Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Movies of 2010

Not really. This list isn't necessarily of the best movies (I didn't see every movie released and some on my list I wouldn't even recommend watching). It also isn't strictly a 2010 list (one movie on it was released in 1938). What it is, is a list of movies I've watched this year that I think are worthy of being remembered.

After the jump, the list, in no particular order, along with my Twitter review for each.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best Plays of 2010

Not really. More like Best Plays and Concerts and other Live Performances of 2010. But it's not a list of the best, either. It's more like a list of those live performances that I happened to see in 2010. Still, it's traditional to do a "best of ..." list at the end of the year, so that's the title I'm going with.

After the jump, the list along with my Twitter review for each.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best Books of 2010

Not really. This list isn't necessarily of the best books (some I wouldn't even recommend reading). It also isn't strictly a 2010 list (one book on it was written fifty years ago). What it is, is a list of books I've read this year that I think are worthy of being remembered.

After the jump, the list along with my Twitter review for each.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Say Goodbye to Nonpartisan City Elections

You just thought the election was over. No, in our era of perpetual elections, there's always another election just around the corner. In our case, it's the Richardson City Council election of May, 2011. Today, we hear the starting pistol for that race sound in a story by Ian McCann in The Dallas Morning News. The candidates in the race are likely to be wearing team uniforms this time.

After the jump, an early look at the partisan outlines of the race.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Community Gardens Are Coming to Richardson

Community garden

No, that's not right. Community gardens are already in Richardson. Three are owned and operated by Richardson East Church of Christ, First United Methodist Church and The Epiphany Episcopal Church. So, what's coming to Richardson? Apparently, only a proposal for the city to pay for water for these community gardens. (See city's proposal here and The Dallas Morning News story here.)

After the jump, my thoughts.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Macy's Ad?

Macy's Ad

Hint #1: it's not the woman. (It never is.)
Hint #2: it's not Macy's secularization of Christmas. (Still, don't tell Jeffress.)
Hint #3: click on the ad for a close-up detail. (Spoiler alert.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best Congress in a Half Century

The 111th Congress winds up its work in Washington, the most productive Congress in a half century.

  • Federal stimulus bill, including large tax cuts
  • American auto industry rescue
  • Children's health insurance
  • Health insurance reform
  • 9/11 first responders aid package
  • Wall Street reform
  • Credit card reform
  • Creation of Consumer Financial Protection Agency
  • Repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" discrimination in our military
  • Nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia

If the 112th Congress does half as well, Americans will be well-served. Here's wishing for a happy 2011.

Locally, our Richardson City Council is also winding down on its own two year term, which ends in May, 2011. It also has been a very productive one so far.

  • Open and transparent government initiatives
    • Televising city council meetings
    • Code of Ethics for City Council members
    • Online checkbook for the city
  • Bond program for streets, parks, municipal buildings
  • Progress on West Spring Valley corridor redevelopment
  • Progress on Bush Station development

If the city can keep the momentum on these last two items before its term ends in May, it will be one of the most productive city councils in my memory. Here's wishing for a happy 2011 locally, too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DART Is Packing Them In

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."
-- Yogi Berra, on why he no longer went to Ruggeri's, a St. Louis restaurant

Rodger Jones, editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News, Richardson resident and regular DART Red Line passenger, has been sounding like Yogi Berra recently in his regular complaints about how crowded his DART Red Line train is (see here, here, here, and here). For example:

"For the record, people were standing on my Red Line before we got out of Richardson this morning, Me included. We never got smashed in like sardines as we headed south, but I'm on the early end of the rush hour and don't know what it's like in the thick of it. ... If we ever get close to that, DART will lose loyal Red Line passengers for sure."
Shorter Rodger Jones: Nobody rides DART anymore. It's too crowded.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice in Texas (2010)

From Flowers

The seasons are late in north Texas. It's 80 degrees and autumn leaves are still in glorious color even though the calendar declares it's the Winter Solstice.

"The winter solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun. The 2010 winter solstice will occur on December 21, at 5:38 pm Central Standard Time. This occurs on the shortest day, and longest night, and the sun's daily maximum position in the sky is the lowest.

"Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time."

-- Adapted from Wikipedia

"... holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time." It's a busy week or two in almost anyone's social calendar.

So, Merry-Kitzmas-Happy-Winter-Solstice-Happy-Festivus-Merry-Christmas-Happy-Kwanzaa-Happy-New-Year, everyone!

Too bad there isn't a one or two-word greeting that people of goodwill could use to mean all that, a greeting that would include all of these holidays and more, a greeting to extend warm wishes to everyone at this time of year. Someone should invent such a greeting.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shameful Sesquicentennial

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the end of slavery, the most abominable stain on American history. One hundred fifty years ago Christmas Eve, on December 24, 1860, the government of South Carolina declared its secession from the United States of America. You might think this would be an anniversary to be marked by a day of atonement or at least by a vigil remembering the lives and deaths of those who suffered in slavery or died to end it. You would be wrong.

On December 20, 2010, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is holding a $100-per-person celebration, a "Secession Gala", in Charleston, South Carolina. Organizer Jeff Antley says, "It has nothing to do with slavery as far as I'm concerned. What I'm doing is honoring the men from this state who stood up for their self-government and their rights under law -- the right to secede was understood."

Nothing to do with slavery. It's about honoring heritage, not racism. Expect a lot of that shameful rationalization over the next five years, as white Southerners revise history in an attempt to whitewash the original sin of America, slavery, from their heritage.

After the jump, a closer look at the declaration of causes for South Carolina's secession.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give 'em Hell, Schutze

Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer is the best thing going in Dallas journalism. (I did say Dallas, not the suburbs, where Schutze's perspective is sometimes cockeyed. And I didn't say north Texas, where even old columns by Molly Ivins, now dead and gone, are still the sharpest writing around. But Schutze rules Dallas journalism.) He does the old-fashioned legwork, digs out the facts, takes nothing at face value, especially the self-serving statements of politicians, then writes up the story, pulling no punches. Exhibit A: Schutze's description of the Texas Railroad Commission:

"the Railroad Commission is a sleazy rogue body without an ounce of moral or political credibility that cannot be trusted to protect the public."

Ouch. After the jump, what led Schutze to that conclusion.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Keeping Score on the RISD Bond Election

Wildcat-Ram Stadium Scoreboard

The Richardson school district (RISD) is putting together its Christmas wish list, or rather, its capital needs list for a possible bond election in Spring 2011. You know, all the things you need to run a school system like heating and a/c, electrical and plumbing systems, security systems, paint for the walls, tar for the roofs, computer systems for the classrooms, science equipment for the labs, etc., etc. I trust the administrators and school board members will be fiscally responsible and do the right thing for Richardson's parents, students, and taxpayers. The RISD has set a goal of limiting the bond size so there would be no tax increase.

After the jump, my one niggling concern.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays, Youse

I remember growing up in the 1950s when "Happy Holidays" was in common use as a shorthand way of wishing people "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." Shorthand. That's all. Trust me, there was no intent to elbow Jesus aside in order to be politically correct or multi-culturally sensitive. There were no Muslims or Jews or Kwanzaa-celebrating African-Americans in my social circle, or anyone's social circle in my ethnically pure hometown in the 1950s. The biggest cultural divide was between the Irish Catholics and the German Catholics.

It's a shame that Robert Jeffress, the Grinch at First Baptist Church of Dallas, now insists on misinterpreting my friendly greeting of "Happy Holidays" and spoiling my warm memories of childhood. The growing insistence that I and others use the greeting of "Merry Christmas" in order not to offend him or other sensitive Christians is a demand for political correctness itself. There's irony in that. But, hey, at the heart of political correctness is a desire to avoid giving offense, an attitude very much in the Christmas spirit. So, Merry Christmas, y'all, even the Grinches at First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Response to Concerns about US75/PGBT Development

US75 and PGBT

A high-end, mixed-use development is planned for 140 acres south of President George Bush Turnpike on both sides of US 75 in Richardson. Opposition is arising from a self-organized group calling itself the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (recently discussed here).


