Monday, April 30, 2012

Everybody Should Go to College

Really? Who says? Well, when you try to answer that question, you have to dig some. At most, it appears that some school districts wanted every high school graduate to be college-ready, some going as far as the Los Angeles school district to require all students to take college-prep classes to graduate. But wanting all high school graduates to be college-ready is not really the same thing as saying everybody should go to college. Just that they should be ready to go if they decide to choose that path.

So, who says everybody should go to college? Often, the charge is that the President says so. Either President Barack Obama or maybe going back to President George W. Bush. Did either one really say that?

After the jump, hunting down the origin of conventional wisdom.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Richardson's Finest

A sight you definitely don't want to see when you look out your front door.
Unless you need help. Then you want to see 'em all there.
Experiencing mixed emotions on a Saturday afternoon.
That's all I know. Don't ask me any more.

All of which reminds me of this story...
When Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London, he occupied himself with writing a history of the world. He had finished the first volume and was at work on the second when there was a scuffle between some workmen beneath the window of his cell, and one of the men was killed. In spite of diligent enquiries, and in spite of the fact that he had actually seen the thing happen, Sir Walter was never able to discover what the quarrel was about; whereupon, so it is said -- and if the story is not true it certainly ought to be -- he burned what he had written and abandoned his project.
Source: George Orwell.
Delete my blog? Don't you wish!

Friday, April 27, 2012

SBOE: Pam Little, Standing Firm

This week, I've reviewed three GOP candidates for the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) -- Gail Spurlock, Tincy Miller, and George Clayton -- and found all of their candidacies wanting, either deal breakers or issues that make me reluctant to endorse them.

There's a fourth candidate in the GOP primary for State Board of Education (SBOE) District 12, Pam Little. After the jump, my first impressions.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

SBOE: It's George Clayton by Elimination

This week, I've reviewed two GOP candidates for the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) -- Gail Spurlock and Tincy Miller -- and found their candidacies wanting. That left me, reluctantly, leaning towards endorsing the incumbent, George Clayton, on the grounds that I haven't heard anything about him contributing to the stupid antics of the SBOE. But, to be fair, I couldn't leave it at that without spending some effort trying to find out what Clayton is up to in his own campaign.

After the jump, I'm still trying, but what I'm finding isn't helping.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SBOE: Tincy Miller and Bill Ames

Recently, I quoted some statements by Gail Spurlock, candidate for the GOP nomination for Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) District 12, which includes Richardson. I wasn't too impressed with her opinion that the Pilgrims were communists and sex education isn't needed because kids can figure out on their own how to have sex. I said that I'd take the other candidates, either George Clayton or Tincy Miller, in a heartbeat over Spurlock.

After the jump, what I've learned since that further narrows the field.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal

Pablo Picasso is usually credited as the author of that quote, but there seems to be some dispute over who actually said it. Ironically, some wit in history has failed to get proper credit for this pithy saying.

The quote comes to mind after reading a story in The Washington Post about the voluntary resignation of Elizabeth Flock. The Post's ombudsman explains the reason for the resignation.

on April 13, she aggregated a story trending online about life on Mars. Scientists reexamining data collected from the 1976 Viking lander on the red planet concluded that there might be bacterial life there. Flock says that in haste she read about 10 stories about Mars life, including some of the research papers, and forgot to credit and link to the originator of the story, Discovery News. It appears that she copied, pasted and slightly rewrote two paragraphs from the Discovery story.
After the jump, the reflections of a local blogger, yours truly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gail Spurlock "Restores" History

The Texas primary election is coming up May 29. The big races are for US Congress and the Texas legislature, but don't forget about those down-ballot races like the State Board of Education (SBOE). These are the people who decide that Texas schoolchildren should be taught to doubt Darwin, to deny there is a Constitutional separation of church and state, and to believe that 1950s McCarthyism had it right after all.

Richardson's own Gail Spurlock seeks to carry the torch for the Republicans. After the jump, Spurlock in her own words.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Build First, Plan Later

I started the week on an optimistic note, pointing out how the Richardson City Council held a couple of secret executive sessions to discuss economic development in the Main Street/US 75 area. My hopes for a renaissance in the old downtown were raised.

Later in the week, my optimism waned as I daydreamed about a missed opportunity to exploit the Floyd Branch of Cottonwood Creek as it runs through old downtown Richardson. You didn't know about old downtown's natural creek? Neither did I. Apparently, no one at city hall gives it any value at all. They want to bury it. That's the missed opportunity.

Now, I end the week in a black mood, as I (finally) get around to reading the city staff presentation to the city council on the planned study for redevelopment of the Main Street/Central Expressway Corridor.

