Saturday, February 24, 2024

POTD: Dragons are Real

"Volcanic islands,
Dragons roam in wild splendor.
Evolution's gift."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 04 04 Rinca

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken on Rinca Island, home of Indonesia's Komodo National Park, populated by an estimated 5,700 giant lizards, or Komodo Dragons. We saw a dozen or so, from a safe distance. At least they told us we were safe.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Magnet Schools and RISD's Budget Hole

Source: H/T DALL-E

The Richardson ISD Board of Trustees has a regular meeting Thursday, February 22, 2024. One of the (many) items on the agenda is this:

TOPIC Recommended Budget Reductions: Project Rightsize

In December, the Community Budget Steering Committee presented a series of recommendations to effectively “right-size” the budget...

The Administration Team will provide an update on the budget planning and recommendations for the Board’s consideration and feedback.

TIL: US is Choosing to be Poorer

Source: h/t DALL-E

Donald Trump might be the Xenophobe-in-Chief, but both political parties are moving to the right on immigration. This will have a negative impact on GDP, posing threats to everything from Social Security to housing.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Boy Swallows Universe (TV 2024)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Boy Swallows Universe (TV 2024): Australian boy grows up in a broken home surrounded by deadbeat dad, drug-dealing stepdad, hardluck mom, and assorted bullies and crims. Somehow the kid manages not just to survive, but to thrive. Part fantasy, part crime story, altogether captivating. B+

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Daisy Jones & the Six (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Daisy Jones & the Six (TV 2023): Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This is NOT Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac, although the filmmakers wouldn't mind if that's what gets you to watch. The two lead singers are both selfish brats who are soulmates, but they are toxic together. It's the TV series that ends up poisoned. B-

Monday, February 19, 2024

Lessons in Power

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass is not wrong, just incomplete. He was referencing slavery. It took a Civil War to get Texans (and other Southerners, but I live in Texas so let's keep this close to home) to concede their power to hold other human beings in bondage. When it comes to much less consequential matters, people sometimes concede power without a second thought. Sometimes they might not even realize that's what they're doing. The Richardson City Council is in process of ceding power to the Mayor, without a demand. It's an implicit power that Richardson Mayors have wielded since forever, soon to be made explicit by a compliant City Council. See "Committee Appointments" in "Council Recap: Rules of Procedure" for details.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

POTD: Closing the Book on Australia

"Monochrome fetish.
Bookshelf swap, a little game.
Order soon restored."

— h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 04 01 Darwin

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken on our visit to Darwin, our last stop in Australia. The interior decorator on the Viking Mars cruise ship that we traveled on had a monochrome design fetish, as the bookshelves in various public rooms were ordered by color. Just wanting to mess with their heads, I sometimes swapped a book from one shelf to another, just to see how long it would take before the staff put things back in Viking's preferred order. I was never disappointed.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

POTD: Australia's Jumping Crocodiles

"Jaws in midair snap.
Darwin's wild heartbeat revealed.
River spectacle."


—h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 04 01 Darwin

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken about 45 miles from Darwin, Australia. It was taken from a boat on the Adelaide River, billed as the "Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise." Was it spectacular? See for yourself.

Bonus photos are after the jump.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Guns: Adding Insult to Injury

Source: Nationhood Lab

The last few days have seen a confluence of gun tragedy. A shooting death in the church of Joel Osteen ("church" used loosely) in Houston and a shooting death (and 21 wounded) at a Superbowl rally in Kansas City. More and more, mourning for the dead has barely begun before new dead take their place in the headlines.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Council Recap: Rules of Procedure

Source: h/t DALL-E

"7. REVIEW AND DISCUSS COUNCIL RULES OF PROCEDURE"

With that innocuous wording, the Richardson City Council took up a question that has long puzzled me. That is, why don't City Councilmembers drive change in the City of Richardson? I attributed it partly to lack of will, but also partly to confusion over whether they even have the power to set the agendas for the City Council meetings. If it's not on the agenda, they can't deliberate it, they can't make motions for it, and they can't pass the motions that bring change.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Society of the Snow (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Society of the Snow (2023): Spanish. Docudrama of the real life tale of survival of a plane crash in the Andes in 1972. No sensationalism. Respect for the dead and the survivors. 2+ hours of a slowly unfolding disaster punctuated by moments of sheer terror. B+

Monday, February 12, 2024

Good Grief (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Good Grief (2023): Good first movie by Daniel Levy, who wrote, directed, and starred as Marc, whose husband dies suddenly, upending Marc's life and revealing cracks in the lives of his close friends. Watching them all work through their issues is not as much of a bummer as you'd think. This ensemble would work in a sequel as a TV sitcom. B+

Sunday, February 11, 2024

POTD: Australia's Top Pub

"Car stops, man offers
to show us Thursday Island
On his Thursday off."


