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.