Friday, July 31, 2015

POTD: Tonle Sap Lake

From 2015 03 20 Tonle Sap Lake
Today's photo-of-the-day is of the waterway northwest of Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. In the rainy season, the lake floods all of this surrounding land. In the dry season, the channel has to be dredged to reach the lake. Navigating the channels is a challenge. Good times, if you're a passenger on one of the boats.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Hybrid, Urbanized-Suburbs

I've long promoted growth in Richardson that's walkable, mixed-use, transit-oriented. To me, that's more Uptown/Bishop Arts/Oak Lawn than anything in Richardson, whether it's old like Richardson Heights or new like CityLine. Now Peter Simek in FrontBurner gives me something to think about.
As we have seen in places like Addison and Legacy Town Center in Plano, the suburbs now offer a kind of hybrid, urbanized-suburban situation that can satisfy millennials loves of hikes and bikes and coffee shops without having to give up the suburban conveniences of larger dwellings at more affordable prices.
Source: Peter Simek.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

POTD: Rural Cambodia

From 2015 03 20 Tonle Sap Lake
Today's photo-of-the-day is from rural Cambodia, outside Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat. Good times.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper (2014): Hawkish tale of unreflective man with simple sense of duty with a soul deadened more by war. Selective history. B-

Monday, July 27, 2015

Remembering Rodger Jones

According to CultureMap Dallas, soon some big names will be leaving The Dallas Morning News in an employee buyout of the newsroom. The purpose, according to top editor Mike Wilson, is to convert the newspaper into "a website which delivers vital information to North Texas quickly and also curates and produces a great city newspaper." For that, the News is "going to need new skill sets, which are now mostly print and need to be mostly digital." In short, the old guys with ink-stained fingers need to be encouraged to retire.

Friday, July 24, 2015

POTD: Angkor Wat

From 2015 03 19 Angkor Wat

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Angkor Wat, a 12th century temple in Cambodia. "It was originally founded as a Hindu temple for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century." You can see the process of that transformation to this day, as carvings of Hindu gods were chiseled into carvings of the Buddha. Sound familiar? Today, the whole complex of temples is more a world heritage historic site than a center of religious activity.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Q&A: Strategizing in Secret

I read somewhere that the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) had agreed to discuss the method used to determine how much member cities pay for water. Then I read that the Richardson City Council went into closed session to consult with the city attorney to discuss the "1988 North Texas Municipal Water District Regional Water Supply Facilities Amendatory Contract."

Question: Are those two things related? And why would consultation with the city attorney on a water issue not just be done in open session?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

POTD: Ta Prohm

From 2015 03 19 Angkor Wat

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Technically, it's from Ta Prohm, a 12th century temple about a mile from Angkor Wat, the main temple in the area. What's unusual about Ta Prohm is that it hasn't been restored (much), meaning that the jungle still encroaches and tree roots still climb over the temple buildings. Here I am obliged to say that Ta Prohm was used as a location for the filming of the 2001 action movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Good times -- the temple, not the movie.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Q&A: Take or Pay

Question: Richardson has to pay for a minimum amount of water whether it's used or not. Where is the incentive to conserve? Isn't this like the stupidest thing you ever heard of?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Q&A: Water, Water Everywhere

Question: With all the reservoirs full, why is Richardson still in Stage 2 (or Stage 3 or whatever) water conservation plan?

Why impose water restrictions at all when you have to flush water towers to keep the water from going stale?

Sunday, July 19, 2015

POTD: Apsara

From 2015 03 18 Siem Reap

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Siem Reap, Cambodia. An apsara is "a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology." "Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fifi Howls from Happiness (2013)

Fifi Howls from Happiness (2013): Interview with aging Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess. Fascinating character and art, but not movie. C-

Friday, July 17, 2015

POTD: Fish Can Do Massage

From 2015 03 18 Siem Reap

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Siem Reap, Cambodia. After a long, hot day walking and climbing around Angkor Wat, what can be more refreshing than a cold beer ($1) and a tickly, nibbling, fish foot massage (also $1)?

Everything's a dollar in Siem Reap. And I mean actual US greenbacks, not the equivalent in the currency of Cambodia, the riel, which you only see if your purchase requires change less than a dollar.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Rent is Too Damn High

"All-time Record High Rents." That's the headline in Dallas Business Journal. "The hot apartment market in North Texas is bringing all-time high rent as apartment occupancy continues to remain tight." Former Texas governor and GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry understands what's going on, at least elsewhere.
In blue-state coastal cities, you have these strict zoning laws, environmental regulations that have prevented buildings from expanding the housing supply. And that may be great for the venture capitalist who wants to keep a nice view of San Francisco Bay. But it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.
Source: Rick Perry.
What's the solution?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Q&A: Financing with Bonds

Question: Do you think school districts should sell bonds to pay for capital improvements or do you think they should have a capital improvement savings fund?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

POTD: Dinner Idea or Ninja Star?

From 2015 03 18 Siem Reap
Today's photo-of-the-day is from a market in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Fifty points to whomever can identify what the woman is reaching for. Hint: it is an animal, not a weapon. A bonus fifty points if you can say what it tastes like.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Knocking Down Statues Won't Change The Past

That's what Jacquielynn Floyd said in her The Dallas Morning News column after some vandal spray painted the word "SHAME" on the base of the grand statue of General Robert E. Lee on horseback in Dallas's Lee Park.

