Thursday, August 31, 2017

POTD: Ball Court of Coba

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the ancient Mayan city of Coba on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It shows the ball court. The object of the game was to maneuver a ball, without using your hands, through the stone hoop attached to the side wall of the court. The rules of the game are in dispute (kind of like American football) but that doesn't stop archaeologists from deducing that the losers of the game (or sometimes the winners) were ritually sacrificed (kind of like American politics).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sand Storm (2016)

Sand Storm (2016): Girl meets boy. Dad objects and arranges a different marriage. Then dad brings home a second wife. Age-old story. B+

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

POTD: Abandoned City of Coba

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the ancient Mayan city of Coba on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It was a huge city but the jungle has mostly reclaimed it.

Bonus photos after the jump.

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lo and Behold (2016)

Lo and Behold (2016): History & future of the Internet. Some topics are promising (AI), some scary (solar flares), some badly misjudged. C+

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016): War in Iraq. Pro football in Dallas. A study of PTSD. Flat acting. Clich├ęd characters. Watchable. C+

As is usually the case, the movie is not as good as the book, which was reviewed here in 2013.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Magnet Schools vs Neighborhood Schools

Five years ago, I blogged about magnet schools — their purpose and their effect. I think it holds up well, in that I had questions about the purpose and effect of magnet schools in Richardson that I couldn't answer then and I still can't answer today. I don't believe there has been adequate public discussion. It's time.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

POTD: D'Amico

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Galveston Bay, the entrance to the busy Houston Ship Channel, ranked first in the United States in foreign waterborne tonnage; first in U.S. imports; and first in U.S. export tonnage.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Local, State, Nation: Same Story

Recently, I posted a graph showing Richardson ISD schools' academic ranking plotted against the percentage of students they have on the free and reduced lunch program. As I expected it showed a correlation — as socio-economic status drops, so too does academic ranking.
Today I want to look at state and national data.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Logan Lucky (2017)

Logan Lucky (2017): Redneck Oceans 11, where NASCAR not Vegas is the target. Decent fun if you bring enough suspension of disbelief. B-

Monday, August 21, 2017

Local Evidence that Demography is Destiny

When looking at school performance numbers, I fell back on a story of demographics to explain why the Richardson ISD has some of the highest performing schools in the state *and* some of the lowest performing. Same school district. Same policies. Same curriculum. Same central administration. But widely differing results. Different demographics, I said.

I was confident my story wasn't a fairy tale, but I didn't bother backing it up with more than just a couple of quick data points. I believe that it's a good personal habit to challenge one's own preconceptions now and then. Because sometimes I'm wrong. (I know. Hard to believe.) So I did my homework.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Transforming Fashion

It's the last weekend to catch the Dallas Museum of Art's exhibit Tranforming Fashion featuring designs by Iris van Herpen. These dresses are bold, sure, but I just can't see them "transforming fashion." No woman is going to be wearing anything that looks like any of these dresses. Sci-fi aliens, on the other hand, maybe. High fashion will probably come to use the technology van Herpen used, like 3-D printing, but it will be put to more practical styles than seen here. It's still great fun.

Coincidentally, Season 16 of Project Runway premiered this week. I have to admit, it's my guilty pleasure. I haven't picked a favorite this season yet, but I'm forever on Team Mondo.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017)

Oh, Hello on Broadway (2017): Comic duo plays two old NY friends. Mix of skits and standup. Relentlessly paced, eventually tiresome. C-

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Incredible Jessica James (2017)

The Incredible Jessica James (2017): Aspiring playwright after a breakup. Works with kids. She's complicated. Light, fun, believable. B-

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

War Machine (2017)

War Machine (2017): Afghanistan war. Mash of history, satire, tragedy. Brad Pitt is miscast. Mannerisms more Forrest Gump than general. B-

Monday, August 14, 2017

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 2016-2017 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 2017-2018.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick (2017): Mixed-culture romcom. Tension between him, her and their families. Laughs, tears, and straight drama. Great acting. B+

Thursday, August 10, 2017

POTD: Idle Oil Rigs

From 2017 01 29 Caribbean Cruise

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Galveston Channel in Texas, where oil drilling rigs stand idle due to the prolonged slump in oil and gas prices.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Every Number Tells a Story

It's almost back-to-school time. So let's look at the Richardson ISD by the numbers. Specifically, the numbers from "K-12 school performance data at your fingertips." RISD's overall numbers can tell any story you want.

"Steady as she goes": RISD consistently ranks in the top half of all school districts in Texas.

"Sound the alarm": RISD dropped from the 86th percentile in 2010 to the 56th percentile in 2015.

"Back on Course": RISD climbed from 56th percentile in 2015 to 72nd percentile in 2017.

So have at it. What's your story?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk (2017): Lots of action. Nameless, interchangeable characters. Little dialog or historical context. But powerful climactic scene. B+

Friday, August 4, 2017

OTBR: A Deer Farm in Australia

Latitude: S 37° 20.592
Longitude: E 144° 22.386

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 last month I visited vicariously (not actually) that are "off the blue roads".

Thursday, August 3, 2017

POTD: A Streetcar Named Riverfront

From 2016 12 15 Louisiana

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the riverfront in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Riverfront is not as poetic as Desire, but the Streetcar named Desire was converted to a bus line in 1948. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Girl on the Train (2016)

The Girl on the Train (2016): Psychological mystery borrows heavily from Rear Window and Gaslight. Well-crafted if maybe too predictable. B-

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Repeat Tweets: Watch the Uninsured Rate Drop

Repeat tweets from July, 2017:

  • Jul 4 2017: RT @sparksjls: "Watch the uninsured rate drop across the country as the ACA went into effect." @sparksjls
  • Watch Texas stand out as a laggard in this animation.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @bonojl: "Poll: Most voters blame state for school money woes."
  • I'll believe it when I see it at the polls in 2018.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @EricCeleste: "Well, now. This is super interesting." @EricCeleste
  • Good for DMN. Better late than never. A win for Jim Schutze.
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @BraddJaffy: "In a span of 13 minutes, on foreign soil, Trump trashed the American free press, the U.S. intel community, and Obama."
    Trump's own apology tour??? But who is he apologizing to? Russia?
  • Jul 6 2017: RT @GregAbbott_TX: "Join me in a statewide call to stand with law enforcement on July 7. Let's band together to #BackTheBlue."
    You didn't stand with Texas police chiefs who opposed SB4.

After the jump, more repeat tweets.