Monday, January 31, 2011

Speaking of Zoning

Once again, the call is going out to pack the city council chambers to register opposition to rezoning the vacant land around the Bush DART Station. Personally, I'm less interested in how many people speak than in what they say. I'm not interested at all in self-appointed groups with inclusive-sounding names claiming to speak for unnamed others. Reportedly, an email from Richardson City Council member Bob Macy forwards a statement from a Richardson resident that captures my own attitude regarding the Bush Station zoning issue:

"We have lived in the Sherrill Park subdivision for almost 19 years and I am a member of the homeowners association. The board members were not elected to represent me on any zoning issues as it is not their charter. There is also a self appointed neighborhood association which also does not represent me and has no legal standing that I am aware of. I did participate in the election of the Richardson city council. They were elected to represent me on zoning issues."

Regardless where you stand on the issue of zoning around the Bush DART Station, it's important to keep the above in mind. After the jump, where the current discussion has missed that point.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coterie: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

From 2011 01 Coterie I Love You

"Coterie" is an organization of Richardson-area friends who get together three times a year for dinner and entertainment. The theme and activity for each occasion varies. The January 2011 Coterie party was dinner at the Dream Cafe and attendance of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" at Theatre 3.

For a slide show of the evening, click here.

Oh, the play? Here's my Twitter review:

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at Theatre 3: Musical comedy in a small venue. Non-stop fun by a great cast. Perennial favorite. B-

Buzzer Beaters

That plural in the headline is correct. Three buzzer beaters in one game, to be exact. In a close game with an exciting finish, the Berkner Rams boys basketball team beat the Jesuit Rangers Friday night 60-58 in overtime to stay unbeaten in District 9-5A play. Here's how The Dallas Morning News reported it.

"Two last-second shots by sophomores kept Richardson Berkner’s boys undefeated in 9-5A with a 60-58 overtime win over Jesuit. Kendal Harris hit a shot at the end of regulation, and Jordan Mickey hit the game-winner for Berkner (22-7, 9-0)."

But that hardly does the game justice. It was a close game throughout with numerous lead switches. Berkner led by three points after one period. Jesuit led by four at the half. Berkner led by four after three periods. Jesuit took a six point lead late in the fourth period. Berkner rallied to tie in the final minute. Jesuit played for the last shot and made a running jumper with 0.79 seconds on the clock to take the lead and with the buzzer beater, probably, the win.

After consulting, the referees put 1.7 seconds back on the clock. Berkner still had one last chance. Regan Lucio made the inbounds pass, a perfect three-quarters of the length of the floor connection to Jordan Mickey who was positioned at the top of the key. Mickey dished the ball to a waiting Kendal Harris who drove to the basket for the tying layup as regulation time expired. The refs consulted again and agreed that the shot was in time. Berkner had its own buzzer beater. Overtime.

The game-winner in overtime was a more traditional buzzer beater. With the score tied again, it was Berkner playing for the last shot. As the seconds wound down, Berkner worked the ball in to Jordan Mickey under the basket who made the basket with only a couple of seconds on the clock. Jesuit, out of timeouts, couldn't call time out to set up their own attempt at last second heroics. Instead, the clock expired as Jesuit passed the ball inbounds.

It was a shame that either team had to lose this game. If you enjoy basketball, there's more exciting high school boys basketball like this just down the street from your home. Games twice a week. Affordable. Good seats. Catch a game. You can thank me later. More importantly, the kids will thank you for your support.

To see photos from an earlier Berkner game this year, look here. It's a great time to be a Ram!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stopping Devious Nuns From Voting

As near as I can follow the logic for needing to spend $2 million to require photo ID to vote in Texas, it has something to do with stopping devious nuns in Indiana from voting. At least, that's what I think the expert called in to testify on the bill's behalf said, according to this story in The Austin American-Statesman.

"Despite the criticism of the Texas bill, Jerry Bonnet, chief legal counsel for the Indiana secretary of state's office, testified that his state's voter ID law has not hampered turnout or prevented legal voters from casting ballots.

