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.