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Nothing says winter like books

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FromEditorsDesk TonySometimes, you just gotta step away, and as much as I like movies, which is to say a lot, I like books even better.

(Just like sometimes, I have to step away from the doom and gloom of the political and social landscapes, so I alternate between dad jokes, puns and other forms of digression.)

So let me tell you a story.

For a large part of my formative years, I lived in an area without television. As a dependent of a military father living in Spain during the Franco Regime, I didn’t have my mind mushened by early 70s television. There was a theater on the base, but at only one or two offerings a week or more, plus the cost, I couldn’t really live in a theater.

Plus, I played baseball and had school, but that’s a different matter.

So what’s a feller to do when he is trapped inside on a blustery, cold day with nothing to do and nowhere to go? He reads, especially if that feller was taught to read very early on and always read above grade level.

(My mother, God bless her, gave me this gift. Today, Feb. 3, would have been her 81st birthday.)

Turns out that a good book and an active imagination was a great form of escapism.

I tried all the genres, but I really fell hard for the science fiction/fantasy element (my favorite writer is Harlan Ellison). So to help you get through some of the chilly winter days, grab a blanket, your favorite hot beverage, and one or six of these tomes to warm you through and spur your imagination.

• “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series (there’s five books in the trilogy) by Douglas Adams. You want a serious dose of comedy with your travels to other worlds, this is by far the best I’ve read. For me, the books elicited guffaws, which is a tough thing to do.

• “Dune” et al, meaning the six books in the original Frank Herbert batch, as well as the 14 written by his son Brian and all the compendiums. Rich in depth, lavish in description and a great discussion on both government, religion and how we interpret both.

• Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Whether you prefer the original release or the expanded and updated re-release, I liked the good vs. evil story that has such a detailed world. (Don’t cheat with either of the two TV shows. They’re … not well done.)

• The Dresden Files (17 books and counting) by Jim Butcher. This contemporarily set series about an honest-to-God wizard plying his trade in Chicago, and his ham-fisted answers to problems normal, paranormal and supernatural are some of the most entertaining books I’ve read ever. For me, real page-turners.

• The Lord of the Rings saga by J.R.R. Tolkien. Much like the late Christopher Lee, I had read these books pretty much annually for many years, along with “The Silmarillion.” Has to be something there since they made such amazing movies, right?

•“Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. This book I attribute to my love of this genre, since once I read it, I searched for anything I could find that was similar.

• “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke. How it started gave me no idea or foreshadowing about the ending, and I was pretty floored.

• “Born of the Sun” by Jack Williamson (who used to teach at my former alma mater). A short story, to be sure, but one who’s impact on me still remains.

• Either the numerous short stories (not much into novels, this one) or his collection of essays and columns on television by Harlan Ellison. He hated the term sci-fi, called all of it speculative fiction, and was a bombastic, boastful and combative soul. Even so, everything I read made me think, made me wonder, and made me mad that I couldn’t come close to that level of genius.

(Many of you have probably seen television shows penned by Ellison; he was a prolific contributor to “The Twilight Zone,” “Night Gallery,” “The Outer Limits” and even “Star Trek.” Look up the episode “Soldier from Tomorrow” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” on youTube. His most famous, or rather notorious, Trek episode was “City on the Edge of Forever.”)

Buy, borrow or rent, books are comfort, and what’s better than comfort during winter?

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Are you putting off your annual physical exam?

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Tyrades GraphicI’m not seeking sympathy, but I’m writing this on the eve of my annual physical exam.

Don’t infer that I’m bragging about a commendable lifelong habit. By “annual,” I mean “I’ve (almost) done it two years in a row.” And by “physical,” I mean, if I had my druthers, I’d suggest, “Hey, doc, when I turn my head and cough, how about standing over there in the corner and reading my aura?”

Before my renewed dedication in the last couple of years, I could always make an excuse for kicking the can down the road. Until one day my neuroskeletal system gently implored me, “Stop kicking that %$#@ can!! It hurts, bro!”