Van de Putte questioned Bonnet about reports that some Indiana nuns were not allowed to vote. One group of women from a convent, most in their 80s, were turned away because they did not have required photo IDs, she said. Bonnet said they refused to present valid IDs and hinted that the situation might have been a publicity stunt.

'So they were devious nuns?' Van de Putte asked.
'Yes,' Bonnet responded."

Oh, and that $2 million? Don't worry. The bill's author, Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) says federal money will cover that. You see, federal money is someone else's money. Texas legislators don't have to be good stewards of that.

By the way, the Texas bill won't even catch any 80 year old devious nuns in Texas. You see, there's an exception for people who are older than 70. How they prove they are older than 70 unless they show their photo ID is unexplained.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Vincent: A Life In Color

From 200905 Chicago

The things you learn via Twitter. Idly following suggestions, I came across this tweet:

jwag John Waggenspack
@EbertChicago 's best documentaries of 2010. I have only seen part of the Joan Rivers one.
I followed the link and discovered I had seen five documentaries on Roger Ebert's list, including "the Joan Rivers one." And a couple more were already in my Netflix queue. That's cool. But what really caught my attention was Ebert's recommendation of "Vincent: A Life In Color."
"You have never heard of Vincent P. Falk, but if you’ve been near Marina City, you may have seen him. He’s the smiling, middle-aged man with a limitless variety of spectacular suits. He stands on the Michigan or Wabash avenue bridges, showing off his latest stupefying suit. He flashes the flamboyant lining, takes the coat off, spins it in great circles above his head, and then does his “spin move,” pivoting first left, then right, while whirling the coat in the air. Then he puts it on again and waves to the tourists on the boat, by now passing under the bridge."

What stopped me in my tracks was the photograph from the movie that accompanied the review. Hey, I thought, I've seen that man. I've taken his picture myself. Sure enough, reviewing my tourist snapshots from a trip to Chicago, I found him, standing on the Michigan Avenue bridge as my tour boat goes under. My photo is above. Serendipity.

Now if I can only get Netflix to carry the documentary so I can order it and watch.

Of Balanced Budgets and Bankruptcies

This was Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) in December, extolling the fiscal responsibility of the states in comparison to the federal government:

"A balanced budget amendment is a good idea, but certainly not a new one. All but one of the 50 states already have some form of a balanced budget amendment in their state constitutions, and we can draw from the experience of the states in drafting an amendment appropriate for the federal government."
-- Senator John Cornyn, December 1, 2010

This was Senator Cornyn this week, explaining what he thinks is needed to rescue those same states:

"Senate Republican leaders said on Tuesday they were considering introducing legislation to allow financially stressed U.S. states to declare bankruptcy ... 'We're exploring that as a responsible option,' Senator John Cornyn, who sits on both the Budget and Finance committees, told reporters."
-- Reuters

After the jump, tying Cornyn's ideas together.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giving Children a Chance at an Education Costs Money

"If we take these steps -- if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they're born until the last job they take ... America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."
-- President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011

Texas will be lucky if we don't dash expectations for every child over the next two years. The state legislature has proposed a budget that slashes expenditures on pre-kindergarten, elementary, secondary and college education. The impact on the Richardson school district (RISD) alone could be as high as $54 million.

Despite the gloomy news from Austin, locally the RISD is doing what it can to continue to provide the superior education that the RISD has been known for. That means, despite the pressure on funding for continuing operations coming from the state, the RISD is planning to continue investing in capital projects.

After the jump, news about the upcoming RISD bond election.

SOTU: Breaking the Back of this Recession

"These steps we've taken over the last two years may have broken the back of this recession, but to win the future, we'll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making."
-- President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011

What "breaking the back of this recession" looks like in graphic form:

Employment 'bikini' graph

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brick Row Hits Brick Wall

Brick Row
Brick Row


"I will admit: it is fun to watch a city council rake a developer over the coals"
-- RT @imccanntx on Twitter

The city council is Richardson's. The developer is David Gleeson, representative for Richardson's Brick Row development. The fun is, perhaps, a guilty pleasure that Richardson may pay for later.