After the jump, build first, plan later.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Floyd's Fishing Hole

Bullhead in downtown Richardson. Yep. And I'm not referring to me. Bear with me. I'll get to it. I'm back to pester you about my latest quixotic vision for Richardson.

My frequent paeans to transit-oriented development around Richardson's DART stations are too numerous not to have registered somewhere in your memory, right? DART is real, not a dream.

What is (probably) a dream (for now, anyway) is my vision of ripping up Central Expressway and replacing it with a grand central boulevard for Richardson.

Also just an idle daydream was me tweeting about running a streetcar line up Greenville Ave from Brick Row to the PGBT DART station.

Recently, my lamenting of Dallas's undead plan to pave the Trinity River floodplain inside downtown's levees with a new tollway inspired a new quixotic dream for me about Richardson.

After the jump, what Richardson can learn from Seoul, Korea (even if Dallas refuses to).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Texans for Education Funding Equity

Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in.
Harry Truman said that long before Americans learned about Watergate. It's not like Americans couldn't have known what they were getting when they elected Richard Nixon as President (twice!).

OK, moving on... Do you remember the days when writing a letter to your legislator was an effective way to have your voice heard in government? Neither do I. Always more myth than reality, the notion that legislators listen to anything but money is today considered laughably naive.

That's why this headline in The Dallas Morning News is not surprising: "Richardson dads form PAC to gather cash, clout for Texas school finance reform." Josh Cedor founded the Texans for Education Funding Equity PAC (TEFE). He told the News's Jeffrey Weiss: "Politics is the game of money, whether anybody likes it or wants to admit it."

After the jump, what he's up against. Spoiler alert: his state legislator is Stefani Carter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Secret Hope for Old Richardson

Are big things in store for old downtown Richardson?

In November, the council approved zoning changes to facilitate a large expansion of the Afrah restaurant, including a market center and plaza.

In January, the council approved doing a Main Street/Central Expressway study to create a redevelopment and reinvestment strategy for the area.

In April, secret doings in city council. More after the jump.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Market Failure

Mention "Great Depression" to most Americans and what do they think of? High unemployment and poverty, certainly. ("I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." -- FDR.) What they might not think of is failure of the free market. But at the time, it was a different story. There was serious doubt about the viability of America's free market economic system, whose failure was on such dramatic display. There was an alternative system that was increasingly attractive to many Americans, the revolutionary communist system in the Soviet Union ("I have seen the future and it works." -- Lincoln Steffens.)

But in the end, Americans of the day rejected revolution and communism. Americans of our time forget, or never learned, that that wasn't inevitable. We can thank the success of FDR's New Deal in creating a safety net for those suffering the most from the failure of the free market. And on the other side of the coin, the totalitarian nature of communism in the Soviet Union gradually became clear to Americans. With the atomic bomb and ICBMs, the USSR posed an existential threat to the US. Partly in reaction to the threat of Soviet communism, memory of the failure of the free market during the Great Depression faded and was replaced by its opposite, a glorification of the free market. It became a matter of self-evident truth: the free market could do no wrong.

The pendulum had swung too far. After the jump, restoring some balance.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Return of the Dead: Trinity Tollway Edition

Dead development projects have a way of coming back to life and haunting their cities forevermore. Last week, it was a plan for a self-service warehouse on Arapaho Rd in Richardson that the city council dragged out of its grave and plopped down in the middle of a commercial and residential neighborhood just down the street from city hall, where it will haunt Richardson for twenty years.

But the mother of all living dead projects has to be Dallas's plan to lay a freeway down inside the levees of the Trinity River. No matter how many studies reveal that to be a disaster waiting to happen, the powers that be in Dallas keep finding a way to keep breathing life into that zombie development project.

After the jump, a dream that won't die, a dream to counter these nightmares.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Clicking for Charity

Maybe I just missed the start of this trend, but it seems like a lot of charitable funding decisions are being turned over to online voting. That leads to get-out-the-vote campaigns by champions of those charities.

What better way to drum up online support than through Twitter? After the jump, three tweets with a Richardson connection that caught my attention recently.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: One Amazing Thing

One Amazing Thing
One Amazing Thing, by Chitra Divakaruni: Nine melodramatic stories. Platitudinous. Interchangeable. Pick one. Flesh it out. C+

From One Amazing Thing, Chitra Divakaruni:

Open quote 

I screwed up my life big-time, a lot of ways. Did a lot of stupid stuff. But at least I saw one amazing thing."

One Amazing Thing is the "Richardson Reads One Book" pick for 2012. It's a disaster novel (an earthquake traps a diverse cast of characters in the visa office of the Indian consulate in an unnamed American city). It's an uplifting morality play (victims, in turn, tell stories of events that changed their lives). It's short. It's an easy read. It would make a good book to take to the beach this summer.

