by Michael P. Martin

News Reporter

Think you're confused about the weather? Check out the puzzled look on the faces of the campus squirrels!

The poor little beggars got their hoards of salted peanuts, Fritos and buy-one-get-one-free Big Mac coupons together and sat there, waiting for the first blast of cold air from Old Man Winter.

It never came.

Then, just as they relaxed a bit and started bullying the spring semester grass-sitters out of their lunch munchies, it came – two

40-degree nights in a row!

Is this weather all that unusual?

"No, not really," said Bill Reed, meteorologist in charge at the Houston National Weather Service office in League City. "We're seeing seasonal swings typical for April and November in Houston. It's not unusual to see radical temperature swings at this time of year."

Maybe the warm winter makes it seem strange.

"Winter was unusually mild," Reed said. "We only had a couple of late freezes, and those were to the north of town. Near the water, it didn't freeze at all. The El Niño current in the Pacific caused it. The temperature swings we are experiencing now, though, are not related (to that phenomenon)."

"It's certainly not our normal type of weather," said Channel 13 weatherman Ed Brandon, "but how often do we have 'normal' weather?" The average weather conditions for a given period are really just the weather conditions for individual days, divided by the total number of days, he explained. And individual days can vary greatly in temperature extremes.

"It (the temperature swing) is not ordinary, but it's not unprecedented," Brandon said. "This weather corresponds to that of 12 years ago. In fact, that's when the record lows for this time period were set, back in 1983."

Brandon agreed with Reed that El Niño, though responsible for the strange winter, is not responsible for current conditions.

"El Niño is a warm current in the Pacific Ocean that runs roughly from the west coast of South America to Baja California," Brandon said. "It affects the atmosphere that passes over it. Whenever El Niño is strong, we get heavy rains in California and drier weather in Texas."

We really noticed its effects this past winter, Brandon said, because the current went on for longer than usual. But, he says, we haven't been able to determine just how unusual an event it was.

"We really don't know what the El Niño cycle is," Brandon said. "We've only been able to get a really good look at forces shaping the weather from outside the atmosphere for 30 or 40 years, since the launch of the first weather satellites. We haven't had computers for analysis of those observations for all that long, either."

Will the mild winter and strange spring mean a really hot summer? Neither Reed nor Brandon would commit one way or the other, but both agreed that we could have a hurricane season that is more active than usual, with a couple of really strong storms possible.

The squirrels? They probably think it's going to snow.






Cougar News Services

A University of Houston adjunct professor of chemistry was recently cited for his work involving a computational solution to a long-standing mystery: How do nerves and muscles work so fast?

J. Andrew McCammon, a leading authority in the rational design of pharmaceuticals, won the Computerworld Smithsonian Breakthrough Computational Science Award, sponsored by Cray Research.

The mystery involved the "off" switch for the nerve-muscle pathways in an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, or AChE, that eliminates the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

"The mystery was, how reaction takes less than two milliseconds, an outstanding speed for a biological enzyme, but one obviously necessary and optimized by eons of evolution to allow rapid fight or flight by organisms," he said.

McCammon invented what was to become popularly known as "computational alchemy," a method to predict how large molecules recognize and bind to one another.

With this method, researchers could use a computer model of one drug-receptor complex, and by changing the atoms in key parts of the drug to produce a new drug-receptor complex, they calculate the relative binding strengths of the two complexes. The tighter the binding, the more effective the drug is likely to be.

Prior to joining the University of California, San Diego, he was the M.D. Anderson professor of chemistry and director of the UH Institute for Molecular Design.

The award will be presented to McCammon June 5 at the seventh annual awards dinner in Washington.






Cougar sports services

Cougars junior golfer Lance Combrink and senior Anders Hansen were selected to the All-Southwest Conference men's golf team Thursday by a poll of the league's eight coaches.

Combrink, who tied for the SWC Tournament Individual Championship at the Old Orchard Golf Course in Richmond, Texas, was a unanimous selection.

The first-year transfer from Tulane lost out in the SWC Player of the Year race to Texas A&M's Anthony Rodriguez. Rodriguez birdied the first hole in the sudden death playoff at Old Orchard to gain an invitation to the PGA Tour Colonial event.

Texas' Marcus Jones and Brad Elder were also unanimous selections, along with Combrink, Rodriguez, TCU's Deron Zinnecker and Tech's Bryan Novoa. Jimmy Clayton of UT was named SWC Coach of the Year.

Texas, which won the tournament for the seventh straight year, placed three on the 13-man All-SWC squad. Houston, A&M, Southern Methodist and Texas Christian had two representatives apiece, with Rice and Texas Tech each getting one man on.

Combrink followed Cougars head golf coach Mike Dirks to Houston from Tulane this year.







by Lady Oliver

Daily Cougar Staff

Contacts may be fashionable, but along with your fashion sense you need to apply common sense.