The city council turned down a request by the developers to change the mix of residential units in Brick Row, eliminating condos that won't sell and increasing the number of apartments that have a better chance of attracting tenants. Ian McCann has the details in The Dallas Morning News Richardson blog.

After the jump, looking at this from different angles.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lookout, Bush Station, The Rule Is Changing

"The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday -- but never jam today."
--The White Queen, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
Just like the White Queen, politicians have a way of insisting on one set of behaviors yesterday, and maybe tomorrow, but not necessarily today. Washington politicians are particularly adept at this.

For example, take the scripted GOP talking point all through 2009 and early 2010 that the Democrats were wrong to "waste time" on health care reform when the sick economy was what needed the country's full attention. So, what does the GOP do as their first priority when they take control of Congress? Well, waste time with a symbolic vote to repeal health care reform, of course. Jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but not today. That even they realized how hypocritical it was is evidenced by them putting "job-killing" into the title of the bill, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."

After the jump, changing the menu in Richardson depending on what day it is.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Halas Trophy in Hand, Lombardi Trophy in Sight

Super Bowl Bound
from Green Bay Press Gazette

Does anyone have an extra ticket or two to give away? It doesn't hurt to ask, right?!? That's how I got to see the Ice Bowl game for the 1967 NFL championship.

That Super Bowl XLV is being played in Arlington is only one local connection to the game. Another one, even closer to home, my Richardson school district home, is that Lake Highlands High School grad and Green Bay Packers rookie Marshall Newhouse is headed to the Super Bowl. The Advocate has the story.

Judging by the graphic above from the Green Bay Press Gazette, the mood in Green Bay is ebullient. Meanwhile, the mood in Chicago is black. Here, for example, is's Michael Wilbon:

"Perhaps never has there been more despair in Chicago over quarterback incompetence than in the wake of the loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday. Forbidding the mention of the name Jay Cutler may be the best way to cope with winter. Only a Bears quarterback could stink out the joint and then get worse while sitting on the sideline."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Website Redesign and Pay Wall at TDMN

The Dallas Morning News

Jeffrey Weiss of The Dallas Morning News asked readers for their opinion of the newspaper's website redesign. That's easy. The old site was cluttered and navigation a nightmare. The new look is cleaner and more consistent throughout. That's good.

There are still some rough edges. Most annoying: headlines that serve as links to stories don't have dates associated with them. It's impossible to tell if a story is an hour old or several months old. For example, the fourth headline in "Top Stories" for Richardson Berkner sports is "Richardson Berkner 37, Samuell 6." It turns out that's a football score from last November. Hardly a "top story" anymore. A date would help readers know that.

After the jump, why website design is largely irrelevant anyway and the more important issue, the new pay wall at The Dallas Morning News.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shutting the Door to the City on a Hill

In his farewell address to the nation on January 11, 1989, President Ronald Reagan turned one last time to an image he frequently referred to over his long career in public office:

"I've spoken of the 'shining city [upon a hill]' all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still."

I was reminded of President Reagan's farewell address when reading about the draconian state budget proposed by Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee.

After the jump, how we've lost sight of Reagan's vision.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"We have billions in surplus."

"We have billions in surplus."
-- Governor Rick Perry, February 8th, 2010 in a TV advertisement

"Public education in Texas faces massive cuts"
-- Headline, January 19, 2011, in The Austin American Statesman.

After the jump, wrapping my head around the contradiction.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Happened at the Big Public Hearing?

The big public hearing over the rezoning request for the vacant land surrounding the Bush Turnpike Station in Richardson was held last night. It was the biggest thing to hit the Richardson city council since Channel 8 accused the council of trying to set up a red light district in Richardson.

After the jump, the reason for the question mark at the end of the headline.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Election Whining and Losing

There are no announced candidates yet, but the Richardson City Council election is already heating up. I predicted that the issues would be taxes and spending. It may still turn out that way (depending on who chooses to run), but the early grumbling on the blogs suggests that personal attacks are going to play a bigger role than any issues regarding city government.

