Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad

Walter White
Source: Breaking Bad.
No spoilers here. :-)

This blog post is not for Breaking Bad fans. It's for those who missed out. Maybe because a story about dying of cancer and cooking meth and dealing with drug gangs sounds like nothing you'd ever like. Or maybe because you didn't hear of this television series until season 2 or 3 and felt it's too hard to catch up. Maybe you didn't hear of it until a week ago when it won the Emmy for best drama, only a week before the series finale aired.

After the jump, it's never too late.

Who Is The Council Dealing With Now?

The Richardson City Council has a full plate on its September 30 meeting agenda, most of which will be conducted out of sight of the public.

In compliance with Section 551.087(1) and (2) of the Texas Government Code, Council will convene into a closed session to discuss the following:
  • Deliberation Regarding Economic Development Negotiations
    • Commercial Development -- President George Bush Turnpike/Plano Rd., U.S. 75/Campbell Rd., and Collins Blvd./International Pkwy. Areas
After the jump, let's speculate on what's going on.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rivalry Week: Lake Highlands 55, Berkner 21

From 2013 09 27 Lake Highlands vs Berkner

Each year, the two high schools that share the football stadium at Lake Highlands High School face off against each other in a rivalry game. In this year's game, Friday night, the Lake Highlands Wildcats prevailed over the Berkner Rams, 55-21. Berkner kept it close for a while, leading 14-13 early in the second quarter, but it was all Lake Highlands after that.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, September 27, 2013

S2L77: Tehran

From 1977 03 29 Iran

The symbol of Tehran is the Azadi Tower (Freedom Tower). Originally built by the Shah of Iran to honor the 2,500 years of Persian history, but mostly to honor his own place in that history, and called the King's Memorial Tower, the tower was renamed after the 1979 revolution.

Tehran itself, like Delhi, is appreciated differently depending on your approach. Fly in from Europe, and Tehran is likely to strike you as exotic and foreign. But arrive after traveling overland from Afghanistan and Tehran is the height of familiarity and modernity. At least that's what it felt like in 1977.

After the jump, my impressions of Tehran.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why I Blog

Why do I blog? It's not for the money. Lord, no. It's not because I like to hear myself talk. Although I confess that I'm probably guilty of that. It's not because I think my writing is any good. I freely admit to living up to Theodore Sturgeon's adage that "90% of everything is crap." It's not to persuade people that I have the answers. I'm not dumb enough to believe people are in the habit of having their minds changed because of something they read on the Internet.

After the jump, so what is it?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Say Hello to a Call Center

I opened my (figurative) newspaper and was struck by a surprise: "Fobare starts Richardson's first spec building in a decade." The building is at 1225 Alma Rd, between Arapaho Rd and Collins Blvd. The surprise is the use the developer envisions for it. Not another data center, like what has rejuvenated much of the old Collins Radio site. Data centers are stuffed with computers, not employees. The developer says the new office building will be ideal for a call center. A call center is stuffed with people.
The building has eight parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, which is a rarity in office real estate, and makes it an ideal location for a call center or other office user with a need for a high parking ratio.
After the jump, what should I think of this?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spring Creek Equinox

From 2013 09 22 Spring Creek Nature Area

The autumnal equinox this year occurred at 3:44 CDT on Sunday, September 22. In Richardson, it was a glorious, warm (not hot), sunny day. These photos were taken in the Spring Creek Nature Area on this first day of autumn.

More photos and a little bittersweet musing after the jump.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Off the Leash

It looks like Richardson may finally be getting that dog park that the city council summarily dismissed in the last term.

Some say the council supported a dog park all along. Some say that the council was only prevented from building a dog park because of neighborhood objections and because tea partiers (for lack of a better term) oppose funding it with borrowed money.

What some say is false.

After the jump, speculation on what's behind the turnaround.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Spamalot at PHS

Spamalot at PHS: Big over-the-top show with lots of scenes to ham it up. JJP cast does just that. They're having as much fun as audience.

Friday, September 20, 2013

S2L77: Persepolis, 515 BCE

From 1977 03 29 Iran

How do you summarize 2,500 years of history in one short blog post? Let's focus on three events in the long history of Persepolis.

First is the city's founding in 515 BCE as the capital of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. Persepolis was the royal home of Cyrus the Great, Darius I, and Xerxes the Great. It was during their rule that the famous Greco-Persian Wars were fought, during which the Persians torched Athens.

That directly led to the second event, two hundred years later, when Alexander the Great's army came through Persepolis. Alexander considered Persepolis "the most hateful of the cities of Asia" and allowed his army to sack the city and burn it to the ground.

Jump forward 23 centuries, to 1971 and the third event. The Shah of Iran holds a giant celebration honoring 2,500 years of the Persian Empire (to which, not coincidentally, he claims his own unpopular rule to be a direct heir). He builds a giant tent city to house the festivities. Dozens of world leaders attend the gala. Eight years later, the Shah falls during the Iranian revolution, the tent city is looted and now stands in ruins next to the ruins of Cyrus the Great's ancient city.

