Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ultimate Solution to Gridlock is Car-Free

The road crisis in north Texas has been building for years. The latest to weigh in on the looming disaster is Bill Baumbach in "The Collin County Observer":

"If nothing is done, our citizens will live in continual traffic gridlock, and our air quality will worsen. Our continued growth will stall if we do not have the necessary transportation infrastructure to sustain that growth. We simply will not be able to attract major corporations, if their employees can not get to work."
The alternatives aren't between gridlock and pouring more and more concrete. Read "LIVING CAR-FREE IN BIG D" for some better alternatives to both:
"A Sometimes Semi-Serious Slant and other Ruminations on Urban Design, Architecture, Sustainability, Ecolonomics, and the Way of the World or How I Learned to Stop Driving and Love the Walk... in my adopted home of Dallas, Texas."
It's time for some fresh thinking. It's not the Seventies anymore. Or the Nineties. Or, for that matter, the Noughts. The Noughties? The Aughts? The Noughty-Aughts? The Zeroes? The Big Zero? OK, just what are we going to call the '00s?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Twitter Reviews of 2009

My Twitter takes on the books, movies, and theatre I enjoyed in 2009. The list is short because I didn't join Twitter until August.

(There. Just 131 characters. After the jump, the reviews.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas 2009

Christmas Day, 2009
From Flowers
A Christmas Eve snowfall graced Richardson, Texas, with its first white Christmas in ... I don't know how long. The National Weather Service claims it's the first since 1926. Could be. Merry Christmas, y'all.

To see more photos, look here.
Family portraits can be seen here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

32nd Annual Dallas Tuba Christmas

Jeff King, guest conductor of Tuba Christmas
From 2009 12 Tuba Christmas
"Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these musicians from the swift completion of their appointed songs."

With apologies to the postal service, this motto just seems to go with the 32nd Annual Dallas Tuba Christmas concert. Normally held outdoors at Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas at noon on Christmas Eve, this year's concert was moved indoors because of inclement weather. Windy, rainy and cold outside, it was warm, dry and cozy inside the underground Dallas pedestrian tunnels where 150 musicians with tubas and euphoniums and related instruments gathered to play Christmas carols to a friendly audience in the holiday spirit. If you think 150 tubas can make a joyful noise outdoors, just wait until you hear them indoors in a small room. Joy to the world!

More photos can be seen here.


You've seen this movie before. Evil mining company wants gold ore beneath peaceful Indian village and uses the cavalry to massacre the Indians to get it. You haven't seen this movie before. The Indians are blue. The horses have wings. The cavalry fly helicopter gunships. Avatar, equal parts Star Wars, Little Big Man, Tarzan, Apocalypse Now, breaks no new ground in subject matter, plot, and character development, ... you know, the things that make a story great. Where it does break new ground is in CGI techniques. Through the use of "performance capture" cameras, the movie gives extraterrestrial humanoids the most realistic facial expressions any movie has achieved.

Are we there yet? Can we use technology to create any illusion we want on the big screen? Probably not. When less-advanced technology was used in movies like "The Polar Express" the human characters looked creepy and zombie-like. Avatar technology is undoubtedly better, but it's no coincidence that Avatar is still science fantasy and not a historical epic. Blue aliens are not human, so failings of the CGI techniques are more easily overlooked. Only when this technique is used to bring a real historical figure to the screen, one that the audience is intimately familiar with, and does it in a completely convincing manner, will we have arrived at the future of movie making. When the movie version of the life of, say, Barack Obama is made using "performance capture" and CGI instead of starring Will Smith will we know that we have arrived. Until then, see Avatar. It's the closest thing yet.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Law & Order: Special Richardson Unit

Richardson City Attorney Pete Smith

The city of Richardson's attorney, Pete Smith, appeared before a city council work session to report the status of a lawsuit brought by William Gordon, a losing candidate in the 2007 council elections. Gordon sued over the city council's executive sessions, claiming they violated the city charter prior to a 2007 amendment authorizing closed sessions. A trial court ruling dismissed most of Gordon's claims but let stand the claim that the city council's executive sessions violated the city's pre-2007 charter. More after the jump.

DMN Tees Off on Sherrill Park

Ian McCann of The Dallas Morning News says Richardson's Sherrill Park Golf Course's "records raise alcohol, conflict-of-interest questions." After the jump, a look into whether there's a story here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Biggest Game of the NFL Season?

