Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Maphead


From "Maphead," by Ken Jennings:

Open quote 

the way modern mapheads discover maps as children is more like the way cavemen must have discovered fire: as a flash of lightning. You see that first map, and your mind is rewired, probably forever. In my case, the Ur-map was a wooden puzzle of the fifty states"

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Point-Counterpoint: Drainage Utility Fee

The agenda for Richardson's Monday night city council meeting contained a public hearing concerning the establishment of a drainage utility fee. (This blog item is being written before that public hearing takes place.)

After the jump, a case for and against this new utility fee.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Towards Ever More Transparent Government

Last week, I summarized the legal arguments against the process used by the Richardson City Council to award City Manager Bill Kefler a 2% raise. I found the arguments either weak or outright bizarre. I asked readers to correct my understanding of the arguments or supply a stronger argument, if they were able. One reader, Nathan Morgan, took me up. What followed was a long comment thread (33 comments now). In my opinion, he offered nothing new, only restating arguments I had included (and rejected) in my original summary of the legal arguments against the city.

So, it's time for me to move on. After the jump, the advice I offered on just how to do that. And to start the ball rolling, a suggestion.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hoops: Berkner 62, Allen 48

From 2011 11 Berkner Basketball

With football season over for most high school teams (except those making deep runs in the state playoffs), it's time to turn our attention to basketball. Most teams are already well into their non-district tune-up game schedule. Saturday night, the Berkner Rams defeated the Allen Eagles 62-48 on the Ram's home court. The Rams look to be a threat to repeat as District 9-5A champions, so look up the schedule and come out and cheer on the team.

For more photos from Saturday's game, look here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Get a Raise, Get a Grouse

In a Richardson City Council budget work session in August, the proposed budget was reviewed in great detail. It called for 2% merit increases for many of those at the top of their pay plan. In the posted November 7 city council work session agenda, the council said they planned to go into executive session to discuss this item: "Personnel: Evaluation of City Manager." The agenda said they would "reconvene in open session, and take action, if any, on matters discussed in executive session." Sure enough, when they reconvened in open session, the council unanimously moved to award City Manager Bill Keffler a 2% raise.

The usual critics cried foul. Do they have a case? After the jump, let's consider.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day in the Steger Garden (2011)

From Flowers

Give thanks for family and friends. Give thanks for the meal before you and all who labor to grow, prepare and serve the food on our tables every day. Give thanks for the freedom to enjoy this holiday and all who serve to protect our freedom. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Imagine There's No Central

I have a recurring fantasy in which Richardson rips up Central Expressway and replaces it with a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard. It's my fantasy, right? Dream big. Hey, the Richardson City Council only dreams of getting access points to the HOV lanes on Central Expressway through Richardson. Talk about having small dreams.

After the jump, imagine there's no Central.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Abstinence Isn't Enough, Try Asceticism

With the recent death of Andy Rooney, his long-running commentary on "60 Minutes" also comes to an end. If you are of a certain age, you might remember what segment filled the last few minutes of each week's show before Andy took over. It was called Point-Counterpoint.

I was reminded of Point-Counterpoint when browsing my usual news sources today. The subject is sex education in schools. The two commentaries are from Unfair Park's Rob Wilonsky and from my favorite crunchy conservative, The American Conservative's Rod Dreher.

After the jump, two different world views.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open Meetings Act, Not So Bad After All

I've long had a grudge against the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA). Not with the intent behind the act -- open meetings -- but with the unintended consequences of the act. Two clauses of the act, each fine by itself, work together to suppress open discussion.
  • Meeting agendas must be posted 72 hours in advance
  • Public officials may not discuss subjects not on the agenda

After the jump, the harm these rules cause and a possible solution.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coterie "Great Steakout"

From 2011 11 Coterie Steakout

"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 November 2011 Coterie party was a "Great Steakout" dinner party at Hoffbrau Steakhouse in Dallas.

For a slide show of the evening, click here.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shooting the OWS Messenger

Today's dialog is about how the conversation about income inequality started by the Occupy Wall Street protest movement has morphed into a conversation about the shortcomings of the protesters themselves. As is often the case, my dialog is prompted by the writings of my favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, on his blog at The American Conservative.