How about instead of "knocking down" statues, we just move them to a museum hall of shame? Moving from a place of honor a statue of a man who led a white supremacist army in rebellion against the United States of America won't change the past. But it does quit honoring that shameful past. If you insist on keeping our shameful history on public display, at least put up a prominent plaque explaining that shame. No one would spray paint that.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

#@!% Comments

I've switched The Wheel over to a Facebook commenting system. There are some advantages, but there are disadvantages as well. For one, you have to have a Facebook account to comment (or Yahoo! or Hotmail). I hate that, but most people are on Facebook now, right? For another, the "Recent Comments" widget won't show any Facebook comments. I'll be deleting it in due course to avoid confusion.

Going forward, new comments have to be entered using the Facebook comment box. I'm leaving the old style comments visible, but if this is confusing, I might end up hiding the old comments. But I'd rather not do that. Dilemma, dilemma. I know...first world problem.

The rules for commenting remain the same. Comments are welcome, but anonymous comments are not. Keep it courteous, keep it clean, keep it on topic, and always advance the conversation. Comments in violation of that policy may be deleted from this website.

Friday, July 10, 2015

POTD: Fill 'er up with Johnnie Walker Black

From 2015 03 18 Siem Reap
Fill 'er up with Johnnie Walker Black. Or Red. Or Gordon's Gin. Or any old liquor bottle. Today's photo-of-the-day is from Siem Reap, Cambodia, where roadside stands make use of old liquor bottles to conveniently sell a liter of gasoline to the drivers of motorbikes and tuk tuks that dominate the traffic in Siem Reap.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Peering into the Dallas Looking Glass

Dallas city government is dysfunctional. It's not even a provocative thing to say anymore, is it? Everyone knows it's true. It's almost self evident, right?

In case you don't know that (perhaps you don't live within shouting distance of Dallas), you might want to check out this story in The Dallas Morning News by Elizabeth Findell. City council members shout at each other. City Council members shout at city staff. There's a whole lotta shoutin' going on.

But if you knew that already, you can just jump ahead to this story in FrontBurner by Peter Simek. He reads between the lines of Findell's story to understand the structural reasons behind all that shouting.

Peer into the Dallas looking glass and you might have a hard time seeing Richardson. Well, maybe if I cock my head just so, I think I see Richardson's future.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How Texas is Whitewashing History

The white supremacists might be on the defensive in South Carolina, where there are calls to haul down the Confederate flag from the state capitol, but in Texas the whitewashing of history is standing strong. If you have a child in Texas public schools, he or she is probably being taught shameful lies about American history.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How Much is Upzoning Worth?

"Upzoning" -- changing zoning laws to allow taller buildings and greater population density -- creates a windfall gain for landowners in high-value areas when the regulatory barrier is removed, and cities can capture some of that (by selling development rights at or near market prices) to defray the costs of the transit infrastructure that makes the higher-density development feasible.
Source: U.S. News.
How much is upzoning worth? A lot. Different stories about different places reveal just how much. Some cities are quicker to recognize that value and take advantage of it for the benefit of the city as a whole, not just the owner of the property that's upzoned. Some cities are a little slower on the uptake. And then we get to Richardson.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Glorious Fourth

From 2015 07 04 Breckinridge Park
It was our first trip back to Breckinridge Park since 2012 for Richardson's "Family 4th Celebration" and it was even bigger and better than the last time. The fireworks were preceded by a patriotic concert by the always entertaining Richardson Community Band. We sat right down by the lake for the closest and best view of the fireworks, including the reflections in the water.
From 2015 07 04 Breckinridge Park

More after the jump.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

OTBR: A Broken Stone Fence in Australia

Latitude: S 37° 34.422
Longitude: E 145° 07.176

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, July 4, 2015

Into the Woods (2014)

Into the Woods (2014): Musical mashup of fairy tales. By the numbers. Who is target audience? Kids? Adults? Maybe Stephen Sondheim fans. C-

Friday, July 3, 2015

POTD: Cambodia Online

From 2015 03 18 Siem Reap
Today's photo-of-the-day is from Siem Reap, Cambodia. It suggests why much of the developing world is going straight to cell phones for their first telephone service, leap-frogging landline telephones. Too bad that's not possible for getting electricity service.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Repeat Tweets: Our Sophomoric State Senator

Repeat tweets from June, 2015:

  • Jun 1 2015: RT @KonniBurton: "No longer Freshmen!" Now merely sophomoric. @DonHuffines
  • Jun 1 2015: Headline: "RISD school bus involved in chase, recovered in Louisiana." Yikes!
  • Jun 2 2015: Headline: "Ratliff not seeking re-election to SBOE next year." No! Please don't let Creationist Don McLeroy back in.
  • Jun 7 2015: Is there a way the NBA could redesign their product so that bad officiating isn't an inherent part of the game? Or do they just don't care?
  • Jun 8 2015: "The most informed voters are often the most badly misled." Why "citizens' town hall" meetings" will lead you astray.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

City Council's Take on Charter Amendments

The commission appointed by the Richardson City Council to review the city charter made numerous recommendations for charter amendments. By their own estimation, it may take fifty ballot propositions to address them all.

On June 22, the council deliberated what to do with those recommendations. Twice, I discussed those deliberations regarding one particular recommendation (filling a single vacancy on the council by appointment instead of a special election). Today, I want to talk about the council's take on all the other recommendations made by the commission.