Biggest game of the NFL season? Or not even worth proof-reading the promos? Here's how the league is promoting Saturday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints on the league's Website

Besides the Saturday night date for "Thursday Night Football," who the heck are the Sants [sic]? I know the New Orleans football team was once known as the Ain'ts, but with a 13-0 record this year, you'd think New Orleans would get a little more respect from the NFL marketing experts.

Update: Final score Cowboys 24 - Saints 17. Maybe the Saints don't deserve that much respect, after all.

Who Thinks Like This?

I've said the "visitors" section of the Richardson city council meeting sometimes makes for rollicking good theater. Sometimes pathos. Sometimes bathos. The council meeting of December 14 provided one such moment that stunned me, leaving me shaking my head in wonderment. Did he just say what I think he did?
"I thought I'd add a little levity to tonight and tell you about riding the DART train. I ride the DART train every once in a while down into downtown. When I am surrounded by the derelicts and the mental cases and the troublemakers, I try to be a good Caucasian ambassador."
Levity? I didn't laugh. The audio recording didn't capture any laughter from the audience, either. What in the world was this speaker thinking? Whatever it is, we don't need it in Richardson.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Richardson Accounting Practice Fairly Common

Not much of a headline, I'm afraid. But that's the conclusion of a news story by Ian McCann in The Dallas Morning News headlined "Richardson officials defend use of bond vote money for project salaries". The word "defend" in McCann's headline certainly suggests we have a conflict, with someone on offense and someone on defense. Yet, I can't find anything in the story to indicate who is making a charge, nor what that charge might be, that anyone needs to "defend" against. In fact, in the second to last paragraph, McCann tells us,

"Robert Bland, a professor and chairman of the public administration department at University of North Texas, said using bonds to pay for project management staff is fairly common."

So there you have it. Richardson's accounting practice is fairly common. No one is quoted as saying it isn't. No one is identified as criticizing the city's practice in any way. McCann doesn't tell us why he's even writing this story.

Did you ever read a news story that left you feeling like you are picking up the thread in the middle? Today's story is like that. I'm left scratching my head, thinking I must have walked into this play at the start of the second act.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Assuming Facts Not In Evidence

Recently, I was accused of making light of various Richardson residents' concerns expressed during the "visitors" section of City Council meetings. (By the way, the speakers are quaintly called "visitors," a descriptive term only if, at your house or office or event, visitors typically come and yell at you for five minutes before you shoo them away.) After the jump, where my critic says I erred.

Win/Win Solution for Trash?

My blog topics recently have tended towards two topics: the Richardson Lookout Transfer Station and the tone of politics at city council meetings (for example, see here and here). Those two topics intersect in a Twitter "tweet" from council member Amir Omar:

"Just had a very positive meeting w/ HOA Pres & stakeholder re the Richardson LOTS. Working towards a win/win solution."

I've called for the Richardson City Council to conduct more outreach to the neighborhood associations, so this news from council member Amir Omar is good news. I don't like the fact that Omar didn't tell us the name of the HOA president he met with, leaving the impression that it's sensitive information. (And, as before, I'm dissatisfied that he tells us that he's getting good ideas without ever telling us what those ideas are.) But, just hearing that someone from the council is talking to any HOA president is welcome news. The news is more welcome than the claim by someone else (anonymously) that city council members deliberately steered clear of a recent meeting of HOA presidents on the Lookout Transfer Station. If true, that would go counter to the need for more outreach. Maybe the city council can afford to limit engagement with the chronic malcontents. But it can't afford to lose the neighborhood assocations.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holy Bill of Rights, Batman

Richardson is not Gotham, but we've got our own little tales of citizen crime-fighters standing up to villains, even when the corruption reaches into the heart of city hall itself. Monday night is when our local heroes answer the bat-call of open mike night at the Richardson City Council meeting. This past Monday night was no exception. After the jump, five heroes' stories.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Richardson: Dialog or Pitchforks - An Update

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about a disturbing development in Richardson politics. The title was "Richardson at the Crossroads: Dialog or Pitchforks?" This is an update. The good news is that the ranks of the pitchfork-wielding villagers is still limited to a handful of bloggers and commenters on Internet forums. The bad news is that there's no evidence of outreach on the part of the city council to engage the moderate members of the public. After the jump, what you are not missing by steering clear of the blogs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who Is Amir Schmoozing With Now?

In its own words, Twitter is a free service that lets you keep in touch with people through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What's happening?

