Friday, March 29, 2013

Candidates Clash at Canyon Creek

Richardson's mayoral election campaign heated up Wednesday night at the first forum for mayoral candidates Laura Maczka and Amir Omar. Interest was high as hundreds of voters overflowed the room. The candidates gave the standing-room-only crowd plenty to talk about.

First, some business that has nothing to do with the mayoral election. The forum was jointly sponsored by the Dallas County North Republican Club and the Richardson Republican Women. It was held at the Canyon Creek Country Club. Here, I'm obligated by my punditry license to insert a joke stereotyping GOP demographics: anyone who thinks that Republicans are a party of old white men, well, I can assure you that's not true. There were some women in the audience as well.

Both candidates were articulate, knowledgeable, and passionate about serving Richardson. Both have the experience and demeanor to serve as mayor. There were no gaffes to walk back or "oops" moments to be embarrassed about. Richardson will be well served with either candidate as mayor.

That said, I do have some random observations that voters might want to consider. After the jump, the forum details.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Around Town - Los Angeles

From 2013 03 16 Los Angeles
Space Shuttle Endeavour at LA ScienCenter

More photos after the jump.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mayor: Wielding the Gavel and Cutting Ribbons

Even with the recent change to the Richardson City Charter calling for direct election of the mayor, the powers of the office are the same. The mayor is one of seven council members, with the additional roles of being the presiding officer at council meetings and representing the city on ceremonial occasions.

After the jump, how Richardson's two candidates for mayor, Laura Maczka and Amir Omar, stack up against the duties of the office.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Around Town - Pasadena

From 2013 03 15 Pasadena
Pasadena City Hall
(aka Pawnee City Hall in NBC's "Parks and Recreation")

More photos after the jump.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Old Guard vs The Outsider

Amir Omar is a two-term city councilman, but to the city's old guard he remains an outsider.
Source: D Magazine.
The "old guard" versus the "outsider." That's the way Michael Mooney of D Magazine is presenting Richardson's mayoral election pitting Laura Maczka against Amir Omar.

Mooney telephoned me for information for his story. From his questions, it was clear that the "old guard" versus the "outsider" was how he was framing his story. It felt to me like he was calling for confirmation of his framing. After the jump, what I gave Mooney for his story.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pi Day at Caltech

In the latest manifestation of self-proclaimed Caltech nerd-dom, a group of undergrads strung a chain of 15,000 colored paper loops across the campus in honor of Pi day. There are nine colors, each one representing a number. The multicolor chain should be in order, representing the digits of Pi going 15,000 digits deep.

For the uninitiated, Pi is the digit that’s mostly often simplified to 3.14 (hence, March 14) and is used to calculate the circumference of a circle. The decimal can go out forever and mathematicians have figured it out to the 10 trillionth number so far.

From 2013 03 14 Pasadena

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Late Night Talk Show Tour

In case you wondered about the relative shortage of blog posts recently, it was because we were in southern California doing the talk show tour, among other things. For example, here we are on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno":

The Tonight Show
Source: NBC.

After the jump, "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds
Amazon
From The Yellow Birds: A Novel, by Kevin Powers:
Open quote 

We were not destined to survive. The fact is, we were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get. It was patient. It didn't care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on. And I knew the war would have its way."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Here's the Deal

Here's the Deal
Amazon
From Here's the Deal, by David Leonhardt:
Open quote 

Eventually, the country will have to confront the deficit we have, rather than the deficit we imagine. The one we imagine is a deficit caused by waste, fraud, abuse, foreign aid, oil industry subsidies and vague out-of-control spending. The one we have is caused by the world's highest health costs (by far), the world's largest military (by far), a Social Security program built when most people died by age 75 -- and, to pay for it all, the lowest tax rates in decades. The recent string of budget deadlines and crises may be manufactured. The problem is not."

After the jump, my review.

