Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Year in the Arts

My Year in the Arts. Not necessarily just 2011 works. Not necessarily the best, because I didn't see and read everything, but the plays, books and movies that I chose to see or read in 2011. All in all, I'm happy with my choices. It was a very good year.

After the jump, theater, books, television and movies.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Repeat Tweets: Sports and Politics and Stuff

Repeat tweets from October-December, 2011:

  • 2011 10 04 - The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey: Map thief's tale padded to book length with historical anecdotes, most lifted from other books. C-
  • 2011 10 05 - Tea Party's choice in GOP primaries is down to this: Romneycare vs In-state tuition for illegals. Hold your nose and pick. #letdown
  • 2011 10 06 - Headline: "Perry Campaign Says Economic Specifics Can Wait." Really? Campaign tanking, all focus on n-word, & his best argument can wait???
  • 2011 10 06 - Headline: "Bachmann: Perry used jobs fund to reward backers." Really? Earth to Bachmann: Perry already sinking. Time to swing aim to Romney.
  • 2011 10 06 - Go Caltech! #1 in the world according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
  • 2011 10 06 - Kasra Persian Restaurant got a score of 82 from RIchardson Health Dept this week. Low end of "Good" but I know they can do better.
  • 2011 10 06 - BBQ beats Shawarma. This week's matchup of Dine Smart Dine Local restaurant health scores: Sonny Bryan 91, Afrah 89.
  • 2011 10 06 - 2010: A-Rod strikes out. 2011: A-Rod strikes out. Last out for the Yankees two years in a row. Rangers face Tigers in ALCS!
  • 2011 10 07 - Did Harry Reid pull the nuclear option in the Senate Thursday night? Well, yes, if by nuclear option you mean...
  • 2011 10 07 - Weekend NFL tip: Count on the Cowboys' Tony Romo to have a mistake-free Sunday this week.
  • 2011 10 07 - Brewers beat Diamondbacks in extra innings! Dare I hope for a Brewers/Rangers World Series?
  • 2011 10 07 - Final. Sunset 6, Lake Highlands 37. #txhsfb

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spring Creek Trail Extension is Open

From 2011 12 Spring Creek Trail

On November 9, 2011, Richardson officially opened the 1.3 mile extension to the Spring Creek Trail. The extension begins at the trailhead at the southeast corner of Renner Rd and US 75 and extends north under Renner Road, then turns west under US 75, then north again to the President George Bush Turnpike, then west to Alma Rd. Slowly, but surely, Richardson is punching those holes in those suffocating freeways that divide up our city. The trails open up a surprising amount of nature in our urban setting to residents smart enough to park their cars and hike or bike to take advantage of it.

More photos can be viewed here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tear Down Central Expressway - cont.

All around the world, highways are being torn down and waterfronts reclaimed; decades of thinking about cars and cities reversed; new public spaces created.
Michael Kimmerman, of The New York Times, reviews the cities around the world that are rethinking highways. Madrid is nearly finished burying a highway and restoring a river to create a six mile long park called Madrid Río. Seoul uncovered five miles of a paved-over river to create the Cheonggyecheon recreation area. San Francisco decided to take down the Embarcadero Freeway and not rebuild it after it was heavily damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

After the jump, the outlook close to home.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I'm an NFL Team Owner

1997 Packer Share

I hope Santa was as good to everyone as he was to me. He made me an owner of an NFL team. That's right. I was given a share of Green Bay Packers, Inc. That makes me a part owner of the NFL's only non-profit, community-owned franchise.

OK, I know what the cynics are saying. The stock pays no dividends. It can't be sold. It can't even be given away (except to an immediate family member). It doesn't come with rights to buy game tickets. I'm an owner of a piece of paper. What's the big deal?

After the jump, the benefits (and drawbacks) of being an NFL team owner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Setting the Agenda

Last week, I asked a whole bunch of nosy questions about how agendas for city council meetings are set by the City of Richardson. Bill McCalpin of did his best to answer my questions. He doesn't work for the city; he isn't involved in setting agendas himself; he does have years of experience observing what happens around city hall. I can't say for sure he's right or wrong (if I could, I wouldn't have needed to ask my questions in the first place). But his answers sound plausible.

