Thursday, June 30, 2016

POTD: Mehrangarh Fort

From 2016 02 11 Jodhpur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Jodhpur, India. Rajasthan has more forts, palaces, mosques, temples, tombs, and cenotaphs than a tourist can keep track of, but to me the one with the most imposing presence is Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Built beginning about 1460, its stout walls sit about 125 meters above the city.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I Am Love (2009)

I Am Love (2009): Wealthy Milan family and their complex relationships, more than one movie can do justice. Money can't buy happiness. B-

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

POTD: Blow Horn

From 2016 02 11 Jodhpur

Today's photo-of-the-day is a random street scene from Rajasthan, India, where honking your car horn is not only considered to be acceptable, it's asked for by the vehicles getting honked at. Near as I can tell, it's an excuse for slow-moving drivers to ignore traffic behind them until you get close enough to let the slow drivers know you are there and want to pass. After which, the slow drivers still won't get out of your way, but at least they'll know you're passing them anyway.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Falling STAAR - cont.

Recently, I asked, "Can standardized testing in schools fall any lower?" That was a rhetorical question. It appears that standardized testing is in retreat in Texas and across the nation. Some argue we don't need testing. Some argue the tests don't test the right things.

Friday, June 24, 2016

POTD: Street Bounty

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is a random street scene from Jaipur, India. Food vendors of all kinds are a common sight in India. It's like a farmer's market on every corner.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars VII (2015): Felt like a scene-by-scene remake of original. Like a greatest hits collection covered by a new band. No freshness. C+

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

POTD: Stairway to Heaven

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Jantar Mantar monument of Jaipur, India, which is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built almost 300 years ago.

Really, today's photo-of-the-day is just an excuse for me to talk about Led Zeppelin's 1971 song Stairway to Heaven, the subject of a 2016 plagiarism lawsuit. It's sad how one of the greatest rock songs of all time has been reduced to an ugly spat over money.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (2014): Depressed woman fights (kind of) to save her job. Drama with no drama. Marion Cotillard is sadly underused. C-

Monday, June 20, 2016

Falling STAAR

"Messy STAAR season causes education commissioner to scrap 5th-, 8th-grade results." Can standardized testing in Texas schools fall any lower? That's a rhetorical question.

Standardized testing in Texas has a long history. It predates even the George W. Bush governorship in the 1990s. Standardized testing and accountability was given credit for narrowing the achievement gap between whites and minorities. The New York Times had good things to say about Texas in 1999 when Governor Bush was leveraging Texas's reputation in his own bid for the White House.

This has stemmed partly from a unique accountability system that predates Mr. Bush's tenure and requires all Texas schools to give an array of standardized tests and record the results for each subgroup -- white, black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged. The schools are judged on the performance of each group separately. Other states give tests but no other uses the performance of subgroups separately to determine success.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Sunset Blvd. (1950): Billy Wilder classic. As out of date today as silent movies were when this was made. But dead-on casting and cameos. C+

Thursday, June 16, 2016

POTD: Biff Henderson

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from City Palace in Jaipur, India. In case you ever wondered whatever happened to Biff Henderson, stage manager for "The Late Show with David Letterman," ever since Dave retired, well he's working as a security guard at the City Palace. Or maybe the guard only looks like Biff Henderson. In any case, here's another example of the nice, bright colors that make India so photogenic.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

RISD Shell Game

Last week, I brought up my fear that magnet schools in the Richardson ISD were leading to an increase in segregation along socio-economic lines. I didn't have data to test whether my fear is warranted (and I still don't) because as far as I know, the RISD doesn't make such data easily accessible to the public. As long as that's the case, my fear, grounded or not, persists.

The feedback to my article suggests that magnet schools may only be a small component of a larger problem with transfers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

POTD: Beckoning Doorways

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India. This sprawling complex has more courtyards, halls, chambers, and passageways than you can count. There's always another treat through each beckoning doorway.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Review: Seveneves

From Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson:
Open quote 

The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason."

