Friday, June 30, 2023

Asteroid City (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Asteroid City (2023): It's by Wes Anderson. That's all you should need to know to see it. It's got his quirky style and a star-studded cast like all his movies. The plot is beside the point, but it's got a play-within-a-play of a weird sci-fi story in a 1950s Western setting. B-

Thursday, June 29, 2023

You Will Always Remember Where You Were July 28, 1994

Why July 28, 1994? Why not June 28, 2023? Because we weren't in the stands in Oakland, California last night to see the New York Yankees' Domingo Germán throw MLB's 24th perfect game in its history and the first perfect game since 2012.

We don't attend many Texas Rangers games, but the ones we do turn out to be memorable. We were in the stands for Kenny Rogers' perfect game on July 28, 1994, just the 14th perfect game at that time.

Rangers ticket

Past Lives (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Past Lives (2023): 12-yr-old girl comes to America with her family, leaving her childhood friend behind. 25 yrs and many life-changes later, they reunite in NY for one week. An immigrant's story and so a deeply American story. A story of Korean In-Yun, of destiny, of what-ifs. A-

Wednesday, June 28, 2023



Where Am I Wednesday!

By itself, a sign in a restroom asking patrons not to flush paper towels down the toilet is unremarkable. It's that "WWJD" appended at the bottom that caught my attention and made me smile. As I imagined Jesus contemplating how to use a flush toilet, my smile only grew broader.

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

White House Plumbers (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

White House Plumbers (TV 2023): Watergate was a political tragedy, but 50 years on, it gets the farce treatment here. As absurd as the story is, it's mostly fact-based. Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux are over-the-top in the roles of committed partisans and third-rate burglars Hunt and Liddy. A-

Monday, June 26, 2023

Thinking Outside the Big Orange Box

Source: City of Richardson

Richardson taxpayers voted to approve issuing $46 million in bonds to partially pay for a new City Hall, the old one having suffered a disastrous fire. The City hired consultants to gather inputs from Richardson stakeholders. They interviewed Councilmembers already. If they had interviewed me, what I would have told them is below. The rest of the public can now weigh in, too.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

POTD: Tourist

From 2022 10 28 Rome

This photo-of-the-day is from Vatican City in Italy. I don't know this man's story. I imagine him as a simple tourist. Visiting what has been the center of one of the world's great religions since the 4th century. Posing for a photo, because that's what tourists do. Eating an ice cream cone, because of course. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

POTD: Pilgrim

From 2022 10 28 Rome

This photo-of-the-day is from Vatican City in Italy. I don't know this woman's story. I imagine her as a pilgrim. Visiting the center of the religion she's devoted her life to. Carrying what worldly belongings she needs in a rolling suitcase — a change of clothes, a Bible, a rosary. Crossing the street at a crosswalk, because that's what nuns do. Turning her head to St. Peter's Basilica, because that's where her thoughts lie. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Council Sound Bites: 2023/06/19

Source: DALL·E, an AI system by OpenAI

The City of Richardson had a City Council worksession June 19, 2023. The agenda had some weighty topics: DART, Comprehensive Plan, and Mobility Work Plan. I'm not going to cover what was presented. You can review the slides used in the presentation yourself. Or watch the four hour video. I'm just going to cherry pick a few questions, comments, and suggestions made by Councilmembers. Call these my nominees for the best comments of the night.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures

From Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt:

Remarkably Bright Creatures


"Darkness suits me. Each evening, I await the click of the overhead lights, leaving only the glow from the main tank. Not perfect, but close enough. Almost-darkness, like the middle-bottom of the sea."

Book Review: Remarkably Bright Creatures: Story of an octopus and two aquarium night janitors who care for him. He repays them with clues to a mystery. The octopus is way too bright. Coincidences abound. A heartwarming, workmanlike story with something for all ages. B+

After the jump, my full review.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Extrapolations (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Extrapolations (TV 2023): Sci-fi. Next 50 years on Earth as temps rise and pollution builds. Earth's pretty much a hellhole, but life goes on, now with AI and VR and robots. Preachy, but can't decide if we're doomed or we'll all be saved in the end by science and engineering. C+

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

TIL: What's With All the Vacant Storefronts?

Once a Wendy's, then vacant.
Then a Quizno's, now vacant.
Maybe soon a Lucky's Chicken.

Have you ever seen one of your favorite restaurants, one that seemed popular and busy, go out of business, with the owner explaining that the landlord raised the rent to an unaffordable level? And then watch the now vacant building sit empty for months or years with a "For Lease" sign out front? What's with that?