Friday, March 15, 2013

S2L77: Taj Mahal

Agra, India
March 6, 1977

We toured the Taj Mahal by day, then returned at night to see it by the light of a full moon. I think I could have sat there all night and never gotten tired of the sight.
Source: Personal travel notes.
From 1977 03 02 India

Remember that waxing moon I commented on while in Nepal? Well, by the time I reached Agra it was full. Perfect timing for a nighttime visit to the Taj Mahal. It's sometimes called the most beautiful building in the world. That won't get an argument from me.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hopes Sky High for Tearing Down Central

Traffic Lights
Just kidding. If you believe that, I have some land in Frisco to sell you that I promise is no more than a fifteen minute drive from downtown Dallas. Instead of instilling high hopes, TxDOT came to Richardson Monday night to brief the city council on a study TxDOT has initiated for the US 75 corridor from I-635 to SH 121. The study is expected to be complete by September, 2015.

After the jump, what TxDOT says, what I say, and what Richardson council member Scott Dunn says.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood
Amazon
From Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami:
Open quote 

'The problem was that that kind of thing couldn't go on forever,' said Naoku. 'Such perfect little circles are impossible to maintain. Kizuki knew it, I knew it, and so did you. Am I right?' I nodded."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Remember Bulletin Boards?

Remember bulletin boards? You might if you grew up in the 1950s, back when cork-and-pin bulletin boards were still a popular way to share public notices. In the mid-1990s, the Internet relegated bulletin boards to the dustbin of history. Except in government. The dustbin of history is government's natural habitat. That's evident from the notice that includes the excerpt above.

After the jump, my forlorn plea for the City of Richardson to get with the 21st century.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Are You Smarter than a Texas Legislator?

Apparently, Texas House members are not smarter than a fifth grader. Nor are Capitol staffers. And they aren't even smart enough to be embarrassed, instead acting as if there is something wrong with the questions asked, not with their inability to give correct answers.

What am I talking about? It's a letter sent to all Texas House members by Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) containing thirteen sample questions from the middle school standardized STAAR tests. Wu admits he missed "two or three" of the questions. He said some Capitol staff "gave up."

Really? I took the test. I think I did better than Wu (I can't say for sure because Wu didn't provide answers). Before I say any more, pause here and take the test yourself. Don't hurry. It's not timed.

After the jump, I give my own impressions of the test. Spoiler alert: I also give my own answers.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Final Four: Fort Bend Travis 59, Berkner 52

The Berkner Rams men's basketball season came to an end Friday night, when the team lost to Fort Bend Travis High School 59-52 in the semi-final game of the UIL State Championship in Austin.

Thanks, Rams, for the best season in Berkner High School history (tied with the 2005-2006 Rams, who also made it to the Final Four). The Rams finish with a 33-6 overall record, a perfect 14-0 District 9-5A record, the District 9-5A championship and a six-game run in the state championship tournament resulting in a Final Four appearance. It's a great time to be a Ram!

Friday, March 8, 2013

S2L77: Holi, Festival of Colors

Agra, India
March 4-5, 1977

Up at dawn for the long drive from Benares to Agra, normally a two-day drive being made in one because of the Holi festival of colors. We spent the day virtually trapped in the hotel as Indians celebrated outside by throwing dye-colored flour on all passers-by.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 03 02 India

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

OTBR: A Date Palm in Melbourne

Latitude: S 37° 45.180
Longitude: E 144° 56.538
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".

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

City Council Road Trip

Observant audience members at the February 25 Richardson City Council meeting might have noticed this item buried deep in the consent agenda:

Consent Agenda

If you hoped to learn what that was all about, you were out of luck. It received no discussion (consent agenda items never do). The Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA) remains a deep mystery to me. All council deliberations are supposed to occur in public. In this case, either there was some communication going on beforehand, or the council is a peculiarly incurious bunch, or else mental telepathy is allowed by the TOMA. I'm going to go with prior communication. (Update: I have since discovered a memo deep in the Agenda Handout, not in the consent agenda, that explains the reason for the cancellation. A *very* observant audience member would have noticed this. My bad.) In any case, the council voted unanimously to "consider cancellation" of the March 4 council worksession, by which I think they in fact canceled it, without anyone doing any, you know, actual consideration, at least out loud.