I came by my erstwhile procrastination honestly. Several generations of my family have showcased individuals leery of routine medical care. This foot-dragging stretches at least as far back as the days when a thespian-turned-pitchman might intone, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on the telegraph.”

My mother delights in preemptively telling nurses that she suffers from the dreaded “white coat syndrome” – a phenomenon in which normally stable blood pressure or some other vital statistic spikes solely because the patient is nervous about being in the examination room.

I experience a touch of this myself from time to time. And by “a touch,” I mean, the sight of cotton balls and tongue depressors has been known to make me start developing a conjoined twin.

Self-image is another issue. Most Americans could stay on a bucking bronco longer than they can stand to linger on that judgmental doctor’s office scale. Sadistic nurses don’t help, when they estimate the weight of your clothing as no more than Tinker Bell would wear in a burlesque show.

All of this ties in, of course, with the hallowed Body Mass Index, this week’s position on cholesterol and lectures about portion control. My friend Cletus has a few choice words for the medical experts behind such shaming. (“See if you can control the portion of my foot that goes up your…”)

Some patients merely dread the stilted bedside manner and observations such as “None of us are getting any younger *chuckle*.” Be glad your doctor graduated near the TOP of his class. Think of his less accomplished classmates. (“Ohhhh…Mr. Danvers went into a fetal position because of the diet regimen I handed him and not because he was getting YOUNGER. Let me put that in his chart…”)

Many people proudly declare a “What I don’t know can’t hurt me” attitude about diagnoses. When these responsible adults aren’t putting duct tape over their “CHECK ENGINE SOON” light, they’re doubtless wrestling with varmints on the front porch without turning on the light.

I don’t know if my cheerleading will influence my peers, but perhaps it will inspire future generations. I know most young people think they’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof (despite uttering phrases such as “I need a ‘safe space’ with an 11-foot ceiling and a ‘gun-free zone’ placard”), but they should form a lifetime habit of regular medical checkups.

This will allow them to keep their immunizations up to date, detect problems early and read drug brochures at their leisure, to determine if they were just imagining it when the fast-talking TV announcer seemingly listed “writhing in the Stygian depths” between “projectile earwax” and “heat-seeking ballistic unibrow” among the side effects.

Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

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Many new laws now in effect

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My Five CentsMonday, January 31 is the last day to register to vote in the March primary elections. To register, simply complete an voter registration application available online through the Secretary of State’s website, fill it out with the necessary information, and return it to your county election office. The website to view this information is www.VoteTexas.gov. Remember, the voter registration application must be completed and returned at least 30 days before the upcoming election date. 

Here are five things happening around your state:

New laws now in
effect as of January 1 

As of the beginning of this year, 23 new state laws went into effect, most of which deal with certain tax requirements or tax-exemptions. A few new laws of note include: 

• House Bill 531 - requires landlords to provide notice to renters if the dwelling they are leasing lies within a 100-year floodplain or has flooded in the preceding 5 years before or at the execution of the lease; 

• House Bill 2730 - makes improvements to the Landowner’s Bill of Rights and the eminent domain process; 

• House Bill 3961 - requires long-term care facilities to post information about the office of the state long-term care ombudsman on their websites. The ombudsman advocates for resident rights and helps protect quality of life and quality of care for residents; 

• Senate Bill 794 - This law exempts homestead taxes for veterans who are 100 percent disabled;

• Senate Bill 911 - allows food service establishments that also hold mixed beverage permits to be classified as restaurants if alcohol sales are 60 percent or less of sales. 

To see a full list of the new laws in effect as of January 1, please visit https://capitol.texas.gov/Reports/Report.aspx?LegSess=87R&ID=effectivejan1. 

Texas Workforce Commission awards Jobs and Education
for Texans grants to 5 East
Texas ISDs, Lamar State
College Orange 
   

Last month, the Texas Workforce Commission announced $10.3 million in Jobs and Education for Texans grants that went to Community, Technical, and State Colleges and Independent School Districts across the state. Of that, $1.45 million was awarded to East Texas institutions. Five ISDs, including Burkeville ISD, Center ISD, Coldspring-Oakhurst ISD, Elkhart ISD, and West Sabine ISD, received between $189,000 and $328,000 grants to help purchase and install equipment to provide training in the occupations of welder, cutter, solder, and brazer. Lamar State College Orange was also a recipient of an award totaling over $208,000 for the purchase and installment of equipment for training healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. These grants will enable area education entities to provide targeted training for our communities that will lead to employment opportunities in high-demand industries. 

