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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Skyline 42, Lake Highlands 6

From 2012 10 05 Skyline vs LHHS

The Dallas Skyline Raiders defeated the Lake Highlands Wildcats 42-6 Friday night at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. Skyline is now 2-0 in district 9-5A and Lake Highlands drops to 1-1.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, October 5, 2012

S2L77: Leaving Australia Behind

Time it was and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you
Source: Paul Simon, Bookends.
I have a photograph. Lots of photographs.

After the jump, a last look at Australia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

After Direct Election of Mayor, What Next?

The November ballot in Richardson will let voters decide whether to change Richardson's city charter to institute direct election of the mayor. Barring an unforeseen big bucks "Vote No" campaign, I expect the amendment to pass.

After the jump, what to expect next.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Presidential Debate

My quick impressions.

President Obama was hesitant, thinking on his feet instead of rattling off rehearsed lines. He didn't do a good job of defending his signature domestic achievements: guiding the economy through the worse recession since the Great Depression, financial reform to insure against a repeat, and health care reform to extend coverage to tens of millions of Americans and improve coverage for all. Obama missed many opportunities to point out that Romney's promises sound good, but there is nothing behind his "plans."

After the jump, my impressions of Romney and my overall winner.

Repeat Tweets: Are You Better Off?

Repeat tweets from September, 2012:

  • 2012 09 01 - All aboard: "A private consortium has expressed interest in financing the entire 62-mile Cotton Belt Corridor project."
  • 2012 09 01 - Headline: "Texas High School Claims Title in Football's Megascreen Wars." Thank you, RISD for not playing this game.
  • 2012 09 01 - My Week with Marilyn (2011): Captures MM's loneliness but not her magnetism. Makes Laurence Olivier look like a hack. Still, touching. B-
  • 2012 09 01 - Headline: "Cardinal Carlo Martini says Church '200 years behind'" I think he's being generous to the Church.
  • 2012 09 03 - Tort reform supporter Texas Comptroller Susan Combs: "Sue, baby, sue. I want to say let’s just keep suing those guys."
  • 2012 09 03 - RT Eric Cantor: "Today [Labor Day], we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success." WTF?
  • 2012 09 03 - ...Marigold Hotel (2011): Retirees seek new start in India. All-star ensemble cast. Exotic location. Everything is all right in the end. A-
  • 2012 09 04 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? "Absolutely. Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." -- VP Joe Biden
  • 2012 09 04 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? "We’re better off. Obama pursued an all-of-the-above [energy] strategy." -- Duke Energy CEO
  • 2012 09 04 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes, "government guarantees health care for virtually all its citizens." -- Timothy Noah
  • 2012 09 04 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes, we put out the fire, we're rebuilding, & we won't let the arsonists back -- Dean Baker
  • 2012 09 05 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? "Our country was on the verge of a financial meltdown of global proportion." - Nancy Pelosi
  • 2012 09 05 - Are you better off than you were four years ago? "Did the Mavs have a title 4 years ago? No. Do they now? Yes. Next question." -- Mark Cuban
  • 2012 09 06 - Are you better off now than four years ago? "Ask Osama bin Laden if he's better off now than he was four years ago." -- Wayne Slater
  • 2012 09 06 - "Are we better off than when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is yes!" -- Bill Clinton

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up The Bodies
From The Bring Up The Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
Open quote 

'Jane,' he says, 'if the time comes when you wish to disburden your conscience, do not go to a priest, come to me. The priest will give you a penance, but I will give you a reward.'"

After the jump, my review.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yes, Budget Cuts Hurt Schools

In June, this was the attitude of Rodger Jones (editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News and Richardson resident) towards the state budget cuts for public schools:
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.
Those horror stories didn't come true, right? All's cool in school, right? After the jump, clearing up cloudy vision.