Thursday, March 31, 2016

POTD: Tempting Symbol Squarely in My Path

From 2016 02 05 Agra

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah in Agra, India. On the lawn just outside of the tomb was the scene in this photo. I smiled, walked on, and said nothing.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

RISD Bond Community Information Meeting #1

Monday evening, the Richardson ISD held the first of four community information meetings about the upcoming bond election. This meeting was at Prestonwood Elementary School. If you missed it, no matter. Three more meetings, at other high school feeder schools, will be held in April. And you can learn everything you need to know about the bond on the district's website.

Here, I don't want to focus on the information about the bond that was shared Monday evening. The district administrators did that and you can find it all on the website. Some misinformation did appear in some of the questions, which does interest me. Much of this seems impervious to education, which probably holds a lesson about the challenges to public schooling in general, but that's a much broader topic than I wish to cover here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

POTD: Woman's Work

From 2016 02 05 Agra

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah in Agra, India. The wall surrounding the tomb grounds is being remodeled. By women. A brick surface is being laboriously chipped off. By hand. And carried away. In baskets. On their heads. I was impressed by their diligence.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Purity

From Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
Open quote 

When Pip was very young, vague stories had satisfied her, but by the time she was eleven her questions had grown so insistent that her mother agreed to tell her the 'full' story. Once upon a time, she said, she'd had a different name and a different life, in a state that wasn't California, and she'd married a man who as she discovered only after Pip was born had a propensity to violence."

This is the story of Pip (Purity) Tyler, a young adult with huge student loan debt and unpromising career prospects, and her search for who she is. It's also the story of her mother, a reclusive, fragile free spirit. It's the story of Andreas Wolf, an East German who finds his life-calling as a trafficker of state secrets after the fall of the Berlin Wall leaves him adrift in the world. It's the story of Tom Aberant, a middle-aged American who married young and became a journalist instead of a writer. It takes a long time to give each character his full due. In other words, it's a long novel. Is it a good novel?

After the jump, my review.

Friday, March 25, 2016

POTD: Agra Food Cart

From 2016 02 05 Agra

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Agra, India. Food carts are ubiquitous in India. This one didn't have any food, but I still found it photogenic.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Joe Garagiola, RIP

Kirk Gibson

The news came yesterday that baseball great Joe Garagiolo had died at age 90. He had a middling career as a catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1940s and 1950s and a long career as a baseball broadcaster. My personal memory of Joe Garagiola was his broadcast of Game One of the 1988 World Series between the Oakland A's and the Los Angeles Dodgers. That photo of Kirk Gibson above is the reason I'll always remember that game and Joe Garagiola.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

POTD: My Delhi Peeps

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Delhi's Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. I was sightseeing when a man asked if he could take a picture of his son with me. I readily agreed. After the photo, other kids crowded in, wanting their photos taken, too. Before I knew it, I was the centerpiece of what looked like a class photo. (I'm the one in the middle on one knee...heck, no one needs help picking me out of that good-looking lineup.) Good times.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Who Cares About Urban Trees?

That's the question asked by The Atlantic Cities. The story focuses on a small effort, tree identification classes in Brooklyn, that tries to foster urban tree stewardship. The story lists all the reasons why we should care about urban trees. Everything from cleaner air, cooler temperatures, even decreases in stress and depression in people surrounded by trees. I used to think that we in Richardson knew all that.

Monday, March 21, 2016

"A tremendously exciting painting"

Number 12, 1952

"A tremendously exciting painting." That's what one critic called Jackson Pollock's "Number 12, 1952" when it was first exhibited more than a half century ago. We just had to see it and everything else in the Dallas Museum of Art's exhibit "Blind Spots" before it closed on March 20. The exhibit is claimed to be "the largest survey of Jackson Pollock's black paintings ever assembled." I learned that I prefer his color works. And, if the signs accompanying the exhibit are to be believed, so did the public and the critics. Luckily for us, the exhibit contained plenty of both Pollock's black and color paintings.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Amy (2015)

Amy (2015): Documentary of Amy Winehouse. I knew the druggie tabloid fodder, not the genius jazz artist. My loss. Time to rectify that. A-

Thursday, March 17, 2016

POTD: Qutub Minar

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from India's Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. It stands 73 meters (240 feet) tall. It dates back to the 1190s, when its construction was commissioned by the founder of the Delhi Sultanate.

Except this photo is not of that minaret. This photo is of the base of the accompanying Alai Minar, which was intended to be twice the height of Qutub Minar. Construction was halted upon the death of the Sultan who commissioned it, when the Alai Minar was only 24.5 meters (80 feet) tall. That's how it has stood for over 600 years.

