Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dope (2015)

Dope (2015): Geek from tough hood wants to go to Harvard, gets mixed-up with drugs. Implausible plot and dialog. Vulgar, violent, dopey. D+

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

POTD: The Colors of India

From 2016 02 12 Udaipur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from inside the City Palace in Udaipur, India.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Affordable Housing in Richardson

On one hand, people complain that Richardson is putting up more and more apartments. (And by people, I mostly mean the neighbors near the apartments. Others might be opposed, but they aren't as conspicuous in their complaints.) Apartments can be considered affordable in comparison to single family houses.

OTOH, people complain that Richardson doesn't offer enough options for low-income families who need subsidies to afford any reasonable housing. (And by people, I guess I mean me. If anyone has gone before the city council to lobby for more affordable housing for low-income families, I missed it.) The apartment developments that are approved seem to promise enough amenities to make them unaffordable to low-income families.

Friday, August 26, 2016

POTD: Udaipur Framed

From 2016 02 12 Udaipur
Today's photo-of-the-day is taken through a window at the City Palace in Udaipur, India.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Twinsters (2015)

Twinsters (2015): Korean twins raised apart in US and France who discover each other at age 25. Lightweight, giggles, emojis. I liked it. C+

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Theeb (2014)

Theeb (2014): 10 yr-old boy with Arabs, Turks and an Englishman cross Arabian desert in 1916. Survival story as stark as the landscape. B-

Monday, August 22, 2016

Richardson's Budget - Black or Red?

It's August and that means it's time for Richardson budget roulette. Will the proposed city budget be balanced? You'd think that would be a simple question. Isn't the city required by law to have a balanced budget? Well, yes, but it all depends on the meaning of "balanced".

Last year when I looked at this question, I concluded that the city's 2015-2016 budget was indeed balanced and didn't require use of that sneaky asterisk ("plus reserved fund balance and other financing sources").

After the jump, reviewing that conclusion and looking ahead at 2016-2017.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: How Not To Be Wrong

How Not To Be Wrong
From How Not To Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg:
Open quote 

Proving by day and disproving by night is not just for mathematics. I find it's a good habit to put pressure on all your beliefs, social, political, scientific, and philosophical. Believe whatever you believe by day; but at night, argue against the propositions you hold most dear. Don't cheat! To the greatest extent possible you have to think as though you believe what you don't believe. And if you can't talk yourself out of your existing beliefs, you'll know a lot more about why you believe what you believe. You'll have come a little closer to a proof."

"How Not To Be Wrong" is not a book about math. Well it is, but only if you first understand that math is not about memorization of the times table. It's about a way of logically thinking about the world. "How Not To Be Wrong" also happens to be another of Bill Gates's book recommendations for this summer.

After the jump, my review.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mustang (2015)

Mustang (2015): Modern Turkish girls rebel against strict home life. Controversial depiction of rural Turkey. Clich├ęd, but still moving. B+

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

POTD: Chitchat

From 2016 02 11 Jodhpur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan, India. Is the boy being excluded from the women's chitchat? Does he care? Take a close look at what's in his left hand. It looks like a car key to me. My guess is that he's got other things on his mind than what the women are chatting about.

Monday, August 15, 2016

What's Interesting About Richardson?

Are there lots of activities, lots of things to do near you? An update to Google Maps now answers that question for you.
In a shade of pale orange, Google Maps now highlights "areas of interest," or "places where there's a lot of activities and things to do," determined by "an algorithmic process that allows us to highlight the areas with the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops," according to the company's blog.
Source: CityLab.
CityLab highlights a few disconcerting findings with Google's choices in other parts of the country. Some neighborhoods, "packed with restaurants, businesses, and schools," but relatively low-income and predominantly Latino, get overlooked by Google's orange highlighting. Areas of interest — to whom? So, take Google's automated algorithms with some reservations.

Still, let's see what Google thinks of Richardson. Spoiler alert: it's pretty accurate, not necessarily in our favor.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Joy (2015)

Joy (2015): Many A-list stars, all upstaged by an infomercial mop. Not even earnest Jennifer Lawrence can save this predictable story. C+

Thursday, August 11, 2016

POTD: Uplifting of the Soul

From 2016 02 11 Jodhpur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the steps of the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan, India. According to the temple's website, "To behold this holy shrine in its spectacularly sublime setting is to experience instant uplifting of the soul." OK then. Surely this family is experiencing fun. And witnessing that fun uplifted my own soul. May this POTD do a little to uplift your soul as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I Support Free Trade

From 2015 05 07 Portland
#ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion. I support free trade.

