Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry TubaChristmas

Dallas celebrated its twenty-ninth annual Tuba Christmas at noon Friday in Thanksgiving Square. And we were there!

One hundred eighty seven tubas and euphoniums participated, with hundreds and hundreds more spectators crowding the small park in downtown Dallas. The weather was glorious, with a clear blue sky, bright sun peeking around and between the skyscrapers, and temperatures just chilly enough to make the hot cocoa welcome.

John, with borrowed tuba, was in the front row with his friend Chris. John missed the last two Tuba Christmases while traveling to Northwestern University in Chicago and family Christmas celebrations in Wisconsin.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rice Bowl

Rice Bowl. Those two words have not been used in the context of Rice University and football bowl games since 1961. John F. Kennedy was President. Vince Lombardi was winning just his first NFL championship with the Green Bay Packers that season. And the Rice Owls were preparing to play the Kansas Jayhawks in the Bluebonnet Bowl. That was the last highlight for Rice football for over four decades. That long dry spell is over.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Blow My Face Off"

Berkner High School's "Mighty Ram Band" advanced to the Texas state marching contest last night at the Area C finals.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Berkner's Streak Ends

The Berkner Rams lost a regular-season football game Friday night. That hasn't happened since September 24, 2004, a span of 20 games and more than two years.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Moving North, Moving South

We saw a lot of highway in September. It was north to Chicago to move John to Northwestern University, with side trips to Wisconsin and Indiana to visit family. On the way back to Dallas, we loaded the van with Ellen's parents' belongings, as they are moving to Richardson. One day after getting back to Dallas it was down to Houston for Families Weekend at Rice University.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Colon Club

Due to strict age requirements (too strict, if you ask me), I have finally accepted the fact that I will never achieve my dream of becoming Miss America. So I've decided to go with my backup plan and become a pin-up girl. And who knew all I needed was a little colon cancer to get myself into the business?

Friday, September 1, 2006

Owls everywhere

Every person in the continental U.S. lives within one mile of an owl.

Jonathan Franzen (Time, August 28, 2006)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Corny, but true

There are some 45,000 items in the average American supermarket, and more than a quarter of them contain corn.

Smithsonian, July, 2006

Monday, August 7, 2006

Human beans?

There are three times as many tanning parlors in the U.S. as there are Starbucks. Dark roast, anyone?

Time, August 7, 2006

Can you tread water for 36 years?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average first broke 100 in 1906. The last time it closed below 100 was in 1942, over 36 years later. The DJIA first broke 10,000 in 1999.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stalled on the Road

Model 2006 cars and light trucks have an average fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon. That compares with an average of 22.1 mpg for 1987-1988.

BusinessWeek, July 31, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Japan Journal

Scott is spending the summer in Japan, participating in NanoJapan , a ten week research program in nanotechnology sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Rice University.

After working in the lab at the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo, Scott remembered a video he had once found on the Internet. Sure enough. Same lab. Looks like a fun project! (Video version 210T is the best version.)

The following journal records his experiences...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fade out

Salzburg rehearsal

Take another look at those photos accompanying the story on the RISD All-Star Band tour of Europe. Look more closely at those shots of musicians playing Mozart and Sousa. Prominently displayed on the folders holding the music is the name Brook Mays.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


About one in five hundred Iraqis is incarcerated. In the US, the ratio is about one in seventy five.

Ilario Patano

Friday, June 30, 2006

In Prague, even the new is old

Neighborhoods in central Prague, Czech Republic, are known by names such as Lesser Town, Old Town and New Town. The so-called New Town was founded by Charles IV in 1348.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

RISD All-Star Band European Tour 2006

2006 06 Lucerne

The RISD All-Star Band toured central Europe in June, 2006. The band is made up of musicians from the four high schools of the Richardson Independent School District.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Massage capital of the world?