P.S. Faithful readers of The Wheel might remember an earlier mention of Qutub Minar, a stop on my Singapore-to-London travels in 1977. The only thing that has changed in the intervening years is that tourists can no longer climb the tower. :-(

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tangerines (2013)

Tangerines (2013): Fruit farmer in Caucasus carves out separate peace between two wounded soldiers. Implausible, sad and uplifting. B+

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

POTD: Chandni Chowk - cont.

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Chandni Chowk, "one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, India." Take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes, variously devoted to silver, stationery, books, fabrics, hardware, whatnot. The alleys are unbelievably congested. The air is dusty and smoky. The curbs are littered with garbage (made much worse by a municipal workers strike). But the energy is palpable. It may not be for everyone, but it was clearly one of my highlights of India.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Residential Uses Not Allowed in Mixed-Use

"Residential uses of any kind are not presently allowed elsewhere in PD."

It will take a zoning change to build residences in Richardson's crown jewel of "mixed-use" development, CityLine. OK, maybe the tract in question is not officially part of CityLine (the boundaries are kind of vague). The tract could be called CityLine Southeast. Or Somewhere Close But Technically Just Outside CityLine. In any case, it's a 2.44 acre tract within all that ongoing development between Renner Rd and the Bush Tollway. And the current zoning doesn't allow people to live there. So much for mixed-use.

Friday, March 11, 2016

POTD: Chandni Chowk, Delhi

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the narrow streets of Chandni Chowk, "one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, India." Bicycle rickshaws, hand-pulled carts, and foot traffic are the means of transportation here. Businesses seem to be thriving, getting along just fine without the cars...or zoning code parking minimums. Maybe there's a connection.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spectre (2015)

Spectre (2015): You watch 007 for exotic locations and action, not plot or characters. On those low expectations, Spectre delivers. C+

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

POTD: Jama Masjid, Delhi

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Delhi's Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India (maybe the largest, but who knows? Wikipedia says "one of the largest" so that's what I'm going with). The previous two photos-of-the-day were taken outside this 350-year-old landmark, so it's only fair that today's photo takes us inside.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

OTBR: A Swanky RV Resort in Arizona

Latitude: N 32° 40.134
Longitude: W 114° 31.938

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, March 7, 2016

RISD Bond Chatter

What are people saying about the RISD bond election? Not much, from what I can tell. I've seen no formal activity (yet) by any "Vote YES" or "Vote NO" committees -- no yard signs, no emails or direct mail, no robo-calls (thank goodness). Social media has the usual chatter, but not a whole lot compared to recent controversies. Opposition to the bond, what there is, seems to fall into several categories.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Usually, I don't cover hot-button issues like abortion. So much has been said on the subject, there's nothing new I can add. And I'm a man so I don't feel empowered to impose my beliefs on others who might personally face this situation. Nevertheless, The Dallas Morning News's Jeffrey Weiss's always thoughtful Facebook feed suckered me in. To preserve my thoughts (which might be of interest to a distant future me, if no one else), here's what I had to say on the subject. I'm not including the context that prompted me to jump in, but I think what I say can stand alone.

Friday, March 4, 2016

POTD: Smoke Break

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the outside Delhi's Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. It's a photo of a man taking a smoke break. I don't know if it's the nicotine, the religion, or just his temperament, but he seems very much at ease, which is saying something given the hustle and bustle of Delhi's streets all around.

After the jump, exhale...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Steve Jobs (2015)

Steve Jobs (2015): Even more an asshole in this one. Even his design skill is more egotistical fetish than genius here. Needs a reboot. C+

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

POTD: Would You Buy a Whip From This Man?

From 2016 02 04 New Delhi

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the outside Delhi's Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. It's a photo of a man selling whips to tourists. At least I think that's his target market, because I never saw any Indians using whips. Come to think of it, I've never seen any Americans use whips, either, at least not in some kind of show. Anyway, I guess all this is an explanation why I didn't buy a whip.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Repeat Tweets: UIL Realignment

Repeat tweets from February, 2016:

  • Feb 1 2016: New District 9-6A for 2016-2018: Coppell, Jesuit, Skyline, WT White, Richardson, Berkner, Lake Highlands, Pearce.
  • Feb 5 2016: Tangerine (2015): Christmas Eve on LA streets with trans prostitutes. Gritty, explicit and alien to this old straight guy. Great acting. A-
  • Feb 8 2016: Thomas Becket: History of rise and fall of a "Warrior, Priest, Rebel" 900 years ago. A great man (not perfect) by his actions not birth. A-

After the jump, more repeat tweets.