Friday, February 28, 2014

S2L77: London - I

From 1977 05 10 England
White Cliffs of Dover

In these days before the Chunnel, we crossed the English Channel on a hovercraft, meaning our first view of England was the traditional one, the white cliffs of Dover. We drove into London, the destination of our trip of over 9,000 miles as the crow flies from Singapore to London. Subtracting a flight to leapfrog Burma (whose land borders were closed), that's more than 7,500 miles on the ground across southern Asia and Europe. Whew! Time for rest and relaxation after so much ... rest and relaxation. I spent two weeks in London, longer than any other stop on the trip. Time for lots of photos. Here's the first batch from London.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Richardson Coalition Abandons Nonpartisanship

If you had the impression that the Richardson Coalition was some kind of civic volunteer service organization, it may have been because the Richardson Coalition fostered that impression by sponsoring programs like the Richardson Real Heroes award. But if you look closely at fine print at the bottom of the Richardson Coalition web page, you'll notice "Pol. Adv. paid for by the Richardson Residents for Responsive Government, a Political Action Committee (also commonly known as the Richardson Coalition PAC)."

Yep, the Richardson Coalition is a PAC, organized to collect money in order to influence elections. Up to now, the only elections the PAC has attempted to sway were Richardson city council elections.

Up to now, that is. After the jump, the PAC expands its reach.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Basketball Playoffs: Berkner 75, Plano West 73

The Berkner Rams men's basketball team won a huge victory Tuesday night over the Plano West Wildcats 75-73 at Garland's Culwell Center. It was the third round of the Texas UIL state tournament, the regional quarterfinals. Plano West came into the game as champions of District 10-5A and ranked eighth in the state. The Rams were no slouches themselves, District 9-5A tri-champions and ranked 17th in the state. They proved it by taking a second quarter lead over Plano West that they never relinquished, stretching it to twelve points late in the game.

Keenan Evans put on a show, leading all scorers with 35 points, including two clutch free throws with three seconds left to give Berkner a five point lead. Plano West's D.J. Hogg, with 27 points on the night, did his best to rally the Wildcats down the stretch, hitting a couple of three pointers in the last four seconds of the game to make the final margin of victory two points. Berkner's big lead was too much to overcome.

It's a great time to be a Ram!

With the win, the Rams advance to the regional semifinals at Baylor's Ferrell Center in Waco Friday night at 8:00 pm.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: The Unending Mystery

The Unending Mystery
From The Unending Mystery, by David Willis McCullough:
Open quote 

Labyrinths are painted on the walls of ancient caves and carved onto Neolithic rock outcroppings. They appear in some of the oldest legends in lands as different as the Greek Isles and the American Southwest, but were also the stuff of myths even older than the stories as we now know them."

After the jump, my review.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Potential Problem in Denton Becomes Real

Mayor Laura Maczka:
One of the strengths that our city has is that we recognize potential problems before they become problems.
When I quoted the Richardson mayor last week, it was on the topic of farmers markets, which the city sees as a "potential problem," not an asset, and wishes to tangle in red tape. The city council has already devoted time in two meetings to look into how to restrict them. At least another meeting is needed for the council to formally adopt an ordinance. So, our city council is on top of this "potential problem."

All that set me to thinking (always dangerous). What other "potential problems" are out there that Richardson ought to be acting on before they become real problems? That's when I came across the city of Denton's clusterf*ck over gas drilling in residential neighborhoods (sorry, that's the word that came to mind, for obvious reasons). The story, after the jump.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

RALC Murder Mystery in the Library

RALC "Anger Games": Who knew an ESL program would lead to MURDER? A great night of whodunnit, but I'll never feel safe in the library again.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Basketball Playoffs: Berkner 66, Rockwall 59

From 2014 02 21 Berkner vs Rockwall
The thrill of victory

Berkner and Rockwall met in the area round of the Texas UIL playoffs Friday night in a neutral site, the Allen High School gym. In the round two match-up between two of the top three scorers in the Dallas area, Rockwall's Austin Grandstaff came out on top of Berkner's Keenan Evans, 25 points to 16. But, in an overtime thriller, the Berkner Rams as a team outlasted Rockwall 66-59 for the win.

It's a great time to be a Ram!

More photos after the jump.

Friday, February 21, 2014

S2L77: Munich, Cologne and Heidelberg

May 8, 1977
Walked through the Schloss Heidelberg and cobblestone streets, had a pizza and apple schnapps.
Source: Personal travel notes.