After the jump, my dialog with Rod Dreher.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Front in Culture War at the SBOE

I was shocked in 2010 when George Clayton defeated Geraldine "Tincy" Miller for the GOP nomination for the District 12 seat on the State Board of Education (SBOE). Clayton was an unknown. Miller was the longtime incumbent. Most attributed his victory to an indiscriminate anti-incumbent attitude by the voters. I personally was lukewarm (lukecool?) to both candidates, but I sided with Miller because at least I knew what I was getting with her. I was concerned with what I was hearing from Clayton.

Since the 2010 election, I have heard little about George Clayton's service on the SBOE. In recent years, I've considered no news to be good news when it comes to the SBOE. Usually the SBOE makes news for pushing Creationism in the science curriculum or Christian revisionism or McCarthyism in the American history curriculum. So, if George Clayton and the SBOE were keeping theirs heads low, they couldn't be doing too much damage, right?

Well, George Clayton has now raised his head, on a surprising matter that is likely to become a factor in his bid for re-election. After the jump, the story by Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Wins

And so does Occupy Dallas and Occupy Oakland and all the other spontaneous movements that sprang up across the United States to protest the growing income inequality between the so-called 1% and the 99%. Critics have dismissed the movements, either because protesters are disorganized and lack consensus on what to do about the issue, or because the protesters are becoming a public nuisance. I won't dispute those criticisms. Occupy Wall Street, like almost all spontaneous protest movements, is disorganized (by design) and disorderly (more or less) and destined to disintegrate (probably).

So, why do I say Occupy Wall Street wins? The answer after the jump.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not Quite as Open Mic in Dallas

The Dallas City Council is proposing rule changes for public speakers at council meetings. Dallas proposes moving up the deadline to request time to 5 p.m. the day before the meeting. Also, if you have spoken within the last 30 days, your time will be limited to one minute, instead of three minutes allotted to everyone else.

After the jump, my thoughts about how this is handled in Dallas and Richardson.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Review: Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

From "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel:

Open quote's all very well planning what you will do in six months, what you will do in a year, but it's no good at all if you don't have a plan for tomorrow."

After the jump, my review.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mighty Ram Band March-a-thon

From 2011 11 Berkner March-a-thon

The Berkner High School Mighty Ram Band entertained the neighborhoods around Berkner Saturday morning during a five mile march-a-thon from the high school to Dartmouth Elementary School and back.

Perhaps you saw or heard the band as it marched through your neighborhood. Or maybe while you were shopping at Lowe's home improvement store (thanks, Lowe's, for inviting the band inside to entertain your customers). In any case, if you didn't get a chance to make a donation to support the band program (believe me, it is a very good cause), please contact one of the adult volunteers in the Berkner Area Band Club. They'll let you know how you can help keep this great tradition alive.

More photos from the 2011 march-a-thon can be viewed here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Playoffs: Berkner 7, Garland 24

From 2011 Football

The Garland Owls beat the Berkner Rams 24-7 Friday night in a bi-district playoff game at Garland's Williams Stadium. The Rams started strong offensively and defensively, jumping to a 7-0 lead. Berkner gave Garland a close game through the first half, but Garland gradually asserted themselves in the second half and put the game away with a 4th down, 4th quarter interception return for a touchdown to make the final score 24-7. The Rams finish the season with a 7-4 record. It's still a great time to be a Ram!

In other bi-district playoff action, the RISD's Lake Highlands lost to Rowlett 53-14.

More photos from 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.

Tribal Loyalty

Today's dialog is about tribal loyalty ... at Penn State, in politics, and just maybe in Richardson.

My favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher, is from Louisiana and a big LSU football fan. Notice I didn't say football fan. I said LSU football fan. If you're a regular reader of Dreher, it's hard to imagine him as any kind of a sports fan. Instead, think of a Bizarro version of Niles Crane on the old Frasier television show, only one who is Cajun and deeply religious and you'll be closer to the mark, I think. Anyhow, Dreher blogged about the child sexual abuse scandal unfolding at Penn State and the loyalty to the institution shown by those caught up in it and by students who rallied (and rioted) in support of Joe Paterno.

