Friday, December 31, 2021

TIL: My Mistakes in Foreign Policy

I'm not in position to set foreign policy for the U.S. Government. More and more I'm thinking that's a good thing. Because a couple of my notions about wise foreign policy have proven to be, how do I put this, disasters for America and the world. Live and learn, amiright?

Anne Applebaum is a staff writer for "The Atlantic" and a Pulitzer-prize winning historian. In her recent cover story, "The Bad Guys are Winning", she explains why. "If the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies—communism, fascism, virulent nationalism—the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse."

Thursday, December 30, 2021

POTD: Balloons Over the Valley of the Kings

From 2019 11 22 Valley of the Kings

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Luxor, Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile River. It was taken in the morning, looking west over the Nile and towards the Valley of the Kings.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

POTD: The Lock at Esna

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Esna, Egypt. It shows the lock that vessels have to navigate to pass the "Electricity Bridge" across the Nile River built there by the British.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

POTD: Sunset on the Nile

From 2019 11 21 Kom Ombo and Edfu

Today's photo-of-the-day is from Edfu, Egypt. It shows a sunset on the Nile. That's all.

I think this is an appropriate image for "Dead Week", the best week of the year, the week between Christmas and New Years Eve.

Monday, December 27, 2021

I Have Seen Texas's Future

The anti-maskers, anti-vaxers, anti-diversity, anti-LGBTQ, anti-library, anti-education zealots in Texas just think they are the leaders in moving America ahead by taking it back. They aren't. Texans are followers. The real leaders of the "anti" movement are elsewhere. To see where trends in Texas are leading, look to Idaho.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Reader Feedback: "Go Help a Kid"

Recently, I posted "Why I Support DEI, In One Graph". Separately, I posted "Why I Support SEL, In One Parent's Story". Reader feedback prompts me to add some things.

  1. I know this DEI graph isn't the whole story. It's just one graph.
  2. I don't have the solution. Richardson ISD's DEI policy is forcing RISD to address the problem. Maybe the solution will come out of that.
  3. Readers are smarter than I am. There was a lot of great feedback to my post.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004): Mock documentary that's part Jacques Costeau, part Moby Dick. Maybe in 2004 this would have seemed fresh, but there have been so many better Wes Anderson films since then. This one never takes off. Script and acting are lifeless. C-


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Why I Support DEI, In One Graph

DEI (or EDI, as the Richardson ISD prefers) stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Simply, it means that "all people, regardless of race, gender, or other demographic attribute, should be able to succeed." Somehow, teaching that noble goal has been twisted into something members of the RISD community, in public comments at a recent school board meeting, called "racist indoctrination" and "hateful divisive ideology" and "brainwashing." Whoa.

Then I came across one simple graph that highlights the fact that something is wrong in RISD, and, yes, it has to do with race. It highlights a racial divide in school rankings. I'm willing to listen to suggestions for how to address it, but I won't be convinced by anything that doesn't start from a premise that race is at the root of a problem here in RISD.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Why I Support SEL, In One Parent's Story

When I grew up, bullying happened. It was frowned upon by teachers, but behind the teachers' backs, in the lunchroom, on the playground, bullying went on undiminished. Why? Because kids weren't taught how to deal with it themselves. Instead, kids were taught to take it without whining. Or, worse, to fight back and risk getting beaten up. Both methods were failures. Relying on teachers being the enforcers makes bullying worse ("Cut it out or I'll tell the teacher."). What was needed was teaching kids a better way to deal with bullies. And teaching bullies a better way to deal with the feelings that caused them to bully.