After the jump, a look at NPAR's concerns.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Not Your Average Load of Apartments

The Great Recession, the housing crash, the commercial real estate slump, the state budget deficit, none of that is stopping Richardson from moving forward. NIMBY attitudes just might.

"The City Plan Commission heard a presentation this week that proposes a mixed-use development in a part of town that has been planning for such a project for the past 13 years. ... The project would be built on nearly 140 acres of undeveloped property that lies on both sides of US 75 south of the Bush Turnpike. ... The City’s 2000 Comprehensive Planning Guide, following community input and ratification by the City Plan Commission and City Council, designated the area for mixed-use transit-oriented development. Earlier this year the City was approached by the area property owners with a plan to create a high-end mixed-use development -- with features similar to Watters Creek in Allen, West Village in Dallas or Legacy Town Center in Plano."

-- "Week in Review", December 10, 2010

Of all that, you know what was heard by the reflexive critics of the city council, don't you? "Our city leaders want a load of apartments built on prime land in Richardson near Central and Bush."

After the jump, a look at Watters Creek and Legacy Town Center.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Collapse

Imagine the world a thousand years from now. Go ahead, I'll wait. What did you come up with? A Jetsons' world with flying cars and moon colonies or a Mad Max post-apocalyptic world of violent gangs looting what's left of civilization? Those are the two most common visions.

After the jump, the outlook by Michael Ruppert, former cop and now an independent writer and the subject of a 2009 documentary titled "Collapse." Hint: the title gives away which vision of the future Ruppert holds. ;-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How Not to Deal With Computer Viruses

I found an email in my spam folder this morning. I don't recommend following its advice on how to deal with a computer virus, but its unintended humor did prompt me to post it here, so that part of the spammer's plan worked, I guess.

After the jump, the spammer's email.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Richardson Is Now Transparent

This month, the City of Richardson has started putting the city's check register online. Checks issued by the city, including payee, amount and short description of the goods and services being paid for are now available for public perusal.

This is the third of three major initiatives that the City Council committed to as part of its goals. All three were issues in the council election in 2009, when all the winning candidates expressed support for more open and transparent government. The other two commitments were to televise city council meetings and to adopt a code of ethics. The council previously delivered on both of these promises.

Links to all of Richardson's efforts at improved government transparency can be found on the city's website at www.cor.net/Transparency.aspx. Good job, council.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Untraditional American Values in Farmers Branch

There is no Farmers Branch school district. But that could change if the mayor of Farmers Branch, Tim O'Hare, has his way. He's exploring whether the city of Farmers Branch can withdraw from both the Carrollton-Farmers Branch and Dallas Independent School Districts and form its own school district. (Read The Dallas Morning News stories here and here.)

After the jump, what triggered the mayor of Farmers Branch to involve himself in the public schools? Hint: it has something to do with "traditional American values." That's code for it has something to do with Hispanics.

Signs of Opposition to Development at US75 and PGBT

Fresh off their victory (?) over the rebuilding and expansion of the Lookout Drive trash transfer station, the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR) has focused its attention on the planned development for the open land southeast of the US 75 and the President George Bush Tollway (PGBT). In an email blast (I can't find it on the group's website to link to), NPAR Chair Maitri Smithhisler rallied the neighbors to attend a City Planning Commission meeting Tuesday Dec 7th, at 7PM at City Hall, at which it will be considering the Parliament planned development for the open land.

Now, I'm all in favor of grassroots involvement in civic matters such as this, even if I fear that a reflexive NIMBY attitude is likely to prevail. Smithhisler's email suggests that risk is real in this case, although I'm encouraged by the appearance of an open mind: "Please note: while the significant traffic increase, the massive apartment presence and the form-based code pose great concern, there are many aspects to this development that preliminarily look positive."

Hey, it's the corner of an 8-lane freeway and an 8-lane tollway, with a DART station in the middle and another rail line, the Cotton Belt, on the drawing boards. If that's not tailor-made for high-density development - offices, apartments, retail -- what is? The increased tax base will help pay for those parks and rec centers and trails that everyone else in Richardson likes so much. This kind of development should come as a surprise only to the most clueless home buyers for about the last 20 years. And form-based code is a plus. It's what enables mixed-use and reduces the need for people to use cars to get from a neighborhood zoned residential to a neighborhood zoned commercial. If you want to free Richardson from its shackles to the automobile, support form-based zoning.

So, let's hope that Smithhisler's open mind is genuine and that she can persuade other homeowners to keep an open mind, too.

P.S. My earlier post with comments on the subject, comparing it to another development in downtown Dallas, can be read here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

OTBR: The Parthenon in Nashville

Latitude: 36.1450 N
Longitude: 86.8100 W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Richardson Santa's Village

From 2010 12 Santas Village

"A heart-warming event for the young and young at heart.....where all of the sights and sounds of the holiday season can be enjoyed! Santa's Village features a variety of dwellings, each with a different activity, and live entertainment on stage."

Santa's Village is located in front of the Richardson City Hall, and will be open from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m., Saturday - Sunday, December 4 - 5, Thursday - Sunday, December 9 - 12, and Thursday - Sunday, December 16 - 19, 2010.

To see more photos from Santa's Village, look here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Is Texas Too Business Friendly?

Steve Blow (yes, the folksy Metro columnist of The Dallas Morning News) provoked a political debate yesterday with a column asking whether Texas was *too* business-friendly. He points out that Texas ranks 49 out of 50 states in tax revenue per capita but is near the bottom of the rankings in public school quality, clean air and health care.

I know, it sounds blasphemous for a Texan to suggest it's possible to be *too* business friendly, doesn't it? But Steve Blow tossed the question out there anyway, trolling for bites. After the jump, did his bait attract any fish?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is Mathematics a Divine Language?

Is mathematics a divine language? That's the provocative question posed by Mark Vernon in an article in the Big Questions Online blog.

Readers may remember that editing BQO is the gig of Rod Dreher, former editorial board member of The Dallas Morning News. I assume he's still at BQO, but it's hard to say for sure because someone at the Templeton Foundation dropped the cone of silence over Dreher last summer after he posted several articles about the construction of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan. (Dreher took the anti-Muslim position, naturally.) The ability of readers to comment on BQO articles was shut off at the same time. Because BQO doesn't allow me (or anyone else, for that matter) to comment on Mark Vernon's article on the BQO website, I'll do so here. :-)

After the jump, is mathematics a divine language?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Football, Marching Bands and More

Twitter tracks from November, 2010:

  • 2010 11 01 - Lots of people interested in finding out about George M. Clayton. Too late, I'm afraid. Schoolchildren could have used you last March.
  • 2010 11 01 - Northwestern’s opinion of getting picked for the Jan 1 Dallas Football Classic bowl game. "Lord have mercy; please, no!" http://goo.gl/64zv
  • 2010 11 01 - Rally To Restore Sanity is already paying dividends: Headline: "Keith Olbermann Suspends 'Worst Person' Segment" http://goo.gl/rY0o
  • 2010 11 02 - Today's the day. UIL State marching contest. Representing DFW ... "Berkner. Duncanville. Bell. Marcus. All are giants." http://goo.gl/Q5u1
  • 2010 11 02 - The forecast is for conditions to be cold, wet and inhospitable to man or beast. The weather ain't so good, either.
  • 2010 11 02 - Berkner's Mighty Ram Band has qualified for tonight's Finals competition at UIL State marching contest in San Antonio. "Blow my face off."
  • 2010 11 03 - Kudos to Marcus (1), Bell (2), Duncanville (3), Coppell (5), Hebron (6), Berkner (8) for representing DFW well at UIL State marching contest
  • 2010 11 03 - "The only surprise election night was that [Texas Gov. Rick Perry] didn't give his acceptance speech in Iowa." -- Glenn Smith.
  • 2010 11 03 - Likely? How about definitely? Headline: "Huge GOP majority in Texas House likely dooms transportation funding increase." http://goo.gl/jekLj
  • 2010 11 04 - @DalArtsDistrict and @WalkableDFW are talking. That's something at least. Right?