Here I should probably quote from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Ozymandias, but that poem is getting enough attention elsewhere right now (see the episode of the television series Breaking Bad), so I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine why I was reminded of Ozymandias while touring Persepolis in 1977, even though Shelley was writing of ancient Egypt, not Persia.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mud (2013)

Mud (2013): Two Mississippi boys meet a drifter who lives on a boat in a tree. Yep. Adventure, suspense, coming of age. Early Oscar buzz. B-

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tom Pauken Asks, "Where's the Beef?"

Quick, who is Clara Peller? If you can answer that 1980s' trivia question, Tom Pauken just might be your candidate for governor.

Tom Pauken is running for governor. He's an underdog. Greg Abbott is the favorite. So, naturally, Pauken takes potshots at Abbott, like this one uttered in a Texas Tribune TribLive conversation: "He is good at raising money, but in terms of substantive ideas, where's the beef?"

After the jump, where's the beef?

Monday, September 16, 2013

One Step Closer to Restaurant Row

Richardson Restaurant Park
Richardson appears to be getting one step closer to building a row of 1980s-style suburban restaurants at Central Expressway and Floyd Rd where the demolished Continental Inn used to be. So much for any dream of mixed-use development between the freeway and the single family homes in the Heights Park Richardson Heights neighborhood.

Three years ago, the city held a series of meetings to gather stakeholders' inputs on the aims of redevelopment of the West Spring Valley Corridor, which includes the land in question here. What rated highest with the stakeholders were the pretty pictures of sidewalk cafes and strolling shoppers. The city had other ideas. It purchased the old Continental Inn, demolished it, and is now (presumably) in the process of acquiring the other parcels of land on the block. Once all the land is in hand, Richardson will likely sell its stake to Hermansen Land Development, Inc., for construction of, not sidewalk cafes with strolling shoppers, but a 1980s-style restaurant row.

After the jump, why that unimaginative development may be one step closer.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Plano East 34, Berkner 13

From 2013 09 13 Berkner vs Plano East

Plano East is the largest high school in Texas. Official UIL enrollment: Plano East 6,015. Berkner 2,654. I'm just saying. I'm not making excuses (yes, I am).

Back to football. The Plano East Panthers beat the Berkner Rams convincingly Friday night at Tom Kimbrough Stadium. The Rams kept it close early, tying the score at 7 early in the second quarter, but from then on, it was all Panthers. A 57-yard fumble return by Berkner gave Rams fans something to cheer late in the fourth quarter, making the final score 34-13.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Pete Sessions Draws a Challenger

I never understood how Pete Sessions keeps getting re-elected to the U.S. Congress term after term without drawing any serious opposition. I couldn't understand the nature of his support. Oh, he gets top ratings from groups like the NRA and National Right to Life, but he's just so... sleazy -- he also gets top ratings from the payday lenders and Vegas strip clubs.

Sessions usually draws a Democratic challenger and maybe a Libertarian challenger, but in his safe Republican district (safe thanks in part to gerrymandering), his re-election is never in doubt. Big business Republicans can count on him and he's always been good enough at pandering to the Tea Party types to keep them in line. He promises to repeal Obamacare, but he never does anything really crazy like shut down the federal government or default on the federal debt, which would be disastrous for business.

More and more, the Tea Party is not content with lip service crazy; they want the real thing. Sessions should be way too establishment for them. I never understood why he didn't draw a Tea Party challenger in the GOP primary. After the jump, why that might be about to change.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Bad Reason for Voter Photo ID

Jared Patterson, candidate for Texas House District 112 (challenging incumbent Angie Chen Button) posted this on Facebook:
In an attempt to purchase a roll of stamps this afternoon, I was asked to show two forms of photo identification (because I hadn’t endorsed the back of the credit card I was using). How is it rational to determine that purchasing stamps must be more protected than our election process? #VoterID #CommonSense
Source: Facebook.
After the jump, why #VoterID is not #CommonSense.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kon-Tiki (2012)

Kon-Tiki (2012): Drama, not documentary, but what a story. Cross between Columbus and Survivor. Inspiring adventure. Fine filmmaking. B-

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

District 112: Race to the Right

The race for the GOP nomination for Texas House District 112 is heating up. The primary is still more than a half year away, but incumbent Angie Chen Button is already sending campaign mailers to constituents. Of course, Button is staking her claim to being a strong fiscal conservative, "100% Pro-Life" and a "defender of the 2nd Amendment." Her mailer is silent on funding for public schools and health care.

