Friday, April 30, 2010

Bedside Manners

Honesty is the best policy, right? Not necessarily. If you're a doctor with an atrocious bedside manner, some things are best kept to yourself. On the other hand, if a sensitive and gentle approach doesn't align with the politics of your state legislators, then it's best to lay it all out in the open. Unless *that* isn't politically correct. Clear as mud?

After the jump, the mixed and confusing cases in the news.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Second Coming

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chair Tests For School Board Candidates

The band booster clubs of the Richardson ISD sponsored a forum for RISD school board candidates Tuesday evening in the Richardson High School band hall. Six candidates for three seats participated. I don't intend to endorse or oppose any candidate, but I do want to make some random comments about what was said at the forum. Just like the last forum, I won't be mentioning names.

After the jump, my impression of the forum.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beaches Along Eastern Seaboard Are Disappearing

According to this Slate story, "The beaches along the Eastern seaboard are about to disappear." Blame natural sinking of shorelines, steady sea-level rise due to global warming, and counter-productive steps taken by humans to protect beaches and beach houses. Worse, no one is listening. According to Slate, "Most coastal states have done little or nothing to regulate shoreline development, often for fear of litigation."

After the jump, what does this have to do with Texas?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Early Voting, April 26 - May 4

Polling places are open for early voting for the May 8 joint election. Richardson voters can vote in the Civic Center. There are two elections on the ballot. First is the $66 million city bond proposal to fund streets, parks, municipal buildings and neighborhood revitalization projects. Second are three places on the Richardson ISD board of trustees.

After the jump, a quick look at the election campaigns.

How Do RISD Schools Rank?

For years, the non-profit organization Children At Risk has sought to "improve the quality of life for children across Texas through strategic research, public policy analysis, education, collaboration and advocacy." As part of their mission, they've collected data on almost all public schools in Texas. Now, The Texas Tribune makes that data available and easily accessible.

"Using the Children At Risk data, The Texas Tribune has built a searchable database to help parents judge schools and help educators and policy makers examine the relative performance of groups of schools and districts. And we've constructed a detailed page for each school, separately laying out the data used to compute the rankings of more than 5,800 campuses."

After the jump, what the data tells us about Richardson ISD schools.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Berkner Run-Rules Richardson 12-1

From 2010 04 HS Baseball

In a big District 9-5A game, the Berkner Rams easily handed the Richardson Eagles only their second loss in district play this year. The Rams won 12-1 in six innings by the ten-run rule. Starting pitcher Stephen Spurlin scattered five hits for the complete game win while Berkner batters pounded out eleven hits. Richardson didn't help their cause any by committing four errors. The play of the game was a 5-6-3 double play by the Rams in the third inning that broke up a Richardson threat while the game was still close. With one game left in the season, Berkner, now 10-3, trails district-leading Richardson, 11-2, by only one game.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Before The Big Bang

From Eternity to Here

Sean Carroll, a physicist at Caltech, has been on a media tour promoting his latest book, "From Eternity to Here." You might have seen him on "The Colbert Report". Or maybe read the New York Times interview.

After the jump, why it's exciting to see a scientist get some media attention.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oral Exams For School Board Candidates

The Council of PTAs and League of Women Voters sponsored a forum for Richardson ISD school board candidates Tuesday evening in the RISD administration building auditorium. Six candidates for three seats participated. I don't intend to endorse or oppose any candidate, but I do want to make some random comments about what was said at the forum. I won't be mentioning names. If you want anything more specific, check out the recorded video of the forum when it's posted at the RISD website.

After the jump, my impression of the forum.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Movin On Up On The East Side


With the grand opening of ALDI in Richardson scheduled for April 22, we finally got a piece of the pie. Literally.

"Smarter shoppers go to smarter stores. Smarter shoppers know better than to pay extra at stores where baggers bag groceries and employees chase carts in the parking lot, or the cost of national brand marketing raises prices. So smarter shoppers shop where select-assortment inventory increases buying power and lowers prices, saving them up to 50% over supermarket prices. Smarter shoppers just 'get it.' And they get it at ALDI."

After the jump, how ALDI is just the latest in a series of redevelopments for an aging neighborhood in east Richardson.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Telling Stories With Tax Data

"Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything."
-- Gregg Easterbrook

Did you just finish wrestling with your income tax forms April 15? Don't take too much time to catch your breath. Richardson has a bond election coming up May 8. Various claims about the impact on your property taxes are making the rounds in the blogosphere. Let's try to wrestle some of them to the ground.