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stefani Carter Supporter "Feels Like a Fool"

The celebrations following the Republican sweep of Texas state offices in the November election didn't last long. The knives are out as the victors, fresh from vanquishing the Democrats, now turn on each other to root out those Republicans whose conservatism is not deemed pure enough. The first litmus test: choice of speaker of the Texas House.

After the jump, a Stefani Carter supporter expresses disappointment and Carter's surprising response.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Richardson Trash Talk: Pointing Fingers

The neighborhood group got the agreement it wanted with the city and the water district. So why do the neighbors still seem so unhappy? Perhaps a case of buyer's remorse? Perhaps because they didn't get everything they hoped for? Perhaps because they didn't get a legally binding agreement? Perhaps because they misunderstood who they were dealing with? Perhaps a little bit of all of these.

After the jump, the latest trash talk from Richardson regarding the renovation and expansion of the Lookout Drive trash transfer station.

BCS Bowl Madness

Unbeaten TCU likely won't have a chance on the playing field to make its case for being the best football team in the land this year. Even though no team TCU has faced this year has been able to stop them, the BCS powers-that-be have, using polls and computers to decide that TCU doesn't even belong in the so-called national championship game.

After the jump, more craziness of college football.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas at Firewheel

From 2010 11 Garland Firewheel

To see more photos, click here.

Black Friday: Now Safe From Natural Disasters

Anyone have trouble finding a parking spot because of that 40-foot long tractor trailer parked in the Target parking lot in east Richardson on Black Friday? That was the Richardson Police Department's new "mobile command unit". The police say "it provides a deterrent to crime." I'm sure it does, but is it a cost-effective way to do that? The police say it will be used in response to natural disasters and SWAT operations. I'm sure it will, if R-town ever suffers a hurricane or terrorist strike.

After the jump, why this 40-foot long tractor trailer is in Richardson and not, say, in a city much more likely to be struck by terrorists?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bad PR from the PR Guy in Richardson

Silver Jubilee plaque

Queen Elizabeth II is looking forward to celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, marking her 60 years on the throne. Expect parties and parades in celebration. Expect markers and plaques to be installed to serve as a reminder of the celebration long into the future. For example, even today, 33 years later, walk between any of London's key attractions and you will notice discs embedded in the sidewalk honoring the Queen on her Silver Jubilee in 1977.

After the jump, Richardson's own discs.

 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Richardson's Walkability

Richardson's Walk Score Heat Map

Are you thinking of buying a house and care about being able to walk to restaurants, grocery stores, schools, parks and entertainment? The map above is a heat map, with colors indicating walkability (green indicates walkable; red indicates car-dependent).

After the jump, how Richardson fares.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Department Store Time Machine

Neiman Marcus
Photo by Elliott Muñoz

All good time travel stories need a time machine. H.G. Wells used a Victorian sled. For us, light rail provided the vehicle.

Waiting at the Richardson DART station was a couple wearing Dallas Stars' jerseys. It wasn't hard to guess where they were headed. Also waiting was a young couple with two children, aged about 4 and 2. I think I know where this family was headed, too, and it wasn't to a hockey game. The boy was excited by the adventure by train, asking questions only a four year old can ask. "What are we waiting for?" The simple answer, a train, wasn't what he really wanted to know. "Why is this a train station?" Syntactically fine, yet impossible to know exactly what he meant or how to answer. Across the tracks was a billboard for a 4G cell phone service that promised "Waiting for the train was never this entertaining." I had to agree, but not because of the video streaming offered by my mobile phone provider.

After the jump, our train ride to a younger America.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Politics and Dining Out in Richardson

Restaurant Scores

The Richardson Coalition is a political action committee (PAC) perhaps best known for its infamous mailer before the 2009 City Council elections, which many thought was misleading and/or unfair. The PAC is now endorsing restaurants as well as candidates.

A recent PAC editorial brags that "Richardson has attracted almost 100 new restaurants in the last three years. ... We encourage you try a number of local restaurants. You may be pleasantly surprised at the variety, high quality of food, and service." The PAC promotes a program, "Dine Smart, Dine Local," by the Richardson Chamber of Commerce to encourage patronizing Richardson restaurants.

After the jump, what about inspection scores by the Richardson Health Department?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

President Obama Bestows Science Medals

"I've danced with a man, who's danced with a girl, who's danced with the Prince of Wales."
-- Herbert Farjeon, 1927

Dr. Amnon Yariv and President Barack Obama
Amnon Yariv and President Obama

From the Associated Press: "From super glue to microchips to digital cameras, President Barack Obama on Wednesday celebrated the brains behind these inventions and other breakthroughs as examples of 'the promise of science.'"

After the jump, my own two degrees of separation from this celebration of science.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Trail at Yale, FAIL

Richardson, Texas, has an abundant and growing urban trail system. Not only are more trails being added all the time, existing trails are being enhanced and expanded. For example, in the Duck Creek Linear Park, the spillways in the creek bed were reinforced for erosion control; the Tree the Town initiative planted a hundred trees along the trail; and a side trail was added through Huffhines Park connecting to the Glenville Trail. This constant attention to the quality of life in Richardson is much appreciated.

Still, there's been one aspect of the Duck Creek Trail that I've never been happy with. After the jump, see if you can spot what it is.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guess the University Behind the Essay Prompt

It's that time of year when high school seniors are applying to colleges. That means writing the dreaded essay to show that they are expressive, creative, unique, or whatever other mysterious traits university admissions directors are looking for this year.

After the jump, one particular essay question that reveals as much about the school as the essays reveal about the applicants.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Speaking English: Perilous Debt

"Americans for Prosperity Citizen Watchdog Leader." Whew! That noun stack is a mouthful. I think it means Grand Poobah of the anti-tax crowd. It's how one Adrian D. Heath is described on the AFP Texas website, where his November 8, 2010, testimony before the Texas House County Affairs Committee is published.

Heath complains of elected officials "encumbering our real property with perilous debt." Heath says "perilous debt" kind of like you might imagine him saying "dastardly villain," taking it for granted that debt is perilous just like villains are dastardly.

Heath believes that debt is contrary to the whole purpose of government. After the jump, what Heath believes that purpose is.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

All Richardson, All The Time

Richardson Times

How often do you drive by a strip shopping center and wonder how long some new business or other will last? You know, the new knickknacks-and-more store, or the 50-flavors-of-popcorn store or the cake decorating store? A year? Six months? You wish the owner the best of luck, but you wouldn't bet on the business overcoming the high mortality rate of small businesses.

After the jump, a new business venture that has me figuring the odds again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Putting a Lid on the Trash Talk

VJ Day Times Square Kiss

Our long municipal nightmare is over. The trash talk has reached consensus on Sixteen Points that make our neighborhoods fit and safe to live in. Peace is at hand. Even though light at the end of the tunnel has been glimpsed before, this time it's for real. Really. For sure. Pinky swear. Probably. Maybe.

After the jump, the good news from the peace talks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rick Perry vs Jon Stewart

Rick Perry and Jon Stewart

This week, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) got into the ring with a heavyweight and came out unscathed. Rick Perry is making the media rounds plugging his book "Fed Up!" One of his stops was "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Jon Stewart didn't lay a glove on him.