That's not conservative enough for Jared Patterson. Button's challenger is doggedly trying to get to her right. He lined up the support of Cathie Adams, who was voted out as state party chair in part for failure "to reach out to independents, disenchanted Republicans, and minority groups". Most recently, Adams was heard saying that Grover Norquist was "showing signs of becoming a Muslim" because he was growing a beard. Grover Norquist not pure enough for Adams? The author of the pledge against tax increases signed by 95% of GOP members of Congress? So much for the Muslim vote. (Or the bearded vote. Or both.) Adams also opposes immigration reform (so much for the Hispanic vote) in part because one proposed bill calls for biometric scanning of non-citizens at airports, which Adams says, "of course, we know in biblical prophecy that that is the End Times." So much for the non-evangelical vote. Most recently, Adams called protesters against Texas's recent anti-abortion, anti-women's health law "stinky stalking feminists" and "feminazis". So much for the women's vote.

That's Cathie Adams. That's the woman that Jared Patterson is proudly standing next to in his bid to represent Richardson and Garland in the state legislature. After the jump, Jared Patterson shows why Cathie Adams is in his camp.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Whole World is Listening. If Only Someone Speaks.

State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin is bragging about a bipartisan bill passed by the Texas legislature that allows for the use of electronic message boards to facilitate communication between local government officials like city council members. Watson's bill enables something like a Facebook for local government, where council members can write messages to each other and they can respond to each other electronically, all of it in open threads the public can read. I don't really need to describe how Facebook works, do I?

Why is this a big deal? Previously, such electronic communication between council members was forbidden by the Texas Open Meetings Act, which insists that all group communications take place in public, in posted, open session. The effect of the law is to suppress deliberation, not foster it. Council members can't get together between meetings to discuss issues. They can't send emails copying the full council. They can't even email or talk to each other one-to-one because of the chance that the discussion eventually gets passed one by one to the full council. Such "walking quorums" are also forbidden.

After the jump, what this means for Richardson.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Berkner Bounces Back

From 2013 09 06 North Garland vs Berkner

The Berkner Rams varsity football team quickly shrugged off a beating on the road last week from the South Garland Colonels. This week the Rams defeated the North Garland Raiders at home, 42-7. It's a great time to be a Ram!

More photos after the jump.

Friday, September 6, 2013

S2L77: Mashhad, Iran

Mashhad, Iran
March 29, 1977
Five hours spent at the Afghanistan/Iran border.
We made a futile effort to find a restaurant in Meshed, ending up eating at the hotel and having a bad, over-priced meal.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 03 29 Iran

From Herat, Afghanistan, it's only about 50 miles to the border with Iran. More on that and our first stop in Iran, Mashhad, after the jump.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Amour (2012)

Amour (2012): Elderly man cares for his invalid wife. What do you do when nothing can be done? Heartbreaking. Oscar-worthy performances. B+

The Master (2012)

The Master (2012): Acting A+. Depiction of mentality behind cults B+. Overall, empty and depressing. Characters, scenes don't connect. C+

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Butler (2013)

The Butler (2013): Civil rights movement seen through prism of White House black butler's family. Works as both history & drama. Moving. A+

OTBR: Gun Emplacements of Wollongong

Latitude: S 34° 29.184
Longitude: E 150° 55.044

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, September 3, 2013

The Whole World is Watching. Not Any More.

Reminder to self: in 2015, ask Richardson City Council candidates if they pledge to video record all city council meetings. What's that you say? Council meetings are already recorded? That's what I thought. Then, I learned about the three meetings the current city council held (with one more scheduled for September 3) to review and discuss council goals for 2013-2015. No video recording for any of them.

After the jump, why we even have to ask for something everyone thinks we already have.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Repeat Tweets: More than you want to know of Dominican culture

Repeat tweets from August, 2013:

  • 1 Aug 2013: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz: Brief not wondrous. Maybe more than you want to know of Dominican culture. Still... B-
  • 1 Aug 2013: RT @SenTedCruz: "Anti-Assad priest kidnapped by al Qaida jihadis in #Syria. Prayers for Father Paolo." Prayers for the 100,000 killed.
  • 3 Aug 2013: Overheard: "FREE 'No Spanish Village Walmart' yard signs. Use butcher paper to cover them and make a school/Girl Scouts/lemonade sign."
  • 3 Aug 2013: MT @SenTedCruz: "al Qaida still a threat. The more reason to find out what happened at #Benghazi." Why not shut down CIA like IRS? #wacko
  • 4 Aug 2013: Detropia (2012): Scenes from the hollowing out of a great American city, Detroit. No politics, no preaching, no prescriptions, no hope. C+
  • 4 Aug 2013: RT @TomPauken: "Republican candidate yesterday claimed to be a Reaganite." Pauken moves from '60s to '80s. No longer fighting Vietnam War.
  • 4 Aug 2013: MT @SenTedCruz: "Obama told us al Qaida was on the run. Today many US embassies are closed in face of new terror threats." He sounds giddy.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"I'm Out"

Walter White
Source: Breaking Bad.
It's a completely different context, sure, but like Breaking Bad's Walter White, "I'm out." My exit is not as dramatic, but still, there are similarities, except for the crystal meth part and the lying and killing and megalomania, but except for those, it's exactly like Walter White. I'm not going into it. Like I said, "I'm out."