Joe Conger
Communications & PR strategist cyberjournalist

  • Not-So-Amusing: San Antonio's slips, trips, and falls at local amusement parks

    For millions of locals and tourists visiting San Antonio, a trip to the amusement park brings memories to last a lifetime. But for some, the memories will be painful: missing teeth, broken bones and concussions to name a few. News 4 San Antonio looked into the state's recordkeeping of accidents reported to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) -- basically, those injuries that may have triggered an insurance claim against Schlitterbahn, Splashtown, SeaWorld, Fiesta Texas and ZDT's since 2013.

    To date, the TDI received reports of 78 injuries for the San Antonio area amusement parks. Injuries like the one sustained by a Louisiana woman whose ride at SeaWorld's Stingray Falls came to an abrupt end in 2014. Her attorneys say the water thrust Lisa Castille's float at the finish, causing her to land on her shoulder, which the suit contends was broken on some concrete steps.

    Bexar County District Court records show 8 active lawsuits against local amusement parks, including a case of a severed fingertip 7-year old Alexia Burgos's family says the young girl received at Fiesta Texas' Hustler ride. In the lawsuit, attorneys for the Burgos family say she was holding onto a wheel when a sharp item below it severed her finger in 2016.

    Six Flags Fiesta Texas' Sydne Purvis said, "The safety of our guests and employees is our highest priority.  We invest the greatest amount of resources in our safety programs. Six Flags has an excellent safety record and one of the most comprehensive safety programs in our industry.  In addition to our daily inspections, all of our rides are inspected by a third party independent ride consulting firm, by state ride inspectors, by insurance inspectors, by Six Flags Corporate Engineers and by Six Flags Corporate Safety experts."

    The safety measures taken at Fiesta Texas mirror those at the other amusement parks. All are required to use state-certified inspectors who submit the certifications for the rides to the TDI. The state requires amusement parks to provide proof of insurance along with the annual inspections. 

    Although the TDI is not an enforcement agency, its records indicate the amount of accidents remain a small percentage of the thousands of visitors who descend upon San Antonio's amusement parks every summer.


    Accidents on amusement park rides, reported to the Texas Department of Insurance for 2013-2017.

  • Facebook Jail-time

                           Picture that got my ex-wife banned from Facebook for awhile


    My ex-wife says she was censored by Facebook this week for posting the picture above. Obviously, the image is making a statement, and while the ex-spouse in me finds this to be her typical, low-brow humor (my ex can be a bit indecorous), the journalist in me cringes at the greater implications of the actions taken by Zuckerberg's social media platform. Facebook PUNISHED her: put her in "time out" until she re-educated herself on what is appropriate.

    I have teenagers in my house who don't know television but know Facebook. The platform has been growing exponentially since its inception in 2004, and just recently announced it had two billion users, planet-wide. It is estimated that those users scroll and comment throughout more than 60 percent of a 24-hour day. That's a huge chunk of the world's population and a huge chunk of time. It's no secret that every time you interact with Facebook, it learns a little more about you: your preferences, your likes and dislikes, favorite things, people... What bothersome is that it knows more about your fetishes than your own mother.

    And now, "Momma" Facebook is punishing you – so that you live up to her expectations and suppress your own beliefs. Anecdotal stories abound of groups and pages losing ground and followers because of positions they take on equality, gun control, or religion. Instead, you are encouraged to adopt Facebook's belief system. Trouble is, you and I don't know Mark Zuckerberg or his beliefs. His social platform doesn't exactly spell it out either. All we know about Facebook is that it makes billions of dollars on the backs of users who produce the content, provide their demographics and preferences, and refer friends to Momma Facebook, who then sells it to eager advertisers.

    Google has its issues, too. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) appears to be developing without a soul. It knows where I shop, what I buy, where I'm located on the planet, and offers suggestions to me on where I should go and spend my money nearby. Google can spew a wealth of knowledge, but ask the AI about Jesus and Google remains silent. Google speaks volumes about Allah, however. Is this just oversight? Am I being conspiratorial? With all their billions of dollars, can't these tech giants hire ethicists, moralists, and perhaps a few practicing Christians?

    Yes, the image is crass, and my ex apparently learned her lesson and posted on a black backdrop, "I'm out of Facebook jail!" She says Facebook's sentence consisted of not allowing her to comment or post for a week. She could continue to scroll around, of course, because Facebook didn't want her quitting the platform altogether (she's a target for marketing, after all). Now, she re-examines what she posts and shares because, quite frankly, she enjoys communicating with her friends and acquaintances through Facebook. It's quick and easy, and there are near-instantaneous rewards of iconic hearts, smiley faces, and whatnot that light up the posts and trigger the pleasure centers of the brain. And... little by little... Facebook edits and molds her -- and the rest us -- into its perfect citizens of the world.

  • We outTRUMPed ourselves

    Donald TrumpI cringed as a voter watching the GOP debates Thursday night. Like the baker's dozen before them, I learned nothing, but watched candidates for one of the most esteemed jobs in the world hurl personal jabs and belittle each other, hoping for a "quick six seconds in sound bites" on a news report somewhere down the line. In the aftermath, pundits continued to talk about Donald Trump's bombastic, reality TV-scripted rise to the top of the GOP ticket and social media focused on the mass of spittle in the corner of Ted Cruz's mouth. And Joe Voter realized: Just as an alcoholic finally hits rock bottom, our political process has stopped working, because politicians--regardless of party affiliation-- have forgotten the basic premise of their work: to represent the people. And for generations, the voter has allowed it to happen.

    Teachers need to stop telling students, "You could be President one day!" because it's not a career. It's not. It's the job of a servant. You know: a servant, like Jesus, only secular. A servant's job isn't glamorous. A servant of the people is selfless, not selfish. A congressman, senator, or President must place the voter's well-being over his own. All of our founding fathers had day jobs. Politics wasn't a paying, full-time, perk-filled career. It wasn't designed that way, and in the ensuing 200 years, voters have allowed the bastardization of the system of representation into a system of elitism--where narcissism is king in politics.

    In my 40+ years of watching elections, it's become a game where incumbents seek to be career politicians. They work to build their campaign war chests in the off-years, and give me platitudes as they tout their successful quasi-legislation that brings about open-carry laws rather than substantial changes in health care or education. If they were public servants, wouldn't they be focusing on perserving my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? Wouldn't they be washing my feet?

    The voter understands underperformance and feels betrayed by any and all politicians, because the voter's needs aren't being met. I haven't seen any evidence that the government is working any better than it was in the 1970's. Seriously, aren't our infrastructure, roads, and bridges monuments to our past? Are our children any better educated? Am I safer in today's world from the boogiemen who pop up every decade? Are we healthier as a population? Yes, no, no. And, no. Trump is riding that wave of voter anger in an election cycle where the voter has finally realized politicians don't do squat. So, we're all about the anti-politician. Yet, our anti-politicians are narcissists, too. Has any candidate talked about public service? No, and we'll suffer through another 4 years without a servant in office.

    So, I end up watching Trump vs. Cruz vs. Rubio on my high-def, 60 inch TV. After all, it's a spectacle, not a debate. And none of the players--including Hillary and Bernie-- can ever be called "Statesmen." That's a term that belongs to the public servant of the political past, not to the hubris-filled, self-righteous folks vying for my vote this November. I'm reminded of the joke my father told me this week:

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are in a boat on the ocean when it capsizes.

    Who survives?

    The American people.

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