Saturday, September 29, 2012


Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher gave a speech in Richardson on Friday at the University of Texas at Dallas about the Federal Reserve's latest attempt to boost the economy by buying bonds, called "QE3":
Fisher also said he was worried about "what it will look like" if the bond-buying program does boost the economy and rates start to rise, forcing the Fed to incur losses on its multitrillion-dollar portfolio of bonds.
After the jump, I'll translate for you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

S2L77: Around the World in 800 Days

I always knew that you would
take yourself far from home
as soon as, as far as, you could go.
Source: Natalie Merchant, "Gun Shy".
The lyrics are sung by an older sister describing her coming-of-age brother, but they could have described me. I grew up in Wisconsin. I love the state. Nevertheless, within a month or two of graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1974, I had in hand a plane ticket for a flight across the Pacific Ocean to Melbourne, Australia, about as far away from home as it's possible to go without leaving the planet. It's a big world out there and I wanted to experience some of it. My stay in Australia lasted two years.

After the jump, my slow way home.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt
From The Rise Of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris
Open quote 

Roosevelt’s exhilaration at finding himself a hero (already there was talk of a Medal of Honor) and, by virtue of his two charges, senior officer in command of the highest crest and the extreme front of the American line, was so great that he could not sit, let alone lie down, even in the midst of a surprise bombardment at 3:00 A.M. A shell landed right next to him, besmirching his skin with powder, and killing several nearby soldiers; but he continued to strut up and down, 'snuffing the fragrant air of combat,' silhouetted against the flares like a black lion rampant."

After the jump, my review.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday Night Travesty

I'm still not over the travesty I witnessed on television Monday night. No, I'm not talking about the NFL replacement refs and the touchdown that one player (not even involved in the game) called "the worst call in NFL history."

I'm talking about the public hearing before the Richardson City Council over a proposed apartment complex just north of the DART's Arapaho station. The following quote by the developer is perhaps the most irritating.
We've heard a lot of discussions about the look of the proposed community, whether we're going to have structured parking there or not. I think it's something we're willing to consider, take a look at. I think it'll address some of your concerns and some of the other concerns of the council members. Again we'd be willing to take a look at that and what options might be available.
After the jump, what's wrong with that and more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Squeezing Out Transit-Oriented Development

Embrey apartments
With four DART stations on the Red Line, Richardson is well-situated to take advantage of the benefits of transit-oriented development (TOD). Richardson has talked a good story on this front, but recent actions by the city council raise doubts about the city's commitment to carrying it through.

First, it was the gas station that was approved at the entrance to the Brick Row development at the Spring Valley DART station. Now, the city council was faced with another threat to TOD. It's a proposal for a new apartment complex on vacant land just north of the Arapaho DART station. The City Plan Commission approved it 4-3.

Those DART stations, instead of serving as catalysts for TOD spreading outward from the stations, are instead being slowly strangled by traditional, suburban-style development encroaching inwards.

After the jump, how the city council responded.

Monday, September 24, 2012

School Spending and Academic Results

Last week, I commented on a study that concluded that Texas school funding favors wealthy school districts. Today, I want to focus on what the disparity in spending buys the wealthy school districts. In short, academic achievement.

After the jump, plenty of dodging and weaving, then the facts.

Friday, September 21, 2012

One of the Largest Spending Gaps

This is not the kind of distinction that Texans ought to be proud of:
The public policy research and advocacy organization said Texas has "one of the largest spending gaps" in the country -- a difference of more than $1,100 per pupil, after factoring in differences in costs. "In fact, in 2012, the wealthiest districts received almost $1,500 more per pupil than the lowest-wealth districts," the report said, attributing the disparities to a "regressive" formula for distributing state and local funds.
This won't change until either the voters or the courts force the legislature to do something.

After the jump, the prospects for each.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Some Body Work for a Gas Station

Texaco station
In this week's meeting, the Richardson City Planning Commission (CPC) considered a request for zoning changes for reconstruction of a Texaco gas station on the northeast corner of Belt Line Rd and Plano Rd. I'm getting weary of whining about the voracious appetite of developers for ever more acreage to devote to cars. Sometimes, it seems as if our city's 28 square miles will soon all be paved.

After the jump, my thoughts on this Texaco station's plans.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

28 Square Miles. How Many Will Be Paved?

Wired magazine's Adam Rogers gets it:
Tear it all down! Well, OK, not all of it. Let’s start with the freeways. They look permanent, sure, but most highways, especially the ones cutting through city centers, aren’t that old -- only a few decades. And in some towns, they do more harm than good.
Source: Wired.
The movement against freeways appears to be picking up followers slowly. It's not enough to reverse the growth of freeways, at least not yet, but maybe it soon will be enough to bend the curve.

After the jump, what this has to do with Richardson.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Remember the Alamo ... Drafthouse

The alarm was sounded. There was an urgent need for immediate action in last May's announcement that the Alamo Drafthouse was coming to the Richardson Heights Shopping Center:
"It is urgent -- the reason is that old theater on Spring Valley," [Bill DiGaetano of Alamo Drafthouse] said. "It's an existing theater, and if a theater group comes in there before we announce, [then] we're not coming into Richardson nor will any theater come back into Richardson. Because in order to show first-run Hollywood movies, you have to be three miles from an existing theater. So once you plant your flag, nobody can come within three miles of you simply because they won't get the same films as you. Delaying this causes us to delay announcing it, and delaying announcing it could be detrimental to the whole process. We have contingencies in our lease that if something like that happens, we’re out."
Source: Pegasus News.
Message received. Alamo Drafthouse got the Richardson city approvals it wanted. The rest of us could conclude that the "old theater on Spring Valley" would just have to find some other re-purposing use. Another option for your Sunday morning church services, maybe?