Monday, June 19, 2023

Coaching from the Stands

Source: DALL·E, an AI system by OpenAI

An open letter to Coach,

You are probably tired of me heckling from the cheap seats in the grandstand, so I thought I'd take the time to write a fan letter instead. I do more booing than I'm proud of. Once I even called on you to quit coaching. You're not good at it, I said. It's not even your job, I said. I now admit I was wrong. You were right. I'm embarrassed if I ever sound like that fan in the picture above.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

POTD: Sunset behind Livorno Lighthouse

From 2022 10 27 Florence

This photo-of-the-day is from the Port of Livorno, Italy. It shows the sun setting behind the lighthouse as we sail away from Livorno at the end of our day in Florence. The lighthouse dates originally to 1303. I'll let Wikipedia tell its more modern history: "The tower was intact until June 20, 1944, when the German troops blew it up as the Allied armies approached." Because of course they did. War is hell. The lighthouse was rebuilt. Because of course it was. The human spirit is indomitable.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

POTD: Primavera by Botticelli

From 2022 10 27 Florence

This photo-of-the-day is from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. It shows tourists crowding in front of Primavera by Botticelli. They are taking photos of the painting. I am taking a photo of them taking a photo of the painting. Very meta. I found myself doing that a lot in the Uffizi. It has an abundance of masterpieces. It has an abundance of tourists. All worth it.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Friday, June 16, 2023

City Council meets to revise zoning; discuss policing research, universal basic income

Source: June MacDonald.
"Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore."
— Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

That's the feeling I had when I read that headline. Head snap. Spit take. WTF? I had the feeling I wasn't in Texas anymore. And indeed I wasn't. The story appeared in Ann Arbor's "The Michigan Daily", a student-run newspaper for the University of Michigan.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

My Work Here Is Done

From PhonlamaiPhoto, iStock by Getty Images

Recently, I wrote about the coming update to Richardson's Comprehensive Plan. I talked about desirable features like walkability, sustainability, and housing affordability. In this follow-up piece, instead of expanding on my answers by writing long arguments in favor of those things, I decided to ask ChatGPT to do it for me. I asked ChatGPT to "explain why Richardson Texas should do zoning reform." In less than a second, GhatGPT produced an argument that included my own points and more. ChatGPT doesn't appear to know anything about zoning that's specific to Richardson, but its general knowledge is applicable to Richardson. My work here soon may be done.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

What is a Comprehensive Plan Anyway?

If you haven't been hearing a lot about the City of Richardson's Comprehensive Plan, you haven't been paying attention to this space. But, just in case you aren't aware, the City is just starting a year-long effort to update ours, the first such update since 2009. If you like recent zoning decisions, give more than a little thanks to that 2009 Comprehensive Plan. The City has been following the instructions laid down way back then. If you think recent decisions leave more and more to be desired, well, blame that same Plan. Now is your chance to get your careabouts captured in the next Comprehensive Plan, which will guide development for the next decade.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Where is the Institutional Jealousy?

Source: City of Richardson

Democratic institutions rely on institutional jealousies to prevent one branch of government from abusing its power. This is famously woven into the US Constitution through a system of checks and balances. The health of our democracy depends on institutions jealously guarding their powers from encroachment by other branches. All I'm going to say about Washington is that there's a lesson that we can learn about separation of powers that applies to Richardson, Texas.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Mayor Dubey In His Own Words, Unpacked

Source: OpenAI DALL-E
[Newly elected Mayor Bob] Dubey spoke with Community Impact just after the election about becoming mayor, what he hopes to bring to City Council and some of the projects he’s looking forward to addressing over in the future.

My thanks to Community Impact for its continuous news coverage of Richardson. It helps make informed citizens. Community Impact edited the interview with Mayor Dubey for clarity and brevity. Now, let me try to unpack it.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

POTD: Médailles Souvenirs

From 2022 10 25 Monte Carlo and Nice

This photo-of-the-day is from Saint Nicholas Cathedral in Monte Carlo. It's best known as the final resting place of Princess Grace of Monaco. But I found it amusing that inside this holy church, a few steps from Princess Grace's grave, tourists can buy souvenir medals from a vending machine. Unlike Monte Carlo's slot machines, here every coin returns a winner. Since 1996, collectors in France have been able to purchase such souvenirs at over 300 tourist locations, including churches.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

POTD: I Love Nice

From 2022 10 25 Monte Carlo and Nice

This photo-of-the-day is from Nice, France. Obviously.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Book Review: The Book of Goose

From The Book of Goose, by Yiyun Li:

Open quote
Book of Goose


  The questions that did not occur to me to ask at thirteen feel important now. I wonder if Fabienne knew the answers. I wish I could ask her. This is the inconvenience of her being dead. Half of this story is hers, but she is not here to tell me what I have missed."

