Saturday, July 31, 2010

So If The Charges Are True, Will They Have to Rename the Theatre?

The headlines came bursting out of the paper yesterday morning: Dallas billionaire tycoons and brothers, Sam and Charles Wyly, have been accused of secret deals and insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission:
Dallas tycoons Sam and Charles Wyly reaped more than a half-billion dollars while breaking federal securities laws over a 13-year period, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a lawsuit Thursday.

The agency's 78-page suit, filed in New York's Southern District, seeks millions in fines from the famous brothers and the return of $31.7 million in profits that it said came from insider trading related to the sale of Sterling Software.

The Wylys' attorney said the government's claims are a "misapplication of the law."
Of course, here in America, people are innocent until proven guilty, and besides, there's no guarantee that any of these charges will stick. (You may recall that the SEC went after another Dallas billionaire, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a few years ago, but Cuban came out on top when the charges were later dropped.)

But still, I have to say that yesterday's headline didn't surprise me. After all, the brothers have been under a microscope for the past five years regarding questionable tax shelters. (And while I had correctly remembered the Wylys as acquiring the Michaels Stores chain from founder Michael J. Dupey--who then started his own similar company, MJDesigns--I erroneously thought that the brothers were still on board when Michaels swallowed up its smaller competitor and ousted Dupey from his namesake company a second time. But Dupey's LinkedIn page--which is still up, even though he passed away a few months ago--reveals that Dupey originally had Michaels sold out from under him by his own father, and he reports that the Wylys treated him kindly.)

In the meantime, with the SEC shadow over the brothers, one of them--Charles, along with his wife, Dee--donated a lot of money to the new AT&T Performing Arts Center in downtown Dallas that opened this past year, and they were rewarded by having the Wyly Theater named after them. So what will happen if the charges stick? Will the theater have to be renamed, in the manner of the former Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) in Houston? Thus is the danger of naming things after living people, but we'll have to wait and see on this one.

Blowing out the candles: Happy birthday to my sister Kristen! She and her family are vacationing in Colorado at the moment, but hopefully I can catch her on the phone for a bit.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Whatever it was that I had planned on posting about today was immediately shelved a few hours ago when I heard the news that one of my former students had passed away today--of a heart attack--on his 19th birthday.

RIP, Rene. I'm sure I'll have more later in the week, but for now I'm just speechless.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Straight from the Funny Pages

It's always been interesting when two comic strips by completely different people cover the same subject matter (or even make the same joke) on the exact same day. (And while I realize that many cartoonists are friends, I doubt they sit around swapping ideas every day, posting things on some big Facebook group, or anything like that.) It's even more interesting if the two strips happen to be right next to each other.

But today's comics section struck a chord (heh) with me: Two different strips revealed today that a major character in the strip has a love for jazz music. In Zits, teen protagonist Jeremy Duncan accidentally leaves his Facebook page open, and his parents discover it; besides the usual hair-raising details (literally, in his mom's case; this is the funnies, after all), they find out that he likes jazz. In Judge Parker, attorney Sam Driver (who has virtually replaced the namesake judge as the strip's protagonist) tells his wife, Abbey Spencer, that before he went into law school, he played the trumpet and wanted to be a music major in college until his parents forbade him from doing so. He also noted that while his friends liked rock music, he had his sights set on being a jazz musician.

It's funny--you spend a few minutes each day with these characters, but you never really know them; there's always something new to be discovered. Three cheers for two of these artists putting someone from their world into my world.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing?

Well, I thought I was done talking about this year's Tour de France, but that was before I read a version of this story in my local paper:
ance Armstrong’s RadioShack team is facing disciplinary proceedings because its riders wore unapproved jerseys to the Tour de France’s final stage, causing a 20-minute delay at the start.

The cyclists tried to wear black jerseys Sunday with “28″ on the back. The number honors the 28 million people fighting cancer, a theme of Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation.

