Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unconventional Wisdom About Austerity

Recently, I challenged the conventional wisdom that when families and businesses are tightening their belts because times are tough, that government should, too. (See "Enough with the Belt-Tightening Already" and "Spendthrift Sam and Judicious Janet.")

To argue the point I used words, mostly paraphrasing an argument made more compellingly by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. After the jump, another tack: a picture that's worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Main Street/Central Expressway Study

Main Street District

The time for study is over. Now it's time for recommendations and implementation. The result of the Main Street/Central Expressway Study was presented to the Richardson City Council Monday night. It's full of nice pictures of street layouts and glass and steel office buildings all bordered by row after row of trees. Beyond that? It looks to this observer like the presentation could have been created by an advanced team of college students from a university in, say, Oregon or Massachusetts who were assigned a theoretical exercise in urban planning and given Google Maps and a drawing app. I see SimCity, not Richardson.

After the jump, a look at just the ideas for the heart of Richardson.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
From Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain:
Open quote 

Look! Look! Check out the Jumbotron! And there on the screen loom the eight operational Bravos literally bigger than life, plus Albert, who's smiling like a proud new papa. Small pockets of applause spark off here and there. The Bravos assume postures of masculine nonchalance. Mainly they're trying not to stare at themselves on the screen, but so pumped with the moment is Sykes that he starts mouthing off and flashing gangsta signs. To a man Bravo tells him to shut the fuck up, but after a moment the screen cuts to a flags-waving, bombs-bursting cartoon graphic against a background of starry outer space, and from within these inky depths enormous white letters suddenly zoom to the fore AMERICA'S TEAM PROUDLY HONORS AMERICAN HEROES."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, January 28, 2013

10 Lessons From Creationist School Books

On its website, PBS has a story, "10 Interesting Lessons from Creationist-Inspired School Books," inspired by The Revisionaries, a documentary film about conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education and their drive to introduce creationism into the school curriculum. The documentary airs this week at various times on KERA 13. According to PBS, "Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge." McLeroy was defeated in 2010 in his bid for re-election to the SBOE, but that hasn't kept him from continuing to lead the charge for creationism.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know what I think of Don McLeroy. I think he's still enough of a threat to good public education in Texas to warrant keeping an eye on him. After the jump, what's McLeroy up to now?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

South Pacific at Lake Highlands HS

Oddly, a drama that's both dated yet at the same time still has something important to say about the world today. All-state choir voices. Flawless sound, lighting and sets. Excellent production.

Friday, January 25, 2013

S2L77: Kathmandu

Kathmandu, Nepal
February 21-27, 1977

I met a guy at the Kathmandu airport. I shared a taxi into the city and then a hotel room for 40 rupees. Kathmandu is quite a change from Bangkok. It's a step back in time hundreds of years. There are narrow little streets with carts and animals and people who could be from the 1800s ... or the 1200s. I spent the day suffering from a bad cold. Kathmandu nights can be very cold.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 21 Nepal
In the 1970s, Kathmandu was the ultimate counter-culture destination. For hippies, mountain trekkers, Buddhist pilgrims, and me (who was none of the former), Kathmandu was an irresistible magnet. To get in the mood for the following photos, first listen to this 1980 performance of Katmandu by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Good times.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LBJ/Skillman: So Was I Right?

Recently, I commented on the news that the City of Dallas was planning a makeover of the LBJ/Skillman/Audelia intersection, just south of Richardson. My hopes and dreams were, shall we say, kept in check. Well, the first public hearing on the proposed makeover was held. Ellen Raff has the story.

After the jump, let's find out if I was right to be doubtful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Basketball: Berkner 91, Lake Highlands 59

From 2013 01 Lake Highlands vs Berkner

The Berkner Rams men's basketball team defeated the Lake Highlands Wildcats 91-59 Tuesday night in the Rams' gym. The Rams, ranked 8th in the state, extended their District 9-5A record to 8-0. It's a great time to be a Ram!

Next game for Berkner: Friday, January 25 at 7:30 at home against Jesuit. Come out and support the school. Lake Highlands plays Skyline away.

More photos after the jump.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Alcohol and Coffee are your Friends

Wick Allison, publisher of D Magazine, bemoans the lack of amenities in the Dallas Arts District for people to "sit and settle, to imbibe an adult beverage, enjoy brunch, or just people-watch over a cup of coffee." Even the addition of the Klyde Warren Park hasn't changed that. Allison pleads with the City of Dallas:
Oh, beloved Arts District people, how many times do I have to say it: alcohol and coffee are your friends. Embrace them. Use food and drink as welcoming arms to invite people to your mini-fortresses of Art. Klyde Warren Park has given you the gift of people. Open up your gates to them!
Source: FrontBurner.
After the jump, lessons for Richardson.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Perry, Schools, and the Truth-o-Meter

At a Capitol news conference on the second day of the legislative session, Texas Governor Rick Perry made a factual claim about public school funding:
We've had public education funding growing at three times the public education enrollment. So you've had a 70 percent increase of funding from 2002 to 2012. You've had a 23 percent increase in enrollment growth. I think under any scenario over the last decade, the funding that we have seen in the state of Texas for public education has been pretty phenomenal.
Source: Texas Tribune.
Surprised? As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." No matter what you think about the proper level of funding for public schools, we all ought to be able to agree on whether or not Texas public school funding grew three times the rate of enrollment from 2002 to 2012. Right?