After the jump, what it was all about. Sort of.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

RISD Election: Put the Popcorn Away

The deadline to file to run as as candidate for the school board of the Richardson ISD (RISD) was March 1. It turns out that wasn't the only deadline of consequence. Another was March 4, the deadline to withdraw. One candidate who had filed to run withdrew in that three day period. Why didn't he withdraw before the March 1 filing deadline? The more you know about the candidate, the less surprised you ought to be.

After the jump, the disappearing candidate.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Repeat Tweets: Talking Back

Repeat tweets from February, 2013:

  • Feb 1 2013: 38 references to Afghanistan vs 178 to Israel in Senate hearing on Hagel. Amazing lack of interest in war by @SenTedCruz and GOP senators.
  • Feb 1 2013: Headline: "Stocks hit 5-yr highs on upbeat jobs report." Meanwhile, @SenTedCruz introduces bill to repeal Obamacare.
  • Feb 1 2013: Read and retweet my warning not to believe anything @SenTedCruz quotes, without checking the context for yourself.
  • Feb 1 2013: RT @BetseyStevenson: "Over the past 3 months the private sector added 624K jobs, while the govt lost 24K jobs." So much for bloated govt.
  • Feb 1 2013: RT @ryanavent: "Employment now up 5.5m from low in Feb 2010. That's plus 6.1m private jobs, minus 600k govt jobs." So much for bloated govt.
  • Feb 1 2013: "Reduced govt spending [is] a drag on recovery. The public sector lost 9,000 jobs last month." So much for govt bloat. tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com
  • Feb 2 2013: High school men's basketball. Final: Berkner 53, Pearce 48. It's a great time to be a Ram! #txhsbb
  • Feb 2 2013: Little Shop of Horrors at RHS: Intimate setting works well. The macabre has never been this much fun. Feed me! www.marksteger.com
  • Feb 3 2013: Headline: "Watch the Throne: No. 1 ranking awaits Indiana" after #3 Hoosiers beat #1 Michigan. sports.yahoo.com
  • Feb 3 2013: Bye Bye Birdie at BHS: A+ all around -- orchestra, lead singers, chorus, choreography, comic acting (Shriners hilarious). Best sound ever.
  • Feb 3 2013: Caltech's baseball team beat Pacifica 9-7 Saturday. The win ended a 228-game, 10-year losing streak. Go Beavers! www.usatoday.com

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Playoffs: Berkner 66, Austin Anderson 52

State Bound!

Final Four! The Berkner Rams men's basketball team traveled to Waco this weekend and returned with the Region II championship trophy. They'll travel to Austin March 8-9 to play in the Final Four!

Berkner won a thriller Friday night over Spring Westfield 64-58 in overtime. On Saturday the Rams beat Austin Anderson 66-52.

Next stop: the Frank Erwin Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin for the UIL State Championship. 128 teams started this tournament. Only four remain. Two semi-final games will be played Friday and the championship game between the winners will be played Saturday night. It's a great time to be a Ram!

More photos after the jump.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Richardson Idol Canceled

The upcoming season of Richardson Idol has been canceled due to a shortage of contestants. As of the 5:00 pm, March 1, deadline for filing to run in the City of Richardson's May 11 City Council elections, only one race was contested, the newly created elected mayor's position.

After the jump, the winners by default for the other six races and, most important, what will replace Richardson Idol in this spring's TV lineup.

Friday, March 1, 2013

S2L77: Varanasi and the Ganges

Varanasi, India
March 2-3, 1977

A long drive arriving in Benares [Varanasi] at night, traveling through many villages lacking any electricity. Up at dawn for a tour of the Ganges River.
Source: Personal travel notes.
From 1977 03 02 India

"The city of temples", "the holy city of India", "the city of lights", and "the oldest living city on earth." That's Varanasi (formerly, Benares). The river running through it is the Ganges, India's longest river and Hindus' most sacred river. A boat ride on the river at sunrise reveals Hindus bathing in its waters, performing ritualistic purifications, and cremating their dead on funeral pyres on the river's banks.

More photos after the jump.