Friday, June 29, 2012

One Of These Is Not Like The Others

Today's diversion involves a simple quiz on your knowledge of grade school civics. Well, actually, it's a quiz on your critical thinking skills* disguised as a civics quiz. There are no right and wrong answers, only good and bad reasoning.

After the jump, a few simple questions.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Little Engine That Could

Slowly but surely, planning for the Cotton Belt rail line from Wylie to D/FW Airport to Ft Worth continues to move forward. There's still no funding for the $2 billion project but that hasn't stopped the planning process. ("A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." -- attributed to Everett Dirksen)

After the jump, a tale of two cities' attitudes to the Cotton Belt line.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Museum, A Cottage, and A Wedding

From 2012 06 Wisconsin

Our summer vacation in Wisconsin included a day at Milwaukee's Museum of Art, several days at the family cottage on Big Lake in Shawano County, and attendance at Lisa and Dan's wedding in Appleton.

More photos after the jump.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi
From Life of Pi, by Yann Martel:

Open quote 
It is pointless to say that this or that night was the worst of my life. I have so many bad nights to choose from that I've made none the champion."

After the jump, my review.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Egg & I (but Mostly Someone Else)

The Egg and I is a new Richardson restaurant on Campbell Rd east of Central Expressway. From their website:
Favorites include our benedicts, omelettes, waffles and whole wheat pancakes. We also offer an assortment of non-egg dishes.
At lunch, you'll find creative sandwiches, entree salads and hearty, homemade soups. And if you want breakfast for lunch - no problem!
Source: The Egg & I.
After the jump, a review from an anonymous friend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DART Asks, "What's the Matter with Plano?"

The Dallas Morning News has a story (that I haven't read because of the online pay wall, but I read about the story on FrontBurner) about the future of DART as its completes its build-out of lines. Low ridership in Plano is the hook of the story. Supposedly DART says its future focus will be on increasing ridership at the stations it already has, rather than opening new stations, which was its focus for the last two decades.

After the jump, the solutions of the kibitzers.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Godwin's Law is your Friend

Glance at the comment thread of this blog post. Granted, it's nowhere near as inflammatory as some online forums, but still, it's not pretty. There is too much ad hominem reasoning that obscures the germane arguments that sometimes are made. Looking on the bright side, no one has called anyone else a Nazi ... yet.

After the jump, is there anything that can be done?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Raises in PISD. Crisis Over?

Rodger Jones, editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News, reacts to the news that the Plano school district (PISD) is awarding employees a 3% raise, after forgoing raises last year.
Like lots of people who care about education, I surely thought the sky was falling last year, when the Legislature was getting ready to cut education just like any other area of spending.

But what about the kids? I gasped. They're not sacrosanct? Austin would treat schools just like another program -- belt-tightening and everything?

I had visions of massive layoffs, classes doubled up, kids sharing desks, teachers teaching in the dark.
I'm pretty sure that's sarcasm. I can tell because Jones starts by saying he cares about education. Then he says he cares about kids. Funny ha ha stuff.

After the jump, more biting humor from the editorial office of The Dallas Morning News.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Speakers, Mayors, and Hatters

I'm scratching my head over this plank in the Texas GOP platform, recently adopted at the state GOP convention.
Texas House Leadership Caucus -- We call for the Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives to convene in caucus after each November general election to determine by secret ballot their candidate for Speaker of the House, and that rules be instituted to ensure the integrity and security of the secret ballot so that members may vote without risk of retribution by the prevailing party. We also call for the Republican members of the Texas House to vote as a unified body for their selected speaker candidate when the Legislature convenes in regular session and a vote for speaker is called on the House Floor.
After the jump, what I find curious.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Mayoral Battle is Joined

The privateer captained by Alan North has goaded the flagship of Richardson's establishment to enter the fray of battle. The Richardson Coalition PAC fired a broadside against North. The Coalition PAC's weapon of choice was its powerful email list. In a Tuesday email, the Coalition PAC campaigned against North's effort to secure enough signatures on his petition to force a referendum and bring about the direct election of the mayor by amending the Richardson city charter.

After the jump, a damage assessment.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is it with Communications Directors?

One of the first acts of Mike Miles, the new superintendent of the Dallas school district (DISD), is also the source of one of his first crises. It's the exorbitant salaries he's given to his top aides, including a $185,000 salary for the communications director he brought with him from his prior job, Jennifer Sprague.