After the jump, my own understanding of how the process probably works.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ride DART to the Stars Game

We drove to the Arapaho Center DART station. We chose to drive instead of walk. Because we're lazy, not because we didn't want to get our shoes muddy. 'Cause we wouldn't have. Anyway, we got to the train platform just as a train was arriving. It was an Orange Line special event train going direct to Victory Station. Right at the American Airlines Center. Sweet. After the game, another train was pulling into the Victory Station platform just as we walked up. A Red Line train back to Arapaho Center Station. Sweet. DART -- all in all, a great service.

Oh yeah, the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 6-3. Sweet.

Pedestrian Access to DART Stations

I should probably know that when a blogger begins by saying, "Today I vent about ...", that I should quit reading then and there. But how can I resist when the blogger is a member of The Dallas Morning News editorial board (Rodger Jones), and his subject is pedestrian access to the DART stations in Richardson? Jones vents that he can't easily walk from his residence west of US 75 and Renner Rd to the PGBT DART station. There are no sidewalks (yet). I can't tell exactly who Jones blames for this, but it's some combination of the City of Richardson, NTTA and DART.

After the jump, does he have a point?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: Moby Dick

Moby Dick

From Moby Dick, or, the whale, by Herman Melville:

Open quote 

I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts."

A few days ago, in my review of The Art of Fielding, I recommended that you also read Moby Dick. That wasn't just a perfunctory compliment to a classic novel everyone thinks they know already, but if they ever read it at all, it was probably way back in high school. No, I really mean it's worth dusting off and reading Moby Dick again. And just to show that I wouldn't ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself, I've been re-reading Moby Dick.

After the jump, my review and excerpts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Questions for is a Richardson-based website with a lofty goal: "countering a pernicious side effect of the Internet -- the creation and mass distribution of statements that have little or no basis in fact." has done a creditable job of fulfilling its mission. Building on that reactive mission, it now is expanding its mission with a more proactive purpose as well:
While RumorCheck got its start in examining and usually refuting the groundless rumors that swirl around, over time, we have seen the need for other types of content here on the RumorCheck website. Some time ago, we added an "Editorial" section for more editorial content that was perhaps not based on any single rumor.

Now RumorCheck is adding what we think will prove to be its most exciting feature: a Question & Answer (Q & A) section in which we will answer general purpose questions about how local government works.
After the jump, a question that has been nagging at me for a long time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Strange Beauty

Strange Beauty

From Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics, by George Johnson:

Open quote 

He is sometimes called the Mendeleev of the twentieth century, for what he provided was no less than a periodic table of the subatomic particles."

Strange Beauty is both a book about particle physics and a biography of a scientist. It suffers from the weaknesses of its two subjects. Particle physics is a mind-numbingly complex field that few understand, and even they are mostly bluffing. And the scientist examined here is not an easy person to like -- brilliant, arrogant, competitive, sarcastic and insecure. Think "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon Cooper without any innocent charm.

After the jump, my review and excerpts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding

From The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach:

Open quote 

To want to be perfect. To want everything to be perfect. But now it felt like that was all he'd ever craved since he'd been born. Maybe it wasn't even baseball that he loved but only this idea of perfection, a perfectly simple life in which every move had meaning, and baseball was just the medium through which he could make that happen."

The Art of Fielding is a book about baseball. But that's like saying Moby Dick is a book about fishing. The two books have a lot in common.

After the jump, my review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Look At Single-Member Districts

Bill McCalpin's "" asks the question, "What would happen if Richardson had single member districts?" and comes up with the same answer that "The Wheel" came up with when that question was examined after the last city election in May.

Spoiler alert: the answer is that single member districts probably wouldn't have much effect on election results.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bad News for the RHS Panthers

Panthers? Huh? If you're thinking, "Doesn't he mean RHS Eagles?" the answer is no, I mean Panthers. But you're excused if you read "RHS" and automatically thought "Richardson High School." That's understandable. It would have been even more understandable if I had left off "Panthers" altogether, as one local blogger did.

After the jump, the latest example of the old adage, "Don't believe everything you read."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where Are You From?