After the jump, some thoughts about the highly anticipated (at least in Texas) match of wits.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OTBR: A Gentle Stretch of the Deschutes River

Latitude: 43.9322 N
Longitude: 121.4190 W

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Monday, November 8, 2010

Senior Taxes: Pay Now Or Pay Later

Richardson City Council member Amir Omar keeps trying to sell his senior tax freeze. He ran on the idea when he won election to the council in 2009. He lobbied his fellow council members in a July council work session. This week, he was back. There was nothing new to change the analysis I offered in July.

After the jump, rehashing old arguments.

Myths About the Stimulus and Bailouts

Things everybody believes are true that really aren't:

  • The Bush administration's TARP bank bailout cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. Wrong.

  • The Obama administration's loans to General Motors and Chrysler cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars. Wrong.

  • The Obama administration's stimulus package led to a huge increase in government spending. Wrong.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Speaking English: Man Up

Sarah Palin said President Obama didn't have the "cojones" to crack down on illegal immigration. Christine O'Donnell told Chris Coons to get his "man pants" on. And, most famously, Sharron Angle told Harry Reid to "man up."

After the jump, what such language tells us about the state of American society today.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Election is Over. Here Comes the Election.

In the American political system, the next election campaign begins the morning after the votes are counted in the last one. Will Sarah Palin run? (Yes.) Will President Obama draw a serious challenger for his party's nomination? (No.) Those are the big early questions for the 2012 presidential election. (You heard the answers here first.) But there are local elections to watch that are much, much closer on the election calendar.

After the jump, a look at the local elections ahead and what, if anything, the state and federal elections just ended can tell us about them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When the Lights Go On Again

"When the lights go on again all over the world
And the boys are home again all over the world
And rain or snow is all that may fall from the skies above
A kiss won't mean 'goodbye' but 'Hello to love'

When the lights go on again all over the world
And the ships will sail again all over the world
Then we'll have time for things like wedding rings and free hearts will sing
When the lights go on again all over the world"

-- by Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Eddie Seiler

Is there a song at once more sad and still so hopeful as this #1 hit tune from 1943, a time of battles and blackouts during World War II?

After the jump, what that song has to say to us today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Coterie Scaredancing

From 2010 10 Coterie Scaredancing
"Coterie" is an organization of Richardson-area friends who get together three times a year for dinner and entertainment. The theme and activity for each occasion varies. The October 2010 Coterie party's theme was "Haunted Hoedown." For a slide show of festivities, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Twitter Tracks: World Series, Election

Twitter tracks from October, 2010:

  • 2010 10 01 - Bank bailout (TARP) not only prevented another Depression but cost much less than once thought. Thank you, George Bush. http://goo.gl/GsVs
  • 2010 10 01 - Irony alert: RT @imccanntx: "Happy birthday @dallas_news ! Still going strong after 125 years"
  • 2010 10 02 - Had a nightmare where everything I said came out wrong. Good was bad. Up was down. Now I'm scared it was no nightmare but just life as usual
  • 2010 10 02 - You Can Count On Me (2000): Single mom, sheltered son, drifter brother, stifling small town. Imperfect family with a big heart. See it.
  • 2010 10 03 - No Libertarians? "We find it shameful and disheartening that the Dallas Morning News is abdicating its responsibility". http://goo.gl/wZM1
  • 2010 10 03 - No respect. Northwestern (5-0) and Kansas State (4-0) are the only two unbeaten college football teams that are unranked.
  • 2010 10 03 - Kudos to Berkner's Mighty Ram Band for finishing 3rd out of 31 bands in the BOA Regional competition at UT-Arlington. http://goo.gl/2C3P
  • 2010 10 04 - Conservatives at Abilene Christian University feel marginalized. They really need to get out more. http://goo.gl/kb9r
  • 2010 10 04 - Ouch! Wick Allison: "I have accused the Texas GOP of hypocrisy before, but I did not know ... how deep the rot goes." http://goo.gl/8cDx
  • 2010 10 04 - DMN recommends Carol Kent ("poised and thoughtful", "non-ideological") over Stefani Carter ("troublingly misleading") http://goo.gl/6BgH

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Of Tornadoes and Tea Parties

A tornado is a force of nature. It is mindless, destructive and unstoppable. You can't prevent it. You can't reason with it. All you can do is pick up the pieces afterwards. Political movements are like that sometimes.

After the jump, how I'm trying to come to terms with that fact.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Derek Holland, Meet Atlee Hammaker

Atlee Hammaker

"It's like deja-vu, all over again."
-- Yogi Berra

Baseball is life. Life is unfair. Texas Rangers' relief pitcher Derek Holland learned that lesson the hard way in Game 2 of the World Series. He was called into the game with two outs in the eighth inning of a close game. His team put him on the mound and put the pressure on his back.

After the jump, what Holland does with his moment in the spotlight.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pete Sessions Wants to Take Away Your Health Care*

Pete Sessions (R-TX) sent a mailer to voters this week that advocated repealing "Obamacare." I've received tons of campaign mailers this election season. But this one got me thinking. First, Pete Sessions doesn't need to spend money on campaign mailers. His re-election is assured. Second, Sessions gave a number of arguments, most of which were either dubious or false. Third, it's what he did *not* mention that was most interesting of all.

After the jump, more about each.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unforgettable Memories of the Texas Rangers

Rangers ticket

When the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez took a called third strike from the Rangers' Neftali Feliz, the first thing I tweeted was "The Rangers win the pennant! The Rangers win the pennant! The Rangers win the pennant!" That was in homage to the radio broadcast of Bobby Thompson's "shot heard round the world" that won the 1951 National League pennant for the New York Giants. That home run came on October 3, 1951. I always thought it was poor timing that the most famous home run in baseball history came three weeks before I was born, robbing me of even the vicarious thrill of experiencing it. (My son John, on the other hand, had the good sense to be born just in time to experience another historic home run, one of the most famous in World Series history.)

The Texas Rangers have added little to baseball lore themselves. They didn't even exist as a team for a whole decade after Bobby Thompson's home run and didn't move to Texas for another decade after that. Still, I have two indelible memories of the Texas Rangers. Now that they are in their first World Series, it seems as good a time as any to recount them. Read on after the jump.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Learning Math: Square Acres

In case you aren't aware of it, Google provides a very useful calculator/conversion feature built right into its search form. For example, type "5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=" into Google and let it serve as a calculator. Or, type "10.5 cm in inches" to do unit conversion. Google can also perform whimsical searches. For example, type "number of horns on a unicorn" into Google and the Google calculator returns the correct answer of "1".

After the jump, some tricks that are harder for Google to master.

Monday, October 25, 2010

RISD Band Showcase - 2010

RISD combined HS and JHS bands
From 2010 10 RISD Band Showcase

A thousand of the Richardson ISD's talented young musicians took to the field Monday night for the annual RISD Band Showcase. The marching bands of Berkner, Pearce, Richardson and Lake Highlands High Schools each performed their competition shows to an enthusiastic full house, followed by a combined performance of all four bands joined by the musicians of all the junior high schools in the RISD. What a wonderful sound! What a show!

For photos of each band as well as the combined RISD band, look here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Skies Clear for Huffhines Art Trails

From 2010 10 Huffhines Art Trails

The rains made Saturday a washout. But the gloriously sunny and warm day on Sunday brought out the crowds for the second and last day of Huffhines Art Trails, one of the best arts and crafts shows in north Texas. The artists' stalls, the live entertainment tent, food vendors and a park playground all were busy Sunday afternoon.

To see more photos, look here.