After the jump, Twitter and politics.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things I Was Against Before I Was For

Is it time to geoengineer the Earth?
"I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
I keep this John Kerry quote handy to remind myself how convoluted our explanations can become when trying to explain our flip-flops. It's timely because I might be in the process of making some major flip-flops myself and I don't want my own thinking to become convoluted. After the jump, four things I was against that I now just might be for.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fact Checking the Trash Talk

Monday night the NTMWD addressed the Richardson City Council about plans to replace the Lookout Trash Transfer Station. Neighbors of the transfer station are objecting to the project. There are some bogus claims making the rounds. Not in what the NTMWD presented, but in what's being said by the public. The longer such claims go uncorrected, the more deeply they take root as established "facts". After the jump, two examples.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Trash in the Spotlight

It may not generate the excitement and anticipation of, say, the opening of a new Harry Potter movie, but Monday night's Richardson City Council work session had an agenda item that some residents have been waiting months for. Trash and how to move it from here to there.

"NTMWD staff will update City Council regarding progress to date concerning the construction of a new Transfer Station at Lookout Drive's terminus point east of Plano Road. District staff will address various neighborhood concerns and present a regional solid waste system need relative to construction of a new Lookout Dr. Transfer Station. Lastly, NTMWD staff will present/explain the new station's necessary 'throughput' amount, which is of significant interest to all parties involved in these station improvements."
After the jump, my own assessment of whether the work session lived up to expectations.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sick? State Formula Says Go To School

In November, in a blog item about organ donation, I blogged about what's known as misaligned incentives in economics. An example was offered from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's SuperFreakonomics from the ambulance business in mid-20th century America.

"Ambulances were often run by the local mortuary. It is hard to think of a better example of misaligned incentives: a funeral director who is put in charge of helping a patient not die!"
Now we have another example much closer to home. After the jump, how the state of Texas encourages local school districts to get sick children to drag their sorry butts out of bed and get to school.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And the Chairman's Award Goes To ...

Richardson Christmas Parade Chairman's Award
From 2009 12 Santas Village
The Chairman's Award for the Richardson Christmas Parade goes to the RISD combined high school marching bands from Berkner, Lake Highlands, Pearce and Richardson High Schools. Santa's Village opened in Richardson Saturday evening with the awards ceremony for the Christmas parade held earlier in the day. Based on points awarded to each unit in the parade, the RISD combined high school marching band received the highest total points for the youth entrants (or maybe it was the junior/senior high entrants), earning it the Chairman's Award. Seen above is Ellen accepting the award from the ... Chairman? ... on behalf of the RISD Fine Arts Department.

OK, I don't fully understand the award criteria or exactly who it was making the presentation, but that's not the point. I'm a blogger, not a reporter. Go find Ian McCann if you want the facts. The point is that it was a frigid sunny day, perfect for a Christmas parade, a lot of money was raised for charity and the awards ceremony was a lot of fun to kick off another Santa's Village, which keeps getting better and better. It's open every weekend between now and Christmas. It's free. It's great fun for kids from 1 to 92. Check it out.

More photos can be seen here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

OTBR: Off The Blue Roads

Latitude: 38.405° N
Longitude: 91.083° W
From GD101

There's a story I like about a family on a car trip. A child 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, December 3, 2009

An Eastside Christmas

Berkner Jazz Band
From 2009 12 Eastside Christmas

The Christmas season opened on a suitably frigid evening Thursday with the ceremonial tree lighting ceremony at Richardson's Eastside mixed-use development on Campbell Rd at Central Expressway. The Berkner High School Jazz Band braved the weather to entertain the crowd.

I hesitate to say anything negative during the Christmas season, but as much as I like Eastside, their Christmas tree is a little underwhelming. The silver lining to this was that, having missed the actual big lighting event in favor of ducking into Twisted Root to get warm and enjoy a good burger, when I later saw the sparsely lighted tree, it removed some of the guilt I felt for ducking out. (I did see a certain high-ranking city official walking through Twisted Root, but I won't say he missed the flipping of the switch, too. More likely, he did the honors.) All in all, a good way to begin a great time of year.