Monday, December 20, 2021

West Side Story (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
West Side Story (2021): Spielberg's homage to the classic musical. Faithful remake with a modern look. The fights look less like choreographed dances. Wisely, Spielberg doesn't mess with the music. If this love story doesn't appeal to today's youth, there's no hope for them. A-

Friday, December 17, 2021

TIL: History is Never Static

I grew up thinking World War II was the "good war" and the Vietnam War was the "bad war." And the Korean War was something in between, on the slide from good to bad. Later, the Gulf War was another good war ("By God, we've kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all," President George H.W. Bush exulted.) at least until it all went to hell in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two wars are too recent for us to have settled on a stable mythology yet. But World War II's myths have been cemented in place for a long time. Woe be to anyone who dares interfere with our national myths. Maybe that's changing.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

RISD: Frequently Asked Questions

Where it all went down

What just happened? Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone is out. Dr. Stone and the RISD have reached a mutually acceptable agreement for Dr. Stone to resign her position.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

POTD: Hiding Behind Two Bushes

Hiding Behind Two Bushes

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus in Dallas, Texas. Credit goes to Bill Clinton, or perhaps his press secretary Angel UreƱa, who snapped the original viral photo.

After the exhausting controversy of the Richardson ISD board meeting Monday which saw the departure of Superintendent Dr. Jeannie Stone, we were up for a non-controversial activity on Tuesday. What's less controversial than President Bush, we thought. The Bush Center at SMU had an exhibit of his portraits of immigrants. What's less controversial than immigration, we thought. So, that's where we went.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Former RISD Board President Karen Clardy Speaks

As predicted here on November 16, the superintendent of the Richardson ISD, Dr. Jeannie Stone, submitted her resignation. On Monday, December 13, 2021, the board of trustees voted to accept it at a meeting packed with Stone supporters.

On December 11, 2021, I speculated on the causes for the resignation. I said it wasn't because of public criticism. I said it was because of hostility among new members of the board of the trustees, which made it impossible for the superintendent to work. But I freely admitted that, unless Dr. Stone herself speaks up, we can never be sure. Now that her "Voluntary Separation and Release Agreement" is public, we learn that Dr. Stone is never likely to speak out. Her agreement prohibits either side from talking about the separation.

So, we have to rely on the next best thing. In September, board President Karen Clardy abruptly resigned. She issued no statement explaining her departure. Today, after Dr. Stone's own departure, Clardy finally breaks her silence. In a long and frank interview with The Dallas Morning News Metro columnist Share Grigsby, Clardy opens up.

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes
Never Let Me Go (2010): Coming-of-age tale of 3 friends who grow up in a boarding school for kids being raised to be organ donors. Yikes! Dark, sci-fi/horror setting, but it's the sweet characters that make this movie. Watching future stars early in their careers is a bonus. B-


Here is my tweet review of the novel it is based on:

2011 08 03 - Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro: Memoir of growing up in a weird orphanage. Might be a better Twilight Zone episode than novel. C-

Monday, December 13, 2021

The Pursuit of Love (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Pursuit of Love (TV 2021): Adaptation of 1945 English novel about two young women who pursue different paths to happiness. Part costume drama, part satire/comedy. The whole arc of the novel condensed to 3 episodes. Refreshing, but it does make it feel rushed. B-

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Richardson's Rush to Judgment

Richardson City Council agenda, December 13, 2021:

One week after long-time City Manager Dan Johnson announced his retirement, the Richardson City Council plans to appoint his successor. One week. It's the Richardson Way.

Let's dig into the archives. Nine years ago, we went through this exact process. My question then is still relevant today. "Why does state law consider it prudent to wait 21 days before making the hire of a school superintendent official, but one minute and seventeen seconds is long enough to wait before making the hire of a city manager official? What am I missing?"

Saturday, December 11, 2021

She's Going, But Why? And Now What?

Now that The Dallas Morning News has published its story reporting that Dr. Jeannie Stone, Superintendent of Richardson ISD, will resign on Monday, the biggest assertion this blog has been chronicling for the last month or so has proven to be true. But that's not all I claimed. The related claim has ramifications going forward.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Other Two - S01 (TV 2019)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Other Two - S01 (TV 2019): Boy becomes pop star. Jealous older brother and sister's careers struggle. Ambitious mom exploits her son's success. All snobs. Sitcom that isn't funny, doesn't go anywhere, and is a struggle to finish S01. No interest in S02. C-

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Richardson City Council 2021-23 Tactics