—h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 03 30 Thursday Island

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken on Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait between the Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea. It's Australia's top pub, that is, its northernmost pub. There's not much else on the island so my guess is that it gets a lot of the island's business.

Ellen and I were hiking up to what's left of the historic, hilltop fort when a man in a car stopped and offered to give us a lift. He worked for the Australian border service and had the day off. So he gave us a panoramic tour of the hilltop, then offered to drive us around the rest of the island. We took him up on his offer and received the best personal tour available.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

POTD: Beach Camping


"Safe zone amid waves,
Jellyfish safely kept out.
Lone camper's haven."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 28 Cairns

Another port in Queensland, another (almost) empty beach. Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Cairns, Queensland, Australia. There is one lone camper on the beach. Beaches in Queensland are plagued with jellyfish, whose stings are painful. This beach has one safe zone for swimming. Halfway down the beach, you can see the floats for a net used to keep swimmers separated from the jellyfish. In the foreground you can see one lone camper sitting in the sun and enjoying reading a book.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Gran Turismo (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Gran Turismo (2023): 2+ hour PlayStation commercial. Teen video gamer gets a chance to drive real race cars. Formulaic sports movie. Think Rocky and his grizzled trainer. The races blend together. Still, the movie manages to create suspense and excitement in the climax. That's more than I could have asked for. C+

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Council Recap: City Hall and Library

Source: City of Richardson

The Richardson City Council held a worksession February 5, 2024, to receive an update on the new City Hall and Library projects. The schematic design of City Hall is now complete and design development is beginning. There are enough details for the City Council and the public to have a good idea of what our new City Hall will look like. The new Library is farther along, with construction to begin in March, 2024.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Council Recap: Comprehensive Plan

Source: City of Richardson

The City Council and City Plan Commission (CPC) held a joint worksession February 5, 2024, to review progress on updating the City's Comprehensive Plan. Regular readers know just how much importance I place on this opportunity to reform Richardson's outdated regulations that limit a denser built environment, mixed-use developments, transit-oriented developments, missing-middle and affordable housing, and safe streets for bicycles and pedestrians.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Brothers Sun (TV 2024)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

The Brothers Sun (TV 2024): Brothers raised an ocean apart are reunited when a gang war in Taiwan spills over to L.A. Michele Yeoh is the mother, both nurturing and steely. Lots of choreographed fights. Lots of violence leavened with humor and meet-cute romance. B-

Monday, February 5, 2024

The Wheel Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures

Source: h/t DALL-E

The Academy Awards will be given out Sunday, March 10, 2024. I've seen all the nominees for Best Picture. That means my opinion means something. Right? Regardless, I've ranked the movies in order of my preference for "Best Picture."

Sunday, February 4, 2024

POTD: Marine Stingers

"Empty Queensland beach,
First-aid stations ready for
Jellyfish stings."


—h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 03 27 Townsville

Another port in Queensland, another empty beach. Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. The beach is empty in part because of the presence of jellyfish. Beaches in Australia have first-aid stations with bottles of vinegar to douse yourself with if you happen to fall victim to these beautiful but nasty sea creatures. Oh, also, beware of the crocodiles.

After the jump, a view of Townsville.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

POTD: The Heart of the Reef

"Reef's empty allure
spoiled by fear of jellyfish.
Caution in the waves."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 26 Airlie Beach

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Airlie Beach, Queensland, Australia, the self-proclaimed "Heart of the Reef." The "reef" referred to is, of course, the Great Barrier Reef. The beautiful beach is empty, perhaps because swimming is definitely not recommended without a wet suit because of the high risk of jellyfish stings.

Friday, February 2, 2024

The State of the City: It's an Outlier

Source: h/t DALL-E

The City of Richardson held its annual State of the City Address on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, highlighting the City's achievements in 2023. I'm here to give my instant feedback.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Random Thoughts: Thinking about...Ann Landers?

Mastodon

2024-01-01: "At age 20, we worry about what others think of us.
At age 40, we don't care what they think of us.
At age 60, we discover they haven't been thinking of us at all."
-- Ann Landers (1918-2002).
At age 20, we thought Ann Landers was embarrassing.
At age 40, we conceded that she sometimes knew what she was talking about.
At age 60, we missed her dearly.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

When the Creek Ran Red

Source: Richardson Today

Recently, a spill of detergent from a car wash into a tributary of Richardson's Cottonwood Creek turned the water red. The good news is that, according to the City of Richardson, "the spill has been successfully cleaned, and water quality tests show normal results."

My compliments to the City of Richardson for its reaction and its communications about this incident. My compliments also to Councilmember Dan Barrios for elaborating about the spill in his own Facebook posts.