Photos of the event can be seen here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fighting City Hall ... in Court

Earlier this week, I blogged about Richardson being at the crossroads, dialog or pitchforks. Will a constructive dialog between the city council and the public be nurtured or will it suffocate in an increasingly poisonous attitude by uncompromising critics? After the jump, a lawsuit that's a bad sign for which direction the city is headed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obama Hates Cute Kids ... and Christmas

No, not really. But that's the rap he's getting for the timing of his address to the nation Tuesday night to announce plans for a troop buildup in Afghanistan. After the jump, the case for why Obama hates cute kids ... and Christmas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dispatch from the Shopping Wars: Black Friday

So-called "Black Friday" is behind us. Early spot reports from retailers indicate that the crowds were out and buying, which is a good sign, but caution still abounds. Will the shoppers return on Saturday and Sunday and the 27 shopping days until Christmas? (By the way, when did the word "shopping" in "shopping days" become redundant? It's 27 days either way.) After the jump, my own experience on Black Friday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Time Limit on Trash Talk in Richardson

It looks like I was in the minority regarding what I thought was noteworthy about last night's council meeting. The DMN covered it straight, but the blogs covered not the Lookout trash transfer station -- you know, the subject raised during the visitors section -- but the number of minutes allotted to the speakers (e.g., here and here). OK, dump the trash, let's play along.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Trash: NIMBY

The Visitors Section of Monday's Richardson City Council meeting featured four residents appealing to the council for their support for specific neighborhood protections concerning the Lookout Trash Transfer Station. The aging trash transfer station serves as one of three waypoints in a five city area where solid waste is transferred from smaller city garbage trucks to larger capacity NTMWD trucks for the trip to the dump in Melissa.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Putting Lipstick on a Pig in Southwest Richardson

"Stop these attempts to put lipstick on a pig when the patient is on life support." So says a southwest Richardson homeowner leader. Does he have a point? I mean other than showing by example how horribly confused a point can get by mixing metaphors. Let's find out. First, the background...

Best Cranberry Salad

Did you know that there are only three fruits native to North America: the Concord grape, the blueberry and the cranberry? It's true, that is if you don't count various species of chestnut, elderberry, hazelnut, mayapple, persimmon, plum, raspberry, cherry, blueberry, buffaloberry, chokecherry, fig, huckleberry, pawpaw, prickly pear, mulberry, and crabapple. And pumpkins and tomatoes, which are technically fruits, but usually called vegetables.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guilty Pleasure: Project Runway

"In fashion, one day you're in and the next day you're out."

Thursday night brings us the finale of season six of my latest guilty pleasure, Project Runway. I hadn't seen a single episode of seasons one through five and now I've watched every minute of season six. It was Tim Gunn's appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that caught my interest (there's a show that's an admitted pleasure without a trace of guilt). Now, Project Runway is the only reality show I'm watching. Not American Idol (although I did search YouTube for Susan Boyle's performance on the English version of the show. That woman can sing!). Not Dancing with the Stars (not even a cringe-worthy performance by Tom Delay could entice me to watch, not even on YouTube). You have to go all the way back to the first seasons of The Apprentice and Survivor to find reality shows that I watched before Project Runway. How do they compare?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Texas Organ Donors: 451,290 and One

What do Texas driver's licenses, health care in 18th century Vienna and the ambulance business in mid-20th century America have in common? Misaligned economic incentives, perhaps?

Recently, I renewed by Texas driver's license and was offered the opportunity to become a registered organ donor. Why I never signed up before, I can't say. OK, I can say but I don't want to (it was laziness). There's really no good reason not to. In case you imagine you have a good reason, set yourself straight by reading the "Myths and Facts" section of the website for the Glenda Jackson Donate Life - Texas Registry. It's the official state organ, tissue and eye donor registry. Then sign up right there, online. Simple. Painless. Gratifying.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Ruminate on the Olympics, BCS and Cirque Shanghai

Cirque Shanghai: Bai Xi

I've never thought of synchronized swimming as a sport. If we can't agree on that simple premise, stop reading right now. We'll never have a meeting of the minds on the rest of this. Figure skating isn't sport, either. Neither belongs in the Olympics. Gymnastics probably doesn't either. In fact, toss out all the events that rely on a judge instead of a scoreboard to determine who wins and loses. You can't add judges to performing art and pretend it's sport.

Wildcats Advance. Rams, Eagles, Mustangs Are Stopped

Our Alma Mater, Hail Thee Berkner High!
From 2009 Football

The good news ... all four Richardson RISD high schools made the football playoffs for the first time ever. The bad news ... Berkner, Richardson, Pearce lost their opening playoff game. The good news ... Lake Highlands won. Go Wildcats!

To see photos from the Berkner Rams playoff game against the Garland Owls, look here.