Cycling’s governing body said Monday that RadioShack will be investigated for “breaching the regulations governing riders’ clothing.”
I've always found this sort of thing to be a little ridiculous. It seems as though some athlete or another is always getting fined for something like wearing socks too high or having too much undershirt showing or what-not, and this really ought to stop. Sure, people wear uniforms to look, well, uniform, but this whole thing can be taken too far. What's next--requiring people with hairy arms to shave them so as to more closely match their less-hairy teammates? Wearing wigs so they'll all have the same hair length and color? (Even high school drill teams stopped doing this a long time ago.) Besides, a rule like this was obviously made by a petty little bureaucrat and is being enforced by his latter-day counterparts, and people like that really, really need to be out of a job.

You'd think that for as good of a cause as good as cancer awareness, they'd let up a little bit, but maybe this is the root cause of the whole thing:
The International Cycling Union adds that it “regrets that an initiative for a cause as worthy as the fight against cancer” was not coordinated beforehand with officials.
Aww--so the officials got their little feelings hurt? Get over it, folks! You "officials" are being paid to make big decisions, and there's no reason not to be flexible in support of a good cause. If you're going to just blindly adhere to rules for rules' sake, there's no need for "officials"--everything could just be enforced by a giant computer.

Some would say that Team Radio Shack caused a disruption of the final stage by donning the "controversial" jerseys; I say that the officials themselves caused the disruption by not leaving well enough alone.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Twenty-Ten Tour Thoughts

I just finished watching the final stage of this year's Tour de France, and, while it was an exciting finish along the Champs-Élysées, it wasn't as completely satisfying of an experience for me as it has been in the past. Here are my random thoughts on this year's Tour:
  • As always, the racing is exciting, the European towns and countryside are beautiful, and the days are action-packed. The Tour itself is a must-watch for me every year.

  • Also as always, a full week of the Tour runs concurrently with my jazz camp, so I have to rely on Twitter updates and quick video clips to stay caught up during that week. One of these years, I'll have TiVo and will actually be able to tape more than a single stage during that busy week.

  • The first couple of days of this Tour were just nuts in terms of all the crashes; the rainy day (Stage 2?) and the following day on the cobblestones were so messed up that it was almost surreal to see rider after rider go down. I can see why some of them weren't very happy early on.

  • My main reason for not being 100% satisfied with this year's Tour? Because Alberto Contador won again. I became a non-fan of the Spaniard last year when he attacked his own teammate (Lance Armstrong), completely disregarding his team's plan in the process. I have little tolerance for "me-first" types, and Contador joined that list at that point.

    And whether or not it was proper for him to attack this year when then-leader Andy Schleck popped his chain can be debated (even the great Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen found themselves on opposite sides of this argument), but the fact that the amount of time gained by Contador after Schleck's misfortune was the exact time that separated them going into the final time trial just made it seem wrong.

  • But as Lance Armstrong rides into the sunset, I've found a new rider to follow in Schleck, who gained even more points in my book with his classy handling of the Contador affair. And my other new rider to follow is a Ryder--the Canadian Ryder Hesjedahl, who also impressed me with his work this year.

  • Speaking of Phil and Paul, I was happy that the morning and afternoon showings of the Tour stages featured them almost exclusively. I think I've said it before, but I just can't stomach one of the American prime-time announcers, Bob Roll. Sure, he's really knowledgeable, but his untrained voice and clumsy delivery just get in the way of my enjoyment. His cohort, Craig Hummer, isn't bad, but someone please teach him simple grammar! (If I hear him talk about how Phil and Paul will join "Bob and I" in the studio one more time, I'm going to scream.)

    Besides, the exciting delivery of Liggett and Sherwen (and, yes their cool British accents) have been a part of every cycling event I've watched since I first embraced the sport in '93, and to me, these two are cycling to me.

