Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad
Amazon
From The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead:
Open quote 

The music stopped. The circle broke. Sometimes a slave will be lost in a brief eddy of liberation. In the sway of a sudden reverie among the furrows or while untangling the mysteries of an early-morning dream. In the middle of a song on a warm Sunday night. Then it comes, always—the overseer’s cry, the call to work, the shadow of the master, the reminder that she is only a human being for a tiny moment across the eternity of her servitude."

"The Underground Railroad" had me by its awards: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. But then there was this: Winner of the Arthur C Clarke award for Science Fiction. Say what???

Thursday, May 17, 2018

POTD: Coffee Beans Soaking Up Sun

From 2018 01 25 Costa Rica

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Doka Estate, a coffee plantation in Costa Rica, where what look like parking lots are coffee bean drying patios where beans are spread to dry in the sun. All in all, a much better use of space, in my opinion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

POTD: Costa Rica Hydrangeas

From 2018 01 25 Costa Rica

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Doka Estate, a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. Although most the estate is given over to growing, drying, roasting, tasting and selling coffee, the grounds are beautiful for other reasons, especially if someone in your party doesn't drink coffee.

(P.S. I like coffee.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Square (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Square (2017): Museum curator experiences crises with a pickpocket, PR stunts, and sex. This Swedish, Palme d'Or winner pokes at art, money, society, political correctness and social consciousness. Hit or miss on the satire, but always weird. B-









Monday, May 14, 2018

Mapping Racial Diversity in the RISD


The Washington Post published a tool that allows one to use census data to map changing racial diversity in cities across the country from 1990 to 2016. The graphic here is roughly contiguous with the Richardson ISD boundaries. There are no surprises.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Neighborhood Schools

Recently, 300 community members of the Richardson school district wrapped up months of meetings, making 27 recommendations that were accepted by the school board to comprise the RISD's Strategic Plan 2017. One recommendation in particular caught my eye.
Adopt a neighborhood school policy and create a formal definition of neighborhood school to provide clarity on future decisions regarding school construction, boundary lines, and transfer policies.
Source: RISD.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

POTD: Scarlet Macaw

From 2018 01 25 Costa Rica

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Botanical Orchid Garden in La Garita, Alajuela, Costa Rica. The garden is filled not only with tropical flowers but shows off a few native bird species as well, like this Scarlet Macaw.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

All the Money in the World (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
All the Money in the World (2017): Forget the drama surrounding Spacey/Plummer, this is a surprisingly good thriller. Maybe JP Getty is made too much the villain, but maybe in real life he was. Wahlberg and his character are weak points. Michelle Williams is great. B+









Tuesday, May 8, 2018

POTD: Land of Orchids

From 2018 01 25 Costa Rica

Costa Rica, land of orchids, volcanoes, coffee, jungles, beaches, you get the picture. Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Botanical Orchid Garden in La Garita, Alajuela, Costa Rica. The garden is filled with trails, greenhouses, nurseries and a laboratory, mostly but not exclusively devoted to orchids.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017): Documentary of how a small family bank in Chinatown became the only US bank the govt prosecuted for mortgage fraud during banking crisis. The only one. Besides the injustice, movie provides insight into Chinese-American community. B+

Friday, May 4, 2018

POTD: Add Some Color to the Skyline

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Biomuseo in Panama. a museum desiged by Frank Gehry, showcasing Panama's natural and cultural history. Three million years ago, rocks rose creating the isthmus of Panama. The resulting land bridge joining North and South America allowed species exchange. Simultaneously, species exchange between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was blocked. The museum tells the story of the significance of Panama to the history of life on the planet. And for the casual passerby in a cruise ship, the museum provides a splash of color to the monotonous gray color palette of the Panama City skyline.

A bonus photo after the jump.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Avengers: Infinity War (2018): More like Infinity Cast. Full of deaths, resurrections, near-deaths, and scratches. Needs less over-the-top acting and more self-aware pop culture references. I did not see ending coming, but in hindsight, it's brilliant. C+









Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Metadata and Education

I understand the benefits of metadata collection. I want to know what school children who are failing have in common so that by targeting that, maybe I can have more children succeed. Is it the school, the teacher, socioeconomics, health, language, etc. If you look at one child's academic results, it's difficult to understand why that child is failing. But if you look at dozens or hundreds or thousands of children's results, patterns emerge that can be used to pinpoint the source the problem and suggest ways to improve teaching methods.