Final scores:

  • Garland South 31, Richardson 7
  • Garland 38, Berkner 16
  • Denison 61, Pearce 28
  • Lake Highlands 49, North Garland 28

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Northwestern: Football, Tornadoes, War

Having a son who attends Northwestern University, I try to keep up with current events there by subscribing to a Google news alert with the search term "Northwestern." The daily summary gives me what I want ... and then some. For example, a recent alert brought these stories to my inbox:

  • Tornado damages homes in northwestern Oregon
  • Three men die in plane crash in northwestern Ontario
  • Suicide bomber kills 3 in northwestern Pakistan
Tragic as these stories are, they are perversely comforting in a guilty, selfish kind of way. The sad news they contain is from far away, far from Northwestern University and my son. When I go looking for stories about college life in late autumn, it's things like football I want to read about, not tornadoes, plane crashes and war. So, for a moment at least, I skim over headlines like those above and click instead on "Northwestern's Upset of Iowa Improves its Bowl Outlook." But those other headlines, just being there, give me the perspective I need to always appreciate just how charmed my family's life has been.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Game Night for Gifted Children

Gifted? That's everyone in Richardson, right? "Richardson Gifted", a parent support group for those raising gifted children, has announced "Game Night", Friday, December 11, 2009, 7-9pm, at the RISD Professional Development Center, 701 W. Belt Line Road, Richardson. It sounds like positive, constructive fun, families and friends playing good, old-fashioned board games, perhaps Scrabble, Boggle, Go, Connect 4 and other classic mind-exercising games. Check it out, even if your child's teachers or playmates' parents don't necessarily agree with the "gifted" description. There's just one little thing...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Did I Just Play the Race Card?

Last week, the presidents of three homeowner associations in southwest Richardson made a presentation to the Richardson City Council about the need for redevelopment along Spring Valley Rd. I blogged about it in a piece called "The Hispanic Elephant in the Room".

Did I play the race card? I observed that no one at the council meeting appeared to be Hispanic. I speculated that the interests of Hispanics didn't seem to be represented. I suggested that Hispanics needed to start speaking up (and voting more!) if the decisions that affect where they live and shop are ever going to be made by people who represent them. I ask again, did I play the race card?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our Trip to Bountiful ... aka Princeton, Texas

From 2009 11 Strawn
Google says it's only 30 miles. But driving from Richardson to Princeton seems more like a trip to Oklahoma, then a right turn and on to Arkansas. And when you finally get there and step out of the car, it's like you've traveled not just to another state, but to another time and place altogether.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NY23 and TX32: Can Lightning Strike Here?

On Tuesday, the conservatives took down the establishment GOP candidate in New York's 23rd District. Conservatives, usually reliable backers of the GOP candidate, swung their support to the Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. This split was enough to allow the Democratic candidate Bill Owens to win the special election, the first time a Democrat will represent this New York district since the Civil War.

Can the same thing happen in Texas' 32nd District, represented by Pete Sessions? Sessions, after all, is the chairman of the Republican National Congressional Committee (RNCC), whose endorsement of Dede Scozzafava was rejected by the conservatives. That makes Sessions himself suspect to the conservatives and perhaps a target in his own primary campaign in Texas.

UIL Football Playoff Tiebreaker Craziness

If you found this page with a search looking for Texas high school football playoff tie-breaker rules, well, the short answer is that you probably won't find them on the Internet. The UIL doesn't set the rules. Each district sets their own rules. Your best bet is to call your school's athletic director and ask him or her. Now, on with the story.

The Dallas Morning News' Matt Wixon identifies a wild playoff scenario in District 3-5A that involves a potential three way tie and an incentive for a coach to lose by a lot in order to have his team make the playoffs. That's not a typo. Lose by a little and you're out. Lose by a lot and you're in. Stupid, right? I don't use the word lightly. It doesn't have to be this way. In fact, most districts don't do it this way. Unwisely, the UIL allows each district's athletic directors to devise their own playoff tie-breaker rules.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Hispanic Elephant in the Room

What the HOA presidents showed

The Richardson City Council held a work session Monday night attended by the council, city staff, three homeowner association presidents and at least two elephants, one ignored and the other unnoticed (more on them later). The three HOA presidents talked about their vision of excellence for southwest Richardson. Their presentation was full of both "big ideas" and small. It had photos of potholes contrasted with photos of urban villages and lakes. It had calls for cracking down on rundown homes, apartments and commercial properties. It had suggestions that density along Spring Valley Rd needs to be lessened, maybe by replacing apartments with town homes or just green space. It had warnings that the Whole Foods store on Coit Rd might close if urban blight is allowed to worsen.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Politics of Complaint: Development Moratorium

