Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas, according to a NASA news release. By 11:34 a.m., systems had been restored.

Early Tuesday, flight controllers were updating station flight computer software when a data relay system malfunctioned. The backup system would not allow the station to communicate with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites.

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10 years after Shuttle Columbia tragedy, E. Texas museum preserves crew’s legacy

Columbia Museum 1

The “Remembering Columbia” Museum in Hemphill, Texas is open daily.

10 years have passed since East Texas was thrust into the national spotlight after Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry over the Piney Woods. Obviously, it’s an emotional time for the families of the seven brave astronauts, but the small town of Hemphill is reflecting on their very deep and personal connection to the tragedy.

Many of the larger pieces of debris were recovered in rural Sabine County. The remains of the crew members were recovered not far from town. Search crews came from all over the country, but the city of 1,200 people, I’m told, came to a standstill to pool their resources into the recovery effort. Residents spent weeks and months searching for the wreckage, opening up their homes to volunteers, providing transportation and food. The emotions felt by the NASA family were shared by the community, forming a bond through the tragedy. For many there, life has never been the same. Continue reading

Legendary musician B.B. King sings the blues for East Texas audience

BB King

Lane and blues legend B.B. King after his concert in Tyler.

It’s not every day one of the most prolific musicians of the modern era performs in East Texas. Living legend B.B. King performed Thursday night in front of a crowd of hundreds at Tyler’s Caldwell Auditorium.

Fans were treated to a trip through decades of musical magic from the moment the 87-year-old strapped on his guitar named “Lucille,” an instrument that has become a celebrity itself. King’s stage presence commanded the audience’s attention from the very first riff. The performance wasn’t simply a mix of blues, rhythm, jazz, and pop. This master of his craft included stories of life experiences and past performances in between sets, including a little humor. Continue reading

Houston’s new space shuttle replica arrives by sea

A full-size shuttle replica atop a barge arrives at the Johnson Space Center docks in Houston.

After its hopes of landing a retired Space Shuttle were scrapped, Houston is now home to the next-closest thing — a full-size replica. Friday marked the end to an 8-day voyage across the Gulf of Mexico for the orbiter mockup that had previously welcomed visitors to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Hundreds crowded along the shoreline to witness the historic arrival of “Explorer” as it navigated the waters of Clear Lake atop a barge. The ship that never left the Earth will become the centerpiece of a new educational exhibit at Space Center Houston, the official visitors center of the Johnson Space Center.

In a salute at sea, two fire boats sprayed an arch of water for the shuttle to pass under as it approached its new home. Waiting on the shore — a crowd of onlookers and a “Shuttlebration Weekend” of activities featuring parades, fireworks, and music. A pair of  NASA T-38 Talon jets soared overhead in formation as the National Anthem was sung to mark the kickoff of the celebration. Continue reading

Storm watch: Inside the National Weather Service

Inside the Forecast Office at the National Weather Service located in Shreveport, Louisiana.

While the robotic voice announcing emergency alerts over your NOAA weather radio sounds like it couldn’t be further from life, there are actually dozens of real people behind the message who are working to save lives.

I recently got a behind the scenes look at the National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office in Shreveport, Louisiana. Local TV meteorologists and other staff from six Ark-La-Tex television stations participated in a workshop to coordinate ways to better serve the public.

We toured their complex, located along the edge of the Shreveport Regional Airport grounds. Also housed on the property, a weather balloon launch and tracking station, as well as the Doppler radar site. In January the radar equipment will be upgraded to a dual polarization radar, providing greater ability to detect and measure hail and other meteorological objects. The “Dual Pole” also will bring enhanced resolution and allow meteorologists to more accurately determine where heavy rain is falling at that moment. It will be particularly useful during tornadic weather. Wind measurement will improve, helping identify if a tornado has touched the ground, as well as pick up tornado debris on radar returns. Continue reading

Coach’s post-game rant after loss to SFA catches national attention

Pat Knight, Lamar head basketball coach and son of coaching legend Bob Knight, tailspins into tirade during post-game press conference.

Visibly riled over a dismal loss, Lamar University Head Basketball Coach Pat Knight never minced words in a post-game press conference that has now gone viral.

After dropping a critical conference game Wednesday to Stephen F. Austin in a 62-52 loss, the first-year head coach lashed out, placing blame on his senior players.

Knight’s heated entrance to the presser set the tone for what would become a more-than 8 minute rant, ushering a player from the interview. “Alright, let’s go. I’m next because you don’t have a clue of what it takes to win. Let’s go. Git.” Continue reading

Check out my article in East Magazine

This month’s edition of “East Magazine” will feature an article about my favorite part of living in the Piney Woods.

Be sure to turn to page 40 of the June/July issue of East Magazine for a look at an article by yours truly. Editor Stephanie Oliver approached me in May about writing an article for the magazine. I was excited to oblige. Admittedly, it took a little time to piece together my article, but it made the current issue.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the magazine, which is a great read. I look forward to perusing the pages each month. I’m hoping to contribute again soon, if invited. Let me know what you think!