An American opens a window to Bulgaria:
"От къде си" or "Where are you from?" is one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. You’d think it would be an easy question to answer, but for me it’s not.
Brian, who is serving with the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, answers that question on his blog. Because so much of his answer involves family, and Brian's family is also my family, I found it not only interesting but personal. So, where are you from?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sanity Check for School Finance

You have to be really old to remember when the introduction of "new math" caused such a commotion in public education. The biggest change was in how students are taught to approach computation. In the old regime, rote memorization was the order of the day. Mechanical processes ("put down the 4 and carry the 1") were drilled into students' heads. Students graduated knowing what 7x9 equaled, but lacking the ability to apply their skills to the real world.

After the jump, some examples, both fictional and real world.

Monday, December 12, 2011

For Once, Let's Not Fill 'er Up

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. What Richardson needs is more places to store your boats and campers while you're out shopping and dining. And more gas stations next to our DART stops.

I've been a champion of development at US75/PGBT, at Galatyn, at Eastside, at Brick Row, and eventually I hope, at old downtown Main Street and along West Spring Valley Rd. But that doesn't mean I'm all in favor of every cockamamie idea for new development anywhere in Richardson. Really, I do draw the line somewhere.

After the jump, examples of misguided development in Richardson.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Crunchy Cons vs Islamist-y Republicans

Today's dialog is prompted, once again, by my favorite crunchy conservative, Rod Dreher. If you know Rod Dreher, you know that if there's one thing that sets him off, it's Muslims. In truth, my dialog is really not much of a dialog. It's more an opportunity for Dreher to show who's boss.

Dreher accuses self-described conservative Andrew Sullivan (Rod, he's one of yours) of going "far, far, far beyond rationality" (emphasis is Dreher's), then accuses me of "hysterical bigotry" (mercifully, no emphasis).

After the jump, the details.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

School Lawsuits. Council Endorsements.

Richardson's school board and Richardson City Council members took divergent positions this week, probably without even being aware of it. The school board sued the State over school finance. Council members endorsed one of the legislators responsible for our school finance mess.

In the current state budget, the RISD received $14.2 million less for this year's operating budget due to state cutbacks in education funding. Next year, RISD's operating budget will take a further $7.5 million hit. This is despite rising enrollments. Schools are adding students but the legislature isn't supplying the resources needed to educate them.

After the jump, what the RISD is doing about it. And how the city council members are making the schools' case more difficult.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Berkner Band to Perform at The Midwest Clinic

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Berkner Symphonic Band I has been selected to perform at The Midwest Clinic in Chicago the week of December 14-17, 2011.

After the jump, the singular honor this is.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Lake Highlands High School Choral Department, under the direction of Michael O'Hern, performed its annual Holiday Concert Monday, December 5, 2012, in the Lake Highlands High School Auditorium. If you've never heard these talented young voices, you are missing a treat. Their Christmas concert is a traditional highlight of the season's entertainment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sound the Bells!

From 2011 11 Concerts

The Lone Star Wind Orchestra Youth Winds performed a concert Sunday, December 4, 2011, at Plano's St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church. The LSWO Youth Winds is made up of 60 of the finest woodwind, brass, and percussion players in grades 9-12 from dozens of schools throughout the D/FW area. The LSWO Youth Winds is under the direction of Dr. Bradley Kent, Director of Fine Arts for the Richardson ISD (RISD).

The LSWO Youth Winds' next concert will be "An American Portrait," Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. in Caruth Auditorium at SMU. Don't miss it.

Everything's Coming Up Roses!

Big Ten Champions
Source: Neil Ament.

Friday, December 2, 2011

OTBR: An Unpaved Forest Road in Finland

Latitude 60.597400° N
Longitude 22.563200° 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".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Does a Yellow Light Mean?

It's not a trick question. Stop and think about it before reading further. Unfair Park's Jim Schutze, normally a surprisingly level-headed curmudgeon despite the photo of him that accompanies his blog showing him aiming some kind of rifle vaguely in the direction of the reader, asks that question and answers, no less than four times, that a yellow light means you're supposed to slow down.

After the jump, why you should stay away from Jim Schutze when he's behind the wheel.