That was last May. After the jump, more good news for moviegoers. Or is it?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Have a City Planning Commission?

At its September 10 meeting, besides approving a gas station in the Spring Valley Station District Planned Development, Richardson's city council also considered zoning changes requested by a developer in support of a 56-unit independent living facility in the Shire development at the Bush tollway and Jupiter Rd. The vote to approve was unanimous, 7-0.

After the jump, what caused my eyebrows to rise.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Growth, Debt, and Social Equity

David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times, lays out this to-do list for the next President:
The next president has to do three big things, which are in tension with one another: increase growth, reduce debt and increase social equity.
After the jump, my assessment of the candidates' abilities to accomplish each big thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Defending One's Honor

Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Source: Othello Act 3, scene 3.
Remember duels? For centuries, a duel was considered an acceptable way to resolve disputes involving personal honor. Insult me, or insult my family, and by God, sir, I will have satisfaction (even if someone ends up dead).

After the jump, whatever became of that reckless, overwrought practice?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Zombie Gas Station at Brick Row

Brick Row 7-Eleven
Back in December, I blogged about a poorly suited idea for a prime spot for transit-oriented development (and by transit, I don't mean cars).
One request is for rezoning with special use permit for a gas station at the corner of Spring Valley and Centennial. That's right across the street from the new Brick Row development. Brick Row already has plenty of apartments. What it needs is retail, something to boost that whole neighborhood around the DART station. There'll be thousands of pedestrians getting on and off those trains every day. Why do we need a gas station there to greet them? It's 20th century thinking in a 21st century neighborhood.
Source: The Wheel.
That special use permit for a 7-Eleven gas station at Brick Row was rejected by the planning commission. Before consideration by the Richardson city council, it was withdrawn at the applicant's request.

Thought that was the end of it? Hardly. Like in all good zombie movies, the threat from zombies is never really dead and gone. After the jump, the return of the living dead.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Citizenship Means in Plano

Do you believe that citizenship entails responsibilities as well as rights? That asking only what's in it for me is unworthy of our nation's founding ideals? Or do you believe such a notion of citizenship is irrational, even dangerous? If you live in Plano, you might want to read on. Someone wanting to represent you has pretty strong opinions on the subject.

After the jump, what citizenship means in Plano.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Word About Public Servants

Unfair Park's Jim Schutze, scourge of Dallas city government, made a confession last week:
like most reporters who cover local government over time, I have developed a totally grudging, unwilling, unexpected and, frankly, awkward admiration for people drawn to public service.

I sure as hell ain't gonna do it. And couldn't. Wouldn't be any good at it. Few of us would. But some people just are, and our system of government and civic politics is very good at recruiting those few among us who do have the gift.

The thing you do not get from media coverage -- sure as hell not from me very often -- is how good the good ones are and how rare is the gift.
Source: Unfair Park.
After the jump, my own confession.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lake Highlands 34, Plano West 19

From 2012 09 07 Plano West vs LHHS

The Lake Highlands Wildcats defeated the Plano West Wolves 34-19 Friday night in non-district action at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. Both schools are now 1-1 on the season.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The H-Bomb of this Election

From former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention:
But it gets worse. They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade. Of course, that will hurt poor kids, but that's not all. Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families, with special needs like, Down syndrome or autism. I don't know how those families are going to deal with it. We can't let it happen.
David Frum, former economic speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says, "The nursing home argument is the H-bomb of this election."

After the jump, how H-bombs are not precision weapons.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Of Buffaloes and Polar Bears

I'm reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. I'll have more to say about that when I write my review (maybe like how it's completely understandable that a political party might deny evolution when it's own history descends from Abraham Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush). For now, I want to talk about one item of Teddy Roosevelt's biography - his reputation as a big game hunter. One offhand comment by Roosevelt in earning that reputation caused me to question one of my fundamental beliefs about society: "Roosevelt wistfully remarked that he would like to shoot a buffalo 'while there were still buffalo left to shoot.'"

After the jump, why I was so discouraged about this sentence ... and what it has to to with polar bears.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Unlikely Pilgrimage
From The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Open quote 
Harold felt winded. If he moved so much as a limb, a muscle, he was afraid it would trigger an abundance of feeling he was doing his best to contain. Why had he left twenty years pass without trying to find Queenie Hennessy?"

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

OTBR: A Wheat Field in the UK

Latitude: N 52° 18.702
Longitude: E 000° 19.710
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, September 3, 2012

Repeat Tweets: Lyin' Ryan

Repeat tweets from August, 2012:

  • 2012 08 06 - I wish Richardson would spend a tenth of the effort keeping residents informed about redevelopment plans as it does about mosquito spraying.
  • 2012 08 06 - The Second Amendment was our Founding Fathers' biggest Fail, except for that whole thing about Slavery. #no-one-is-perfect
  • 2012 08 08 - Life of Super-Earths, by Dimitry Sasselov: Surprising pairing of alien worlds and the origin of life. Easy read on the latest science. C+
  • 2012 08 09 - "Nancy Brinker’s Komen shakeup too little and way too late"
  • 2012 08 09 - Headline: "July Set Mark as U.S.’s Hottest Month" Weather isn't climate blah, blah, blah. OK, expect lots more weather like this.
  • 2012 08 09 - Breaking: Greenhouse gases lead to global warming leads to extreme weather. ... Breaking news from 1997, that is.
  • 2012 08 11 - Romney/Rand 2012: Bold VP pick by Romney -- a woman and an atheist for VP. But how is that possible? Isn't Ayn Rand dead? ... oh, nevermind.
  • 2012 08 11 - McCain/Palin 2008. Romney/Ryan 2012. Why does the GOP keep putting their preferred candidate in the second slot of the ticket?

After the jump, more repeat tweets.