Now, it's my own turn. I want to elaborate on something Barrios said.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Dumb Money (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Dumb Money (2023): Dramatization of the 2021 short squeeze by an army of Reddit users on the hedge funds who were shorting GameStop. Movie strives to make audience root for the little guys, but in the end, whose pockets all the money ends up in is a bit murky. Movie-wise, it's so-so. But it's a fun watch. B-

Monday, January 29, 2024

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Anatomy of a Fall (2023): French. Could be titled Anatomy of a Marriage. It was troubled, but enough to murder? Was it an accident instead, or suicide? A courtroom drama where there's not enough evidence to know, so the audience has to read people, which puts a premium on fine acting. This movie has that. A-

I do have niggling questions regarding French court trials. Are people allowed to interrupt testimony and give soliloquys repeatedly? Are prosecutors allowed to use more time explaining their theory of the crime than asking witnesses to testify as to the facts of the case?

Sunday, January 28, 2024

POTD: Go Lions

"Brisbane's pride shines bright.
A photo frozen in time:
Lions' hopeful start."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 24 Brisbane

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The "Lions" being cheered for by the skywriting (or "barracked" for, as this is Australia) are the Brisbane Lions of the Australian Football League (AFL). This photo was taken at the beginning of last season in March, 2023. It's old news now, but in September, 2023, the Brisbane Lions and Collingwood Magpies played before a capacity crowd of 100,024 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the AFL's Grand Final. It was a close match won by Collingwood 90-86. Here's hoping that America's Detroit Lions in the National Football League have a happier result in their own NFL Western Conference championship game this Sunday. Go Lions.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

POTD: Brisbane Skyline

"Nature and steel meet.
City's heart in river's bend.
Brisbane's beauty shines."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 24 Brisbane

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. That's the big bend of the Brisbane River in the foreground, the Botanic Gardens on the left, and the skyline of Brisbane's city centre in the background. Brisbane is a walkable, beautiful, vibrant city.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Zone of Interest (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

The Zone of Interest (2023): German. Within earshot of the horrors of Auschwitz, the commandant's family go about a happy, normal German life. For Rudolph, running a death camp is just a logistical challenge. For Hedwig, life is good. Both are indifferent and insensitive to what's happening next door. Chilling and cautionary. B+

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Echo (TV 2024)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Echo (TV 2024): One of the better Marvel efforts. A deaf Choctaw woman whose super power is channeling the spirits of generations of female ancestors must deal with anger issues left by the sins of the man who raised her. There's still plenty of violence but this is more of a character study. B+

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Oscar Snubs

Source: DALL-E

The 2024 Oscar nominations, as always, snub some worthy movies. This year, however, only one movie that received an "A" grade from The Wheel didn't make the Oscar Best Picture list. More on that later.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

RISD and CoR Election Filings

Source: Texas Ethics Commission

The Richardson ISD will hold an election for Board of Trustees on May 4, 2024. Two seats are up for election: Single-member Place 1, currently held by Megan Timme, and At Large Place 7, currently held by Chris Poteet.

Chris Poteet is the only candidate who has filed to run, according to the RISD's elections filings page. Megan Timme's plans are unknown by me. No challenger has yet filed for either seat yet. Deadline to file is February 16, 2024.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Role Play (2024)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Role Play (2024): Kaley Cuoco plays a suburban mother who moonlights as a killer for hire, without her family's knowledge. Cuoco is unconvincing in the role, even more so when she is exposed and the movie turns into an action thriller. They should have tried a comedy. C+

Sunday, January 21, 2024

POTD: Carpaccio di Polpo

"Manfredi tempts with
Italian dishes sublime.
Next time, translate first."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 22 Newcastle

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken at sea aboard the cruise ship Viking Mars, sailing from Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. They say you should travel and experience new places, people, and cuisines. That's how Ellen and I ended up in Manfredi's®, a specialty restaurant featuring Italian dishes, with an appetizer of Carpaccio di Polpo in front of Ellen. Who knew it translates to thinly sliced octopus served raw? We didn't. Did she eat it? You'll have to ask her.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

POTD: Riding the Wave

"Surfers carve the sea.
Newcastle's big waves dance high.
Kangaroos in flight."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 22 Newcastle

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Surfest in Newcastle "is the largest surfing festival in the southern hemisphere," according to its own marketing material. Our day in Newcastle happily coincided with the 2023 festival.