After the jump, how the same data can tell two different stories.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Not Much Evolution In The Creationism Debate

Suppose you're a candidate for school board in Texas. Suppose further that a reporter for the local newspaper asks you this question, "Are you in favor or opposed to the teaching of Creationism in science classes?"

The question sounds like a simple yes/no question, but it's anything but simple. Importantly, the question is not equivalent to asking, "Do you believe in Creationism?" Also, it's not equivalent to asking, "Will you attempt to include Creationism in the curriculum for science classes?" To do the question justice, it's important to provide both a yes/no answer and answers to the questions, "Why?" and "How will your beliefs influence your behavior as a school board trustee?"

So, how would you answer? After the jump, I examine the different tacks that might be taken.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities: City Bond Edition

Allen Stadium
Future Allen Stadium

What makes politics endlessly fascinating and intractably difficult is how two sides can look at the same objective facts and reach diametrically opposite positions. Or how one side can effortlessly forget its argument on one issue as it moves onto debating a related issue. Or how one body politic can deal with an issue without controversy while another body politic is hopelessly divided over similar issues.

After the jump, examples from Richardson's upcoming bond election.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Big Book Of Buzz

Mark's Stylebook: When reporting threats to controversial plays about gay Jesus, don't use the words "terrorist" or "jihad" or even "yahoo".

The Dallas Morning News' Jacquielynn Floyd broke that stylebook rule big time this week in her column about a student production of the controversial play Corpus Christi that presents Jesus as gay. She starts off breaking the rule in her column headline, "North Texas zealots score in jihad on 'gay Jesus' play" and the infractions only rack up from there.

After the jump, the other rule that caused Floyd to break Mark's Stylebook rule.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Naked Truth

Whatever happened to the online checkbook that all the candidates running for Richardson City Council in 2009 were in favor of, at least in principle? Maybe it's coming, maybe it isn't, but judging by council meeting and worksession agendas, after the election this issue dropped completely off the council's radar screen as far as I can tell.

After the jump, the same issue as it relates to state government.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Purity Pledge For Texas GOP

Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced the formation of a new political action committee, the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas. Most of the Republicans in the state senate and over half in the house were invited and joined the PAC. Notable names absent include Richardson legislators Sen. John Carona (District 16) and Rep. Angie Chen Button (District 112). GOP candidate Stefani Carter, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Carol Kent (District 102), is not among the list of five GOP primary winners who joined the PAC.

The press release announcing the PAC's formation begins:

"On the eve of the 'Tea Party' movement's anniversary, conservative legislators in Texas have banded together to form a new organization -- the Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas. With conservative voters organizing like never before to protest the unprecedented overreaching intrusion of the federal government, voters need to know there are Republican legislators who share their beliefs and will uphold their principals [sic]."

After the jump, my initial impressions of the new PAC.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Glaring Urban Failure

"Glaring urban failure." That's what The Dallas Morning News' Rodger Jones calls Richardson's pedestrian access to its DART stations.

"There's no way to safely walk from the Galatyn and Bush DART rail stations to the nearest residential neighborhoods. C'mon, folks. Build some sidewalks."

Does he have a point? Yes. Does he omit some important information? Also yes. After the jump, the context.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reverse 911

Did you receive a robocall from the city of Richardson today on your cell phone? If you did, chances are you registered your cell phone with the city's Reverse 911 service.

After the jump, what Reverse 911 is all about.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

OTBR: New England Covered Bridge

Latitude: 44.169201° N
Longitude: 71.960999° W

A child on a road trip with his family 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".

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities

It was the best of meetings. It was the worst of meetings. The meeting referred to was the first of three community meetings to gather input on redevelopment plans for the west Spring Valley Road area in Richardson. After the jump, two different perspectives of that meeting.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hill Country Weekend

Photos from a weekend trip to the Texas Hill Country, including the LBJ National Historical Parks (Boyhood Home and LBJ Ranch) and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. All photos can be seen here.

From 2010 04 Hill Country

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tomato The Town

Still weeks away from the big launch event for Richardson City Council member Amir Omar's ambitious green initiative "Tree the Town", he reportedly has his sights set on his next project, community gardens. Community gardens typically exploit neglected public space (vacant lots, open land along highways, etc.) by putting the idle land to productive use growing vegetables. I've got nothing against the concept, but the concept will have difficulty getting a foothold in Richardson.

After the jump, some reasons why.