"More people will graduate in the United States in 2006 with sports-exercise degrees than electrical-engineering degrees," says [GE CEO Jeffrey] Immelt. "So, if we want to be the massage capital of the world, we're well on our way.

Newsweek, June 12, 2006

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The next governor must know the numbers

Hispanics could represent 53 percent of the population of Texas by 2030, compared to 30.3 percent for Anglos and 9.2 percent for blacks.

The Dallas Morning News, June 6, 2006

Monday, June 5, 2006

Vive L'Europe - Just Not Yet

Over the past 35 years, the US economy has created 57 million jobs. Europe has created just 4 million.

-- BusinessWeek, June 5, 2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wisconsin Polka Groupies in Texas

This Memorial Day weekend marks the 40th annual National Polka Festival in Ennis, Texas, a town about 40 miles south of Dallas.


Sixteen undergraduate engineering students from across the United States gather today at Rice University in Houston in preparation for departure tomorrow to Japan, where they will participate in a ten week research program in nanotechnology.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Wow, you dance on Broadway! How fabulous!

The Eisemann Center's season of musicals came to a close tonight with the final performance of A Chorus Line. It was probably the best production of any of the eight musicals put on in the two seasons we've attended. Besides the singing and dancing you go to musicals for, this storyline has characters to care about. Perhaps because the setting is the theater itself, it's easier to believe the actors on stage are not actors, but talking about their own lives. And being a dancer, trying to get a job on Broadway, must be one of the toughest tryouts there is.

Yes, A Chorus Line ran forever on Broadway, it's due for a revival there later this year, it's been around the country over and over again in touring productions, and it was made into a movie over twenty years ago, but it's still worth seeing, either again or for the first time. It's still fresh.

Be on the lookout for news of next season's lineup of musicals at the Eisemann Center in Richardson. It's not Broadway, but it's not bad. It's a shame not to take advantage of this local resource.

Language is never about language

"About 158 nations have included a specific measure in their constitutions promulgating one or more national languages, according to a survey by Eduardo Faingold, a professor at the University of Tulsa."

-- The Dallas Morning News, May 21, 2006

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Indian Mascots -- Time to Bury the Hatchet

According to The Dallas Morning News, "three Richardson schools are considering changing their mascots to voluntarily comply with a district policy prohibiting new schools from taking ethnic groups as their symbols." Today's Neighbors section of the paper has two columns opposing the switches.

This trend has been going on for forty years. If some people are offended by the use of native Americans as mascots and some schools want to voluntarily change their own mascots to avoid offense, then let's get it over with. Fighting it won't make it go away. I'd rather be cheering for little Dartmouth Eagles or Bears or Bobcats than cheering for the Dartmouth ... hmmm ... somethings that we're downplaying because it offends someone. Let's just get it over with and go back to supporting our elementary school children wholeheartedly instead of dragging them into the arguments of an older generation.

Friday, May 19, 2006

RISD Superintendent Steps Down

RISD Superintendent Jim Nelson is leaving the RISD. That's too bad. He had good credentials and a good management style. He wasn't afraid to take a position publicly. He verbally backed the fine arts programs at RISD schools, then stood behind his words when budgets and programming were worked out.

Now the long process of hiring his successor begins. He'll be hard to match.

Is TXU's Trimming a Threat?

According to a story in The Dallas Morning News, TXU spends up to $25 million per year trimming trees near their power lines. And some Richardson residents don't like it. Residents complain that TXU is overtrimming, both ruining the aesthetics of the trees and risking the health of the trees. TXU claims that its pruning practices have been honored by the National Arbor Day Foundation for six straight years.

Having just paid to cut down three trees along our alley, all with power lines threaded through their upper branches, I can understand the homeowners' pain. On the other hand, there are alternatives, all of them reasonable in my mind.