From 1977 05 06 Germany
1972 Olympic Stadium, Munich

Our last country on the continent before our destination in London was a rushed visit to Germany, including the site of the 1972 Olympics Summer Games in Munich... and a night at the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl which might account for the lack of other photos of Munich. The next day, we were on the road again. We had a stop for lunch in Cologne and a quick tour of the cathedral, followed by a final night in Heidelberg.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Blue Jasmine (2013): Like winner of a "Bad Woody Allen Movie" contest. Artist is tapped dry. Cate Blanchett does most with weak script. C+

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Basketball Playoffs: Berkner 41, Plano 39

Torey Everett and two impressed young fans

In a tense finish, the Berkner Rams men's basketball team held on for 41-39 victory over the Plano Wildcats Friday night at the Pearce gym. It was the first round of the Texas UIL playoffs. Win and play another day. Lose and go home.

With a minute left and the score tied, the Rams played for the last shot. With seven seconds to go, Keenan Evans, the lead scorer of the game with 19 points, drove to the basket, was fouled, and hit two clutch free throws to give Berkner a 41-39 lead. Then at the other end of the court, a blocked shot with less than a second to go protected the lead. Finally, an inbounds pass under the basket was tipped harmlessly away at the buzzer to seal the win. Exhale. Fittingly, it was tight defense in the end, as throughout the whole game, that won the game for the Rams.

It's a great time to be a Ram!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nipping Potential Problems in the Bud

Joel_Sternfeld: McLean, Virginia, December 1978
Source: Joel Sternfeld: McLean, Virginia, December 1978.
Potential Problem with Farmers Markets

Mayor Laura Maczka:
One of the strengths that our city has is that we recognize potential problems before they become problems.
The Richardson city council is always on the lookout to nip potential problems in the bud. Or seed. Or pod. Or whatever.

What's the potential problem this time? The answer, after the jump.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Let's Bury Power Lines. No Let's Don't.

After the December ice storm in Richardson, when whole neighborhoods were without power for hours or even days, one lonely person on Facebook repeatedly posted a status update along the lines of "Let's bury our power lines." He was quickly dismissed with answers along the lines of "It's too expensive."

Well, now that it's the southeast and east coast who are dealing with an ice storm, the question is resurfacing there. After the jump, the pros and cons.

Friday, February 14, 2014

S2L77: Innsbruck and Salzburg

From 1977 05 04 Austria

With the XXII Olympic Winter Games going on in Sochi, it's a nice coincidence that the next waypoint to revisit from my 1977 route from Singapore to London happens to be Innsbruck, site of the XII Olympic Winter Games in 1976. The Olympics were over by the time I got there, but the spirit remained. I also visited Salzburg. Good places. Good times.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Stefani Carter's Terrible Accident

First a confession. When I reported on the District 112 candidate forum, I buried the lede. No, that's not it. I missed the story altogether. Yeah, I showed why I am not getting paid for this.

I never mentioned Stefani Carter's opening remarks where she informed the forum audience that she had recently suffered a "terrible accident" that triggered a "moment of truth when you feel like your life could end." Turning to retired Captain Sam Brown, who actually did suffer exactly that, Carter said "I know that our colleague here, Sam Brown, understands that." In 2008, in Afghanistan, an IED blew up near Brown, burning much of his body. To this day Brown bears disfiguring scars on his face and head (and elsewhere, less visibly). Then Carter moved on, sounding extremely conservative and ambitious, pretty much like she has always sounded, pre-life-altering event.

I may have missed the story, but professional journalists Tim Rogers of D Magazine and then Tom Benning of The Dallas Morning News didn't. After the jump, catching you all up on what I should have caught.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: The Flaw of Averages

The Flaw of Averages
From The Flaw of Averages, by Sam Savage:
Open quote 

Just as a handle helps you grasp something with your hand, I define a Mindle (first syllable rhymes with 'mind') as the analogous concept for the mind. In this section I will present five fundamental Mindles for grasping various aspects of uncertainty. Although you may have been exposed to these concepts in the past, they were likely cloaked in Steam Era anachronisms such as VARIANCE or STANDARD DEVIATION."

