Monday, October 31, 2011

You Need Water to Have a Tea Party

Last week, I offered my opinion on how to vote on the proposed amendments to the Texas constitution. Or, more accurately, I sent you off to read others' recommendations. Opinions on these propositions are proving true the old saw about politics making strange bedfellows.

After the jump, an example.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Clincher: Sunset 8, Berkner 27

From 2011 Football

On the night that the Texas Rangers lost the seventh game of the World Series, the Berkner Rams gave their loyal fans who came out to Wildcat-Ram Stadium plenty to celebrate instead. The Rams beat the Sunset Bisons 27-8 to clinch a playoff spot in District 9-5A. Playoffs, here we come!

Here's the full District 9-5A playoff situation, according to The Dallas Morning News. "Clinched: Skyline, Jesuit, Richardson Berkner; Eliminated: Samuell, Sunset, W.T. White. The winner of Richardson vs. Lake Highlands on Friday clinches a playoff berth."

It was also Junior High Band Night, meaning the largest number of young musicians on the field at any one time any time this year. What a show!

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Go Rangers! Just Go.

Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from a World Series Championship. Once in the 9th, again in the 10th. Two blown saves. A combined five fielding and throwing errors by both teams. More mental errors than space allows to document, even in virtually infinite cyberspace. A football-like 10-9 score. 28 hits. An umpire who contributed to the pin-ball scoring by refusing to give either pitcher, any pitcher, the corner of the plate.

After the jump, the full indictment of a crime against sport.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chasing Squirrels in Richardson

DUG: "My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may talk -- SQUIRREL!!"
Source: Up.
The dog in the movie "Up" may have been fictional, but we all have a little bit of his weakness for easy distraction in us.

The League of Women Voters of Richardson presented an educational program on the question, "Is the current city charter right for Richardson?" You'd hope that it would prompt a productive discussion about what changes, if any, are needed to make Richardson's city charter work better for Richardson's residents in the 21st century. Instead, it's like the city has decided what's really important is ... SQUIRREL!

After the jump, chasing squirrels.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amending the Texas Constitution for the Umpteenth Time

This November 8, Texans will once more go the polls and vote on a slew of proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

Proposition 1: Homestead Exemptions for Disabled Veterans' Surviving Spouses

Ballot Language: "The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran."

That's the first of ten such amendments. I know what you're thinking -- why is a constitutional amendment needed to make a minor tweak to the homestead exemption for property taxes? Don't we elect representatives to make informed decisions for us on such details? The answer is that, historically, Texans so mistrusted government that we enshrined many details of governance in our constitution, thus requiring a vote of all Texans to decide even the most mundane issues. Because of this, not surprisingly, the Texas constitution is a mess. Even the tea party agrees, and you would think that if anyone would be sympathetic to shackling the powers of elected representatives, it would be the tea party.

After the jump, how you should vote.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Excerpts: Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein

From "Moonwalking with Einstein," by Joshua Foer:

Open quote

Once upon a time, there was nothing to do with thoughts except remember them. There was no alphabet to transcribe them in, no paper to set them down upon. Anything that had to be preserved had to be preserved in memory."

After the jump, my review and more excerpts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Hail Huffhines Art Trails

From 2011 10 Huffhines Art Trails

A rare overnight downpour and hailstorm failed to dampen the spirits at the Huffhines Art Trails, even if the weather did noticeably suppress the turnout. As one artist said, the straw used to cover the mud complimented the rustic feel of her booth.