But I also understand that metadata collection and analysis is unpopular in some circles. I'm not unsympathetic to some of their concerns.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Repeat Tweets: Nasi Mexi-Goreng

Repeat tweets from April, 2018:

  • Apr 1 2018: The closest these Texans came to having a traditional Easter dinner in Jakarta was having quesadillas and something called Nasi Mexi-Goreng.
  • Apr 3 2018: Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017): Aging civil rights lawyer has trouble fitting into modern legal system. Vehicle for Denzel Washington and he is superb, but character overwhelms story. C+
  • Apr 4 2018: Justice League (2017): Only as much plot as needed to give each superhero his or her time in front of the camera. With wisecracks. I guess the Flash stands out as most interesting character but that isn't saying much. C-
  • Apr 5 2018: Coco (2017): Oscar for animated feature. Boy travels to land of the dead in search of his gg-grandfather. Sweet tale about power of music and family. More music please. B-

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Richardson ISD Accepts Strategic Plan

"Board Unanimously Accepts Strategic Plan." That's what the headline says. "Trustees voted unanimously to accept the 27 recommended strategic action items from RISD’s Strategic Plan 2017—a culmination of the work from more than 300 community members shaping the future of RISD."

What's not to celebrate?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Review: The Secret History

The Secret History
Amazon
From The Secret History, by Donna Tartt:
Open quote 

We hadn’t intended to hide the body where it couldn’t be found. In fact, we hadn’t hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels pointing the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less."

I chose to read this 1992 novel because I so enjoyed Donna Tartt's 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Goldfinch." The earlier debut novel reveals Tartt learning her craft. It's not as good, but it's still a good read.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

POTD: Now That's a Signature Bridge

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal
Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Puente Centenario, a cable-stayed bridge with a modern design carrying 6 lanes of traffic over the Panama Canal.

Another photo after the jump.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How About Affordable Housing at Arapaho DART Station?

The area around the Arapaho DART station is ripe for redevelopment. The entire East Arapaho/Collins neighborhood is a target for enhancement/redevelopment by the city, in fact, the largest such area in Richardson. So, it's not too early to get my careabout added to the wishlist, right?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Florida Project (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Florida Project (2017): Children growing up in a cheap budget motel in Orlando in desperate need of a little structured play. Deft balance of charm and pathos. Cinéma vérité without a narrative arc, leaving things much as they began. Fun and sad. B+

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
A Quiet Place (2018): A monster movie with a simple plot and lots of padding. The family love at the heart of the movie makes you care for the characters and overlook the plot holes and telegraphed ending. C+









Friday, April 20, 2018

POTD: Culebra Cut

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Culebra Cut in the Panama Canal. The cut is an artificial valley that cuts through the Continental Divide in Panama, allowing ships to sail across the isthmus from ocean to ocean. The amount of earth-moving involved in the cut is one example of the many feats that make the construction of the canal a modern marvel of engineering.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Excitement is Building in Downtown Richardson

Excitement is building in downtown Richardson. Or at least that's what the city said about its information outreach Wednesday evening, where it showed posters for the "Main Street Infrastructure Project," a redevelopment of streets, sidewalks, parking, and landscaping. I can't link to the drawings the city showed because, I confess, I can't find them online, even after about fifteen minutes of searching the city's new, user-friendly website.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

POTD: Gatun Lake


From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Gatun Lake, which forms the bulk of the length of the Panama Canal. Dams keep the rivers bottled up in the center of the isthmus, forming the vast inland sea that ships use to move between the Atlantic and Pacific locks, which ease them up and down to and from the oceans.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NIMBY, YIMBY and now PHIMBY

Richardson has plenty of experience with NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). Homeowner ire at apartment construction is never more than a zoning change and construction permit away. Still, YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) rules city government, as those zoning changes and construction permits are never more than a developer's request away. What's new? California continues to be on the leading edge of societal change, adding PHIMBY to the lexicon of urban development.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ready Player One (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Ready Player One (2018): In 2045 everyone spends more time in a virtual reality world than the real world. Movie is about that, but more about giving Steven Spielberg an opportunity to pay homage to every video game he played in his youth and every sci-fi movie he ever liked. C+