Richardson commercial property

The work session of the Richardson City Council spent two hours Monday night listening to the presidents of three homeowners' associations in southwest Richardson present what they call the "Heights 2009 Plan for Excellence." It was a good presentation, if by excellence you mean repaved streets, alleys, and sidewalks, more parks, fewer apartments, better maintained commercial properties, and a redevelopment moratorium while we wait for a developer to come in and build urban villages with lakes along Spring Valley, 75, and Belt Line. Or, if not urban villages, then some other "big idea" of redevelopment that no one seemed to be able to specify.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Richardson Eagles Near First Playoffs Since 1992

Richardson Golden Eagle Band
From 2009 Football

For photos of all the action on the field and in the stands, including performances by the drill teams and marching bands of both Richardson and Berkner, look here.

The Richardson Eagles beat the Berkner Rams 14-11 Friday night in a defensive struggle, putting the Eagles in great position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The key play of the game was a fourth quarter interception and 65-yard return for a touchdown by defensive lineman A.K. Akindumila, which gave the Eagles a 14-3 lead. Berkner responded with a late touchdown and two-point conversion to close the lead to 14-11, but their comeback fell short.

Richardson closes the regular season next weekend against Carrollton Creekview while Berkner plays W.T. White. Both games have playoff implications. Skyline and Lake Highlands have already locked up two of the four playoff spots in District 9-5A. The last two spots are still up for grabs.

  • Richardson will make the playoffs if they beat Creekview or if they lose by 8 or fewer points or if Berkner loses to W.T. White.
  • Berkner will make the playoffs if they beat W.T. White or if Berkner loses to W.T. White by 13 or fewer points while Richardson beats Creekview.
  • Creekview will make the playoffs if they beat Richardson by 9 or more points or if they beat Richardson while Berkner loses.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wanted: Superintendent, Practically Perfect in Every Way

The Richardson school district (RISD) is seeking a new superintendent. Everybody has an opinion. Expectations and demands are as high as those set by the George Banks family in Edwardian England when advertising for a nanny.

"If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition.
Rosy cheeks, no warts. Play games, all sorts.
You must be kind, you must be witty, very sweet, and fairly pretty.
Take us on outings, give us treats, sing songs, bring sweets.
Never be cross or cruel. Never give us castor oil or gruel.
Love us as a son and daughter, and never smell of barley water.
Hurry, Nanny! Many thanks!
Jane and Michael Banks!"
Assuming that someone with Mary Poppins' qualifications isn't available, what criteria should be used to identify the RISD's next superintendent?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Everybody's After the Chamber of Commerce

What's more American than the Chamber of Commerce? Main Street and apple pie. Local accountants and insurance agents. Ribbon cuttings, golf tournaments, Christmas parades. What's not to like? Well, the Chamber of Commerce has run into a streak of bad luck lately with seemingly everybody finding something not to like, including conservatives right here in Richardson, Texas.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Politics of Complaint: Trash and Blight

It's Monday and that means Open Mike Night at the Richardson City Council. This week's show lacked the passion of some previous shows, perhaps because it lacked any novelty as well. The topics were trash (Lookout Transfer Station) and blight (Richardson Heights area).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ride DART to Fair Park. Still.

Fair Park Station ... on a good day
From 200910 State Fair

A lot has been made of DART's failure to deliver thousands of fans to the Cotton Bowl in time for kickoff of the Texas-OU game last Saturday. Some of the criticism is valid. Some, not so much.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Texas House Reps Discuss Constitutional Amendments

The November 3rd ballot will offer voters eleven proposed constitutional amendments. There will be no party identification after each amendment, no "R" or "D" to make voting easier. What is the lazy voter supposed to do?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Politics of Complaint: Does 2+2+1=5?

Does 2+2+1=5? Does that math violate the city charter of Richardson? If you think so, you might be a redneck. At least according to Nathan Morgan. Or something like that. Go figure.

Morgan, who takes advantage of the public comment period at Richardson City Council meetings so often that the casual observer might think he's the eighth member of the city council, used his five minutes of public input at this week's council work session to complain that the duration of the city manager's contract with the city exceeds the maximum specified by the city charter. The challenge hinges on whether renewal provisions, or options for additional periods, violate the city charter. A complaint that's technical, petty, and, frankly, boring. It's not even funny, even by the low standards of Jeff Foxworthy comedy routines. It definitely isn't one of the best examples of citizen politics of complaint. But it's the best that this week's citizen input to the city council worksession has to offer. If lack of serious problems is a good thing, this week's citizen complaint indicates Richardson city government is in good shape.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

AT&T Performing Arts Center Grand Opening

Winspear Opera House
From 2009 10 AT&T Performing Arts Center

This week marked the grand opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Arts District of Dallas. The new Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theatre were open for tours. Ellen and I took DART light rail to downtown Dallas and enjoyed the new buildings, the sunny weather, and the pleasant street life. Street life. In downtown Dallas. I know, it sounds improbable. But it's true. To see more photos from our day in Dallas, look here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Skyline 39, Berkner 7. Ouch!

Mighty Ram Band
From 2009 Football
Dallas Skyline lived up to its reputation. Ranked second in the state of Texas, the Raiders dominated the Berkner Rams, scoring on their first six possessions and putting the game away early, leading 26-0 by halftime and holding Berkner's offense to only 41 first-half yards. Still, the game ended on an upbeat note for Berkner, with Terry Gibert breaking an 85 yard run in the final minute of the game, followed by a touchdown. The fans got to stand up and cheer, the band got to play the fight song, and the bell guard got to show the flag.

The band, as always, put on a great show. Last week, the Mighty Ram Band finished 4th of 28 bands at the Bands of America competition at the University of Texas at Arlington. Next Wednesday, they perform for UIL judges at Mesquite Memorial Stadium (Oct 21, 8PM). Judging by the show the fans saw Friday night, the band is ready to impress the UIL judges. Also, it was Junior High Band night. Seeing the Apollo and Liberty Jr High band students join the Mighty Ram Band on the field at halftime made for an impressive show of force. Friday Night Lights is still the greatest entertainment value around!

To see more photos from the game, look here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Texas Constitutional Amendments: How to Vote

There's an election coming up November 3, 2009. For Richardson voters, the only items on the ballot will be eleven proposed state constitutional amendments. The US Constitution has been amended only twenty seven times in over two hundred years. In contrast, Texans amend their constitution as often as possible. The Texas Constitution has been patched and repatched 456 times since it was adopted in 1876. Unless you want to wake up on November 4 asking how this or that whack amendment got passed, brief yourself on the proposed amendments now, then get out the vote on Tuesday, November 3.

For more information on these proposed constitutional amendments, I recommend: "Analyses of Proposed Constitutional Amendments", published by the Texas Legislative Council, whose mission is to provide professional and nonpartisan service and support to the Texas Legislature.

I also recommend attending the program cosponsored by the League of Women Voters of Richardson, the RISD Council of PTAs and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce on October 20 at 7:00 p.m. in the RISD Administration Building (400 S. Greenville Avenue, Richardson). State Representatives Carol Kent, Angie Chen Button and Jerry Madden will discuss the proposed amendments.

After the jump, The Wheel's cheat sheet on how to vote.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Help Wanted: School District Superintendent

The Richardson Independent School District is seeking a leader who has a passion to lead a dynamic suburban school district to an unprecedented level of success. The RISD is already the largest and most diverse "Recognized" school district in Texas. The school board, administrators and teachers are seeking to build on this solid foundation and to set the next standard, moving above and beyond what the state legislature measures for success. The district seeks improvements in post-secondary readiness, measured by participation in vocational classes, by SAT scores, by National Merit scholars, etc. The successful candidate will not only share that vision, but also build on it and provide the direction to get us there.

  • Location: Richardson, Texas
  • Compensation: TBD
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services or products.

To Apply: Contact RISD. Tell them you learned of the opening via The Wheel's Classifieds. I don't charge $20,500. I'll accept $500.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sonja and Casey's Wedding

From 2009 10 Sonja Casey Wedding

Milwaukee. Wedding. Sonja and Casey. I know what you're thinking. There have to be some oversized, foam sausage mascots involved somehow. And you're right. Sonja and Casey broke the mold for their wedding and reception at Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center. From start to finish, from the hand-made paper invitations (I mean the paper itself!) to the hymns sung by the guests during the ceremony (or should I say hums or maybe just hmm?) to the famous Miller Park racing sausages crashing the reception, this was a wedding to remember. Thanks, Sonja and Casey, for inviting us to celebrate with you. Our best wishes to you.

For more photos of the wedding and a few sightseeing snapshots of Milwaukee, look here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wildcat-Ram Stadium, or Ram-Wildcat?

Wildcat-Ram Stadium
From 2009 Football

The Richardson ISD has four high schools, but only two football stadiums, so sharing is a must. The Lake Highlands Wildcats and the Berkner Rams share the stadium at Lake Highlands High School, officially known as Wildcat-Ram Stadium (map), although Berkner Ram fans unofficially call it Ram-Wildcat Stadium. When the stadium press box was recently renovated, the school district diplomatically installed a circular sign with "Wildcat Ram" on the top and "Ram Wildcat" on the bottom. The outcome of the annual football game between the two schools determines which name gets unofficial precedence in the stadium name for the next year.

War of Words: Battle of Immigration

In an innocent little blog post talking up the upcoming fifth annual Plano International Festival at Haggard Park, reporter Theodore Kim made an unfortunate aside about how Plano has so far managed to avoid controversies over immigration reform.

You know what's coming in the reader comments, right? Controversy. The very first commenter says, "Immigration reform? Funny, I though it was 'illegal immigration' reform." The second commenter immediately demonstrated that the anger is broader than just illegal immigration, taking a whack at the H1-B visa program, which is "legal" immigration. It seems that there are folks opposed to immigration of any kind, legal or illegal. And they are fighting a war of words. "Undocumented worker" is already a casualty. "Illegal immigrant" is considered a contradiction, as foreigners without visas are considered invaders, not immigrants. I'm surprised the first commenter didn't opt for "illegal alien", which is still safe to say without drawing incoming fire.

So, Plano, enjoy your festival. Celebrate diversity, I say, ducking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's the Speed Limit, Really?

The North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) raised the speed limit on the Dallas North Tollway. Or did they? The brand new white speed limit signs saying 65 MPH certainly suggest they did. The NTTA soon decided that slight curves and rises cause blind spots that called for lower speeds along some stretches, so NTTA erected brand newer yellow signs specifying a 50 MPH speed limit. In some cases, the newer yellow signs are within sight of the new white signs. So, what's the speed limit? Hard to say. Two signs, different numbers.

Some drivers believe that the yellow signs aren't speed limits at all, only recommended maximum safe speeds. They claim that the "real" speed limits are posted on the white signs. Left unexplained is why the Department of Public Safety would set the real speed limit at 15 MPH above the maximum safe speed.

The Texas Department of Public Safety doesn't completely clear up the confusion. In a story in The Dallas Morning News, spokesman Lisa Block says police do not enforce the yellow advisory signs, except if you cause an accident. So, is a speed limit that police usually ignore, but sometimes enforce, a speed limit or not? Conspiracy theorists might call it entrapment. The Department of Public Safety lures drivers with the white signs suggesting it's OK to drive at an unsafe speed, then when accidents ensue, tickets the drivers for violating the yellow signs.

There's a simple solution. Remove the white signs in the stretches of highway with limited visibility, leaving only the yellow signs there. Whether or not the police choose to enforce that yellow speed limit, at least there'll be only one speed limit posted for each stretch of road. Not that it will make much difference. The DMN quotes one driver who points out the irony of the whole matter, "Obviously, no one is paying attention to [the signs], white or yellow. People seem to drive as fast as they want."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Green Line to the State Fair

From 2009 10 State Fair
It was Fair Day for the Richardson ISD and that means a day off to enjoy the State Fair of Texas. Ellen and I took the newly opened DART Green Line. It was hassle free. No traffic jams. No long walks from remote parking. No risk of having our car towed if we chose the wrong private lot. At the Fair, Ellen was interested in trying the new treat fried butter, which somehow we never got around to trying. ;-) We did split a funnel cake. Other than that, it was just a leisurely stroll through the park, seeing the prize steer, sheep, goat and pig, seeing all the prize arts and crafts, seeing but not riding or playing the Midway rides and games, a quick walk through the automobile building futilely looking for a Chevy with a joystick instead of a steering wheel ("That's not in the GM lineup") then, at the end, serendipitously following the US Marine Corps Band to the parade grounds for their concert. Then, it was back to the DART Green Line for a ride to the West End and dinner, then a ride on the DART Red Line back to Richardson. Another successful Fair Day!

To see all of our photos, look here.