To see more photos, look here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Homecoming Spoiler: Berkner 46, Richardson 21

From 2011 Football

The Berkner Rams spoiled the Richardson Eagles' homecoming celebration Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium. The Rams scored on their first play from scrimmage and never looked back on their way to a 46-21 victory. The win puts the Rams in great position to secure the #3 playoff spot in District 9-5A, behind Skyline and Jesuit.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I Learned from LWV about the City Charter

Wednesday night, the League of Women Voters of Richardson presented a program "Is the City's Current Charter Right for Richardson?" I had low expectations for this program. Maybe I was just in a bad mood because, long after the LWV set its date, the opening game of the World Series, featuring the Texas Rangers, ended up landing on the same night. I naively hoped that when the conflict became known, things would get rescheduled, but Major League Baseball wouldn't budge. It turns out to have been a blessing in disguise, as I was spared having to watch the Rangers lose to the Cardinals (I'm a poor sport when my team is losing.) And, the LWV's program taught me a thing or two about city charters.

After the jump, what I learned from the speakers, former Richardson mayor Ray Noah and Robert Lowry, professor of political science at UT-Dallas.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dealing with "Fat Tail" Risks

In Tuesday's GOP debate in Las Vegas, Michele Bachmann said some crazy things that, if this were an episode of Survivor, would have gotten her voted off the island. Or did she?

After the jump, just how crazy is Michele Bachmann, really?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First Impressions of GOP Debate in Las Vegas

Seven GOP candidates went toe-to-toe in one of the most spirited debates yet. My quick scorecard:

  • Romney took some heat on Romneycare, on illegal immigration, and on job creation, but had detailed, bulleted answers ready. He held his own. Because he's leading the polls, that's a win for him.
  • Cain took the most heat for his "bold" 9-9-9 plan. Everyone attacked it. He suffered some wounds but didn't go down. Because he's already in the top tier, that's a limited success for him.
  • Perry was his most energetic yet. Because expectations were so low, he helped himself, but his attacks on Romney were skillfully repelled. Because no one else imploded, there might not be much rebound in the polls for Perry.
  • Santorum was a me-too candidate, trying to distinguish himself by adding something about family in every answer. No one seems to care.
  • Bachmann was a me-too candidate, trying to distinguish herself by emphasizing her position as the farthest out on the right-wing. That's not likely to be the selling point she thinks.
  • Gingrich played the wise old Republican, standing up for Reagan and warning against bickering. Too many other candidates have to implode for Gingrich to get a second look.
  • Paul was his usual consistent self. He'd cut federal departments wholesale; he scolded his fellow candidates for not saying they'd cut defense spending; he said we ought to replace the income tax with "nothing;" he refused to pick between Wall Street and the White House for whom to blame for the financial crisis - he said blame them both and the Fed, too. His followers love him, but he's probably still considered the crazy old uncle in the attic by too many Republicans to have a chance at the nomination.
After the jump, random impressions.

A TreeKIT Grows in Brooklyn

Richardson's "Tree the Town" program has been pretty quiet so far this fall. In fact, it's been pretty quiet ever since its initial burst of tree-plantings last fall. You have to go back to last October to find anything on its official event calendar.

So, after the jump, a recap of other cities' efforts, including a new one (new to me, anyway) in New York City.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Want to Fix School Financing? Sue.

"Please sue us soon." That was the note reportedly passed by one Texas legislator to a school finance lawyer during the last session of the Texas legislature. It was a white flag admitting that the Texas legislature itself wasn't going to fix the bollixed up Texas school finance system. So, it was inevitable that Texas school districts would turn to the courts to do it. This week, the first of several expected lawsuits was filed by 150 mostly low- and moderate-wealth school districts.

The issues, after the jump.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Komen Dallas Race for the Cure - 2011

From 2011 10 Race for the Cure

Saturday morning. Up at 6:00 AM. Out of the house at 7. Hitting the pavement at 8 along with 26,000 others for a 5K run/walk/stroll in the neighborhood around Dallas's NorthPark Center. This can describe nothing other than the "Komen Dallas Race for the Cure," in its 29th year of raising funds for and heightening awareness about breast health as well as celebrating breast cancer survivorship. Last year's event raised over $1.9 million for the cause.

The race coordination was superb, the weather beautiful and the participants in a festive mood. To see photos of all the action, look here.