Friday, April 13, 2018

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017): Four teens get transported to a video game jungle as game's characters. Teen girl gets Jack Black's body, yuck, yuck. Makes original 1995 movie seem better in comparison. Neither enough excitement nor jokes. C-









Thursday, April 12, 2018

POTD: Gatun Locks

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the "old" Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal. These are the locks that have been in service since 1914. The "new" larger locks are also available, but the old locks continue in service for ships small enough to fit (so-called Panamax size).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Greatest Showman (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Greatest Showman (2017): Musical that's part fanciful biopic, part tale of fall and redemption, part love story, part celebration of humanity. It should have picked one of those and put all its energy there. Sum is less than the parts. B-











Tuesday, April 10, 2018

POTD: French Canal in Panama

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Atlantic Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal. The canal is the channel to the left. The smaller, wilder channel to the right is the original, failed French channel.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Isle of Dogs (2018): A noble but failed effort from Wes Anderson. Great stop-motion puppetry and hand-drawn animation, but plot is plodding and tone is flat and robotic. C-











Friday, April 6, 2018

POTD: Atlantic Bridge

From 2018 01 23 Panama Canal

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Atlantic Bridge over the Panama Canal at the entrance to the canal from the Atlantic Ocean. It's still under construction.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Coco (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Coco (2017): Oscar for animated feature. Boy travels to land of the dead in search of his gg-grandfather.  Sweet tale about power of music and family. More music please. B-

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Justice League (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Justice League (2017): Only as much plot as needed to give each superhero his or her time in front of the camera. With wisecracks. I guess the Flash stands out as most interesting character but that isn't saying much. C-

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017): Aging civil rights lawyer has trouble fitting into modern legal system. Vehicle for Denzel Washington and he is superb, but character overwhelms story. C+

Monday, April 2, 2018

Repeat Tweets: Picking Winners and Losers

Repeat tweets from March, 2018:

  • Mar 1 2018: RT @Neil_Irwin: "Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs as reflected in today's stock market:
    US Steel +6.6%.
    Century Aluminum +7.1%."
    Picking winners and losers.
  • Mar 1 2018: Is there any polling for the Democratic primary in TX District 32? @ColinAllredTX, @EdforTX, @Lillian_Salerno, @brett_shipp all could give @PeteSessions a run, but who has the edge in the primary?
  • Mar 1 2018: Shipp had the name recognition but not money or organization and has faded on my betting sheet. Meier had the national backing and money and is the (very slight) favorite. Allred and/or Salerno also up there. A run-off is likely.
  • Mar 1 2018: Dem activists have shown some distaste for @EdforTX. (Too establishment?) Still I think it's going to be a run-off between him and either @ColinAllredTX or @Lillian_Salerno. Sorry George.
  • Mar 1 2018: "I'm from the Hillary wing!" shouldn't get votes either. Dems need to learn to move on and focus more on the issues (including Trump/Ryan/McConnell) than each other. Country can't survive two dysfunctional parties.
  • Mar 1 2018: "Texas college baseball coach fired after rejecting Colorado recruit because of state’s weed laws."
    I did not see that coming. Kudos to Texas Wesleyan University.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, March 30, 2018

POTD: Adios, Cartagena

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the stern of the Norwegian Star as it sails from Cartagena, Columbia, a beautiful city with beautiful people. Hasta la vista.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

POTD: Adapting to Climate Change

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cartagena, Columbia. Does it look like this city is prepared for the already present effects of climate change, to say nothing of the future? And this is a city that isn't in denial. But, despite the gleaming high-rise condos, on the whole it is a poor city.

Plan 4C estimates the cost of adapting Cartagena to coming climate change challenges to be around $500 million.

It calls for the 100 hectares of the walled old city of Cartagena – declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984 – to be kept at least 200 meters from the sea. As sea level rises, this will require a system of dams, dikes and breakwaters.

