Saturday, December 29, 2012

Armed Forces Bowl: Rice 33, Air Force 14

From 2012 00 Miscellaneous

Saturday, under sunny skies with little wind, which made the mid-40 degree temperature very comfortable, the Rice Owls defeated the Air Force Academy Falcons 33-14 in the 10th annual Armed Forces Bowl at TCU's Amon Carter Stadium. The Rice defense held Air Force to a season-low 214 yards and backup Owl quarterback Driphus Jackson led the Owls to 26 unanswered points in the second half to win going away. Jordan Taylor caught nine passes for 153 yards for Rice to win game MVP honors. Hoot!

From 2012 00 Miscellaneous

Friday, December 28, 2012

S2L77: Bangkok's Wat Arun

From 1977 02 11 Thailand

Across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok's Grand Palace is Wat Arun. This temple complex has existed since the 1600s, but the landmark spires were only built in the early 1800s. Covered with small pieces of porcelain and seashells, supported and flanked by statues of monkeys and demons, Wat Arun is spectacular from near and far.

More photos after the jump.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry TubaChristmas - Dallas 2012

From 2012 12 TubaChristmas

TubaChristmas was celebrated in Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas at noon on Christmas Eve, the 35th annual performance of over 200 tubas, sousaphones, euphoniums and baritones. One musician has attended all 35 annual concerts. Another began playing only this September. After a two year absence (in China), John returned for his tenth TubaChristmas. Oh, the joyful sound!

This year's concert was dedicated to Alex Burton, long time Dallas and Ft. Worth TubaChristmas Master of Ceremonies, who passed away in 2012.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, December 21, 2012

S2L77: Bangkok's Grand Palace

Bangkok, Thailand
February 12-20, 1977

We took a hot and crowded three hour bus ride to the Burmese Embassy only to find we were an hour late to apply for a visa and must return tomorrow.

We took a long walk along the river warehouses and finally caught a river taxi back to our hotel.

We make another attempt at the Burmese Embassy.

I spend four hours retrieving my passport from the Burmese Embassy and securing a visa from the Nepalese Embassy (3:45 on buses, 0:15 at embassies).

I toured the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo -- an eye-popping compound.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 11 Thailand

My first couple of days in Bangkok were spent working on visas. My plan was to travel next to Burma, then on to Nepal. Getting visas in Bangkok was a hassle. Big city. Crowded buses. Finally done, we were free to do some sightseeing. The Grand Palace complex, home to Thai kings from 1782 to 1925, is today still used for state occasions, but is mostly a tourist attraction, a theme park of magical architecture and amazing treasures. Disneyland without the rides. I couldn't help thinking of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, in "The King and I," singing and dancing their way into movie legend.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


What would have prevented the tragedy?

After the jump, considering the usual remedies and an unorthodox one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: The City & The City

The City & the City
From The City & The City, by China MiƩville:
Open quote 

I could not see the street or much of the estate. We were enclosed by dirt-coloured blocks, from windows out of which leaned vested men and women with morning hair and mugs of drink, eating breakfast and watching us. This open ground between the buildings had once been sculpted. It pitched like a golf course -- a child’s mimicking of geography. Maybe they had been going to wood it and put in a pond. There was a copse but the saplings were dead. The grass was weedy, threaded with paths footwalked between rubbish, rutted by wheel tracks. There were police at various tasks."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Great News !!!"

"Great News !!!" That was the subject of an email blast from the Richardson Coalition PAC that I received on the heels of my less than enthusiastic review of Richardson City Council's rezoning of the land surrounding the PGBT DART station to accommodate the construction of big, corporate campuses.

After the jump, parsing the Richardson Coalition's "Great News."

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last, Best Hope of Richardson

At the December 10, 2012, Richardson city council meeting, the council approved zoning changes for the vacant land around the President George Bush Turnpike (PGBT) DART station. This property, because of size and location, is potentially much more promising than anything previously done at the Spring Valley or Arapaho DART stations and, if done right, can improve upon the mistakes made around Galatyn DART station.

PGBT zoning

The diagram above is the new zoning for the property just to the east of the PGBT DART station platform. See that undifferentiated big block labeled "TOD Core"? In the old zoning, there was a network of streets there. Now a slide says, "The proposed development includes: Significant new corporate campus (1.5 million sf)."

In subsequent news, it appears that the tenant for that corporate campus will be State Farm Insurance. After the jump, why it's likely that State Farm being there won't make for a good neighbor.