After the jump, PolitiFact Texas hooks up its truth-o-meter to Rick Perry.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Basketball: Richardson 55, Jesuit 34

In a battle of once-beaten District 9-5A teams, the Richardson Eagles defeated the Jesuit Rangers 55-34 Friday night at the Eagles gym. At the district halfway mark, Richardson is 6-1 and Jesuit is now 5-2.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, January 18, 2013

S2L77: Bang Pa-In Summer Palace

Bangkok, Thailand
February 12-20, 1977

The weekend market is on again, telling me that I've spent too long in Bangkok.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 02 11 Thailand

My last excursion in Thailand was to the Bang Pa-In Royal Summer Palace. It's located on the Chao Phraya River about 10 miles south of Ayutthaya and 50 miles north of Bangkok. Originally built in the 1600s, it served Thai kings when the capital was at Ayutthaya. It fell into disrepair when Ayutthaya was sacked in 1767, but restoration took place in the 1800s. Most of today's gardens and buildings date from that era.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God and Ross Perot

Everybody is gushing about the newly opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science, made possible by a generous $50 million donation by the Perot children in honor of their parents, Ross and Margot Perot.

Q. What is the difference between God and Ross Perot?
A. One is an all powerful being, an object of worship, the source of all that is good, and the other one is God.

See what I did there? Comedy gold. Top shelf. (With apologies to Craig Ferguson.)

Well, not *everyone* us gushing. There's at least one person in north Texas who doesn't worship Ross Perot and that's Jesse Morrell, or at least he doesn't worship the Perot museum. Morrell is a minister dedicated to "open air outreach," that is, a street preacher from Tyler. Morrell recently visited the new Perot Museum and blogged about it.

After the jump, my review of Morrell's review.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers
From Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo:
Open quote 

Abdul rose with minimal whining, since the only whining his mother tolerated was her own. Besides, this was the gentle-going hour in which he hated Annawadi least. The pale sun lent the sewage lake a sparkling silver cast, and the parrots nesting at the far side of the lake could still be heard over the jets."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spendthrift Sam and Judicious Janet

Recently, I bemoaned the bipartisan agreement that the government needs to "tighten its belt." This conventional wisdom is just plain wrong. I pointed to a column by economist Paul Krugman to explain why.

Apparently, some readers had trouble understanding how inflation and debt can sometimes work to our advantage (and by some readers I mean one in particular). Admittedly, it's counter-intuitive. If government debt contributed to our economic stagnation, how can more government debt get us going again?

After the jump, my attempt at paraphrasing Krugman's argument.

Monday, January 14, 2013

S2L77: Ayutthaya

From 1977 02 11 Thailand

Before there was Bangkok, there was Ayutthaya. The city was founded in 1350 and was the capital of Thailand until sacked by the Burmese in 1767, after which the Thai capital was moved to Bangkok. In recent decades, the ruins of Ayutthaya have been undergoing excavation and restoration. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, four years after my visit.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Straus versus Perry

The opening of the biennial Texas legislative session featured two speeches that could influence what issues the legislature focuses on. Paul Burka of The Texas Monthly highlights the tension between those two speeches.

After the jump, my own take.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Weak Tea in District 102

Two years ago, newly elected Texas state representative Stefani Carter pissed off local Tea Party activists with her support for establishment figure Joe Straus for Speaker of the Texas House. The Dallas Morning News had the story in November, 2010. Carter's support for Straus cost her "TeaApproved" status from the North Texas Tea Party. The Texas Tribune had the story in January, 2011.

It wasn't just that Carter supported Straus (although that would have been bad enough for the Tea Party). It was that, in the Tea Party's view, in public Carter was professing to be uncommitted, but in private she was pledging her support to Joe Straus. As the North Texas Tea Party put it, "Stefani Carter has no problem talking out of both sides of her mouth."

Two years later, where do things stand? After the jump, let's catch up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Enough with the Belt-Tightening Already

When times are tough, everyone needs to tighten their belts. It's a cliché but everyone agrees with it, right?

"Small businesses and families are tightening their belts. Their government should, too." Who said it? That would be President Barack Obama.

"It's time for government to tighten their belts and show the American people that we 'get' it." Who said it? That would be Speaker of the House John Boehner.

After the jump, what I wish President Obama and Speaker Boehner and every other American would learn.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boosting LBJ/Skillman

Regular readers of this blog know of my frustration regarding Richardson's incomplete history of trying to redevelop the West Spring Valley corridor, the Main Street downtown area, and especially the neighborhoods surrounding the train stations along DART's Red Line.

Today, I turn your attention to another redevelopment challenge, this one just to Richardson's south in Lake Highlands. The Dallas Morning News has the story:
Construction could begin by late next year -- if additional funding becomes available -- on an overhaul of the confusing intersection between the LBJ Freeway and Skillman Street in Lake Highlands.
After the jump, my reaction.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Of Slumlords and Castles

Now that the arbiter of all that's important, The Dallas Morning News, has weighed in on the subject of home rental inspections in Richardson, I guess I have to, too. After all, the license every blogger is required to get specifically insists that he has to have a strong, uncompromising opinion on every subject, no matter how hard it is to get worked up over.

So, after the jump, my obligatory opinions on home rental registration.

Friday, January 4, 2013

S2L77: Bangkok's Floating Market

From 1977 02 11 Thailand

As large and as sprawling as Bangkok is today, hundreds of years ago it was a small trading post on the Chao Phraya River delta. It was built on a network of rivers and canals and was known by Westerners as the Venice of the East. Thirty five years ago, that history was still visible in Bangkok's floating markets. I'm told that the floating markets survive today mostly as tourist destinations.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

OTBR: A House Decorated for Christmas in Quebec

Latitude: N 46° 28.758
Longitude: W 071° 32.688
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, January 1, 2013

Repeat Tweets: Badgers, Beavers, and Eagles

Repeat tweets from December, 2012:

After the jump, more repeat tweets.