Lens care and wearing instructions should be read carefully, says Dr. Norman Leach, director of the cornea and contact lens service of the University of Houston's College of Optometry.

"Contact lens wearers who don't follow the instructions increase the risk of getting an eye infection," said Leach.

To avoid what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says is the leading cause of lens wearers' problems, better care of lenses is needed. It seems that people are not taking the best care of their lenses by wearing them too long or ignoring an improper fit.

Some warning signs of impending problems with contact lenses include blurred or foggy vision or discomfort.

These conditions can be avoided when a wearer starts out with full-service care to get the proper prescription, lens type and fit. This includes a thorough eye exam, tests of vision skills, necessary care kits, individual instruction for wear and care and unlimited follow-up exams over a specified period of time.

The initial visit varies in the amount of time needed to provide each individual with full service. The usual exam time averages 30 minutes to an hour.

After listening and watching the demonstration of lens care instructions, practice the care routine while still at the office to take advantage of opportunity to ask questions.

There are many contact lens products on the market. Before changing any of the product brands, consult your optometrist. You may have an allergic reaction to certain brands. Also, there are certain products for different types of lenses.

Remember, contact lenses should never be worn longer than six consecutive days and nights. Even extended-wear lenses should be removed frequently. Refer to your optometrist for frequency. Use the cleaning time to give your eyes a much-deserved rest.

The adaptations process is important for a proper fit and comfort. An optometrist can discover problems with the fit of the lens that the wearer may not detect. Minor adjustments may be necessary. So, be sure to keep all your appointments.

Once the adaptation process is completed, be sure to return for recommended office visits. Long-term care is essential for determining changes in your prescription or lens fit.

You may also need to replace your lenses due to tearing or scratches. Feel free to contact your optometrist if any problems occur.

If you are considering contact lenses or need any further information, call the only college of optometry in the southwestern United States, the University of Houston Eye Institute Cornea and Contact Lens Service at 743-2015.






PULLQUOTE: "Parents possibly feel a second, specialized sports eyewear is a financial burden. But it is cheap when you think of the cost of losing an eye. A good pair of sports eyewear costs as little as $135," said Mark Rice, manager of optical services at the University of Houston College of Optometry University Eye Institute.

by Lady Oliver

Daily Cougar Staff

When asked why he wore protective goggles while playing basketball, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar replied, "I'm down to my last pair of eyeballs."

An estimated 48,190 sports and recreational product-related eye injuries were treated in hospitals in 1992. The actual number of sports and recreational eye injuries could be twice or three times greater if information on all medically attended injuries were available, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Center for Sight of the National Society to Prevent Blindness. National projections estimate annual U.S. hospital charges of $175 million to $200 million for 227,000 eye trauma days.

There are four sports that account for 53 percent of all sports-related eye injuries. They are basketball, baseball, swimming and pool sports and racquet and court sports.

The three most common eye injuries related to sports are corneal abrasions, bruises around the eye and broken blood vessels in the white of the eye.

"Many of these injuries can be avoided if proper sports eyewear is worn," said Dr. Ralph Herring, interim director of Family Practice Service at the University Eye Institute of the University of Houston.

He said, "Simple eye protection will prevent most injuries from occurring. Thirty-seven percent of eye injuries occur to children under the age of 14.

"Many of these occur because the children are wearing normal street eyewear. Baseball is the most dangerous for children, producing nearly a quarter of all eye injuries," said Herring.

The Center for Sight believes that the number and severity of 90 percent of sports-related eye injuries could be reduced with proper eye protection.

"Parents possibly feel a second, specialized sports eyewear is a financial burden. But it is cheap when you think of the cost of losing an eye. A good pair of sports eyewear costs as little as $135," said Mark Rice, manager of optical services at the University of Houston College of Optometry University Eye Institute.

Quality sports eyewear should be constructed of polycarbonate lenses and plastic rims that meet the American Society of Testing Materials' F-803 racquetball goggle standards, which will work for most recreational athletes. In sports such as football, baseball and hockey, ideally full-face shields should be worn, but racquetball-type goggles do offer an adequate level of protection.

Protective eyewear should also be worn when participating in outdoor sports such as biking or skiing, where the elements may injure the eye. "Eyes can be damaged from both both debris and from ultra-violet radiation," said Herring.

Several athletes suffer from vision problems such as poor visual acuity, lack of depth perception and poor eye, hand and body coordination that may hinder their performance.

Regular eye exams will discover these conditions, and most sports goggles can be fitted with corrective lenses. Regular street eyewear should not be worn when playing most sports to protect your "last pair of eyes."






Photo by Anton Corbijn/Geffen

Ex-Nirvana members Krist Novoselic (left) and David Grohl (right) make appearances on Mike Watt's <I>Ball Hog or Tugboat?<P>

Photo by Lance Mercer/Epic

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder sings "Against the Seventies" with Mike Watt <I>Ball Hog or Tugboat?<P>

by Frank San Miguel

Contributing Writer

You're a well-respected musician. You've got a record deal, and some of rock's hottest musicians are helping out on your recording. Your recording is to be released on a label whose reach and influence the CIA could take pointers from. A great record should be no problem, eh?