Friday, December 14, 2012

S2L77: Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market

Bangkok, Thailand
February 12-20, 1977

We arrive in Bangkok after a 23 hour train trip having had nothing to eat but peanut butter sandwiches on the way.

Our cab driver ignored our directions and took us to his own hotel.

Finally, after getting settled, we tour the huge weekend market. I buy a used copy of "The Floating Opera" by John Barth for 5 baht.

Chinese New Year! It's quiet in Bangkok. No celebrations.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 11 Thailand
It is 750 miles from Kota Bahru to Bangkok, up the long Malayan peninsula. We traveled by overnight train, a long ride on hard bench seats, with nothing to eat but what we brought with us. More than a little tired, we rolled into Bangkok as the sun came up, watching the endless industrial and warehouse districts pass by. We weren't impressed with what we first saw of Bangkok. Before we ended our visit, we learned that Bangkok has much to offer. It turned out to be the city where I would spend the longest amount of time on my whole 9,000 mile trip, until reaching the end in London.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Retail-Ready is the New Mixed-Use

Just what is transit-oriented development anyway? A high-density, mixed-use residential and commercial area with convenient access to public transit. More or less, right?

After the jump, another definition.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

GreenVUE: A Case Study in Muddleocracy

I've been thrashing around on the subject of efficient local governance. For example, in "Mayor John Marshall", I suggested that maybe a strong personality in the mayor's office can bring leadership and direction to the Richardson City Council. It's a start. Today, I want to review a recent example of the council at work to suggest that the muddled process on display Monday nights at city hall might be only part of the problem.

After the jump, analyzing the second council hearing on the GreenVUE apartment application.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Berkner 87, Lake Highlands 53

From 2012 00 Miscellaneous
Basketball season is underway. The Berkner Rams defeated the Lake Highlands Wildcats 87-53 at LHHS Tuesday evening in the District 9-5A opener for each team. The Rams, ranked 11th in the state, are off to a great start. It's a great time to be a Ram!

Come out to support the Rams or Wildcats all season long. The season schedule for the Rams is after the jump.

Review: Lying

From Lying, by Sam Harris:
Open quote 

What was so fascinating about this seminar, however, was how difficult it was to find examples of virtuous lies that could withstand Professor Howard's scrutiny. Even with Nazis at the door and Anne Frank in the attic, Howard always seemed to find truths worth telling and paths to even greater catastrophe that could be opened by lying."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mayor John Marshall

Confidential to Amir Omar and Laura Maczka: This first paragraph is the only time your names will be mentioned in this blog post, but I have you both in mind as I write the rest.

Recently, I lamented what I considered the recent sorry state of Richardson government. In my opinion, in this council term, we've been treading water, accomplishing little, missing opportunities. I titled the blog post "Dysfunctional by Design" because I saw the problem as structural, imposed on us by the constraints of Richardson's City Charter and the Texas Open Meetings Act. I ended on a pessimistic note, saying "I'm thrashing around here. I don't have the solution."

Well, thrash long enough and sometimes you break free from the constraints holding you down. John Marshall, Tom Craddick and the Texas State PTA provide three examples of how things can get done even in the face of structural constraints. One example is lauded by history, one reviled, one trivial, but all show what can be accomplished if you take the initiative to do something.

After the jump, what a Richardson mayor can learn from history.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Playoffs: Allen 37, Dallas Skyline 17

From 2012 00 Miscellaneous

The Allen Eagles defeated the Dallas Skyline Raiders 37-17 Saturday afternoon at Mesquite Memorial Stadium. It marked the first loss for the District 9-5A champions, who end their season 12-1. The Eagles (12-1), the District 10-5A champions, advance to play DeSoto next Saturday at 6:00 PM at SMU's Ford Stadium in one of the Class 5A Division 1 state championship semifinal games.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Laura Maczka Wants Businesses to Come to Richardson

A week late, Neighborsgo has the story that Laura Maczka is running for mayor of Richardson. Taylor Adams quotes Maczka:
"As the mayor, my biggest job is to encourage businesses to continue to come to Richardson. I have a responsibility to bring what is most important to the taxpayer. My goal is to balance the quality of life and the amenities our city has come to enjoy," she said.