There, I said it. I know it's an unpopular opinion in this election campaign. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders made opposition to free trade a major issue in their campaigns (which differ in almost every other other way). Hillary Clinton has taken to opposing free trade as well, or at least one trade deal, the TPP, although it's reasonable to doubt whether her heart is in it.

Well, my heart is on the side of free trade, even if it's an electoral loser.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How to Control Richardson Housing Costs

"Dallas joins Portland, Seattle and Denver as a top market for home price gains". That's the headline in The Dallas Morning News. And by "Dallas" the News means "Dallas-area" which includes Richardson. Everyone has heard the stories of Richardson houses going on the market and immediately receiving bids above asking price.

If you're selling, that's good news. If you're buying, that's bad news. And if you're doing neither, if you already own a house and just don't like seeing your property taxes go up, that's also not such good news. I'm here to tell you that, no matter your circumstances, if you consider housing inflation to be a problem in general, that there is a solution. And it comes from Tokyo.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Trails, Apartments, and Retail

At its July 25 meeting, the Richardson City Council approved a zoning change to accommodate the development of a 43-unit community of apartments and/or townhomes on 2.7 acres on the east side of Plano Road south of Arapaho Road.

Predictably, the neighbors were opposed. That required a super-majority from the council to approve the rezoning, which was delivered by way of a unanimous 7-0 vote. I was drawn to the statements made by council members before voting to approve. There's a lot to unpack in just the comments made by Mayor Paul Voelker.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Richardson Town Hall Meeting

A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting derived from the traditional town meetings of New England. Typically open to everybody in a town community and held at the local municipal building, attendees generally present ideas, voice their opinions, and ask questions of the public figures at the town hall.
In the spirit of a traditional town hall meeting, The Wheel has offered the members of the Richardson City Council the opportunity to answer questions posed by the public (and by public I mean me). Call it the first (and possibly last) informal online town hall meeting sponsored by The Wheel. All council members graciously cooperated with this imposition on their time. The questions and their answers follow.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

OTBR: Werribee Open Range Zoo

Latitude: S 37° 55.938
Longitude: E 144° 39.468

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".

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

POTD: A Poem in Stone

From 2016 02 11 Jodhpur

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Ranakpur Jain Temple in Rajasthan, India. Pardon me while I go silent and let the unknown author of the temple's website describe the beauty of this place.

In the heart of the remote and enchanting valley of the Arvallis, skirting the rivulet Maghai and enveloped in the solitude of the surrounding forest, stands, in solemn grandeur, the Chaturmukha Jain Temple of Rishabhadeva. Placed on a lofty plinth, the three-storeyed marble edifice, to which the genius of the artist has imparted exquisite artistic grace, and which his deep devotion has endowed with serene spiritual dignity is, verily, a poem in stone. Majestic yet in complete harmony with Mother Nature, in whose beautiful lap it rests, this magnificent monument of devotional architecture seems bathed in celestial bliss. The very hills around, dwarfed by its imposing bearing, appear absorbed in mute meditation, as if spell-bound. The concord achieved between the bounteous generosity of Nature and man's creative expression of gratitude, stands uniquely symbolised in this Divine Creation. To behold this holy shrine in its spectacularly sublime setting is to experience instant uplifting of the soul.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Repeat Tweets: Scales Falling From Eyes

Repeat tweets from July, 2016:

  • Jul 3 2016: "scales-falling-from-eyes kind of book". How you describe a book that confirms your preconceived notions. @roddreher
  • Jul 4 2016: American Sphinx: Complex, conflicted, contradictory. Not the Thomas Jefferson in schoolbooks. No longer count me on Team Jefferson. B+
  • Jul 4 2016: My Twitter feed is hard to follow this morning. Near as I can tell, Donald Trump is considering Kevin Durant for VP. Or vice versa.
  • Jul 4 2016: So, Kevin Durant is taking his talents to the West Coast. Does that about sum it up?

After the jump, more repeat tweets.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Natural Allies

It occurs to me that the Black Lives Matter movement and the tea party movement ought to be natural allies. Wait, hear me out. The movements share some of the same policy goals.

BLM has as one of its 10 categories of policy solutions: ending the "over-policing of communities." The tea party has as one of its 15 non-negotiable core beliefs: "Intrusive government must be stopped."

BLM focuses on things like the criminalization of issues that should be handled by social workers or mental health professionals instead of police. The tea party focuses on things like red light cameras and the militarization of police. The root cause underlying many of the complaints, "intrusive government" and "over-policing," is the same.

If the tea party and BLM sought common ground and allied themselves, they would make a powerful political movement. Why don't they? I have a theory about that, too. ;-)