Texas State Hospitals and SSLC offering hiring bonuses 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is offering up to $5,000 in bonuses for certain health care positions at state supported living centers (SSLCs) and state hospitals across the state. Positions that are eligible for a hiring bonus included registered nurses (RN), licensed vocational nurses (LVN), psychiatric nursing assistants (PNA), and direct support professionals (DSP). New RNs can qualify for $5,000 bonuses, eligible LVN hires could receive $3,500, and DSPs and PNAs may qualify for a $2,500 hiring bonus. State supported living centers provide residential services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while state hospitals provide inpatient psychiatric care for adults, children, and adolescents. State hospitals and state supported living centers serve some of our most vulnerable Texans and the people who work there deserve the utmost praise. 

Texas reaches new
employment high,
unemployment drops

Texas reached a new record employment high last month, breaking pre-pandemic records for employment. Texas now has over 13 million jobs. The state passed pre-pandemic record employment levels in November and that number continued to grow in December. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. These numbers are signs of a strong economy that continues to grow despite the ongoing pandemic. Texas business owners and employees are resilient and focused on moving forward. 

 OSHA withdraws COVID-19
vaccine mandate for
large employers 
 

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrew the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard for businesses with 100 or more employees this week. The standard was supposed to go into effect earlier this month and required business with 100 employees or more to ensure their employees were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or were regularly tested for COVID-19 and wearing masks. The withdrawal comes after the US Supreme Court blocked the implementation of the standard in a ruling earlier this month. 

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Many new laws now in effect

Write a comment
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

My Five CentsMonday, January 31 is the last day to register to vote in the March primary elections. To register, simply complete an voter registration application available online through the Secretary of State’s website, fill it out with the necessary information, and return it to your county election office. The website to view this information is www.VoteTexas.gov. Remember, the voter registration application must be completed and returned at least 30 days before the upcoming election date. 

Here are five things happening around your state:

New laws now in
effect as of January 1 

As of the beginning of this year, 23 new state laws went into effect, most of which deal with certain tax requirements or tax-exemptions. A few new laws of note include: 

• House Bill 531 - requires landlords to provide notice to renters if the dwelling they are leasing lies within a 100-year floodplain or has flooded in the preceding 5 years before or at the execution of the lease; 

• House Bill 2730 - makes improvements to the Landowner’s Bill of Rights and the eminent domain process; 

• House Bill 3961 - requires long-term care facilities to post information about the office of the state long-term care ombudsman on their websites. The ombudsman advocates for resident rights and helps protect quality of life and quality of care for residents; 

• Senate Bill 794 - This law exempts homestead taxes for veterans who are 100 percent disabled;

• Senate Bill 911 - allows food service establishments that also hold mixed beverage permits to be classified as restaurants if alcohol sales are 60 percent or less of sales. 

To see a full list of the new laws in effect as of January 1, please visit https://capitol.texas.gov/Reports/Report.aspx?LegSess=87R&ID=effectivejan1. 

Texas Workforce Commission awards Jobs and Education
for Texans grants to 5 East
Texas ISDs, Lamar State
College Orange 
   

Last month, the Texas Workforce Commission announced $10.3 million in Jobs and Education for Texans grants that went to Community, Technical, and State Colleges and Independent School Districts across the state. Of that, $1.45 million was awarded to East Texas institutions. Five ISDs, including Burkeville ISD, Center ISD, Coldspring-Oakhurst ISD, Elkhart ISD, and West Sabine ISD, received between $189,000 and $328,000 grants to help purchase and install equipment to provide training in the occupations of welder, cutter, solder, and brazer. Lamar State College Orange was also a recipient of an award totaling over $208,000 for the purchase and installment of equipment for training healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. These grants will enable area education entities to provide targeted training for our communities that will lead to employment opportunities in high-demand industries. 