Bury My Heart at the Corner of Navajo and Mohawk

I've shied away from commenting on the issue of what to call that Richardson neighborhood with all the streets named Seminole, Chickasaw, Apache, etc. Should entry signs announce it as "Estates North" (the original name given by developers in the 1960s) or "The Reservation" (the unofficial name homeowners have been calling it ever since)?

After the jump, why I'm jumping into the fray.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Checking Up on Amir Omar

It's been a while since we've checked up on what Richardson City Council member Amir Omar has been up to.

"Tree the Town", his signature initiative in his first term, seems to be suffering from a little lack of water, literally. City staff floated the possibility that the city might want to install an irrigation system for many of those 50,000 trees that Omar wants to plant in the city over the next ten years. When originally pitched, the first year of hand-watering was included in the private funding secured for the project. After that, the drought-tolerant, native-species, hardy trees were supposed to be able to survive on their own, without need for city-installed sprinkler systems. If that part of the story is no longer operative, the whole project is likely to wither and die well before the tree count gets anywhere near 50,000.

Yesterday, Omar tweeted, "At the Duck Creek Home Owners Association Meeting at Dartmouth Elementary. Here as Councilmember & it's newest association member!" For those interested in any politician's future, watching for changes to his home address can be a fruitful pursuit. That doesn't seem to offer any hints in this case. As near as I can tell, Omar's move keeps him in the same Texas House District (112 - Angie Chen Button), Texas Senate District (16 - John Carona), and Congressional District (32 - Pete Sessions). None of those offices look like they'll be vacant any time soon (Carona hinted at running for Dallas mayor, but that's on hold now). All of the incumbents are Republicans and it's most unlikely Omar would challenge any of them in a GOP primary. Maybe Omar plans to stick around the Richardson City Council. There's one telltale sign that a new homeowner plans to be in his new house for a while. Neighbors, let us know if Omar plants any trees.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Richardson Website to get Makeover

The public got a glimpse of what Richardson's Director of Communications has been up to since his hire early this year. At that time, I had a few suggestions for him. The first suggestion, one that I called "low-hanging fruit," was a major redesign of the city's website. At this week's city council work session, we learned that the city has been, ever so slowly, working in that direction.

After the jump, what the website designers ought to do.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kirk Gibson to auction off historic home run bat

Kirk Gibson

What bat, you ask? Read about it here. It plays a central role in an old family story. John was just a baby who still needed a bottle in the middle of the night. I knew it was going to be my turn. So, before the World Series game of the night before was completed, I put a blank VHS tape in the VCR (yes, that ancient technology survived into John's own lifetime) and recorded the last few innings. I played it back at five in the morning while John drained the bottle of baby formula. That was the setting when he and I were witnesses to the historic World Series moment. John may not remember it, and neither may you, but I do... and I'm not going to explain it here. If you're a fan of the game, you already know. If you don't already know, click on the link. It'll make a fan of you.

A Peek At My DVR's Auto-Record List

You can tell a lot about a person by the television he or she watches. Or if they watch television at all, for that matter. Anyway, for the consideration of any armchair psychologists who want to analyze me, after the jump is my list of television shows that I currently have my DVR set to record automatically.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Komen Dallas Race for the Cure - 2010

From 2010 10 Race for the Cure

Saturday morning. Up at 6:00 AM. Out of the house at 7. Hitting the pavement at 8 along with 26,000 others for a 5K run/walk/stroll in the neighborhood around Dallas's NorthPark Center. This can describe nothing other than the "Komen Dallas Race for the Cure," in its 28th year of raising funds for and heightening awareness about breast health as well as celebrating breast cancer survivorship. Last year's event raised over $2.5 million for the cause.

The race coordination was superb, the weather beautiful and the participants in a festive mood. To see photos of all the action, look here.

P.S. Can't wake up that early on a Saturday morning? You can still participate in "Sleep In for the Cure."

LHHS Keeps Naming Rights to Wildcat-Ram Stadium

From 2010 Football

The Lake Highlands Wildcats and the Berkner Rams faced off Friday night in the football stadium both teams call home (map). The stadium is referred to as either Wildcat-Ram Stadium or Ram-Wildcat Stadium depending on which high school you tend to favor. The winner of each year's football game between the two schools gets unofficial naming rights for the next year.

This year's game was close throughout. It was tied at 7, then at 14 and again at 21 before Lake Highlands managed to score a touchdown that Berkner couldn't answer. The Wildcats hung on for a 27-21 victory.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team, colorguard and marching band, look here. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Republican Brand Management

No matter how often they win the Presidency or control Congress, no matter how many years they run things in Austin, Republicans show a remarkable ability to maintain their brand image as the outsider, the anti-government party. A case in point was on display Wednesday evening, at a forum at the Lake Highlands Freshman Center for Stefani Carter and Carol Kent, opposing candidates for Texas House District 102.

After the jump, how it's always the other guys' fault, even when that guy (or gal) is dead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fareed and Me

Fareed Zakaria recently jumped from Newsweek magazine to Time. His debut article is a gem, sharply delineating the economic challenge posed by China and how America is failing to meet that challenge. The article struck home for me in a very personal way. Why, after the jump.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Smackdown: Stefani Carter vs Carol Kent

Stefani Carter and Carol Kent, opposing candidates for Texas House District 102, faced off Wednesday night at the Lake Highlands Freshman Center in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Richardson.

I went so you didn't have to. After the jump, all you need to know in order to vote.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Richardson Debates Rain Barrels

The Richardson City Council spent a loooonnnng time Monday evening deliberating one homeowner's desire to install a rain collection system. Or rather, how to hide the fancy rain barrel, whether a hedge or trellis or fence was needed to shield the purported eyesore from passersby.

Ironically, the assumption everyone made is that privacy fences are not themselves eyesores. Which, of course, they are. If it were as hard to get a permit to install a privacy fence in Richardson as it is to collect rainwater, the city just might present a more attractive face to the world. Those fences are really ugly. In many cases, uglier than whatever it is they are meant to hide, like a rain collection system.

After the jump, how the rain barrel debate represents a missed opportunity on something serious.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Learning Math: Extrapolation

The Dallas Morning News published a story about climate change titled "State climatologist predicts rising temperatures over coming decades in Texas." In it was this alarming prediction:

"Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor John Nielsen-Gammon said recently that models he's analyzed show temperatures rising as much as 1 degree each decade, meaning that by 2060, temperatures across the state would be 5 degrees hotter than now."
That prompted one reader to reply:
"Of course it's warming. It's been warming for the past 20,000 years. That's what happens when you come out of an ice age."

Let's do the math. One degree rise in temperature per decade for the last 20,000 years and the global temperatures today would be in the vicinity of 2000 degrees. Obviously, it hasn't been warming for the past 20,000 years, at least nowhere near the rate it's rising today. Something more than just natural ice age cyclical behavior is pushing temperatures higher at a much faster rate. The simple-minded rebuttal that the earth has been warming ever since the last ice age just doesn't hold up to basic math.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Berkner Enjoys Homecoming

From 2010 Football

The Berkner Rams put on a show for the big crowd that came out for the Homecoming football game played under clear skies and warm temperatures. The Rams easily handled W.T. White, winning 50-21. The win was especially welcome for Berkner, as it was their first in district play. The Rams improved their record to 1-2 (2-4 overall), while W.T. White slipped to 0-3 (2-4 overall).

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team, colorguard and marching band, look here. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, October 8, 2010

OTBR: Moose Hunting in Finland

Latitude: 60.2029 N
Longitude: 22.9639 E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

DMN Fail: Pete Sessions and Sam Johnson

This week, The Dallas Morning News made recommendations in the 32nd and 3rd Congressional District races for north Texas. In both cases, the editorials read as if the editorial board struggled to come up with plausible reasons to support what may have been a preordained outcome -- recommending the long-term incumbents Pete Sessions and Sam Johnson. The News simply dismisses the Democratic opponents ("out of sync", "too far left"), with condescension ("well-intentioned") and no serious analysis. Worse, the News didn't even bother interviewing the Libertarians on the ballot or analyze the Libertarian positions. The News just accepts without question the assumption that Sessions and Johnson are for fiscal responsibility, despite decades of history otherwise.