Friday, January 19, 2024

TIL: The Bestest Good News for our Times

Source: WIRED

Today's bestest good news: Today I Learned that so-called peak carbon emissions may be at hand, thanks to the growth of solar and wind power.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Rustin (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Rustin (2023): Biopic of Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the 250,000-person March on Washington in 1963. Highlights history as it's seldom told — while fighting racism, the civil rights movement had elements of sexism and homophobia within its own ranks. Colman Domingo is excellent. B+

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Blue Beetle (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Blue Beetle (2023): DC superhero movie. Teenager accidentally gets handed a package with an alien bot that gives him super powers. Rest of movie involves warding off villains who want to recover the bot. Some humor, some budding romance, lots of fighting but no guns. Biggest plus is the extended Latino family love. C-

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

A Murder at the End of the World (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

A Murder at the End of the World (TV 2023): Whodunnit set in Iceland. Billionaire who made fortune in AI invites 12 people to an isolated retreat when murders start. Tension rises as the host gets more controlling and a young hacker gets close to solving the murders. Emma Corrin is superb. B+

Monday, January 15, 2024

11° and Snow

11° and snow. This is what Dallas woke up to this morning. It's like Christmas morning. It's how we know the Packers were here and left a lump of coal in Jerry Jones's stocking and flew home to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.

A bonus photo is after the jump.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

POTD: Farewell to Sydney

"Sydney fades away,
Beckoning us, "Come again."
Now, new ports await."


—h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 03 20 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken from our cruise ship as we departed Sydney, Australia. You see a lot of ports on a cruise, but our stays were always too short. They say take a cruise to sample what you'll want to come back to explore at more leisure.

After the jump, another view.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

POTD: A "Funky High-Energy Area"

"Multicultural
Neighborhood invites delight.
Darlinghurst's essence."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 20 Sydney

Today's photo-of-the-day was taken in Sydney, Australia. According to Google, "Inner-city Darlinghurst is a funky, high-energy area with cafes, sleek multicultural restaurants and intimate cocktail bars. Oxford Street, a centre of the city’s LGBT scene, has nightclubs that thump with music, plus stylishly restored pubs. Edgy shops on Crown Street sell records, offbeat fashion and vintage apparel. Art galleries, independent theatre companies and live music venues draw a young, chic crowd."

Friday, January 12, 2024

Rebel Moon: Part One - A Child of Fire (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Rebel Moon: Part One - A Child of Fire (2023): Star Wars ripoff, with a motley assortment of rebels fighting a galactic empire. It even has light sabers and a bar full of weird aliens. What it lacks is the original's humor, cockiness, and rousing score by John Williams. C-

Thursday, January 11, 2024

A New Majority is Born in Richardson

2001: A Space Odyssey

At the January 8, 2023, Richardson City Council meeting, a property owner asked approval for a rezoning request (ZF 23-14) to convert an office building at 75 and Glenville into a five-story, multi-family apartment complex. On a slide titled "Items to Consider," City staff did everything they could to signal to the City Council that they could ignore the fact that apartments in that location are not consistent with the City's Comprehensive Plan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

American Fiction (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

American Fiction (2023): Satire about a black author named Monk fighting a stereotype of what's considered authentically black. Subplots dealing with his mother, his brother, and a romance provide counterpoints to the plots Monk is asked to write about. Does Monk change? Does anyone? B+

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

The Little Mermaid (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

The Little Mermaid (2023): Probably unnecessary remake of 1989 animated favorite, with live action humans this time, at least their heads. The story is problematic. Is Ariel even old enough for Eric? And why does a prince fall for a girl who has no voice? For me, the songs were by far the best part. More of that, please. B-

Monday, January 8, 2024

The Color Purple (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

The Color Purple (2023): Worthy remake, inspired by 2005 stage musical, 1985 movie, and 1982 novel. This tale of overcoming poverty, racism, sexual discrimination, and family abuse needs retelling to each generation. For me, the musical numbers were the most uplifting; the discordant violence was the hardest to watch. A-

Sunday, January 7, 2024

POTD: No Water. No Life.

"Sydney Harbor's plea,
Hydrant's call to save decree,
Water's future, key."

—h/t ChatGPT

From 2023 03 20 Sydney

This photo-of-the-day was taken in Sydney, Australia. Heed the hydrant: Save water. Save Earth.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

POTD: Sydney Harbor Bridge Up Close

"Great harbor's grand link,
Bridge climb etches memories,
Ants commune with heights."


—h/t ChatGPT
From 2023 03 20 Sydney

This photo-of-the-day was taken in Sydney, Australia. The Sydney Harbor Bridge is not only a striking landmark visible from all angles of one of the world's great harbors, it also makes for a great climb. This photo shows people (or ants) enjoying a bridge climb.

After the jump, a more distant perspective of the bridge.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Lessons in Chemistry (TV 2023)

Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes

Lessons in Chemistry (TV 2023): A prematurely modern woman in the 1950s deals with sexism, grief, and her own ambition. Sets and clothing capture the period well. Scripts tend to have too modern a feel for the times. Brie Larson is fantastic. A-