Texas State Hospitals and SSLC offering hiring bonuses 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is offering up to $5,000 in bonuses for certain health care positions at state supported living centers (SSLCs) and state hospitals across the state. Positions that are eligible for a hiring bonus included registered nurses (RN), licensed vocational nurses (LVN), psychiatric nursing assistants (PNA), and direct support professionals (DSP). New RNs can qualify for $5,000 bonuses, eligible LVN hires could receive $3,500, and DSPs and PNAs may qualify for a $2,500 hiring bonus. State supported living centers provide residential services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, while state hospitals provide inpatient psychiatric care for adults, children, and adolescents. State hospitals and state supported living centers serve some of our most vulnerable Texans and the people who work there deserve the utmost praise. 

Texas reaches new
employment high,
unemployment drops

Texas reached a new record employment high last month, breaking pre-pandemic records for employment. Texas now has over 13 million jobs. The state passed pre-pandemic record employment levels in November and that number continued to grow in December. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent. These numbers are signs of a strong economy that continues to grow despite the ongoing pandemic. Texas business owners and employees are resilient and focused on moving forward. 

OSHA withdraws COVID-19
vaccine mandate for
large employers 
 

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) withdrew the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard for businesses with 100 or more employees this week. The standard was supposed to go into effect earlier this month and required business with 100 employees or more to ensure their employees were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or were regularly tested for COVID-19 and wearing masks. The withdrawal comes after the US Supreme Court blocked the implementation of the standard in a ruling earlier this month. 

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Not a lot out there truthful, sane about Covid reactions

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FromEditorsDesk TonyJust as an experiment, I toiled around social media to gauge the silliness of the current pandemic reactions.

Yes, it was torture, but yes, it is just as hysterical as it always has been, and here we are, two years into this, and this is how people still treat this virus.

Let’s be clear here: I’m not downplaying the seriousness of COVID. I am, however, puzzled at the polarizing and ridiculous reactions to this outbreak.

Here are some of the most head-scratching.

• A family looking to have a pet groomed was informed by a potential groomer that only pets from vaccinated households would be accepted.

• Reported by a news outlet, a man on a transplant list for 5 years was told he could not be active on the list anymore because he is unvaccinated.

• A teacher in the North Penn (Pennsylvania) School District is taping masks to children’s faces.

• A man has won a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records for putting on 10 facemasks in the fastest time.

• A life insurance company in France is denying a claim because the covered person died after taking the virus shot, which the company deems experimental.

• The CDC has admitted that cloth masks are ineffective, and Rand Paul wants an apology.

• Clothing manufacturer Carhartt is accused of requiring vaccinations for all U.S. employees while using unvaccinated slave labor in India to create their clothes.

• The state of New Mexico is taking measures to ensure that no one who is unvaccinated can be admitted to the Merry Roundhouse (the Capitol Building), as well as providing booster shots.

In the past two months, I’ve lost people very close to me to the ravages of this disease, and I do not take it lightly at all. However, history has shown for millennia that hysterical reactions to problems simply cause more problems.

So what’s the uptake here? you might be asking. It’s pretty much the same thing. Stop demanding compliance for ineffective measures, stop forcing people to behave in a manner they are not comfortable with, and start treating people with kindness, compassion, and especially in an adult manner.

Stop listening to people who react with histrionics and insults, and start listening to the better angels of your nature. Just as Jesus went among the lepers, reach out your hands and give comfort, because as everyone knows, kindness is strong medicine.

Also, please stop letting people make your decisions for you, particularly and especially the government — federal, state or other.

It’s not as if you need to start an insurrection, regardless of how denial is portrayed. Just remember that it’s your choice how to proceed with your life, not the government’s. It’s not up to anyone other than you to determine what’s best for you and your family.

As much as I love dogs, the eight cats at my house groom themselves, if you know what I’m saying.

Tony Farkas is editor of the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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