Plans also include development of the remaining green space in the city, she said.
Source: Neighborsgo.
After the jump, unpacking Maczka's words.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Texas Picks Winners and Losers

Rule of thumb: picking winners and losers is bad if Barack Obama's Washington does it. It's good if Rick Perry's Texas does it. That's the kind of contradiction that makes American politics inscrutable to foreigners and infuriating to the ever-shrinking middle of the American electorate in between the party bases.
Under Mr. Perry, Texas gives out more of the incentives than any other state, around $19 billion a year, an examination by The New York Times has found. Texas justifies its largess by pointing out that it is home to half of all the private sector jobs created over the last decade nationwide. As the invitation to the fund-raiser boasted: "Texas leads the nation in job creation."

Yet the raw numbers mask a more complicated reality behind the flood of incentives, the examination shows, and raise questions about who benefits more, the businesses or the people of Texas.
After the jump, a big loser in Texas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

OTBR: An Olympic Rowing Course in Australia

Latitude: S 33° 43.560
Longitude: E 150° 40.812
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, December 4, 2012

Richardson Leaves ICLEI

From David Chenoweth's blog comes word that the City of Richardson is dropping its membership in "ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability." I assume that this doesn't mean that Richardson's interest in sustainability is waning. Or that it thinks sustainability is best accomplished with a go-it-alone approach.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. You probably have never heard of ICLEI. If you have heard of it, the chances are it was through some right-wing channel that views it as part of a worldwide conspiracy to impose socialism, herd you into cities, confiscate your guns and pickup trucks, and force you to use contraception and abortion to control population growth. Or something like that.

After the jump, let ICLEI introduce itself to the rest of us.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Repeat Tweets: America Votes

Repeat tweets from November, 2012:

  • 1 Nov 2012: A British look at the election: "America could do better than Barack Obama; sadly, Mitt Romney does not fit the bill."
  • 1 Nov 2012: Today I've read three different calls for Obama's impeachment. Could GOP be reconciling themselves to defeat and moving on?
  • 1 Nov 2012: Yelling at Nate Silver is like yelling at a thermometer. We're learning just how many news pros just don't get math.
  • 1 Nov 2012: The good news of Daylight Saving Time: you get an extra hour of sleep Sunday. The bad news: the election campaign is extended another hour.
  • 2 Nov 2012: Headline: "Sandy cost $50B." When will business decide the cost of ignoring global warming is higher than the cost of addressing it? #Sandy

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Big Ten Champs -- Rose Bowl Bound

Big Ten Champs

Everything's coming up roses. The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game to earn their third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl, the "Granddaddy of them all," where they'll face the Stanford Cardinal on January 1, 2013. It was reported that Bucky Badger was on suicide watch during the game, the football team torturing him, forcing him to do so many push-ups. Go Badgers, the best 8-5 team in the country! ;-)

Look back on last year's Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game.

Friday, November 30, 2012

S2L77: Kota Bharu

Kota Bahru, Malaysia
February 9-11, 1977

I woke up with a dozen insect bites on my arms. Then, I discovered cockroaches and a rat in this hotel.
It rained most of the day preventing us from seeing much of Kota Bharu.
Something tells me I'm not going to have good memories of Kota Bharu.
We went to the beach at Pantai Cinta Berahi. The sea was rough.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 02 Malaysia

The photo above is of the market outside our hotel in Kota Bharu, on the east coast of Malaysia. Except for the photo, I don't remember the market. I don't remember the rain. I don't remember the roaches or rats or insect bites. So much for the predicted bad memories.

I do remember the beach, but I didn't save any photos. It was a gray, windy day at the beach. The South China Sea was rough. I remember that. I didn't realize that this would be my last view of the sea for the next 7,000 miles, when I would arrive at the Mediterranean coast. But I get ahead of myself. Next stop, Thailand.

One of a continuing series.
Start: Around the World in 800 Days
Previous: Taman Negara
Next: Bangkok's Chatuchak Weekend Market

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mayoral Campaign: It's On

Richardson's city council elections are still five months away. In past elections, that meant that no candidates were doing anything at this stage, in public anyway. That's all changed this year, with voters having approved a city charter amendment calling for direct election of the mayor. That change led to a prediction that elections would get longer and more expensive. Money was going to become more important at the city level, just like it has swamped state and federal elections. That prediction is coming true.

Amir Omar was the first candidate to jump into the race. If anyone thought Omar's early move would cause some other likely candidates to rethink their own plan to run, he was wrong. Laura Maczka has now jumped into the race as well. Whether any other candidates enter the race remains to be seen, but it's not expected that any other council members will run for mayor, including incumbent mayor Bob Townsend.