After the jump, my review.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost (2013): Lone sailor faces death. Gutsy minimalist script. Redford shows grit, not much else. More plodding than exciting. B-

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Myths of the Myths of Climate Change

According to his biography, Thomas Donelson is chairman of "Americas PAC," a PAC that specializes in expanding the free market conservative coalition. He has been involved in conservative Republican politics for the last three decades. There's nothing in his bio that indicates any scientific background or expertise, or for that matter, any connection to Texas, but that doesn't stop something called "Texas GOP Vote" from publishing Donelson's article on climate change titled "The Mythology of Climate Change."

After the jump, an examination of the so-called "myths." No ridicule. No snark. Just straight talk.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Beauty and the Beast at PHS

Beauty and the Beast at PHS: Lavish sets, beautiful voices, funny enchanted objects, enthusiastic chorus and wolves to give you nightmares.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

HS Basketball: Neither Snow nor Rain...

From 2014 02 07 Richardson vs Berkner

Snow on the ground and sleet in the air caused cancellation of many events across north Texas Friday, but these basketballers had a game awaiting them, a game for the ages. In triple overtime, the Richardson Eagles defeated the Berkner Rams 100-97 Friday night at the Berkner gym.

With the win, the Eagles (10-3) preserve a chance at sharing the district championship with the Rams (11-2) depending on the outcome of the two teams' final district games next Tuesday night. The Rams' record assures them of at least a share of the championship. But that's next week. For now, this triple overtime thriller is one to savor a little longer.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Midwinter at the Richardson Civic Center

Brrrr. But just try calling someone in Wisconsin and see what kind of sympathy you get for our cold weather.

S2L77: Venice

From 1977 05 02 Italy

Well out of Asia and deep into Europe, we're moving fast now. A different city every day. Today, it's Venice. Enjoy.

More photos after the jump.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Skyline Women at RHS: Basketball at its Finest

From 2014 02 04 Skyline vs Richardson women

It was the last game of the District 9-5A season. It was also the game of the year. The two teams had a combined district record of 21-1. The outcome would determine the district championship. The crowd was large and boisterous. The players talented and scrappy. It was basketball at its finest.

Three weeks ago, when these same two teams met, the Richardson women's basketball team handed Skyline their first defeat in district play in 134 games. But Tuesday night, in the rematch at the RHS gym, Skyline prevailed 58-52. Richardson lost the game, but still ended up winning a share of the district championship with Skyline, both with 11-1 records. Thanks for the great season, Eagles and Raiders.

More photos after the jump.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CAFR Rebounds

For city finance wonks, Christmas comes twice a year: once in August when the city budget is set and again in February when the city financial audit is published. The budget specifies the city's cash flow (its planned revenues and expenses). The financial audit details the city's assets (the value of city property, bank accounts, etc.) and its liabilities (outstanding debt, pension obligations, etc.).

After the jump, a quick look at this year's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

OTBR: Mile-wide Floodplain of the Mississippi

Latitude: N 39° 29.976
Longitude: W 091° 02.382

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, February 3, 2014

Repeat Tweets: High School Basketball

Repeat tweets from January, 2014:

  • Jan 3 2014: High school men's basketball final: Richardson 75, Lake Highlands 64. #txhshoops
  • Jan 6 2014: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013): Starships swim, garbage trucks fly, Kirk struts. Safe, formulaic, campy, non-stop bloodless violence. C+
  • Jan 6 2014: Headline: "US marks 4 straight years of slowing health costs." @SenTedCruz repeats his cry for #FullRepeal #wacko
  • Jan 6 2014: Headline: "Health care shrunk as a percent of GDP for the first time since 1997." @SenTedCruz repeats his cry for #FullRepeal #wacko
  • Jan 6 2014: MT @SenTedCruz: "I cannot support Janet Yellen's nomination to serve as Chairman of the Federal Reserve." This is news? Why? #Obstruction
  • Jan 6 2014: MT @SenTedCruz: "Federal judge, nominated by President Obama, finds Chicago's handgun sales ban unconstitutional." Judicial activism.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hairspray at BHS

Hairspray at BHS: '60s music and student activism, what more could you ask? Hilarious & inspiring. All voices owned the house! Best ever!

After the jump, a surprise show stopper.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Berkner Sweeps Pearce

From 2014 01 31 Pearce vs Berkner

The Berkner Rams men's basketball team swept their season home-and-away series against the Pearce Mustangs with a 69-44 win Friday night at the Berkner gym. With the win, the Rams retain sole possession of first place in District 9-5A, with a record of 10-1. It's a great time to be a Ram!

More photos after the jump.