Book Review: The Book of Goose. Memoir of Agnès, a girl author whose brief fame is not entirely earned. A coming-of-age tale of a girl and her best friend Fabienne, the one who seemingly has all the answers for Agnès, the one with only questions. But Agnès has heart. A-

After the jump, my full review.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Our New City Council Discusses Water, City Hall, and Texas Leg

Source: City of Richardson.

The City of Richardson's new City Council held their first substantive meeting June 5, 2023. We've already covered what the Council had to say about Richardson's long-range water supply situation. That only got us to the 90 minute mark of the three-and-a-half hour meeting. The agenda was packed with so much more — the city's water infrastructure, new city hall, and Texas legislature. I'll try to be briefer covering what our new Council had to say on those topics, but I make no promises.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Our New City Council Discusses Water


The City of Richardson's new City Council held their first substantive meeting June 5, 2024. The agenda was packed with meaty subjects (water, wastewater, new city hall, Texas legislature). It was a refreshing change from the usual diet of considering whether to approve a new drive-through chicken restaurant (spoiler: it's always yes). All that and a new City Council still finding their place on the dais. Let's focus on that new City Council and how they reacted to the topic of long-range water supply planning.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023): Ant-Man and the Wasp (or is it two Wasps, Hope and Janet?) fight Kang the Conqueror in the Quantum Realm. Too many characters. No dramatic arc, just constant fighting. A pointless mess. Ants can't act, neither can Michael Douglas. D+

Monday, June 5, 2023

Mapping the Making of a Mayor

On May 6, 2023, the City of Richardson elected Bob Dubey as Mayor. Dubey received 4,910 votes (51.6%) to Janet DePuy's 4,610 votes (48.4%).

That's what happened. But how and why are different questions. There's an old political saying, which John F. Kennedy put this way: "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan." Almost any tale we tell about how this close race was won could have some truth to it. So I'm going to tell you a tale. Mine is based on a single map. Numbers don't lie, amirite?

Sunday, June 4, 2023

POTD: Mona Lisa Can Dab

From 2022 10 26 Pisa

This photo-of-the-day is from Pisa, Italy. It was taken at a souvenir stand in the Square of Miracles, where tourists flock to see the Leaning Tower, the Duomo, and the Baptistry. The Mona Lisa isn't here. She isn't even in Italy. She's in Paris at the Louvre, but the T-shirt in the lower right of this photo shows that the iconic lady can dab.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

POTD: Amazing Acoustics of Pisa Baptistery

From 2022 10 26 Pisa

This photo-of-the-day is from Pisa, Italy. It was taken in the Baptistry, one of the three magnificent buildings in the Square of Miracles. Everyone is instantly familiar with one: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. But if you're lucky enough to visit Pisa, be sure to go into a different architectural gem — the Baptistry — and do it at one of the times a volunteer gives a demonstration of the building's acoustics. With the echos, one voice can sound like a choir.

Bonus photo after the jump.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Mrs. Davis (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Mrs. Davis (TV 2023): Sci-fi action mystery parody. Godlike AI brings happiness to all; sends Sister Simone, wife of restaurant-owning Jesus, on quest for the Holy Grail (winkingly called “the most overused MacGuffin ever”). Bonkers, but it all makes sense by the end. B+

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Random Thoughts: Time for a New General Manager


2023-05-02: Headline: "2023 NFL Draft team-by-team grades: Eagles, Steelers and Lions clean up; Cowboys, Patriots among worst marks."
Time for a new general manager. Amiright???

2023-05-03: UT-Dallas is an asset for Richardson that the City should leverage.
"Allegro officials cited the number of other technology companies in the area and the talent pipeline created by The University of Texas at Dallas as reasons for expanding to the city."

2023-05-03: The cost of Brexit to Great Britain:
"By 2024, the average British household will likely have a lower living standard than the average household in Slovenia. On present trends, the average British household will be poorer than the average in Poland by 2030."

The Costs of Brexit Are Undeniable Now - The Atlantic

2023-05-08: You know, back in my day, someone who seemed to be obsessed with guns was looked at suspiciously and often reported to police. Today, such a person is considered by many to be just another patriotic American.