What a great first line. Unfortunately, it's the best sentence of Neal Stephenson's novel "Seveneves." Still, this long novel features a global crisis that prompts some what-if questions that can be very entertaining to ponder (as long as it's only fiction).

After the jump, my review.

Friday, June 10, 2016

POTD: Elephant Help Desk

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India, where elephants are used to carry tourists up the hill to the main courtyard of the fort. I prefer to believe that the existence of a help desk for the Elephant Owners Development Society is evidence that the animals are treated humanely. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

Oscar night is long gone. "Spotlight" was the Academy's pick for "Best Picture." I couldn't say at the time whether it would be my own pick for best movie of 2015 because I hadn't seen most of the nominees at that time. Well, now that it's summer, I've can finally say I've seen all eight Oscar nominees for 2015's "Best Picture" and I can pick a winner. Can I get a drum roll?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant (2015): One note survival tale. Live action "Oh, No! Mr Bill!" Oscar for Leo DiCaprio for wheezing and grunting. Great look. B-

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn (2015): Irish girl emigrates to Brooklyn in 1950s but home still tugs. Simple, sweet love story. Enchanting look and feel. B-

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Double-Edged Blade of Magnet Schools

The big news out of the May 31 school board meeting was that the Richardson ISD decided to build two new elementary schools in Lake Highlands, one at Walnut Hill Rd and White Rock Trail and another to serve the area bounded by I-635, Abrams Rd and Royal Ln.

But something else was in the announcement, the ninth of nine bulleted action items, that deserves more attention than it will probably get: "Expand Northlake Elementary to include magnet programming if evaluation determines demand exists."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

OTBR: A Free, Self-Service Guesthouse in Estonia

Latitude: N 59° 05.892
Longitude: E 025° 32.268

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".

Friday, June 3, 2016

POTD: Shave and Haircut, Two Rupees

From 2016 02 09 Jaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Rajasthan, India, where sidewalk barbers are common. Sometimes the barber sets up literally on the sidewalk, sometimes (like in this instance) his barbershop is open to the sidewalk. I don't know the standard rate for a shave in India (I had my own Mach 3 razor along), but I know it's not two rupees (worth about three cents). The equivalent of two bits, like the jingle says, is probably a better budget guideline for travelers.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

What Does Lake Highlands Get?

The last time we checked in on the drama surrounding enrollment growth in Lake Highlands schools, we asked, "What Does Lake Highlands Want?" The answer was impossible to discern. It was easier to say what was not wanted. Some faction or other rejected pretty much any and every proposal that would relieve overcrowding in the area's elementary schools.

The way things go in situations like this, when a community can't decide for itself, someone is going to decide for them. In this case, the burden is on the Richardson ISD administrators and school board. Although a final decision hasn't been made about the exact grade configuration, the RISD is planning to build a new elementary school on Walnut Hill Ln at White Rock Trail.

At the May 31 school board meeting, it was also announced that the RISD is pursuing land acquisition for a second new elementary school in the area bounded by Abrams Road, Royal Lane and I-635.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Repeat Tweets: Cruz's Last Days as Presidential Candidate

Repeat tweets from May, 2016:

  • May 1 2016: RT @NBCPolitics: "Cruz Defends Fiorina's Business Record." Who'd have guessed that Cruz would spend the days before Indiana this way?
  • May 2 2016: Spare Parts: Poor Hispanic kids in Phoenix enter an underwater robotics contest. Inspiring, infuriating. A call for immigration reform. B-
  • May 3 2016: Try to get people's attention about urban planning. Crickets. But watch them go all ape-shit over a new standalone, drive-thru Chick-fil-A.
  • May 3 2016: Run, Ted, Run. Don't come back to Texas. Head to California and Oregon and then back to Canada. Please?

After the jump, more repeat tweets.