P.S. Can't wake up that early on a Saturday morning? You can still participate in "Sleep In for the Cure."

DEFENSE! Lake Highlands 13, Berkner 16

From 2011 Football

In the battle for annual naming rights to their shared Wildcat-Ram Stadium, Berkner upset Lake Highlands 16-13 Friday night. Games don't get more exciting than this one. Berkner seemingly had victory in hand when they pushed their lead to 16-6 with a field goal with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game. But Lake Highlands marched 70 yards in less than a minute to cut the lead to 16-13. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, when Berkner couldn't handle the elusive bouncing ball, Lake Highlands recovered and was poised to score again to take the lead and, incredibly, the win.

The Wildcats had a first down at the Berkner 4 yard line. The Ram defense, who had played well all game, saved their best for last. Four times Lake Highlands ran into the Berkner line, the last three downs from inside the one yard line. Four times the Berkner line held. The goal line stand with less than a minute to play in the game gave Berkner the victory, their first in this cross-district rivalry in five years. It was a heart-breaking loss for the Wildcats and a great time to be a Ram!

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Richardson City Charter Program: LWV

The League of Women Voters of Richardson plans to hold a public program to provide information to the public about the City of Richardson's charter. The announcement below is taken from the LWV of Richardson's website. If you have a question you want the panelists to answer at the meeting, email

Richardson City Charter Program

Is the city's current charter right for Richardson?

Charter Program

On Wednesday, October 19, 2011, the League of Women Voters of Richardson will present a program entitled "Is the City's Current Charter Right for Richardson?" in the Richardson Room of the Richardson Civic Center.

A reception celebrating the League's 50th year in Richardson will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7:00 p.m.

Panelists will be:
  • Raymond D. Noah, Presiding Judge, Richardson Municipal Court, Speaking on the background of Home-rule Charter; and
  • Robert C. Lowry, PhD, Professor & Program Head of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas, Speaking on issues that might be considered in a review of the charter.

Printable Flyer

A printable flyer with details of the program can be found here.

DART to Fair Park - An Update

From 2011 10 State Fair

Two years ago, DART opened a short section of the DART Green Line from downtown to Fair Park. Football fans from UT and OU overcrowded the trains for the ride to the Cotton Bowl and the annual Red River Rivalry game. Anger overflowed. DART's image suffered.

Last year, DART added trains and rerouted the Red Line to eliminate the need to change trains downtown. And, likely, many fans, burned once, decided to drive, reducing demand. The result? A better balance of capacity and demand. Less anger. No headlines featuring DART.

This year, DART faced a new challenge. The Green Line has been extended to Carrollton. Would the influx of new passengers again overcrowd the service? DART was ready once again. Riding DART to Fair Park was a non-story. Good for DART.

How is DART handling the State Fair traffic on days other than the day of a big game? After the jump, my experience this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Impressions of GOP Economics Debate

Eight Republicans gathered around a table at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for the seventh GOP presidential candidates' debate. My quick scorecard:
  • Romney won. Hands down.
  • Perry lost. No doubt.
  • Cain might have helped himself by sounding bold but hurt himself by sounding simplistic.
  • No one else distinguished himself or herself to change the dynamics of the race.

After the jump, deeper impressions.

The Fair in Photos

From 2011 10 State Fair

More photos from our day at the 125th State Fair of Texas can be found here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Exemption for Home, Sweet, Home

City, county, and school property tax statements were mailed out to homeowners last week. The only new wrinkle this year is that the City of Richardson's tax statement is now combined with the county's tax statement. Combining the two saves money. Good, smart move.

Combining the two also makes it easier to compare the taxes paid to support city services versus county services. The numbers are right there, side by side. Now, if we could only get more momentum behind movements like Taxpayer Receipt, taxpayers would know even more about how their tax dollars are being spent.