After the jump, some personal attacks from comments on other blogs.

Second-Guessing a Touchdown

When is a first down better than a touchdown?

The New York Jets upset the New England Patriots Sunday, 28-21. The winning touchdown came with 1:41 remaining in the game, as the Jets' Shonn Greene rushed to the right for 16 yards into the end zone, giving the Jets a 28-14 lead. While the Jets celebrated on the field, drawing a 15 yard penalty, I sat at home looking ahead and thinking about Tom Brady. Did Shonn Green make a tactical error by leaving Tom Brady and the Patriots time for a comeback?

After the jump, what Tom Brady did with 1:41.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Excerpts: The Grand Design

The Grand Design

Excerpts from "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow:

The Grand Design
the universe itself has no single history, nor even an independent existence.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Berkner Rams 67, Richardson Eagles 58

From 2011 01 Berkner Basketball

The Berkner Rams boys basketball team defeated the Richardson Eagles 67-58 Friday night in the Berkner gym. Berkner (19-7), ranked 12th in the state by TABC and undefeated (5-0) in District 9-5A play, led 22-9 after one quarter. Richardson dominated the second quarter, tying the game at 32 at the half. Richardson grabbed the lead 34-32 to open the second half. Berkner gradually regained control of the game, winning by 9.

Richardson's Torrance Carr led all scorers with 27 points. Xavier Thomas led Berkner's more balanced scoring with 22. Four Berkner players finished with double digits in scoring.

It's a great time to be a Ram! To see all photos, look here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Civility: What's Not To Like?

Civility is the new black

President Barack Obama, January 12, 2011:

"And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy -- it did not -- but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud."

Dallas's own Jeffrey Weiss has issued a call for something he calls a "National Political Civility Month" to be honored in January each year. Why just a month and not the full year? He doesn't have a good answer. Still, it's a start. What's not to like? Who could argue against civility, against simple courtesy, against motherhood and apple pie, right?

After the jump, the argument against motherhood and apple pie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Real Heroes, Real Suspicious: Round Two

They're Ba-ack

A year ago, the Richardson Coalition, a political action committee formed to elect its preferred candidates to city council, created something called the "Real Heroes Award." Many people were suspicious of the PAC's motives (and by many people, I mean me and by suspicious, I mean dead certain). Their voting procedure, requiring the public to submit their email addresses to the PAC, smacked of an email harvesting scheme. I wrote about it here.

After the jump, THEY'RE BA-ACK!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Video Scoreboards: Dumb Idea That Won't Die

Daktronics Scoreboard
Who needs cheerleaders?

The RISD is preparing a bond package to place before voters in May. In early drafts of the package, $2 million was penciled in for new video scoreboards at the RISD's two football stadiums. That was reportedly whittled down to $400,000 by foregoing new video capabilities. In this time of state budget deficits threatening public school education, even that much is best deferred.

Even if I thought the RISD could afford them, video scoreboards are still a dumb idea, for reasons I explained a month ago. After the jump, the RISD refuses to let this dumb idea die.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Richardson to Dentist: This Won't Hurt a Bit

Over a year ago, the presidents of three homeowners' associations in southwest Richardson lobbied the city to stop "half-hearted" development. What is half-hearted development? The answer was kind of fuzzy, but presumably converting old fast food restaurants into doctors' offices is considered to be half-hearted redevelopment. And it's clearly not wanted.

What I said about this topic when it came up in November, 2009, can be read here. After the jump, what's new.

Coming to Richardson: A New York State of Mind

Paul Krugman -- Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist (I don't know which of those makes him more suspect to Texas readers) -- has been looking into the conventional wisdom that the Texas economy has been a great success in this recession. He compiles a telling graph showing unemployment trends for Texas and New York for the last decade. I challenge you to tell which state is which without looking at the legend. Krugman suggests that "the miraculous Texas immunity to the recession is mythical."