After the jump, my early thoughts on the race.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Free Will

Free Will
From Free Will, by Sam Harris:
Open quote 

One fact now seems indisputable: Some moments before you are aware of what you will do next -- a time in which you subjectively appear to have complete freedom to behave however you please -- your brain has already determined what you will do. You then become conscious of this 'decision' and believe that you are in the process of making it."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Separate Mayoral Campaign Forum

Now that Richardson voters have decided to directly elect their mayor, an election campaign is upon us. I know it's over five months until the election, but that's not keeping the players from jockeying for position. Amir Omar is the only declared candidate so far, but other candidates are likely.

It's not just the candidates who are getting active. After the jump, an unfortunate move by the Dallas County North Republican Club and Richardson Republican Women.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland

Hard-Boiled Wonderland
From Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami:
Open quote 

I was standing on a three-meter-square concrete platform jutting out over bottomless nothingness. No railing, no enclosure. Wish she'd told me about this, I huffed, just a tad upset. An aluminum ladder was propped against the side of the platform, offering a way down. I strapped the flashlight diagonally across my chest, and began my descent, one slippery rung at a time. The lower I got, the louder and more distinct the sound of water became. What was going on here? A closet in an office building with a river chasm at the bottom? And smack in the middle of Tokyo?"

After the jump, my review.

Friday, November 23, 2012

S2L77: Taman Negara

Taman Negara, Malaysia
February 4-8, 1977

At dusk, thousands upon thousands of swallows line the wires outside the hotel in Jerantut.
We saw a few Samba Deer at the Tahan Hide in Taman Negara.
I took a three hour walk up to the top of Bukit Teresek. Four or five hornbills were the only wildlife.
The Swiss tourists have left, leaving only a dozen or so people.
I spent today sleeping late, reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and writing letters.
We came back down river in a drizzling rain, walked two miles to the train station in the rain.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 02 Malaysia
From Kuala Lumpur, we headed east. At the fattest point of the Malay peninsula, we switched buses at Temerloh and headed north to Jerantut, our jumping off spot for our trip into the Malaysian rain forest. Our means of travel was a long, wide, motorized canoe (I call it a canoe because that's what its shape resembled, but it was bigger than any canoe I was used to). We traveled upriver for an hour or more to Taman Negara, a national park in the heart of the Malaysian forest.

Our stay in Taman Negara was more R&R than "Heart of Darkness." My biggest discovery was a can of A&W Root Beer (or maybe it was Dad's Old Fashioned) in the guest dormitory's refrigerator -- the first I had seen since leaving the US two years earlier. Deer, hornbills, even tigers (which I didn't see), I was prepared to see all of these in the Malaysian jungle. I wasn't prepared to find A&W Root Beer. Sweet.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day (2012)

From 2012 00 Miscellaneous
"Don't let the turkeys get you down."
-- Sandra Boynton

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dysfunctional by Design

Watching Richardson city government in action can be frustrating. Sometimes I find myself asking the same question the great baseball manager Casey Stengel asked when hired to manage the hapless New York Mets in their first year of play, "Can't anybody here play this game?"

But then I catch myself. Just how is the game supposed to be played? I end up thinking that maybe the appearance of dysfunction in city government may, in fact, be just how it's designed to operate.

After the jump, am I expecting too much?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Tale of (Parking in) Two Cities

What's the difference between 20th century suburban sprawl and 21st century urban renewal? In a word, parking. The last time we looked in on parking in Richardson, the city council was deliberating whether to allow a Burger King restaurant to whittle away Richardson's strict landscape buffering requirements in order to build a bigger parking lot. That's right, the business owner wants even more parking than what Richardson requires, which is already a lot. That's a sign that Richardson is still stuck in 20th century suburban sprawl.

After the jump, a city with a 21st century attitude towards parking

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Leonardo's Lost Princess

Leonardo's Lost Princess
From Leonardo's Lost Princess: One Man's Quest to Authenticate an Unknown Portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci, by Peter Silverman and Catherine Whitney:
Open quote 

One would have to be a fool not to be wary of a Leonardo attribution. There's bound to be controversy. The last time a serious claim was made, it took nearly a century to sort it out."

After the jump, my review.