What stood out for me in this year's local tax statement is that the city doesn't give homeowners a homestead exemption. It's hard to avoid that big, fat "0" in the column headed "Homestead Exemption." This shouldn't be news to anyone. The lack of a homestead exemption was always listed on the city's tax statement in the past. It's just more prominent now. I'm curious whether residents will notice and lobby for the city to revisit this policy. Odder things have happened. If so, it'll be another example of the law of unintended consequences.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homecoming: Lake Highlands 37, Sunset 6

From 2011 Football

In perfect weather, with a large home crowd, Lake Highlands celebrated homecoming with a big win over Sunset High School, 37-6.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Big Plans for US75/PGBT. Now, How to Pay.

Last February, the Richardson city council rezoned 300 acres of undeveloped land around the DART station at US75/PGBT as the first step in developing this prime real estate. The rezoning was, to say the least, controversial, at least among a vocal minority of Richardson residents.

That was then. After the jump, an update.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Excerpts: The Island of Lost Maps

The Origins of Political Order

From "The Island of Lost Maps," by Miles Harvey:

Open quote 

At first, Bland had seemed to me an exotic and intriguing figure - but, as is often the case with familiarity, the more I learned about him, the less interesting he became. He was, I ultimately determined, a fairly unexceptional person who had happened to commit a fascinating crime."

After the jump, my review and more excerpts.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

OTBR: An Old Barn in Italy

Latitude 45.640600° N
Longitude 12.704900° 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".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tick, Tock, the Game is Locked

The late, lamented The Dallas Morning News religion blog has been reduced to a weekly "Texas Faith" posting in which a panel of local religious leaders are asked to comment on a provocative question, such as this week's, "Is it ever right to divorce a spouse with Alzheimers?" Unfortunately, the answers are seldom as provocative as the questions. Something seems to be missing.

Thanks to Unfair Park, we learn that the panel used by the News deliberately excludes a secular viewpoint. Zachary Moore, a coordinator for the DFW Coalition of Reason, has been lobbying the News for months to include a secular viewpoint on the panel, to no effect. Moore says one panelist told him that the other members of the panel voted down the request. Blog moderator Bill McKenzie told Unfair Park, "He's welcome to be a part of the discussion in the comments. I don't think he's being excluded."

After the jump, my thoughts.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Repeat Tweets: Football and Everything Else

Repeat tweets from September, 2011:

  • 2011 09 01 - Final. North Crowley 6, Berkner42. It's a great time to be a Ram! #txhsfb
  • 2011 09 01 - Wisconsin rolls in opener against UNLV, 51-17, in the hottest game in history at 94 year-old Camp Randall Stadium - 90 degrees.
  • 2011 09 02 - Headline: "US marks first month with no troop deaths in Iraq." Our country needs a little good news right about now. This is great news.
  • 2011 09 02 - Final. Irving 14, Richardson 37. #txhsfb
  • 2011 09 03 - Thank you, Baylor, for making that Wisconsin loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl seem like ancient history. TCU, feel free to start a new streak.
  • 2011 09 03 - Crystal ball: Boise State runs thru rest of their easy schedule undefeated, then watches unbeaten OU and SEC winner play for championship.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cottonwood Art Festival

From 2011 10 Cottonwood

Richardson's twice annual Cottonwood Art Festival enjoyed picture perfect weather and large crowds for its weekend run October 1-2. For a look at more photos from this fall's Festival, look here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Skyline 62, Richardson 7

From 2011 Football

Ouch! It was all Skyline, all the time, Friday night at Eagle-Mustang Stadium as the Skyline Raiders, ranked 10th in the state, beat the Richardson Eagles 62-7. The Raiders scored six touchdowns in the first half. The Eagles scored a 4th quarter touchdown to avoid the shutout.

More photos from this game, and all of the 2011 season, including the bands and color guards and drill teams and cheerleaders and everything else that goes into making high school football the best value in Friday night entertainment, can be found here.