Without those, up to 86 percent of historic Cartagena – including much of the old city – will be invaded by the Atlantic, the climate plan warns. One third of the industrial sector could also be impacted, and all the city’s beaches could vanish, it says.
Source: Reuters.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

POTD: Modern Cartagena

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cartagena, Columbia. It's two cities in one. The walled old city is a well-deserved UNESCO world heritage site and its sprawling beachfronts are filled with high-rise hotels and condos.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Review: Mad City: The True Story of the Campus Murders That America Forgot

Mad City
Amazon
From Mad City, by Michael Arntfield:
Open quote 

Unless he’d blown town for another spot on the map, there’s nowhere else he could be. He’d be there watching, waiting, stalking. She’d stop him this time. She’d have to. It was, after all, her purpose in life, a world shaped by torment and obsession. It was an all-consuming calling—alpha to omega."

I chose to read the non-fiction "Mad City" for one reason—my personal connection to the time and place it is set. It details a series of real-life horrific murders of young women on or near the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison beginning in 1968, just before my first year there.

Monday, March 26, 2018

POTD: Panama Hats in Columbia

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Cartagena, Columbia, where Panama hats are sold on the street. It seems a shame that 1) Columbia missed out on having its name attached to the hat style, and 2) Columbia Sportswear was named after the Pacific Northwest river, not the South American country. Anyway, for the purposes of this POTD at least, here are real Columbia hats.

Bonus photos after the jump.

Friday, March 23, 2018

POTD: Ready for Spring?

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the streets of Cartagena, Columbia, a tropical city that always looks like Spring, even on a winter day in January.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Faces Places (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Faces Places (2017): Oscar-nominated documentary of two artists traveling rural France, meeting people and creating huge portraits and pasting them on sides of buildings. Small art on a big scale. Agnès Varda and JR make an odd couple, as empathetic as they are talented. B-









Wednesday, March 21, 2018

POTD: Small, Walkable, Beautiful

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the old city of Cartagena, Columbia, a UNESCO world heritage site. The title comes from a tourist review on TripAdvisor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Betting on Zero (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Betting on Zero (2017): Documentary about Herbalife from three angles: Wall Street short, Latino community class action lawsuit, and FTC investigation. I always thought pyramid schemes were illegal. Sadly, not in our deregulatory time. Maddening company. Suspenseful movie. B+









Monday, March 19, 2018

Hot Spots of Poverty


I saw a map recently that put everything into perspective for me. It's titled "Spatial Mismatch" and was designed to show "how economic disparity and transportation are intertwined in Dallas." It was published as part of a study by the University of Texas at Arlington's Institute of Urban Studies (insert plug to support research and development universities here). What jumped out at me is something about, not public transportation, but education.

Friday, March 16, 2018

POTD: Heaven's Door

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the entrance to Iglesia San Pedro Claver in Cartagena, Columbia. The doors are closed. There is no door knob. There is no door knocker. The design on the door looks a little like a maze with no path to the center. Read into all that what you will.

P.S. The angel at the door is real.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Loving Vincent (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Loving Vincent (2017): Death of Van Gogh told as a murder mystery in 65,000 hand-painted frames. Like watching a living, breathing, roiling Van Gogh painting. Don't watch for plot or acting. Watch for the mesmerizing visuals. A-









Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 (2017): Oscar winning documentary short depicts a female artist fighting mental illness, depression, anxiety. But what an artist! Narrated almost all by herself. What grit and determination. Inspiring. Watch on YouTube. A-









Tuesday, March 13, 2018

POTD: Exercise Increased Caution

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Plaza de la Paz in the old city of Cartagena, Columbia. Some areas of Columbia have a probably well-deserved reputation of being unsafe. The US State Department advises "Exercise increased caution in Colombia due to crime and terrorism." But, so far, knock-on-wood, cross-your-fingers, Cartagena itself is safe and friendly and welcoming and a pleasure to visit. Go and enjoy yourself. We did.

Monday, March 12, 2018

RISD's Legal Response

Former Richardson ISD school board trustee David Tyson, Jr., has sued the RISD, alleging its at-large election system is a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He wants RISD to change to single-member-districts, in an effort to elect more minorities to the school board. As they say, the longer you are personally following a story, the less respect you have for media coverage. It's not always their fault — there are so many stories and so few good reporters. Gone are the days when The Dallas Morning News assigned Jeffrey Weiss to regularly cover RISD. And so instead we get drive-by reporting like The Dallas Morning News's James Ragland's recent coverage of the lawsuit.

