Wednesday, September 30, 2015

POTD: Sampan Races

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Huong (Perfume) River in Hué, Vietnam. It shows a sampan race during the Spring Festival. Dozens of boats compete and thousands of spectators crowd the shore or watch from dragon boats in the river.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Explaining Your Water Bill

In today's edition of "Who's Not Listening To Me Now?" I return to something I wrote last month. It seems that my three graphs didn't convince everyone that recent high water bills are due to two things: dry weather and lawn watering.

Some people are still adamantly convinced that something is crooked. Facebook is full of horror stories of high bills that just have to be wrong. Kristin Takeda of The Dallas Morning News seems to publish something on the subject every day or two. WFAA did an investigation into "skyrocketing water bills." And now the Dallas Observer reports on the phenomenon in the city of Dallas, not just once but twice.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dancing in Jaffa (2013)

Dancing in Jaffa (2013): Teaching ballroom dancing to kids in Israel. Boys/girls, yuck. Jews/Arabs, oh my! Sad and uplifting at once. A-

Saturday, September 26, 2015

POTD: Sampan on the Perfume River

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Huong (Perfume) River in Hué, Vietnam. I don't know where this woman is coming from. I don't know where she's going to. I don't know her story. I wish I did. That is all.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Partial Score: At Halftime, It's Berkner 7.

From 2015 00 00 Miscellaneous

The sun set early on the Berkner Rams Friday night in the annual rivalry game against Lake Highlands. The Wildcats led 42-7 at halftime and picked up in the second half right where they left off. They stretched their lead to 56-7 before two Berkner touchdowns in the 4th quarter closed the score to 56-21 and... Oh, what the hell, I left and can't say what the final score was. Stay strong, Rams. Next week is a brand new game.

Update: the final score was Lake Highlands 59, Berkner 28.

RISD, Universities and Free Speech

On September 19, the Richardson ISD sponsored a "College and Career Fair" at the University of Texas - Dallas. About 200 colleges with interest in recruiting RISD students to attend their schools were represented. Good news for Richardson's high school students? You'd think so. But frequent RISD critic Bill Ames had other ideas.

The gist of Ames's criticism is that some of the represented schools have room for improvement in their respect for students' free speech rights. Now I'm with Ames all the way in calling out schools for shortcomings in this regard. Where Ames goes off the rails is in holding up Jerry Falwell's Liberty University as an "excellent example" in campus free speech because they invited Bernie Sanders to speak and students didn't demonstrate, petition or picket him. That's commendable, not that the students were given any freedom of speech to do so. From the Liberty University student rulebook: "Student participation in on-campus demonstrations, petitions or picketing is prohibited unless approved by Liberty University administration." Liberty University can get away with this open suppression of free speech because it's a private university; public universities cannot. So much for Bill Ames's "excellent example" of campus free speech.

Anyway, what follows is my Facebook conversation with Bill Ames. His opening statement has been edited for brevity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota

From 2015 08 21 Madison
Before we give a big hello to Autumn and its cool nights, let's take a moment to remember Summer and its lazy days by the lake.

Last year's standard of excellence maintained its high rating this year. If I do say so myself (and it's my blog, so I do), the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Memorial Union Terrace on Lake Mendota on a Friday afternoon in summer is the finest single place to be on any university campus anywhere. Add a brat and a beer and nowhere else comes close.

More photos after the jump.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

POTD: Fire on a Bike

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hué, Vietnam. I can't say for sure how this man makes his living. Theories, anyone?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dallas Arts District Fall Block Party

From 2015 09 18 Dallas Arts District
The Dallas Arts District put on another world class Fall Block Party Friday night. The Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art all were open late.

More photos after the jump.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

180° South (2010)

180° South (2010): Surfer/climber heads to Patagonia to surf and climb Cerro Corcovado. Adventure. Nature advocacy. I admit, I envy him. B+

Friday, September 18, 2015

POTD: Ducks on a Bike

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hué, Vietnam, specifically on the Truong Tien bridge across the Huong (Perfume) River. But it's not the river or the bridge that caught my eye. It was the ducks on a bike.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tig (2015)

Tig (2015): "I have cancer." Not your typical opening line of a comedy set. Not your typical comedy documentary. But maybe the best. A-

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

POTD: The Imperial City in Hué

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hué, Vietnam, the historic national capital of Vietnam until World War II, when a communist government was established in Hanoi. This photo was taken in the Imperial City, a walled fortress and palace, home to the emperor.