After the jump, two particularly bizarre examples from The Dallas Morning News editorials.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Take the Religious Knowledge Quiz

According to the Pew Forum, "atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new Pew Forum survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions."

Take the quiz yourself. But be careful not to score too high, lest your friends and neighbors mistake you for a Mormon or, gasp, atheist.

I scored 15/15, better than 99% of those surveyed. I guess that's what 12 years of a Catholic education buys one. Or perhaps it's just my nature. One can't be skeptical about something without learning about it first.

After the jump, some theories to explain the poor results in general.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Learning English: Real Test

The headline read, "Campus alert system passes real test." It referred to incident of a man with a gun on the UT-Austin campus. My first reaction was, "That wasn't any test. That was the real thing." Unable to come up with a word the headline writer should have used instead of "test" I was off to the dictionary.

test: the means by which the presence, quality, or genuineness of anything is determined; a means of trial.

This definition of test doesn't require that the trial be performed as a drill or in laboratory or simulated conditions. I had to admit that the event in Austin this week (real shooter, real bullets, real threat) was indeed a test of the alert system. This real life incident certainly was a trial by which the quality of the alert system was determined.

On the other hand, when storm sirens sound when a tornado approaches, the radio or television alert emphasizes, "This is *not* a test." I can imagine that the alerts that sounded on campus this week being communicated the same way, "This is *not* a test."

So, how can something not be a "test" when it's in progress, but afterward everyone look back and be relieved that the system passed the "test"?

In the case of our headline writer, I assume he or she knew of this ambiguity in the meaning of the word test, so "real" was added. Readers will more likely understand that a "real test" is not a simulation. Still, shouldn't English have words to better distinguish these difference cases? How would you have written the headline?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Football, the Election and the End of the World

Twitter tracks from September, 2010:

  • 2010 09 01 - Big Ten division split to be announced at 6pm, but most details already leaked. Biggest question remaining? Where will LeBron land?
  • 2010 09 01 - Conan debuts Nov 8, that is, *after* the election. Conan misuses his talents by failing to satirize politics.
  • 2010 09 01 - Let's see... combat mission in Iraq is over, MidEast peace talks have resumed, ..., I know, let's talk home decorating tastes.
  • 2010 09 02 - It's a short step from thinking that mental illness has biological causes to thinking that faith, hope and charity do, too.
  • 2010 09 02 - My favorite retort to Stephen Hawking: "Hawking, if God does not exist, how did he curse you? You bitter little wanker." Unassailable logic.
  • 2010 09 02 - 2012: The end-of-the-world disaster movie, not the Palin election disaster, although just as catastrophic and even more absurd, if possible.
  • 2010 09 02 - Somehow, I doubt Rod Dreher is going to agree. Headline: "Stephen Hawking Settles the God Question Once and For All" http://goo.gl/Uf8q
  • 2010 09 03 - Maggie May USA gives lukewarm endorsement to Bill White over Rick Perry: "The dime seems run out." http://goo.gl/6pQ2
  • 2010 09 03 - Best quote from 2012, spoken by a woman as California is destroyed by earthquake: "Merrill, I told you. We have to move back to Wisconsin."
  • 2010 09 03 - Final. Richardson Pearce 31, Irving Nimitz 35. #hsgt
  • 2010 09 03 - Headline: "Ariz. governor says she was wrong about beheadings." I don't which is more embarrassing, when she's tongue-tied or when she talks

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Sun Shines on Cottonwood

From 2010 10 Cottonwood

Saturday, the weather was perfect. The artists amazing. The crowds fun-loving and enthusiastic. I'm talking of course about Richardson's twice annual Cottonwood Art Festival.

And the weather is forecast to be just as perfect for Sunday, the second and last day of the Festival. Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News asks, "When was the last time Richardson's Cottonwood Art Festival had two perfect days of weather?" Don't worry about looking up the answer. Just get out and enjoy the weather, the art, the music, the food, the crowds.

For a look at more photos from this fall's Festival, look here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jesuit Jumps On Berkner Early and Often

From 2010 Football

Construction at Dallas Jesuit's home stadium forced this Jesuit home game to be played at Berkner's Wildcat-Ram Stadium. It also moved the date up to Thursday night and an early 7:00 pm start time. The tone of the game was set before all the fans were in the stands. Jesuit executed a perfect onside kickoff to open the game followed by a 43-yard double-reverse pass on the first play from scrimmage to take an early 7-0 lead over Richardson Berkner. The Jesuit Rangers didn't slow down on their way to a dominating 52-29 win at Wildcat-Ram Stadium.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team and band, look here. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Texas Open Meetings Act Strikes Plano

If you've read this blog any length of time, you know I'm no fan of the Texas Open Meetings Act. It's an example of the law of unintended consequences. The intent may have been to ensure that meetings of public bodies like school boards and city councils are open to the public. The effect has been to drive more and more deliberations underground or suppress them altogether.

After the jump, a case in point from Plano ISD.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stefani Carter Struggles in Politics 101

Stefani Carter, the inexperienced, first-time candidate for Texas House District 102, has already stumbled more than once in her campaign to unseat incumbent Carol Kent. Earlier, Carter faced charges of padding her resume and plagiarizing from President Obama for her own campaign stump speech. Now, she's busy trying to explain away some more campaign missteps.

After the jump, still more resume padding and the endorsement that wasn't.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Gag Order Against Whistleblowing

It may be called a code of ethics, but its practical effect is a gag order on whistleblowing.

Who would have guessed, back in 2009 when Richardson voters clamored for more open and transparent government, when each and every candidate for city council promised just that, that the ordinance the elected council would pass this week will make it even harder for voters to learn of improper or unethical behavior conducted behind closed doors?

After the jump, Richardson's own Law of Omerta.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Since Your Town Elders Are Twitter Fans...

Each month, Wired magazine publishes a column titled "Dear Mr. Know-It-All" in which a Wired contributor helps readers "navigate life in the 21st century." In the October edition, Mr. Know-It-All explains the powers and limits of city councils regarding First Amendment rights when he answers one reader's question:

"My town council has banned me from attending its meetings because I criticized one of its members on Twitter. (OK, OK, I called him a "f*cking idiot.") Can they really do that?"

After the jump, Mr. Know-It-All's answer.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Skyline Downs Berkner in District Opener

From 2010 Football

In the stats sheets, it was a close game. Skyline edged Berkner in total yards, 277 to 260. In first downs, Berkner led 12 to 7. Even the final score, Skyline 27, Berkner 14, suggested a closer game than it was. But the outcome was never in doubt. Skyline had control throughout. Berkner never could put a drive together. Skyline led 14-0 at the half and 21-0 after three quarters, before Berkner scored a couple of late touchdowns, including a long touchdown pass as time expired.

The season is still young. This was the first game of district play for both teams. There will be a lot of football between now and the start of playoffs.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team and band, look here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Curtains for Blockbuster

Blockbuster store
Copyright © Google

Dallas-based video rental chain pioneer Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy Thursday. Blockbuster had been shrinking for years. There's an empty storefront in a strip shopping center at the corner of Plano and Arapaho Roads in Richardson that locals know only as the place where Blockbuster used to be for what seems like forever.

After the jump, remembering Blockbuster.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Texting and Tweeting by City Council Members

During last week's Richardson city council meeting, council member Bob Macy expressed his desire to ban the use of "pagers and cell phones" during council meetings. His suggestion was met by opposition from Amir Omar and silence from the rest of the council. Not willing to admit defeat, this week, Bob Macy took another pass at the issue, explaining his interest this way:

"I took some heat about my comment about external electronic devices. In all fairness to people who like to have open records, all of our communications is open records whether it comes through whatever media it is. All of communications during council is open records so that's the point on which I'm concerned."