Friday, November 16, 2012

S2L77: Thaipusam at Batu Caves

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
February 3, 1977

We visited the Batu Caves during Thaipusam. Men skewered their cheeks and tongues and danced themselves into a frenzy on their procession to the great cave.
Source: Personal travel notes.
From 1977 02 02 Malaysia

One hundred miles up the Malay peninsula from Malacca is Kuala Lumpur. We arrived just in time for Thaipusam. Thirty five years later, I'm still stunned. That's all. I don't know what else to say. To learn more about this totally amazing festival, look it up yourself: Thaipusam.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Permanent Campaign Comes to Richardson

It used to be that Richardson residents would be blessedly free from local election campaigns until a couple of months before the May election, about the time of the filing deadline. That all changed November 6, when Richardson residents voted to have a say in the choice of who cuts ribbons and presides over the city council. Now that the voters will directly elect the mayor, the election campaign begins earlier than ever. On November 14, Amir Omar announced his candidacy, a full six months before voters go to the polls.

After the jump, the implications.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finding Clarity in a Mountain of Trash

Two years ago, the Neighborhood Protection Alliance of Richardson (NPAR) announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning the reconstruction of the Lookout Trash Transfer Station (LOTS). Even though NPAR was aware that the MoU carried little or no weight, NPAR still presented it as some kind of achievement. I was skeptical. Here's what I had to say about the MoU at the time:
Don't let the fact that the agreement is "tentative" worry you. Or that the guarantee is "implicit." Don't mind that "there are still questions as to the legal teeth" of the understanding. Trust that capacity will be capped at 625 tons even though "NTMWD has rejected any stipulation to permanently restrict capacity." Ignore the fact that, on their own websites, neither COR nor NTMWD admits to any commitments, or even mentions an agreement at all.
Source: Mark Steger.
After the jump, NPAR finally appears to get the clarity they somehow missed two years ago.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Breaking and Branding Richardson

Central Expressway Study Map

Central Heights. Trailside. McKamy Spring. Rustic Circle. Civic District. Chinatown. Recognize these areas of Richardson? They're all supposedly neighborhoods in the planning study for the Main Street/Central Expressway redevelopment project that the City of Richardson has launched. The city's latest thinking on the subject is full of new names and pretty pictures.

After the jump, my thoughts.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Curious Interview in Des Moines

On October 23, President Obama gave an interview to the Des Moines Register. The story goes that the president asked that the interview be off the record, the newspaper questioned why that should be, and the Obama campaign relented and released the transcript.

This background is but a footnote to the presidential election campaign, but the President said something in the interview that struck me at the time as curious. After the jump, the president on immigration reform.

Friday, November 9, 2012

S2L77: Malacca

From 1977 02 02 Malaysia

150 miles from Singapore up the Malaysian peninsula lies Malacca. It's about a three hour car ride on a two lane coastal highway through occasional villages. It's how I got my introduction to driving in Asia (as a passenger, not a driver myself). You don't wait for a break in oncoming traffic to pass slow moving vehicles (and when you're in a car, everything else is slow moving). You pass by pulling out into the passing lane, bluffing as much of the oncoming traffic off onto their own shoulder as you can, and just keep going until you're forced back into your lane by a better bluffer than you. Cheaper than a Six Flags ticket, more exciting than any thrill ride.

After the jump, a geographical history lesson.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Electing a Mayor

[Life] is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Source: William Shakespeare, Macbeth.
One election down. Next up: a mayoral election in May, 2013, because voters in Richardson chose overwhelmingly to amend the City Charter to have a direct election of the mayor. No surprise there. Now the handicapping of the May mayoral race begins. After the jump, my early, wild speculation, unsupported by any evidence, just because I'm addicted to the horses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Did Sandy Tip Election to Obama?

Did Hurricane Sandy, the October surprise, tip the election to President Obama? Perhaps. The disaster did give the president the opportunity to display leadership, a trait that Mitt Romney claimed the president lacked. If Sandy gets the blame for Romney's loss, it is in part due to it exposing a dubious claim at the heart of the Romney campaign. Call it nature's way of fact-checking a politician.

In any case, Hurricane Sandy was just the last of a long string of reasons, most of them self-inflicted wounds, that contributed to Romney's loss. After the jump, the rundown.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

OTBR: A Rainbow in Utah

Latitude: N 39° 20.946
Longitude: W 111° 55.656
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, November 5, 2012

The Wheel's Voters Guide

Local: Vote for doing the right things. Vote against doing things the wrong way.

State: Vote for public schools, for health care, for water supplies, for women, for voting rights, for paying for government, for science and fact-based government.