Much of the Imperial City was destroyed or heavily damaged during the battle of Hué during the Vietnam War's Tet Offensive of January 31, 1968. Today, some restoration is underway but much of this cultural heritage is lost forever.

From 2015 03 24 Hue

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Homecoming: Mesquite Poteet 42, Berkner 16

From 2015 09 11 Poteet vs Berkner

Mesquite Poteet spoiled Berkner's homecoming game Friday night, 42-16. :-(

Berkner's two touchdowns came on spectacular plays -- one a 71 yard pass from Kris Castillo to Kailon Fisher and the other a fumble return for a touchdown by Austin Carbone (set up by a 75 yard punt by Tanner Lange that pinned Poteet back near their own goal line), but other than that, Poteet was in control the whole game.

All the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team, colorguard, marching band and all the rest that make high school football the best value in sports entertainment, can be seen on Google Photos. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, September 11, 2015

POTD: Fishing in Hoi An

From 2015 03 22 Hoi An

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hoi An, Vietnam. It shows a man fishing on the Thu Bon River. Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll entertain the tourists for a lifetime.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Voters Guide: City Charter Amendments 1-10

It's election time. It's an off-year election, but be prepared to spend more time than usual in the voting booth this November. Besides Texas constitutional amendments and city bond proposals, there are 83 propositions for amending the Richardson City Charter. Even if you don't bother to read them, it'll take a while just to check 83 boxes "YES" or "NO." But you shouldn't just willy-nilly check all "YES" or all "NO" or mix it up and try to make creative cross-stitch patterns out of your X's on your ballot. I'm here with a voter's guide to tell you how to vote. You're welcome.

First in a series.

I divide the propositions into several categories: cosmetic changes (affecting spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc., but not meaning); cleanup changes (where outdated or confusing language is changed but not the meaning); minor changes (substantive changes to the powers of government but of a minor nature); and substantive changes (changes to the powers of government of more significant nature). I can't decide how to categorize some propositions. In some cases, I don't have enough information to decide whether a change really only "simplifies" and "clarifies" the charter, as a proposition might claim, or whether it hides substantive changes. You'll see what I mean.

With 83 propositions, it's going to take more than a single cheat sheet -- more like eight or so. So let's get started. Here are my recommendations for Propositions Nos. 1-10. Recommendations for the rest will be coming in due time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014): A study in aging. Play within a play. Life imitates art. Who is playing which part? Great women's roles. B-

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

POTD: Vietnam in One Shot

From 2015 03 22 Hoi An

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hoi An, Vietnam. What can I say about it? One shutter snap captures so much of modern Vietnam, including touches of traditional Vietnam. There's the communist flag. There's the touristy cyclo (three-wheeled bicycle rickshaw). There's the affluent young couple with the woman in a stunning fuchsia silk dress. There's the woman in the traditional Vietnamese style conical hat. And there's the cell phone in her hand. There's not much about modern Vietnam that's missing from this photograph. It's said that all photos lie, but I like the lie this one tells.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Increased Density Spurs Retail Revival

The wedge that cleaves Richardson politics is development. On one side are those who want to see the city stop the construction of apartments and do something to breath life back into dying shopping centers. On the other side are those who rally behind multi-use developments like CityLine and Palisades with their apartments, offices and retail. It turns out that maybe, just maybe, the key to reversing the decline of older retail in Richardson is the success of new multi-use developments.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

OTBR: Vanishing View in Las Vegas

Latitude: N 36° 10.596
Longitude: W 115° 21.936

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, September 5, 2015

Rowlett 44, Lake Highlands 21

From 2015 09 04 Rowlett vs Lake Highlands

The Lake Highlands Wildcats lost their home opener to Rowlett, 44-21, Friday night, dropping to 0-2 on the season. The Wildcats jumped to a quick 7-0 lead on a 78 yard touchdown pass less than two minutes into the game, but from then on Rowlett contained Lake Highlands and showed their own offensive strength. Rowlett finished with 20 first downs to just 7 for Lake Highlands.