Friday, March 9, 2018

POTD: Noli Me Tangere

From 2018 01 22 Cartagena

Today's photo-of-the-day is of a statue of a woman raising her arm to face the sea. It stands in the square fronting the old port of Cartagena, Columbia. The inscription reads Noli Me Tangere (Don't Touch Me), which is from the New Testament. It's what Jesus says to Mary Magdalene when they meet after the resurrection. It's a popular theme in Christian art.

Here in Cartagena it's used to "warn off would-be invaders. Because Cartagena was the storehouse of the Spanish Empire's gold, a slew of 16th century pirates — Englishman Francis Drake included — had attacked and pillaged the city several times." (LA Times).

Ironically, the statue has a message for Spain itself. The statue was erected in 1911, on the 100th anniversary of Cartagena being the first Columbian city to declare independence from Spain. (OfficeHolidays.com).


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Black Panther (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Black Panther (2018): James Bond meets Tarzan in a galaxy far, far away. With a touch of Jumanji and Iron Man tossed in. Jokes? Yes. Acting? Minimal. Special effects? All sorts. Plot? As needed. Commentary on global racial divide? Potentially powerful, but easy to miss. C-









Wednesday, March 7, 2018

POTD: Strolling Under a Norwegian Star

From 2018 01 19 Norwegian Star

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the deck of the Norwegian Star as it heads to the western Caribbean out of Miami.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Game Night (2018)

Rotten Tomatoes
Game Night (2018): Murder mystery party goes awry when real kidnappers show up. Expect to be guessing what twists are real and what's part of the game right up until the end. Right balance of plausibility and absurdity. Pop some corn. B-









Monday, March 5, 2018

Repeat Tweets: No Wardrobe Malfunction

Repeat tweets from February, 2018:

  • Feb 4 2018: Justin Timberlake's backup dancer is wearing a long-sleeved turtleneck with suspenders. Making sure that there's no wardrobe malfunction this year?
  • Feb 4 2018: My unpopular opinion? 58 points through three quarters are better on a basketball court than a football field.
  • Feb 4 2018: Bad, bad, bad clock management by the Eagles. It could cost them a Super Bowl.
  • Feb 4 2018: Never mind.
  • Feb 4 2018: Football glory is fleeting. Nick Foles is Super Bowl MVP today. Tomorrow he wakes up #2 QB on the Eagles 2018 depth chart.
  • Feb 5 2018: Fact-check. This is *not* the Philadelphia Eagles' first NFL championship.
  • Feb 5 2018: First Philadelphia Eagles' championship since 1960 when they beat the Packers, the last playoff game Vince Lombardi ever lost, going on to win five championships in the next seven years.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, March 2, 2018

POTD: Counting the Cars on the MacArthur Causeway

From 2018 01 19 Norwegian Star

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the deck of the Norwegian Star as it sails from Miami. The traffic is on the MacArthur Causeway headed to Miami Beach for the evening or the weekend.

"Counting the cars on the MacArthur Causeway.
They've all come to look for America.
All come to look for America.
All come to look for America."
— with apologies to Paul Simon.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

The Academy Awards will be given out Sunday evening. This will be the second time in history that I've seen all the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscar is awarded. That means my opinion means something. Right?

2017 had a diverse set of movies, as did the choices in 2016. Unlike last year, there is no runaway favorite for Best Picture, but last year's "La La Land" didn't end up winning, so how much do pre-award rankings mean, anyway? Besides, my personal favorite this year, "Mudbound," wasn't even nominated.

  • Mudbound (2017): White farm family in Mississippi in 1940s facing poverty, floods, illness. Black family with same burdens. Plus racism. Script shows same events from different perspectives. Quiet but strong performances. Lessons for today. A-

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Strong Island (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes
Strong Island (2017): Filmmaker tells of brother's 1992 murder. White killer. Black victim. White grand jury declines to indict. The crime story and justice system story are all too common. The personal family story before and after is powerful, tragic and sad. B+