I ask, but don't attempt to answer, just what did Bob Macy mean by that? Why is Bob Macy concerned about his communications being subject to the Texas Open Records Act?

John Murphy didn't try to answer those questions. Instead, he simply declared, "unless you guys threaten to hang me at the nearest light pole, I'm going to continue to put my cell phone on silent but I will continue to take pages and texts and things like that throughout the meeting..." Now, that sounds like a man who isn't afraid of having his communications be subject to the Open Records Act.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

RISD Wish List for 2011 Bond Election

The Richardson ISD school board held their first study session reviewing possible items to be included in a bond package to be put before voters in 2011.

Some of the items should be no-brainers, for example, renovating decades-old schools and replacing aging air conditioning units in many more facilities. Other items might need a little more background information, for example, refurbishing high school athletic facilities and providing resources to turn the STEM Academy ("Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics") within Berkner High School into a "New Tech High School".

After the jump, the one item in the proposal that's going to be the toughest sell.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Code of Ethics - Round 2

Monday evening, the Richardson City Council held another work session to thrash out a code of ethics for council members. The least significant change is a title change from Code of Conduct to Code of Ethics. The most significant development is that the council appears to be firmly behind this second draft and will likely approve it on September 27, after another public hearing.

After the jump, the actions taken to address my own concerns.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wanting Both Teams to Win

From 2010 09 Northwestern vs Rice

How do you watch a football game when you want both teams to win? Other fans look at you funny if you cheer loudly for a first down on one play and then cheer just as loudly for a good defensive stop on the next. That's the situation "L" and I were in Saturday night.

After the jump, the details.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Who Needs a Code of Conduct?

The Richardson City Council has been deliberating a code of conduct for city officials (most recently discussed <a href="http://www.marksteger.com/2010/09/bob-macy-takes-responsibility_9311.html</a>). There have been three issues with the proposed draft that have received the most discussion: the statute of limitations, the confidentiality clause and the use of the city attorney as a so-called gatekeeper. But there's another issue that has been raised by more than one member of the public that hasn't gotten attention from the council - yet. That's the question of how far down the ranks of city officials and staff the code of conduct should apply. <p>After the jump, my thoughts.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bob Macy Takes Responsibility

It's easy to lampoon Richardson City Council member Bob Macy. If superlatives are ever awarded for the 2009-2011 council, Bob Macy is a lock on the member most likely to say something unintentionally humorous or downright cringe worthy. So, it's only fair, when he stumbles onto a gem of wisdom, to give him credit.

After the jump, an example of both from Monday night's city council meeting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Hammurabi Says About Texas Open Meetings

What do you know of the Code of Hammurabi? You know, the set of ancient Babylonian laws dating to the second millennium B.C.? How many can you recite from memory? I'll spot you a few. Here, from Wikipedia, are some examples of the 281 laws that make up the famous code.

  • If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.
  • If a man knocks the teeth out of another man, his own teeth will be knocked out.
  • If anyone strikes the body of a man higher in rank than he, he shall receive sixty blows with an ox-whip in public.
  • If a son strike his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
  • If anyone steals the minor son of another, he shall be put to death.
  • If anyone commits a robbery and is caught, he shall be put to death.
  • If during an unsuccessful operation a patient dies, the arm of the surgeon must be cut off.
  • If a government official actually answers a constituent's question, he shall be smitten.

OK, I made up that last one, but you get the point. Not only does Hammurabi tell us what's forbidden, he gives us a kind of ancient equivalent to the US government's federal sentencing guidelines.

Quiz: Does Hammurabi's Code remind you of any other ancient set of laws? After the jump, the answer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Does Two of Something Make it Common?

The proposed code of ethics for the City of Richardson has a six month statute of limitations. In Monday's council work session, a city staffer explained to the council why this was included. In a PowerPoint presentation, the number one reason given was:

"The inclusion of a time limitation is a common [emphasis added] feature of other area cities' policies."

After the jump, an analysis of whether the math is compatible with the language.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trash Talk

The last time we visited the project to rebuild and enlarge the Lookout Trash Transfer Station, it was to say little progress is evident in the talks between the city, the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) and neighborhood groups opposed to the plans. In April, the city claimed that a deal was near. In June, a group called the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson last updated its website with a pessimistic outlook that any such deal was imminent. The NTMWD itself has not updated its website concerning the issue since September of 2009.

After the jump, what's new.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thriller at Eagle-Mustang Stadium

From 2010 Football

The Richardson Eagles escaped with a thrilling 44-42 victory Friday night over their arch-rivals, the JJ Pearce Mustangs, at the stadium they both call home. The win wasn't assured until Pearce's 42 yard field goal attempt into the wind for the win fell short in the end zone as time expired.

For a look at all the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill teams and bands, look here. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Report Card For Richardson City Council

The Richardson Coalition, a political action committee whose support helped all seven city council members win election to the 2009-2011 term, emailed an editorial about the PAC's view of how the council is doing. (Sorry, but I can't link to it, as the editorial does not appear on the neglected Richardson Coalition website.)

After the jump, my report card on the PAC's report card. (I know, it's kind of meta, but if that bothers you, don't click through.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Row Over Brick Row - Round 2

Recently, I blogged about the request by the developers of Brick Row to make some changes in the planned mix of apartments and condos in this mixed-use, transit-oriented development under construction near the Spring Valley DART light rail station. I said that although I didn't have strong feeling on the issue, I was inclined to support the change in plans. I even wondered (partly tongue-in-cheek) whether I was turning libertarian, in that I couldn't convince myself that the rest of Richardson should be telling a landowner how many apartments and how many condos he should be building on his own land.

My blog post elicited a long and thoughtful email from a reader. After the jump, with her permission, the view from a neighbor in Highland Terrace.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

OTBR: Wild Raspberries In Estonia

Latitude: 58.311400° N
Longitude: 22.205400° E

A child on a road trip with his family asks, "Where are we?" and the father answers, "Let's check the map. We're off the blue roads [the Interstate Highways marked in blue on the road atlas]. We're off the red roads [the US and state highways]. We're off the black roads [the county highways]. I think we're off the map altogether." It was always my dream to be off the map altogether.

After the jump, a few of the random places (and I mean random literally) that I visited vicariously last month that are "off the blue roads".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Row Over Brick Row

Developers of Brick Row want to convert 300 unsold condos into apartments. You can imagine how that's going over with the crowd that never even wanted condos there, to say nothing of apartments (or any place else in Richardson, for that matter).

Me? I'm inclined to support the request. After the jump, why.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Zoo Story

... in pictures.

From 2010 09 Dallas Zoo

To see all photos, click here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Twitter Tracks: Heat Wave, Iraq, Football

Twitter tracks from August, 2010:

  • 2010 08 01 - Texans discussing weather: Him: "It sure is hot today." Her: "It's only 99."
  • 2010 08 02 - Headline: "Lindsay Lohan released from jail, goes to rehab." What, is that the name of some new trendy LA nightclub?
  • 2010 08 03 - News coincidence: Brett Favre says he's quitting football for the 3rd time. Same day, Bristol Palin says she's quitting Levi for 2nd time.
  • 2010 08 03 - You Can't Take It With You: Quirky 1938 Oscar-winning Frank Capra comedy. Tired of "It's a Wonderful Life?" Try this for the swellest time.
  • 2010 08 04 - Headline: "Google Bails on Wave" http://goo.gl/q3o3. Sometimes, my procrastination in picking up a new tool saves me time in the end.
  • 2010 08 04 - Cheering for today's Prop 8 ruling will be short. This SCOTUS won't uphold any ruling based on due process and equal protection clauses.
  • 2010 08 05 - Mark's Stylebook: When a column isn't worth the paper to print it, feature it online as a "Web Exclusive"
  • 2010 08 06 - Earmarks are "a symbol of a broken Washington." -- Pete Sessions. His own contribution to breaking DC? $50,965,500. http://goo.gl/KrEZ
  • 2010 08 06 - I correctly answered 11 out of the 11 possible questions, on the Pew News IQ Quiz! http://pewrsr.ch/9U8jNF

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

JJ Pearce Under The Friday Night Lights

From 2010 Football

The JJ Pearce Mustangs lost to the Irving Nimitz Vikings 35-31 Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium.