There's no small amount of irony involved in a communications director finding herself at the center of a PR disaster. Her boss made things worse by saying the only reason Sprague's salary is an issue is because she isn't "an ugly, slightly older male." You'd think a $185,000 communications director would have known to get to the superintendent and brief him on what not to say. You know you're not living up to the job title when, instead of reporters asking you questions about your boss, they are asking him questions about you.

My reaction to this latest embarrassment from Dallas was to take smug satisfaction in thinking that my own suburban school district is immune to such embarrassments.

After the jump, rethinking my smug attitude.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Slicing and Dicing Richardson - An Update

Redrawing Richardson City Council district boundaries is required every ten years based on census results. Monday, the council will consider two alternatives from the Council District Boundary Commission. Following the presentation of the two maps, the council will schedule a public hearing. Official approval of new district boundaries has a July 30, 2012, deadline.

We've discussed this matter before in this space. After the jump, an update.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Of Mayors and Constitutions

As previously reported, there's a petition circulating demanding a referendum on a change to the Richardson city charter calling for the direct election of the mayor. I've already offered my opinion on this question from different angles.

After the jump, reviewing the viewpoints, and adding a new one.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: The Book of Nothing

Book of Nothing
From The Book of Nothing, by John D. Barrow (2001):

Open quote 
When there is an infinite time to wait then anything that can happen, eventually will happen. Worse (or better) than that, it will happen infinitely often."

After the jump, my review and excerpts.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

OTBR: Spring Flowers in Estonia

Latitude: N 58° 23.346
Longitude: E 022° 51.132

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, June 5, 2012

Review: 1Q84

From 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami:
Open quote 

If you can't understand it without an explanation, you can't understand it with an explanation."

That quote sums up both the message and reading experience of 1Q84. This is a mystery story, but not a whodunnit. The question is not so much "who" dunnit as what the "it" is. The novel eventually gets around to answering that question, sort of, but only at the surface level. The deeper meaning, well, readers are going to have to figure that out for themselves. That's how it should be.

After the jump, my review.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Election of the Mayor: Rumors and Hearsay

A petition is circulating demanding that the City of Richardson call a referendum for changing the way the city chooses its mayor. Currently, at the beginning of each term, the city council elects one of their members to serve as mayor. The petition demands that the mayor be directly elected by the voters instead.

Rumors are also in circulation. After the jump, I fulfill my duty, not to check the truth of the rumors, but to give them legs by passing on what I've heard through the grapevine.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Repeat Tweets: Don't Believe Conventional Wisdom

Repeat tweets from May, 2012:

  • 2012 05 01 - Forum for candidates for State Board of Education, District 12, Tuesday night. Be there to support our public schools.
  • 2012 05 01 - Maybe I'm not following enough Twitter users, but the *only* candidate I see hyped for "One Man Dallas" is @amiromar. He must be a shoo-in.
  • 2012 05 01 - Osama bin Laden is still dead. President Obama killed him. Just thought I'd say it. There seems to be some confusion about it.
  • 2012 05 02 - China removes some highway tollgates. Traffic increases 20%. Some suggest leaving tolls in place to control traffic.
  • 2012 05 02 - Headline: "Coroner: UK spy found in sports bag likely killed." Have they ruled out suicide?
  • 2012 05 02 - Don't believe conventional wisdom. US oil production is up; China trade surplus is down; Mexican immigration to US has reversed.
  • 2012 05 03 - Headline: "Study finds dramatic drops in L.A. beach pollution since 1970s." Score: Gov't Regulation 1, Free Market 0.
  • 2012 05 03 - Advice to new C-USA schools. Use Velcro to attach your new conference patches to your uniforms. If you're still in C-USA when they arrive.
  • 2012 05 04 - RT Kevin: "MOVIE FANS, GEEKS REJOICE!! THE DFW ALAMO DROUGHT IS OVER !! SOO excited. Richardson is LUCKY!!!"

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Friday, June 1, 2012

November 22, 2013: Still Not Classy

From 2012 05 Dallas

As usual, Unfair Park's Jim Schutze pretty much nails it. He reports how Dallas has created a committee to plan events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dealey Plaza. In Schutze's telling, the committee is made up of "rich, fancy-pantsy, old people determined to keep a lid on it." Schutze objects to the "money bags" trying to control the conversation.

I have a slightly different angle on the same objection. Schutze quotes Mayor Mike Rawlings as saying, "The objective is to send the simple message to all that are outside the city, throughout the world, that the citizens of Dallas honor the life and legacy of JFK."

After the jump, what's wrong with Rawlings's phrasing.