Federal: Vote for jobs, for Medicare and Medicaid, for health care reform, for Social Security, for paying for government, for a carbon tax, for financial regulation, for civil rights, for the environment, for immigration reform, for Keynesian economics, for science and fact-based government.

Most importantly, vote, while they'll still let you. ;-)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Playoff Bound: Richardson 47, Berkner 35

From 2012 11 02 Richardson vs Berkner

In a game with playoff implications, the Richardson Eagles defeated the Berkner Rams 47-35 Friday night at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. With the win, Richardson secured the fourth and final playoff spot in District 9-5A, while the Rams will finish in fifth place.

The Mighty Ram Band put on their UIL competition show at halftime as a final warmup before heading to San Antonio for the state marching competition in the Alamodome on November 6. Good luck, band.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, November 2, 2012

S2L77: "Caught Smuggling"

Singapore is commonly described as a "fine city" -- you are fined for dozens of small offenses: jaywalking, chewing gum, carrying durian on public transport (that fine is well deserved), driving in forbidden zones without a permit.

Singapore is where I first encountered the idea of relieving traffic congestion by requiring drivers to purchase permits to drive in the central business district. What struck me in 1977 as novel and a little draconian, I now view as a sensible way to keep automobiles from clogging our cities. Maybe it's not surprising that it was the people of the "fine city" of Singapore who gave such a practical policy a chance to demonstrate its effectiveness.

From 1977 01 29 Singapore
"The Good-For-Nothing Rich Man's Son Caught Smuggling"

After the jump, a place that reveals the puritanism behind the "fine city."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Repeat Tweets: Election Edition

Repeat tweets from October, 2012:

  • 1 Oct 2012: Libertarian candidate upset by treatment by WFAA. Complains to government for help. Can you say irony?
  • 1 Oct 2012: Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel: Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell. Intrigue. Treachery. Smart dialog. Rich characters. A-
  • 2 Oct 2012: Romney sounded like a moderate Dem. I wonder how his answers would have gone over at GOP primary debate.
  • 3 Oct 2012: Romney's for good things in Obamacare, and good things in Wall St regulations, and against tax cuts. He's a closet Democrat!
  • 3 Oct 2012: Romney promised tax rate cuts, no education cuts, bigger military, more Medicare spending, reduced deficits. But no plan how.
  • 3 Oct 2012: My previous tweets focused on substance. But let's get real. Many people care only about style. Stylistically, Romney won.
  • 3 Oct 2012: "I'm not going to say I've done a poor job." -- Jim Lehrer. Sadly, not the biggest lie told on that stage in debate full of them.
  • 3 Oct 2012: "Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time." -- Harry Truman. Listen up, Obama.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review: The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending
From The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes:
Open quote 

Bristol was a large enough city for us only occasionally to half-run into one another. The times we did, I would be hit by a sense of what I can only call pre-guilt: the expectation that she was going to say or do something that would make me feel properly guilty."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is the Mayor a Council Member?

Simple question, right? Nevertheless, a lot of money has been spent on court cases over sillier questions than this. If Richardson voters aren't careful, a lot of money could be spent having to get a legal answer to this one.

Currently, the Richardson City Charter says the city council is "composed of seven (7) members," one of whom also serves as mayor. Pretty clear, right? The mayor is a council member.

After November 6, if the proposed charter amendment passes (as it's likely to do), the charter will say the city council is "composed of six (6) members and a Mayor." The Mayor is clearly on the council. Using the common, everyday meaning of the English word "member", I'd agree that makes the Mayor a member of the council.

So, let's assume for the moment that the answer to our question is yes, the Mayor is a council member. What implications does that have elsewhere in the amended charter? After the jump, a look at Section 3.07.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mighty Ram Band Wins Area Marching Contest

From 2012 10 12 Sunset vs Berkner

The Berkner High School Mighty Ram Band won the UIL Area C 5A Marching Band Contest at Mesquite Memorial Stadium Saturday. The Mighty Ram Band's top place finish among 22 outstanding marching bands from around the area earned it the right to march in the state marching contest in San Antonio on November 6.

Good luck, Berkner. Blow my face off!

Autumn in the Steger Garden (2012)

From Flowers
More photos after the jump.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chemical Imbalance at Berkner HS

Chemical Imbalance at Berkner High School: Spoof of Jekyll and Hyde, a comedy of horror. Great cast, sets, sound, lighting. Great fun. "I'm the good one."