After the jump, Krugman's explanation for why Texas, for a long time, has had faster-growing employment and population than the Northeast.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Twitter Tracks: Football, Lame Ducks and More

Twitter tracks from December, 2010:

  • 2010 12 01 - Where politics, business and sport collide - Nate Silver's blog about TCU and the Big East:
  • 2010 12 02 - Funny how that works. Headline: "If Democrats are the big spenders, why do Republican states get the money?"
  • 2010 12 02 - The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris: Science & morality are not different realms. Science has more to say about morality than religion does.
  • 2010 12 03 - Coco Avant Chanel (2009): No corset! Anarchy. A portrait of a talented, ambitious young woman on the rise. With Audrey Tautou! See it.
  • 2010 12 05 - Northwestern is coming to Dallas this season! and playing in the Cotton Bowl stadium on New Year's Day. Thank you, TicketCity Bowl.
  • 2010 12 05 - And Wisconsin is back in the Rose Bowl. God's in his heaven - All's right with the world.
  • 2010 12 07 - "Chaos" is Randy Moss's nickname. Headline: "Chaos could end Fisher's Titans tenure"
  • 2010 12 07 - 14 years after DART opens, Jacquielynn Floyd discovers commuter rail. Her scoop: It's less stressful than driving.

After the jump, more Twitter tracks.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Find Cancer Early

Consider that an order. This is a Public Service Announcement:

"Colorectal cancer screening helps people stay well and save lives. Regular colorectal cancer testing is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing colorectal cancer. Removing polyps prevents colorectal cancer from ever starting. And cancers found in an early stage are more easily treated. Nine out of 10 people whose colon cancer is discovered early will be alive 5 years later. And many will live a normal life span. But too often people don't get these tests. Then the cancer can grow and spread without being noticed, like a silent invader. In many cases, by the time people have any symptoms the cancer is very advanced and very hard to treat."
-- American Cancer Society

After the jump, what the PSA above doesn't tell you about colonoscopy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Read the Bill

It's that every-two-years time again. The Texas legislature is set to meet. Its biggest challenge is to close a projected $20 billion budget gap. I'll let Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) explain how the legislators will work their magic:

"Every session, the Texas Senate passes one version of the budget and the House of Representatives passes another. At that point, a few legislators are appointed to what's known as a Conference Committee, and they get together (often behind closed doors) to add some spending and programs to the budget, remove some investment that some folks care about, and make other changes. Then, after a month or so of work, the Conference Committee report - which is basically the final draft of the budget - gets filed in both the Senate and the House. And legislators, advocates, the media, and other Texans generally have about 48 hours, if that, to sort through an almost 1,000 page document. Even with the best of intentions and effort, folks are left scrambling to discover what's been changed, added, subtracted, divided or multiplied as they try to figure out how lots of money covering lots of items - more than $180 billion in the current budget (which includes $87 billion in discretionary money) - will be spent."

After the jump, Senator Watson's simple suggestion for improving the process.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

OTBR: A Sparse Pine Forest in Estonia

Latitude: 58.5969 N
Longitude: 22.6021 E

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, January 3, 2011

Everybody Talks About the Weather

But Richardson does something about it. At least, they are making it easier to collect rainwater in Richardson. According to this story in The Dallas Morning News, the city council is drafting an ordinance "that would permit rainwater harvesting systems and allow for their installation with a city permit."

After the jump, my reaction.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Inaugural TicketCity Bowl

Northwestern in Dallas

The site was the Cotton Bowl, but the game wasn't the Cotton Bowl Classic. That game has moved to Cowboys Stadium and will be played this year on January 7. No, this game was the inaugural TicketCity Bowl game. It restores the tradition of a New Year's Day bowl game in the Cotton Bowl, a tradition that dates to 1937 (see The Dallas Morning News story here). This year's inaugural game featured the Northwestern Wildcats and the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

It was sunny and cool. Chicago weather. Still, Northwestern fell behind and couldn't quite catch up. Trailing by 22 in the 3rd quarter, they twice closed the gap to 7 points in the 4th quarter. Final score: Texas Tech 45, Northwestern 38.

To see photos of all the action, look here.