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