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Bad Reason to Vote YES

Yesterday, I deconstructed one bad reason to vote YES on direct election of Richardson's mayor. In fact, Richardson is not Tammany Hall, but even if you think it is, direct election of the mayor is not the solution.

Today, I look at another bad reason. If you're inclined to vote YES because you think the Richardson City Council favors direct election of the mayor, you just might have been deliberately misled by a political action committee (PAC). After the jump, deconstructing the lie.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Bad Reason to Vote YES

Regarding Richardson's charter amendment election for direct election of the mayor, there are arguments to be made both for and against. Some are good and some are ... not so good. The following is a particularly bad reason to vote YES:
Tammany Hall was the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in controlling New York City and New York State politics for decades. Sound familiar Their infamous leader was "Boss" Tweed---perfect name. Interesting that those who want the City Council to select the Mayor from their inner circle are so desperate to confine the decision making and bypass the voters. What harm could possibly come from the citizens having a voice in selecting the chief executive of their city?
The first sentence describing Tammany Hall is historically accurate. But in trying to connect this to direct election of the mayor in Richardson, Allan Garonzik gets the facts wrong and stands history on its head. After the jump, correcting bad history.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: The Information

The Information
From The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, by James Gleick:
Open quote 

Where, then, is any particular gene -- say, the gene for long legs in humans? This is a little like asking where is Beethoven's Piano Sonata in E minor. Is it in the original handwritten score? The printed sheet music? Any one performance -- or perhaps the sum of all performances, historical and potential, real and imagined?"

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

S2L77: Jurong Bird Park

When you think of the tropics, you think of tropical birds, right? If so, then Singapore's Jurong Bird Park is just the place to start a visit to southeast Asia. I can't say how many bird parks there are in the world, but this park bills itself as the world's largest, in number of birds. Even if you aren't into birds, the park makes for a relaxing break from the crowded, bustling city of Singapore.
From 1977 01 29 Singapore
After the jump, more photos.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Floyd Branch, RIP

What do you call it when a creek is buried? A loss? A shame? A crime against nature? None of those, at least from the City of Richardson's viewpoint. How about a drainage improvement? A possibility of future development? That's what the City of Richardson is calling it as they bury the Floyd Branch Creek in exchange for a new right turn lane.

Construction is set to begin in November on drainage improvements within the Floyd Branch Watershed, which collects drainage from 2.6 square miles in south central Richardson and eventually flows to White Rock Lake.

The improvements include the installation of a new right turn lane along westbound Main Street from Interurban Street to the US-75 northbound frontage road and construction of a new bridge over Floyd Branch Creek at West Phillips Street. The bulk of the work will be to install an underground concrete drainage system through portions of downtown Richardson north and south of Main Street between US 75 and the DART rail line.
In addition to improving the decades-old drainage system, improving drainage system deficiencies will also allow for the possibility of future development since current conditions have been a costly deterrent to redevelopment along the City's Main Street and Central Expressway corridors.

After the jump, why this is all so damned depressing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Berkner 50, Pearce 37


Richardson Berkner High School celebrated Junior High Band Night with a big win over J J Pearce, 50-37, Friday night at Ram-Wildcat Stadium. It was a wild game, with over 1,000 total yards of offense by the two teams combined. Berkner's multiple threat Calvin Jones (pictured) had 331 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns. Pearce's Geoffrey Nwarie (pictured after the jump) had 209 yards rushing.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mayoral Referendum: VIPs Speak Out

With my recent blog article collecting all my previous thoughts on the Richardson city charter amendment election calling for direct election of the mayor, I thought I was done with blogging on the subject until after the election.

After the jump, two events that draw me back to the keyboard.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Tincy Miller and Lois Parrott

There was another debate Tuesday night: the League of Women Voters (LWV) sponsored a forum for the candidates for the District 12 seat on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), Geraldine "Tincy" Miller and Lois Parrott.

What's the SBOE? Knowing you'd ask, the LWV selected as the very first topic the audience question, "What is the mission of the SBOE?" Miller answered first: to manage and protect the Permanent School Fund (PSF), to define curriculum, and to review and select textbooks. Parrott agreed.

After the jump, what the candidates promised to do to achieve that mission.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mayoral Referendum: Are We There Yet?

All of the quadrennial voters out there, the ones who see the inside of a voting booth only once every four years when the presidency is at stake, they will find their November ballot this year contains a question about Richardson city government, perhaps for the first time in their voting experience.