After the jump, my review.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Richardson is in a Back-Alley Fight

If you are not in the habit of reading Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer, you are missing the one must-read columnist in Dallas journalism. Not that he's always right (although he's right more than he's wrong), but he avoids the false equivalence that is standard in most journalism today (in the name of "balance"). Schutze always has a point of view and he's not afraid to let you know what it is, no matter whose feathers he ruffles while making it. No, that's not quite it. Making a point seems to be only a means to an end for Schutze. It's more like ruffling feathers itself is his main purpose. No, that's not it, either. Schutze aims at more than ruffling feathers. He wants to de-feather, de-skin, and de-bone his target altogether. You get the point. It's no accident that Schutze's column in Unfair Park is accompanied by a photo of Schutze pointing the barrel of a gun at the reader. Anyway, let me allow Schutze to speak for himself, to show you what I mean.

It's a simple challenge. Jefferey Muhammad, I call you a chicken-shit liar. Prove me wrong.
Source: Unfair Park.
After the jump, what Schutze thinks of Richardson (and every other suburb of Dallas).

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday at Dallas Blooms

From 2012 04 Dallas Blooms

More photos after the jump.

Repeat Tweets: Texas's History, Richardson's Future

Repeat tweets from March, 2012:

  • 2012 03 01 - March is Texas History Month in honor of those Texans who gave us the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the New Testament.
  • 2012 03 01 - Headline: "Patients often unhappy with new Texas sonogram law." News that isn't news.
  • 2012 03 02 - It was 176 years ago today that immigrants declared independence from Mexico and created the Republic of Texas.
  • 2012 03 02 - "Attention Young People: Move to Richardson Now!" It's an ad, but still true.
  • 2012 03 02 - Richardson's TOD can't get here soon enough. Matthew Yglesias on the nationwide shortage of apartments:

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

OTBR: Rabbit Tracks in Finland

Latitude: 66.5376° N
Longitude: 25.7216° 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, April 3, 2012

Return of the Dead: Warehouse Edition

Remember when the Richardson City Council rejected a request to build a self-service warehouse on Arapaho Rd west of Custer Rd? The vote was four to three to kill the proposal.

Here's what I thought in December about a warehouse in that location:

The other request is for rezoning for a self-service warehouse with outside vehicle storage (boats, motor homes, etc.) on Arapaho Rd west of Custer Rd. That's right in a shopping center, across the street from a shopping center, just down the street from the Civic Center. A few years ago, the city thought parked boats and motor homes were such an eyesore that the city council passed an ordinance restricting home owners from parking their recreational vehicles at their houses. The city also spent years buying up aging homes across Arapaho Rd from the Civic Center and tearing them down. Why in the world would the city now agree to zoning that would allow a self-service warehouse, with boats and motor homes parked outdoors, to be built in a shopping center, near a residential neighborhood, and just down the street from the Civic Center? Here's another use destined to destroy any hope that this aging retail neighborhood can be revived.
Source: The Wheel.
Like I said, the council rejected the rezoning request. After the jump, an update. Spoiler alert: like in all good zombie movies, the dead don't stay dead.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tear Down Central Expressway - update

Regular readers know of my quixotic dream to rip up North Central Expressway from LBJ Freeway to the President George Bush Turnpike and replace it with a grand central boulevard for Richardson -- human-scaled, walkable, lined with trees and sidewalk cafes, designed for pedestrians, not just cars.

I know this is a pipe dream, but I like to think of it as just a larger-scale version of smaller steps Richardson has already taken to impede the flow of traffic elsewhere. For example, the intersection at Campbell Rd and West Shore Dr at the entrance to UT-Dallas is a messy maze of turn lanes designed with a single purpose in mind -- to keep drivers from going directly from UT-Dallas onto West Shore Dr (or vice versa). For another example, where N Collins Blvd meets Renner Rd, it has been completely blocked off to prevent drivers from going directly from Renner Rd or Alma Rd to N Collins Blvd (or vice versa). For a third example, Grove Rd, where it intersects Centennial Blvd, has been narrowed to one lane -- by the addition of a bike lane and by the construction of a bottleneck at the intersection. The goal there is to discourage drivers from proceeding north on Audelia Rd across Centennial Blvd onto Grove Rd.

Given these concrete examples of Richardson deliberately impeding traffic in order to, presumably, increase the livability of the neighborhoods cut off by these actions, should I really be faulted for dreaming big and imagining something similar happening to North Central Expressway?

After the jump, news from the rest of world that keeps hope alive.