Well, sort of.

Mike Watt, who you might've heard of before, is out with a new release, <I>Ball Hog or Tugboat?<P>, and, no, Allah himself ain't on this record, even if the lineup comes damn close. And the verdict is -- it's, well, okay.

The supporting cast is nothing short of impressive. The bit players include ex-Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, the Lemonheads' Evan Dando, Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo, the Beastie Boys' Adam "King Ad Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D." Diamond (no, they don't rap on this record), Henry Rollins, Bernie Worrell, Frank Black and more.

In some ways, you can't wait to hear what such a stellar cast of musicians sounds like once recorded as a unit. The flip side of this is that, whatever they sound like, it is bound to be a letdown when compared to everyone's expectations.

"Against the 70s" is the first single from Watt's release, and it does Watt proud here. The sound is a tight, energetic rocker that blends well-done bass work from Watt with vocalist Eddie Vedder's flat twang. This one's a bit formulaic for a rebellion song ("The kids of today should defend themselves against the '70s," intones Vedder, nearly 20 years after the anti-disco backlash came into being. However, the song seems more about album-oriented cock rock's monopoly and '70s hedonism) but it's still quite a pleasant spin.

Other songs are equally pleasing, especially the tracks which include Mascis, Hanna and Rollins. The intensity on <I>Ball Hog<P> is here, but there's one very big catch. Watt's problem lies in not being able to keep up that energy.

In his previous bands, like fIREHOSE [cq], Watt had the benefit of quality musicians he'd played with for years. On <I>Ball Hog<P>, the chemistry seems a little forced and hence futile. Witness Watt's disastrous collaboration with Moore and Renaldo. This combination (of Sonic Youth's surreal architects with one of the greatest bassists in indie rock) doesn't seem to go anywhere, as the music fails to work up a sweat or even seem like a true effort.

There's an adage that one doesn't do business with friends because it's bound to fail. While Watt doesn't totally crash and burn, he comes damn close by squandering great artists on unremarkable songs.

Watt himself does the working man's job throughout the release -- serving as the glue bonding these musicians, and providing a clay-dense rhythm track to the occasionally frantic happenings at the microphone. While you'd expect a totally radio-friendly disc, considering the mainstream success of bands like the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Lemonheads, Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum, <I>Ball Hog<P> is surprisingly obscure at points, coaxing the listener to dig a little deeper to get it.

During this process of hide-and-go-seek, Watt is likely to lose the AOR/mainstream alt-rock crowd his label, Sony/Columbia, will undoubtedly be gunning for, but no matter. Watt stays relatively true to his roots, and ya gotta give the man points for that.

<I>Ball Hog or Tugboat?<P> is definitely one of the most unique releases this year, if for nothing else than bringing together an alt-rock Lollapalooza on disc. While the musicianship varies, Watt is pretty much constant as a ring-savvy <I>veterano<P>.

<I>Ball Hog<P> is a far cry from a masterpiece, but it's a step toward something very promising. A good effort by Watt, but an uneven effort by his musical cohorts makes for a, well, all right recording.






by Frank San Miguel

Contributing Writer

Basing songs on something like video games seems like a recipe for disaster. Anyone remember "Pac Man Fever?" Now can you name who sang it? Case closed.

A film (now on video) based on the video game Street Fighter is looking to bank on its soundtrack. Despite a stellar cast, the soundtrack for said film wears thin fast.

The big question here is how did so many hip-hop luminaries get hooked up with this?

For example, it is hard to imagine a rapper like Ice Cube keeping a straight face while rhyming the title track. Likewise for East Coast rap wunderkind Nas, with his song "One on One." The performances thus far are all right, but with lyrics like, "Imagine this/no gun, no knife/Now we've got to fight," it is hard to think about the music.

Song after song seems to meander from music to video game icons. Artists like the eclectic Pharcyde on "Pandemonium" and Paris on "Street Soldier" attempt valiantly to put the music up front. In particular, Paris, in his familiar way, manages to turn a song about ripping an on-screen opponent's head off into a sort of political treatise. But even Paris can't save this and, as the vid-lingo goes, there's no mercy. The soundtrack continues.

The biggest brawl that could probably break out over <I>Street Fighter<P> is about which song is worst. Craig Mack's weak game imagery on "Do You Have What It Takes?" could easily place. Hammer's performance with San Francisco 49er Delon Sanders on "Straight to My Feet" is also a prime candidate. Even the usually magnificent Public Enemy stumbles with an unfocused Chuck D on "Rumbo N Da Jungo."

In the end, you feel a little ripped off. Sidekick this one through the window.


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