Friday, September 30, 2022

TIL: The Best Form of Government

What's the best form of government? Winston Churchill reportedly arrived at the answer from the opposite end of the spectrum. "Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." That settles the question. Or does it?

In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reviews Jedediah Purdy's book, "Two Cheers for Politics: Why Democracy Is Flawed, Frightening-and Our Best Hope."

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Remember Me (2022): Biopic of Mahalia Jackson. Could use more room to let scenes play out. Mother, aunts, husband(s?), business manager, MLK, each come and go in a hurry. Best thing by far about the movie is Ledisi's singing. More of that, please. C+

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

WAIW: Sitting on a Swing

Where Am I Wednesday?

Fifty points to the first person to identify where this photo was taken.

Answer is after the jump.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The U.S. and the Holocaust (TV 2022)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

The U.S. and the Holocaust (TV 2022): Heroism and sacrifice are here, stories America likes to tell itself, but also here are xenophobia and the failure to do more. No matter how much you know, watch this. And have every generation of kids watch, too. Our sins live on today. A+

Monday, September 26, 2022

Keep an Open Mind about Special Use Permits

The City of Richardson's zoning ordinances allow for special use permits for smoking establishments after ensuring "safeguards as are necessary to protect adjoining property, as well as the public health, safety, morals and general welfare." A Richardson restaurant owner applied for a special use permit. His application was considered by the City Plan Commission, where it was approved 5-2 and will be considered next by the City Council. I want to examine those two negative votes more closely.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

POTD: City of Bicycles

From 2022 07 03 Amsterdam

Today's photo-of-the-day shows the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Amsterdam. But the real focus is on the bicycles. Amsterdam is a city of bikes. And canals, of course, but it was the bikes that surprised us. They are everywhere. They are used not just for exercising, but for commuting to work and school and shopping and dining. Central city pedestrians (like us) learn quickly to look left and right first for bicycles, then for street cars, finally for the real cars. What looks chaotic at first quickly settles into a natural rhythm. Amsterdam turned out to be our favorite city.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

POTD: Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant

From 2022 07 03 Amsterdam

Today's photo-of-the-day is of the Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant. Where is it? The water the restaurant is floating on is a clue. A bigger clue is the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the background. Surprisingly, it's in Amsterdam, Netherlands.European tours are sometimes described as ABC tours — "Another Bloody Church". We got some of that. We also got the variant ABC Tour — "Another Bloody Castle". Prepare yourself. Our next photo-of-the-day selections will be up the Rhine River from the sea to the Main River and then down the Danube River. First stop, Amsterdam.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Book Review: Dance Dance Dance

From Dance Dance Dance, by Haruki Murakami:

"The hotel should never have been built where it was. That was the first mistake, and everything got worse from there. Like a button on a shirt buttoned wrong, every attempt to correct things led to yet another fine—not to say elegant—mess."

Dance Dance Dance

Book Review: Dance Dance Dance: 1988 novel with Haruki Murakami's signature touch of magical realism. This sequel to "A Wild Sheep Chase" is even better. A Japanese writer goes through an early midlife crisis as people around him disappear. What's real? What's imagination? B+

After the jump, my full review.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Legalities of Short Term Rental Regulations

The City of Richardson is likely to adopt short-term rental (STR) regulations. Richardson is not the first city to try this. It won't be the last. There is a legal thicket surrounding cities' attempts to adopt STR ordinances. Several key cases are still working their way through the courts and haven't yet reached a final judgment. Courts have looked more favorably on reasonable regulation than outright bans. So, rather than risk having more aggressive regulation tested in court, Richardson's regulations are geared to trying to control the nuisances (noise, parking, trash) that STRs bring to neighborhoods.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Schmigadoon (TV 2021)

Rotten Tomatoes
Schmigadoon (TV 2021): Backpacking couple wanders into a 1940s musical and is stranded there until they find true love. A form of entertainment that doesn't exist anymore. More homage than parody. Unexpectedly, it gets better the longer it goes. Just go with it. Delightful. B-

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Short Term Rental Regulations Coming to Richardson

Movie: Project X

The Richardson City Council reviewed a possible ordinance regulating short-term rentals (STRs). This is in response to a public outcry over an out-of-control explosion in the number of short-term rentals in the City of Richardson, accompanied by an enormous number of nuisance violations (noise, parking, trash). (The police chief was on hand to define "out of control" and "enormous": he said that the police receive "a handful" of complaints each year.) But the public wants short-term rentals banned, so the City Council has to do *something*. So they shall.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Dining, Hookah, but not Belly Dancing

Another Time, Same Old Place

Back in June, a wild night at the Richardson City Council meeting saw the Council reverse themselves on a key rezoning vote. After voting 4-3 in May to approve a rezoning request for an outdoor venue for dining/hookah/music on Abrams Road in Richardson, in June Council Member Joe Corcoran reversed himself and voted against the actual ordinance that was drawn up to make the May vote official. The property owner, knocked back on his heels by this reversal, went back to his corner and licked his wounds. Now he's back with a request for approval of a similar application for the same property.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

POTD: Grand Bahama Port Back in Business

From 2020 02 04 Bahamas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from February, 2020. It shows Grand Bahama Island, five months after Hurricane Dorian devastated the island. According to ReliefWeb, "Dorian hit The Bahamas on September 1, 2019 as a Category 5 hurricane, causing flooding and mass destruction on the northwest islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama...Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record -- and the strongest hurricane to have ever hit The Bahamas." We visited Grand Bahama five months after the hurricane. The port was back in business, receiving supplies of food and building materials for reconstruction. Bahamians are resilient. Don't hesitate to visit.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