"City Council Tactics". That's the title of the presentation made by City staff to the Richardson City Council. But they aren't tactics for the City Council. They are tactics for City staff, who developed them themselves. There are a lot of them, 73 by my count. Much of the list reads like things that were probably on the City staff's to-do list for months or years, just like the goals and strategies they are based on are mostly recycled from previous years. I suspect City staff was careful to avoid making them too ambitious, risky, or binding (or, for that matter, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based — you know S.M.A.R.T.). It's entirely understandable for employees to not want to promise their bosses too much. So words like "Explore," "Review," "Evaluate" are commonly used. One tactic starts with "Develop a strategy to...", not "Just Do It." I thought the Council had delegated the tactics to staff, not the job of developing more strategies.

Let's look at what's still missing, and then assess the City Council's own participation in the process of developing and shaping these tactics, maybe awarding some medals in the process.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

RISD: Night of the Long Knives, Part II


Monday evening, the Richardson ISD Board of Trustees had a special called meeting with a single item on the agenda: a closed meeting for "Superintendent's Evaluation."

Long story short, we still don't know the end of this story. The school board met in closed session for over five hours and adjourned without returning to open session, taking any votes, or making any announcements. But don't let that stop me from speculation.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020): Adaptation of Dickens. Not melodrama, but is it a comedy? Everyone has loads of fun, with just enough earnestness to keep from collapsing into camp. Colorblind casting makes Victorian England the most diverse place in history. B-

Monday, December 6, 2021

The Curse of Von Dutch (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Curse of Von Dutch (TV 2021): Documentary of a clothing brand that became wildly popular in the early 2000s, then flamed out. The people behind it were an odd assortment of losers, crazies, double-crossers, and even a killer or two. All get to tell their side here. C-

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Merry Krampus Nacht!

"Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure in Central and Eastern Alpine folklore who, during the Christmas season, scares children who have misbehaved. Assisting Saint Nicholas, the pair visit children on the night of the 5th December, with Saint Nicholas rewarding the well-behaved children with modest gifts such as oranges, dried fruit, walnuts and chocolate, whilst the badly behaved ones only receive punishment from Krampus with birch rods." — Wikipedia

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Power of the Dog (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Power of the Dog (2021): Set on a remote ranch in 1925 Montana owned by two brothers, one a bully, the other with a new wife and a bookish son. Like a kettle on a hot stove, the tension slowly builds to a climactic boil. The mystery at heart is what drives the characters. B+

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Ethics Reform is Coming to City Council*

* Dallas City Council.

Regular readers will know how I've been recommending that Richardson's Code of Ethics get strengthened since the embarrassment of the tenure of Mayor Laura Maczka, convicted of bribery and tax fraud and awaiting sentencing. OK, I've been screaming for it, although the City Council, in its infinite wisdom, has taken a status quo ante attitude that there's no trouble here in River City.

I was pleased to see that the City of Dallas, with even greater problems than Richardson, is taking an important step to combatting public corruption. D Magazine has the details.

House of Gucci (2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
House of Gucci (2021): More or less true story of business troubles of Gucci brand brought on by family infighting (and some tax evasion). Part satire, part camp. More than a little over-the-top acting. Jared Leto goes too far. Adam Driver not far enough. Lady Gaga is perfect. B+

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Random Thoughts: Every Strategy All At Once

Tweets from November, 2021:
  • 2021-11-01: I expected this under Trump. I didn't expect his influence to last this long. "U.S. is now running an uncontrolled experiment with every strategy all at once. COVID-19 policies differ wildly by state, county, university, workplace, and school district."
  • 2021-11-01: Greg Abbott's dance. Move far to the right to compete with DeSantis nationally and to fend off primary challenges in Texas. But don't move so batshit crazy right that moderate Texans shift to Beto. It's a careful dance. And he's doing it all from a wheel chair.
  • 2021-11-01: "What we're teaching our kids to do is quit." — Coach Gary Patterson of TCU in 2018, not in 2021, when he ...well...quit.

After the jump, more random thoughts.