A few days earlier, on another subject altogether, I had commented on Dreher's blog that I thought that sometimes he was himself guilty of what he criticized others for, but was unable to see it in himself. After the jump, how my dialog with Dreher resumed with the Penn State story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rick Perry: "Oops"

That "Oops" was the sound of Rick Perry's already dimming chances at winning the GOP nomination for president flaming out altogether. When explaining how he would cut government, Perry enthusiastically said he would start by eliminating three federal agencies - "Commerce, Education, and the uh ... what's the third one there?" He eventually came up with it - Energy - thirty minutes later. "Oops."

So, besides Perry's cringe-inducing embarrassment, how else did the night go? After the jump, my scorecard.

Petition the Government

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of citizens "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The Obama Administration has taken that 18th century idea and applied 21st century technology to it. From the website:
Welcome to We the People on This tool provides you with a new way to petition the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it's sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.
Source: We the People.
After the jump, what our fellow citizens are petitioning the President
about, and my own one-man petition to our local government in

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

City Charters: Can Richardson Learn From Dallas?

Everyone in Richardson seems to be in favor of some kind of charter review. What's not so clear is whether anyone agrees on what changes, if any, are needed.

Richardson is not alone in this introspection. Jim Schutze, in Unfair Park, offers his opinion to Dallasites who think that all the problems of Dallas could be solved if only they got rid of the city manager. Schutze thinks the problems go deeper than any single person.

After the jump, what Richardson can learn from Dallas.

Monday, November 7, 2011

OTBR: An Altar to the Goddess Blesta

Latitude 58.434500° N
Longitude 23.104200° 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".

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Showdown: Lake Highlands 21, Richardson 14

From 2011 Football

It was just a regular season game, but it had playoff implications. Win and you go on. Lose and your season is over. The Lake Highlands Wildcats squared off with the Richardson Eagles on Friday night in a big RISD matchup. In a close game that was still tied in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats emerged victorious, 21-14. Next week, the Wildcats (5-5) will play Rowlett (6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Garland's Homer B. Johnson Stadium in the first round of the playoffs.

In other RISD playoff action, Berkner (7-3) will play Garland (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Garland's Williams Stadium.

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, November 4, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished - Parks Edition

Apparently, Richardson residents are soon to know the location of their new park in the Richardson Heights and Cottonwood Heights area. I say apparently because, as far as I know, the city has not yet officially announced a property purchase. But the blogosphere is abuzz. If you believe what you read, a homeowner who sold out to the city, a neighborhood association president who has worked tirelessly for this park, even a city council member, have all said it's a done deal. The properties are purchased. The mini-park is on its way.

Good news, right? You don't know local politics. After the jump, a look at how this good deed is being received.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One World Government By ... The Vatican?

A week or so ago, a think tank within the Vatican published a paper calling for one-world government. Rod Dreher summarizes the argument:
The power of global financial entities has outstripped the power of nation-states to subordinate their activity to the common good, even as the commons cannot be protected from the irresponsibility of these entities. The solution proposed by the Pontifical Council is a form of global political and economic common governance in which nation-states relinquish sovereignty to a significant degree in exchange for gaining a measure of accountability and control over global capital.
Source: Rod Dreher.
The thought of one-world government freaked out (his words) my favorite crunchy conservative.

After the jump, more from Dreher (and Jeffrey Weiss and ... me).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

Sometime in the past few weeks or coming up soon, the planet is expected to welcome its 7 billionth human being. After the jump, two different takes on the milestone.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Un-Tree the Town

You are undoubtedly aware that beginning today, November 1, Richardson has imposed Stage 3 water restrictions, meaning watering lawns is allowed only twice a month on even or odd Saturdays, depending on house address. Richardson has done a good job of getting the word out on this water conservation measure.

What you might not be aware of is a related change to a program that started up with such fanfare just a year ago. After the jump, what's up with all those stressed trees in our roadway medians?