POTD: Hurricane Dorian and Grand Bahama

From 2020 02 04 Bahamas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from February, 2020. It shows a nature conservancy in Grand Bahama, five months after Hurricane Dorian devastated the island. According to ReliefWeb, "Dorian hit The Bahamas on September 1, 2019 as a Category 5 hurricane, causing flooding and mass destruction on the northwest islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama...Hurricane Dorian was one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record -- and the strongest hurricane to have ever hit The Bahamas." We visited Grand Bahama five months after the hurricane. The hurricane stripped almost all the leaves from the trees in the nature conservancy, but life was slowing coming back. Like nature, Bahamians are resilient. Don't hesitate to visit.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Get On Board...A Streetcar Conductor Replies

This week, I had a few things to say about the City of Richardson's process of appointing people to boards and commissions. City Council member Joe Corcoran graciously took the time to reply.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Bear (TV 2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
The Bear (TV 2022): A sitcom, but there's no comedy. A rising chef inherits struggling family restaurant when his brother commits suicide. Kitchen is pure chaos, with everyone shouting at each other simultaneously. An intense study in grief, anger, and heart. Not for everyone. A-

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

WAIW: Where Richardson Springs From

Where Am I Wednesday?

Fifty points to the first person to identify where this photo was taken.

Answer is after the jump.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022): One of Marvel's better efforts. A sober start quickly turns into an over-the-top non-stop self-parody of action-adventure films. Never takes itself seriously. Best thing about it was how the film treats kids. Manipulative but kids will love it. B-

Monday, September 12, 2022

Get On Board...If They'll Have You

The Richardson City Council is holding a come-and-go event for persons interested in serving on a City board or commission. Go. Apply. I can't say you'll be accepted but I've never seen even this small attempt at outreach by the City before.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

POTD: Day Care in Nassau

From 2020 02 04 Bahamas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from a children's day-care facility in Nassau, Bahamas. I'm a sucker for murals and this is a nice one. It appears to have been commissioned by the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas for a series called "Beach Murals." The City of Richardson ought to do more along this line. The City's "Traffic Signal Box Art Contest" is a good start. More like this, please.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

POTD: One Last Cruise Before the Pandemic

From 2020 02 04 Bahamas

Today's photo-of-the-day is from the Western Esplande Beach in Nassau, Bahamas. In the background, you can see cruise ships docked side by side, filled with tourists like us. It was the occasion of one last cruise before COVID, although we didn't know it at the time. In Nassau, COVID was a far off news story. In a few short weeks, it would be the major news story all across the world. It would also shut the door on vacation travel for us for two years. But for now, in the Bahamas, it was the good times.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Book Review: On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder

From On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder:

Open quote
On Tyranny


  Since the American colonies declared their independence from a British monarchy that the Founders deemed “tyrannical,” European history has seen three major democratic moments: after the First World War in 1918, after the Second World War in 1945, and after the end of communism in 1989. Many of the democracies founded at these junctures failed, in circumstances that in some important respects resemble our own."

Book Review: On Tyranny: Short book drawing parallels between modern America and Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. Timothy Snyder lays out 20 simple ways each of us can fight the creep of fascism here in America. It's a how-to, a timely call to action.

After the jump, my full review.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Net Zero Roads for Richardson

Source: Aurecon.

Cities everywhere are trying to reduce their impact on global warming. The goals set are all variants of "Net Zero Carbon." Many of the actions needed to achieve that are outside the control of city government. They require advances in car battery technology, electric power generation (solar and wind), construction materials (steel and concrete). The City of Richardson should promote all such advances and take advantage when possible, but I'd like to see it adopt an idea that is not dependent on technological advances. It can be done today. It's under the control of the City. It offers benefits beyond its impact on global warming. It's a road diet for Richardson.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Surface (TV 2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Surface (TV 2022): Woman almost drowns, gets amnesia, tries to piece her past life together. Did she jump? Was she pushed? Who all is having an affair? What about that embezzling? Everyone lies. She eventualy works it all out, even if she keeps some secrets for Season 2. C+

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Tax Increase, Tax Decrease, Who Can Say Anymore?

Here's how the City of Richardson's weekly PR email "Week in Review" put it:

The budget also includes a $0.05421 tax rate reduction, rolling the City’s tax rate back to levels last seen in 2006.
Source: City of Richardson.

That's a "tax rate reduction", right? The City says so, right there. Not so fast.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Julia (TV 2022)

Rotten Tomatoes
Julia (TV 2022): Yet another Julia Child show, this one maybe the best of the lot. It focuses on the first season of her cooking show, featuring the drama behind-the-scenes even getting the show on the air. Sarah Lancashire captures what made Julia a unique star. B+

Friday, September 2, 2022

SBOE Waits for Right-Wing Reinforcements

It looks like the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) is going to kick the can down the road, deciding to wait until next term to rewrite the Texas social studies curriculum (what we know as the TEKS). Why? It appears that the SBOE caved to pressure from right-wing Republican lawmakers who objected to the standards coming out of the curriculum committee. When the SBOE decided to delay, Republican lawmakers celebrated on Twitter, "The board voted to scrap the wokeified proposed changes to the TEKS." The likely explanation for delay is that right-wing Republicans hope that they can increase their majority on the SBOE next term and get proposals more in line with their politics.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Random Thoughts: "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

Tweets from August, 2022:
  • 2022-08-01: Richardson moved forward with the taking of park land for construction of a 5 million gallon water tank. The City Manager describes this loss of park land as a "win-win" situation. As the old saying goes, "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."
  • 2022-08-01: The applicant, anticipating another rejection, withdrew the application for student housing near UT-Dallas. I hate telling UT-Dallas students to hang on a little longer. It's obvious that housing for students is not a priority of this City Council.
  • 2022-08-01: Irony. Kentucky Noah's Ark sues insurance company over damage caused by heavy rains - CBS News.

After the jump, more random thoughts.