All the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team, colorguard, marching band and all the rest that make high school football the best value in sports entertainment, can be seen on Google Photos. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Overtime: Berkner 33, Naaman Forest 30

From 2015 09 03 Naaman Forest vs Berkner
Wow! What a game! This one game had more thrilling plays than a fan has a right to expect in a whole season. When was the last time you saw two safeties in a single game? Berkner pulled that off. Or how about two turnovers at the goal line? One an interception, one a fumble recovery. Naaman Forest pulled that off, killing two Berkner drives. Then, most improbably of all, with 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Berkner down by a touchdown, Berkner blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown to tie the score and send the game into overtime. Berkner scored first in overtime with a field goal, taking their first lead of the whole game, then sealed the win with an interception on a desperation fourth down pass by Naaman Forest. With this Thursday night win, the Rams move to 2-0 on the season. It's a great time to be a Ram!

All the action, including the game, cheerleaders, drill team, colorguard, marching band and all the rest that make high school football the best value in sports entertainment, can be seen on Google Photos. Remember, without the band, it's just a game.

Friday, September 4, 2015

POTD: Chào Buoi Sáng Vietnam

From 2015 03 22 Hoi An

Good Morning, Vietnam. Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hoi An, Vietnam. Robin Williams may be gone, but his memory lives on for every American of a certain age who strolls the streets of Hoi An and smiles when he passes the Chào Buoi Sáng restaurant.

From 2015 03 22 Hoi An

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mind Control with the Delphi Method

Hammer. Rake. Spatula. All tools. Tools that when used properly can be useful. But no guarantees. Here's another tool: Delphi Method.
The Delphi method is a structured communication technique or method, originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method which relies on a panel of experts. The experts answer questionnaires in two or more rounds. After each round, a facilitator or change agent provides an anonymous summary of the experts' forecasts from the previous round as well as the reasons they provided for their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise their earlier answers in light of the replies of other members of their panel. It is believed that during this process the range of the answers will decrease and the group will converge towards the "correct" answer.
Source: Wikipedia.
I'm familiar with the Delphi Method from business. For example, when estimating how long a development project will take, the project team members use the Delphi Method to come up with a group estimate that is better than the estimate of a single project member, even the most senior. At least, it usually is. But no guarantees.

What the Delphi Method is not is mind control. It wasn't developed for the U.S. Defense Department "for use as a psychological weapon during the cold war" as one tinfoil hatter asserts. Nor is it intended for "manipulating ANY meeting toward a predetermined end." At least not any more than a hammer is, although I suppose someone could raise a hammer in the air at a meeting to get attention. But if that happens, don't blame the hammer.

What does all this have to do with Richardson?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

POTD: Silk Lanterns of Hoi An

From 2015 03 22 Hoi An

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Hoi An, Vietnam. Hundreds of years ago, Hoi An was a busy commercial center. Silk cloth and silk products were exchanged for products from China, Thailand, India, and Europe. The silk lantern has remained a popular item in Hoi An ever since.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

$8/Month for a Meter? Are You Kidding Me?

Some Richardson residents complain about having to pay $8/month for having a second meter at their home for outdoor irrigation, even in winter months when they don't water their lawn.

If instead of charging you $8/month, suppose the city charged you $96 once a year. You use the meter every year, don't you? Would that eliminate your complaint of paying for billing periods that you don't use the meter? Paying month to month, spreading the cost evenly over the year is just a convenient bookkeeping technique. Kind of like the electric company offering to take your variable monthly bills and evenly spread them throughout the year.

But is $8/mo or $96/year the right fee for a meter? I suspect it's a case of spreading the cost of supplying water to the city out in a lot of little ways. If the meter fee is too high that means the cost somewhere else is too low. Reduce the cost of the meters to zero and the city has to make up the lost revenue somewhere else to come out even. There's no free lunch. (By the way, the city isn't alone. I pay Time Warner a monthly rental fee for equipment that I suspect is higher than the cost of providing the equipment alone.)

Repeat Tweets: What Cecil the Lion Teaches Us About Health Reform

Repeat tweets from August, 2015:

  • Aug 1 2015: Cecil the lion teaches us that "the ruling theory behind conservative notions of health reform is completely wrong."
  • Aug 2 2015: Ironic, @DonMcLeroy accusing others of throwing gas on the fire. He is the arsonist. He and his revisionist history.
  • Aug 2 2015: I don't know if Scott Walker is a sentient human being, but presume he is.
  • Aug 3 2015: "GOP doesn't rush to defend Ken Paxton." Of course not. Paxton himself admitted guilt and paid a fine last year.
  • Aug 3 2015: Cruz: "Satellite data for last 18 years [shows] zero recorded warming." Obama: "2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record." One is right.
  • Aug 3 2015: Jefferson Center Apt Homes: High-end, medium-density, single-use development near future Cotton Belt station. Meh.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.