First, TXU will consider burying the lines, at homeowner expense. This is the best solution, once and for all. Second, homeowners can pay to keep their trees trimmed themselves, which may prevent a visit by TXU at all. Or, finally, residents can let TXU do the job and live with results.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pomp and Circumstance

I attended the Senior Recognition ceremony at Richardson's Berkner High School tonight. Watching and listening as several hundred young men and women were recognized for their achievements in academics, leadership and service, I couldn't help feeling better about the future of our country and the world.

Graduation ceremonies for Richardson's four high schools are next Saturday. If your son or daughter is marching across that stage, pat yourself on the back. And if not, try to wrangle a ticket from a neighbor or friend. It's a couple of hours that will help balance a whole year's worth of crime stories on the 10 o'clock news.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What's a cure for cancer worth?

Economists from the University of Chicago value a cure for cancer at $50 trillion. Just a one percent reduction in cancer mortality would be worth $500 billion.

-- BusinessWeek, May 22, 2006

Monday, May 15, 2006

Payroll taxes

"An estimated 75% of U.S. taxpayers now pay more in Social Security and Medicare taxes than they do in income tax."

-- Time, May 15, 2006 

Putin's approval rating

President Vladimir Putin's approval rating is "a rock-solid 70%."

-- Time, May 15, 2006 

Friday, February 17, 2006

What People Get Wrong about the JFK Memorial

In the wake of 9/11, with all its discussions of memorials, I found myself wanting to revisit another memorial of a violent event that also tore the social fabric of this country. The John F. Kennedy Memorial in Dallas is one block east of Dealey Plaza, where the 1963 assassination took place. The design, by Philip Johnson, is simple, an open-air room formed by massive concrete walls that appear to float above the ground. Within, a granite slab bears the name of the president. It is all, sad to say, poorly done. ... The Kennedy Memorial in Dallas marks a particular place where an event took place — as opposed to the British JFK Memorial, say, which honors only the memory of the slain president.
The key to understanding the JFK memorial in Dallas is in this last sentence. The memorial marks a place; it does not solely honor a man. And that place is Dallas, Texas.

JFK's grave is not in Dallas. JFK's spirit is not in Dallas. Visitors to Dallas hoping to find something of the man won't find it in Dallas - not in 1963, not in 2006. The emptiness of the memorial - no statue, no bust, no plaques, only that black granite slab bearing the President's name - conveys the emptiness of the city itself of all things Kennedy. He is not here. He never was of Dallas.

Hostility was in the air in Dallas that autumn in 1963. The crowds lining the street greeted the Presidential motorcade warmly, but the underlying tension is obvious in the words of Nellie Connally, wife of Governor John Connally, riding with the President. Her last words to the President were, "Mr. President, you can't say that Dallas doesn't love you."

That tension, that hostility, is captured by Philip Johnson in the JFK memorial architecture. The massive concrete walls surrounding the granite slab shut out the city. Standing inside that empty room, the city and the hostility are blocked out, the high walls screening even the cold stare of the skyscrapers, until only the blue sky above offers an escape from the memory of that oppressive hostility on the day of the assassination.

The JFK memorial in Dallas leaves visitors feeling cold and empty. What they don't appreciate is how appropriate those feelings are for a memorial to JFK in downtown Dallas. It is all, sad to say, very well done.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reader Praise for "The Wheel"

"The only one writing about Richardson politics who isn't completely insane."

"This is just an individual's opinion? I'm not familiar with him."

"He officially carries more clout than Eisemann."

"I have always chalked up his nonsense to the fact that he's not very bright, but he's now crossed over to full-fledged, boot-licking, lackeydom."

"Always enjoy you saying it like it is!"

"Steger is just another guy with a belly button."

"Your new avatar is scary. heh!"

"Mark Steger has been the voice of level-headed reason for many election cycles in Richardson."

"It's nice to have smart people like you that are fair and real. You should run for the MAYOR spot!"

"Unless the author is correct about what the board did, and I have serious doubts, this piece is libelous."

"I havent any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human." [followed by a link to a spam site. OK, maybe my spam filter for comments doesn't work.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Wheel’s Still in Spin

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan