Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dallas Skyline 42, Lake Highlands 27

From 2009 Football

By the time you finish reading this article, a question is likely to occur to you. So let's get it out of the way up front. What are Ellen and I doing still attending high school football games years after Scott and John graduated from high school? Well, you might as well ask why 105,000 people attended the Dallas Cowboys' game, when no more than a few ever knew anyone who worked in the NFL. High school football is great entertainment, with the game, the bands and color guards, the drill team and cheerleaders, all for just $6 per ticket. Compare with the $160 average ticket price of a Cowboys' game and the choice is clear. Friday night lights for me.

The next question that might occur to you is why are Ellen and I going to a game that doesn't involve the Berkner Rams? Well, the Rams played Thursday night away. This Friday night, the game to see involved Lake Highlands and Dallas Skyline.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Pres..., err, Walt and Ruth

Fifties Party

Marilyn Monroe

Appletree Court celebrates Family Night once a month with dinner and live entertainment. September's theme was a '50s Party with hamburgers and Cokes and Marilyn Monroe. Ruth and Walt have birthdays Friday and Sunday, so Marilyn serenaded both with a sultry "Happy Birthday, Mr. President." Judging by that big red smacker on Walt's forehead, I'd say a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Myers and Briggs Have Been Spying On Me

There's an old joke in which a man is asked if he believes in astrology and he answers, "No way. We Scorpios are very skeptical." Well, I take the same attitude to psychological profiling. Myers-Briggs, for example. Rod Dreher recommended it in The Dallas Morning News. So, naturally, I just had to debunk it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fresh Shoots in Telecom Corridor

Ten years ago, Richardson's economy was thriving thanks to a booming tech economy and the concentration of telecom and networking giants in Richardson. With Nortel, Alcatel, MCI, AT&T, Cisco and others having a significant presence in Richardson, the Chamber of Commerce even coined the term Telecom Corridor to promote Richardson. That was then. Then the bubble burst. News out of Richardson for the last decade has been more likely to be announcement of layoffs or bankruptcy than good news. In an effort to diversify, Richardson attracted Countrywide Financial to fill office space in the decimated Telecom Corridor. Yes, Countrywide, the nation's No. 1 mortgage lender came to Richardson just in time for the housing bubble collapse. The city couldn't catch a break.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Still Fighting the Civil War

Somewhere in my formal education I learned, or thought I did, that the question of whether states can secede from the Union had been settled once and for all by the Civil War. Now living in Texas, I realize that many Texans don't think it's as settled a question as I once thought. Even Texas Governor Rick Perry hinted that secession is not out of the question. At an Austin "Tea Party" in April, Perry said:
"When we came in the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Brainiac Calls Me Goofy

I'll take "Quiz Show Hosts" for $100, please.
A.) This quiz show host said he spent more time
      with Ken Jennings than with his wife.
Q.) Who is Alex Trebek?

You remember Ken Jennings, right? He's the former software engineer whose fifteen minutes of fame stretched to 74 days, the longest winning streak on the long-running television quiz show, Jeopardy!

Jennings wrote about Jeopardy! and trivia buffs in general in a book titled, "Brainiac". I won't say how the lead Brainiac himself has come to call me goofy (if not me, at least my hobbies), because that would require me to go into all sorts of detail defending myself, after which many readers are likely going to nod their heads and say something like, "Yeah, Jennings is right. That's goofy." So my best strategy is to lie low. All I'll say is that it has something to do with a new book Jennings is writing that has a chapter about games using a technology whose acronym is spelled S-P-G backwards. Buy the book. Unless it's goofy. ;-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

License Plates: Bad Design? Or Worst Design?

People have been spotting evidence of the decline of Western Civilization at least as far back as The Three Stooges. Beginning in the 1970s, disco, punk, rap then hip-hop were decried as the degeneration of music. Today, it's the teabagger protestors who sound the alarm over America's descent into fascism, communism and universal health insurance. My own contribution to this growing body of work is the observation that the decline can be roughly traced in the history of Texas license plates.

The art of license plate design reached its pinnacle in the 1940s with a clean white plate with black numbers. Above the numbers was, simply, the name "TEXAS." Below the numbers was blank. The only decorative touch was a small, tasteful star in the center of the plate. The design was perfect. But good taste can't last forever. Feature creep began in the 1970s, the decade of leisure suits and wide neckties. The star was replaced with a small outline of the familiar shape of Texas. The sesquicentennial year of 1986 saw the introduction of the first slogan below the numbers, the obvious "SESQUICENTENNIAL", soon replaced permanently with "THE LONE STAR STATE". Then a big waving Texas flag was added to the top.

License plate design reached its nadir with the plate containing oil derricks, a cowboy on a horse, the space shuttle, a crescent moon and a landscape silhouette of mountains. It was a design that screamed "designed by committee." I think this excess was deliberate to drive people to buy one of the many specialized plates that began appearing at this time, collegiate plates, military or veteran plates, plates with horned frogs ("Keep Texas Wild"), cartoon dogs and cats ("Animal Friendly") or any of dozens of other designs someone must have said they wanted but later had second thoughts about, as you never see them on cars on the road.

Now, in 2009, yet another new design is appearing on Texas roads. This design was selected by an Internet poll, giving cover to the responsible officials at TxDOT ("Don't blame us, the public likes it"). Thankfully, the space shuttle and oil derricks and cowboy are gone. The silhouette of mountains is still there, although at first glance the blue tint makes the mountains look more like swelling seas. Across the top are swaths of blue and red that look like a kindergartner's crayon scrawls after having gone through the washing machine. If you recently took advantage of the government's "cash for clunkers" program, be warned that when the dealer puts this new license plate on your new car, it's halfway to clunker status itself.

The new design adds a seventh digit to the license number, allowing for billions of unique license plate numbers. That means this design could be with us for a very long time. Bad taste can't last forever, can it?

(Hat tip to Wick Allison.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Great Fountain Plaza Festival - Rain or Shine

From 200909 Fountain Plaza Festival

The heavy rains didn't stop the fun at Richardson's Great Fountain Plaza Festival. Events simply moved indoors, including games, activities, animals, live entertainment and the dozens of booths and tables for everything from A (Altrusa) to Z (ZumbaDallas). Ellen was there with the League of Women Voters of Richardson facilitating voter registration and informing voters about the November 3rd election and the Texas constitutional amendments on the ballot. The League can always use new volunteers. Consider joining.

See more photos from the festival here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Faded Photographs, Indelible Memories

From Genealogy
"Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories; They're all that's left you"

-- Paul Simon, 1968

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Support Proposition 4, Support UT-Dallas

HB51 Signing

Proposition 4 (HJR 14-2)

"The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund."

In case you hadn't noticed, the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-D) is competing with six other state universities to attain the coveted rank of Tier One research university. They are UT-Arlington, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, UT-San Antonio, and UT-El Paso.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Protected/Permitted Left-Turn Signals Changing

There's an endless list of problems we face: economic recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, health care, global warming, immigration, federal debt. So, let's talk about traffic lights.

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Trip to Jerry Jones' Death Star

Cowboys Stadium
More 2009 Football
Ellen and I joined John and Anne for our first trip to the Dallas Cowboys' new gazillion dollar stadium in Arlington, Texas. The event was a quadruple header of high school football. We stayed only for the first game between Euless Trinity and South Jordan (Utah) Bingham High School. Trinity is a Texas football powerhouse, having won the state championship in 2005 and 2007. Bingham finished second in last year's Utah state playoffs. Bingham's head coach Dave Peck called today's game the "biggest high school football game anyone from Utah has ever participated in."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

RISD shields students from the President

Next week, the President plans to broadcast a short speech aimed at students nationwide, challenging them "to work hard, set goals and take responsibility for their learning." Ho-hum, right? Wrong.

According to the The Dallas Morning News, the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) received about a hundred calls from parents objecting to their children listening to the President. Perhaps as a result, the RISD plans to require written parental permission before students are allowed to listen to the President of the United States extol the value of an education.

Normally, the RISD can be counted on to make level-headed decisions in the best interest of education. This decision might have involved the former superintendent and now, once again, acting superintendent Dr. Carolyn Bukhair. If so, and this was her call, I'll be charitable and assume she's just rusty after coming out of retirement. Because I hate to think that the RISD is a victim of an illness making a comeback in this country, an epidemic that's not swine flu.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"Station Fire" Moves Away From Pasadena

Station Fire

Scott provides the following account of the fires burning in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles ... and very near Pasadena! The fire has already burned nearly 242 square miles, making it one of the largest wildfires in southern California history.

"Bush Derangement Syndrome" Redux

"The more things change, the more they remain the same."
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

For some reason, recently I've been thinking about "Bush Derangement Syndrome" more than I ever did while George W. Bush was President. According to Wikipedia, Bush Derangement Syndrome is

"a pejorative political neologism coined by the American conservative political columnist, and psychiatrist, Charles Krauthammer in a 2003 column. ... Krauthammer defined Bush Derangement Syndrome as 'the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.' While Krauthammer's column was somewhat tongue-in-cheek ... the term indicates a belief that some extreme criticisms of President Bush are of emotional origins rather than based on facts or logic."
Charles Krauthammer's 2003 observation was just a single example of a more general phenomenon.

Kennedy, Bush, Obama

Berkner 49, South Grand Prairie 19

Opening kickoff returned for a touchdown!
From 2009 Football

The 100 degree temperatures have moderated to the low nineties in north Texas. That can mean only one thing -- football season! Berkner High School opened its season with a dominating win over South Grand Prairie High School at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. The team looked sharp on both offense and defense, scoring on the opening kickoff and pushing their lead to 42-0 score after three quarters. The experts were impressed, voting Berkner into the D/FW area rankings in 18th place.