On the other hand, those voters who faithfully perform their civic duty for city council elections, school board elections, and bond elections may know they'll be asked to decide whether or not to change Richardson's city charter to call for direct election of the mayor. Still, even the voters who tend to follow local politics closely may still be confused about which way to vote.

No matter which group you fall in, this blog article is for you. I've probably blogged about direct election of the mayor more than any other single issue. I was against it before I was for it. Even after I said I was for it, I continued to list all the reasons you should be against it. Even though I said that I grudgingly accept it, I still have a hard time envisioning actually casting a "yes" vote in the voting booth.

So, if you came here looking for someone to tell you how to vote, you won't find that here. After the jump, a collection of all my thoughts on the subject that may or may not help you make up your own mind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Skios

From Skios, by Michael Frayn
Open quote 

Please God it wasn't going to be too awful this year, prayed Nikki. All lectures, however unique and special, were of course awful, but some were more awful than others. There had to be a lecture. Why? Because there always had been one. There had been a Fred Toppler Lecture every year since the foundation had existed. They had had lectures on the Crisis in this and the Challenge of that. They had had an Enigma of, a Whither? and a Why?, three Prospects and two Reconsiderations of."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, October 15, 2012

OTBR: A Victorian House in San Francisco

Latitude: N 37° 45.924
Longitude: W 122° 28.206
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, October 13, 2012

Homecoming: Berkner 50, Sunset 0

From 2012 10 12 Sunset vs Berkner

Richardson Berkner High School celebrated a big homecoming win as the Rams shut out Dallas Sunset 50-0 Friday night at Ram-Wildcat Stadium.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, October 12, 2012

S2L77: Singapore, My Landfall in Asia

January 28 - February 1, 1977

We attended a Chinese celebration for a baby boy, eating a feast of roast duck, quail eggs and seaweed.

We visited Toa Payoh and Dr Lee's home. We had fresh coconuts from a tree in the yard.

At midnight we went to Bugis Street -- amazing!

We ate Indian food. The cost for seven people was $US5. Later we attended the outdoor Chinese opera.

We ate seafood at a beach restaurant on Sentosa - cockle shells, crab, prawns, squid, cuttle fish.
Source: Personal travel notes.
From 1977 01 29 Singapore
Whereas many things in Australia reminded me of America, my trip home was going to take me to places as unlike America as I could imagine. I was able to ease myself into all that by starting my journey in Singapore, exotic but more like America than any other country ahead of me on my journey to London.

After the jump, Singapore, a fine city.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Telecom Corridor, Meet Tulsa

Matthew Yglesias of Slate had reason to spend a few days in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and came away with a few compliments and a few cautions for Tulsa and cities like it all across the country.

Tulsa was a boom city of the 1930s oil industry. Lately, Tulsa is trying to reinvent itself as a high tech startup haven. Yglesias finds it "lamentable" that Tulsa is trying to lure high tech startups through public investment in a supercomputer. Yglesias argues that cities make a mistake by focusing on high tech. That's just one sector of the economy and it's far from being where all the growth is.

You really should read Yglesias' whole article. It's short. But if you don't have the time, or interest, at least read his conclusion. After the jump.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Karaoke Right Here in River City

Well, either you're closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of [karaoke] in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Source: With apologies to Meredith Willson.
In China, karaoke bars, known as KTV, offer a place where small groups can gather in private rooms with state-of-the-art video and sound systems for karaoke. KTV is ubiquitous in China. Apartments are small in China and standalone houses are uncommon. If you want to host a party, KTV fills a real market need.

Last year I had the good fortune to visit China. One night in Jiaxing, a city about 60 miles from Shanghai, we were treated to our first experience at a KTV establishment. A mixed group of locals and foreigners, all friends or acquaintances of our host, enjoyed a private party, not unlike parties I've experienced in private homes in America. There was food, there was alcohol, there was smoking (more common in China than I care for), there was singing (mostly by the Chinese, but still). All in all, a good time was had by all.

After the jump, is KTV coming to Richardson, Texas?

Monday, October 8, 2012

CashAmerica and Pete Sessions - Update

Cash America

Last January, I blogged that Congressman Pete Sessions' biggest campaign contributor was CashAmerica, "a big payday lender, a practice sometimes accused of offering short-term loans with exorbitant fees and usurious interest rates to people who can least afford it."

After the jump, look who else is noticing.