For a complete look at all the activity, including game, bands, drill teams and cheerleaders, look here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Surprise And Disappointment In House District 102

Not really. More like politics as usual in the election campaign for Texas House District 102 (representing part of north Dallas and part of Garland). Gromer Jeffers, in The Dallas Morning News, says challenger Stefani Carter makes a "misleading charge that state Rep. Carol Kent improperly took state housing reimbursements."

After the jump, Jeffers explains why the charge is misleading.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Traffic Woes

Have you ever thought that the traffic on US 75 couldn't get any worse? Does the fact that the HOV lane has no entrance/exit for Richardson bug you? How about those red light cameras? Did you ever wonder if there are parking meters anywhere in Richardson and, if not, why not?

After the jump, traffic news from around the state and beyond.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Richardson's Taj Mahal

Arlington has its Cowboys Stadium, a billion dollar pleasure dome funded in part by local sales tax. Allen will soon have its $59 million, 18,000 seat stadium for its high school, funded entirely by ISD taxpayers. Garland has its $31 million, 7,000 seat Special Events Center, funded by ISD taxpayers.

Richardson has new softball fields at Huffhines Park. One resident calls the complex a Taj Mahal because the grounds were graded for better drainage and the railings on the outfield fences are padded. A softball field with pads - Richardson's own Taj Mahal. Once again, open mike night at Richardson city council meetings doesn't let us down.

83 And Under

Restaurant Scores

The Health Department of the City of Richardson conducts inspections of restaurants on a regular basis. The department publishes the results for all to see. According to the city, "Scores are based on a scale of zero to 100. A score of 90 to 100 is excellent; 80 to 89 is good; 70 to 79 is acceptable; and 60 to 69 is marginal." It's rare for any restaurant to be scored below "acceptable." Most are good or even excellent. Many achieve a perfect 100 score.

After the jump, a list of under achievers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Outtakes: Down In Front

Before the game, Ellen suggested moving higher up in the grandstand if he wanted to take photos, but Mark was sure that this was high enough.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Berkner Football: It Ain't Over Until It's Over

Aric Stock: 89 yds passing, 77 yds rushing
From 2010 Football
The Berkner Rams learned that old Yogi Berra truism the hard way Friday night, losing to South Garland High School 24-17 in overtime. Berkner led 17-0 in the second half, had more first downs and more total yards, but still couldn't close out South Garland. What cost Berkner were turnovers (1 interception and 3 lost fumbles, including a muffed punt recovered on Berkner's 1 yard line that South Garland converted into a touchdown), penalties (including two ejections), and a prevent defense that allowed South Garland to drive 80 yards for the tying score with less than a minute left in regulation time. Congratulations to South Garland for not quitting early, taking advantage of every opportunity, and looking dominant at the end.

The season is still very young. How the Rams bounce back from this disappointing opener will be key to how the rest of the season goes. Next week, it's an away game against North Crowley, who lost to Irving Nimitz 38-20. There will be two teams on the field next week eager to register their first win.

The Berkner drill team and the Mighty Ram Band looked sharp. Remember,without the band, it's just a game.

To see more photos of the game and halftime show, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hey Boss, Can I Use You As A Reference?

Not if you are Stefani Carter and you are running for Texas House District 102. The co-founders of Sayles Werbner law firm, where Stefani Carter is employed, endorsed Carter's opponent in the race, incumbent Carol Kent.

After the jump, some conjecture on what it means.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Football?

From 2009 Football

The triple digit temperatures have given way to the 90 degree chill of Autumn breezes. That must mean it's time for high school football. From the game to the cheerleaders to the drill team to the marching band, high school football is the best entertainment value around, bar none. Take in a game this season, or five or ten.

For a look back at photos from the 2009 season, click here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Apology For Thinking Bad Of Joe Driver

State Representative Joe Driver (R-Garland) caught hell a week or so ago when he was accused of double-dipping from the state -- seeking reimbursement for his expenses as a state legislator from both the state and his own campaign. Now, as other legislators' practices are examined, we learn that most state legislators are "guilty" of the same "offense." I put quotes around those words because it's not as black-and-white that anything unethical or illegal is going on as the original story would lead us to believe.

After the jump, the not so black-and-white details.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

They Are Smoking Something At City Hall

Monday evening, The Richardson City Council voted to ban the possession and use of synthetic cannabinoids such as K-2 and products containing the substance salvia divinorum. The vote came after a long (for Richardson) deliberation by council members that went round in circles on some basics of the new ordinance without ever getting to the bottom of the issue. I'm as much in favor of open and transparent government as the next person, but last night's experience makes me wonder which causes more loss of confidence in government, the suspicion of corruption surrounding secret meetings or incompetence on display at public meetings.

After the jump, the debate over K-2.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Disorderly Conduct In Richardson

The City Council of Richardson is considering adoption of a Code of Conduct. (A draft ordinance can be read here. My earlier blog on the topic can be read here.) Initial public response to the proposed ordinance has been muted. A public hearing is scheduled for September 13. Before then, the public can bring their concerns to the attention of the council during visitors section of regular city council meetings.

After the jump, some disorderly areas of the Code of Conduct that I think the council should rethink and clean up.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why Libertarians Never Win

In a word, principle. In two words, simplistic principle. In a phrase, simplistic principle to the point of parody.

Q. How many Libertarians does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. If the government would just leave the damn light bulb alone, it would change itself.

A simplistic principle applied reflexively to every problem is like a broken clock that's correct twice a day. When it's correct, you nod your head in admiration. More often you shake your head in utter disbelief. Libertarians are nothing if not consistent, even when it doesn't serve their electoral chances. That's why they don't win elections.

John Jay Myers, the Libertarian running for Congress in the 32nd District against long-time incumbent Pete Sessions, who is anything but principled, is no exception. After the jump, the Libertarian admirably gets it right on this summer's ginned up political wedge issue, the so-called Ground Zero Mosque (which is neither on Ground Zero, nor properly speaking, a mosque). Too bad it won't win him many votes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rod Dreher: Big Questions, Predictable Answers

You remember Rod Dreher. He was with The Dallas Morning News editorial board. He was the spiritual heir to William Murchison. Both think the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. You could always recognize Dreher's work. He would wring his hands about the downfall of Western Civilization because of gays or Muslims or the disappearance of the Latin Mass.

After the jump, what Dreher is agitated about now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Man Without Ethics Is A Wild Beast

"I had taken a course in Ethics. I read a thick textbook, heard the class discussions and came out of it saying I hadn't learned a thing I didn't know before about morals and what is right or wrong in human conduct."
-- Carl Sandburg
"Integrity has no need of rules."
-- Albert Camus

The Richardson City Council is on track to deliver on three big expectations dealing with good governance that arose during the 2009 election campaign. First, the council has already instituted cable telecasts and Internet streaming of council meetings. Second, the city is expected to have the city check register online by the end of the year. Third, the council could have a code of ethics in place as early as September 20. (Update: The public hearing has been scheduled for September 13.)

After the jump, the deliberation over ethics.