  • So who will be the next great American cyclist? You may have noticed that my two new favorites are from other places. Lance is retiring (surely for good this time, as he turns 39 in the fall), and Hincapie and Leipheimer aren't much younger (both will be 37 by year's end). My bet for the next American great is Taylor Phinney, who has the sport in his blood (both his parents have been pro cyclists); I hope to see him in the Tour before long.
These three weeks are always a highlight of my summer. Last year, watching the Tour kept me sane while I was stuck in the house recovering from knee surgery, and this year, it's returned to something I make time for even when I could be somewhere else. (It also reminds me of my one trip to Europe in '99 and how much I'd love to go back; maybe I'll end up being one of those spectators along the roadside, or even the person who flew the Texas flag along the Champs-Élysées this afternoon.)

Only 49 weeks till next year's Tour!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tomato Time in '12?

I didn't have a whole lot of time online during camp this past week, but I did catch a few big news stories that I consider to be blogworthy, and this one (especially since it's fairly short, and I'm fairly tired) will be the first story out of the pipe, rather than the one I teased the other day.

Back in December, I noted that there had been a new development in the long-running saga of what was to be built in the Fry Street area of Denton that formerly housed student-friendly businesses. After United Equities plan (with a generic pharmacy as a gateway) failed (and thankfully so), another developer announced plans to build a 200-unit student apartment complex. My request at the end of that post was that perhaps the developers should consider a compromise: Make the project a little New Urbanist by putting street-level businesses below the apartments.

Well, back in March, the developer decided to do just that. There were still some hurdles that the project needed to jump--among other things, they'd need a variance to build anything above the maximum three-story limit set for the area, and the proposed project is to be one story taller--but all in all, it seemed like a good compromise.

Emboldened by the fact that the developers seemed to embrace my idea (though I'm sure that they're not reading this blog, and that others also had the same thoughts), I decided to make one more request at the end of the March post: Invite the Tomato back to the retail portion of your project.

And now, wouldn't you know, they "listened to me" again: It was reported on Sunday that The Tomato's owners are in negotiations with the developer:
Mike “Ski” Slusarski and his wife, Becky, the former owners of the Tomato, recently signed a letter of intent with Houston-based developer The Dinerstein Cos. to lease about 900 square feet of restaurant space in the mixed-use development proposed for the lot.

While the couple has been disappointed by broken promises from developers before, Becky Slusarski said things seem to be looking up for the restaurant.

“It looks like this new company has high hopes for the area and they want to stay local,” she said. “Now it’s a matter of if the mom and pop places can afford it [the retail space].”

[...]Josh Vasbinder, a partner with The Dinerstein Cos., said the firm is committed to bringing local business owners back to the Fry Street area. But those commitments are contingent on the outcome of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, he said.

“If the plans are approved Tuesday, it gives us the ability to fulfill the obligation and move forward with a local business, like the Tomato,” Vasbinder said. “The Tomato was the most iconic local business on Fry Street, and we’re excited to hopefully bring it back to the Fry Street area.”
That's great to hear. And in a follow-up story, we learned later this week that the City Council did approve the request for a zoning overlay district to accommodate the project.

Now, we can't exactly do the "happy dance" quite yet; the project isn't scheduled to open for nearly two more years, in the summer of 2012. And there could be one possible wrench thrown into the proceedings:
The project still faces a potential threat from a petition seeking to turn the land into a park.

Former mayoral candidate Bob Clifton, who helped organize the petition drive, said during the meeting that he’d gathered enough signatures to force a council vote on his proposal.

If the council won’t approve the park, an election would be held on the issue, Clifton said.
Seriously? Is this really the best place for a park, surrounded by busy streets on all sides? And shouldn't that piece of property go back to making money for the city and providing services to residents and students (like it did from the 1920's until three years ago)? Hopefully, this doesn't stall the beginning of construction or anything.

So there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel with regard to the Fry Street situation (and it doesn't appear that it's attached to an oncoming train). Nothing new can ever undo the damage that United Equities did to the area, but this will at least give it the chance for a bright future again.

If you're a UNT and Tomato fan, just fast-forward to an autumn Saturday in 2012, where a Mean Green football game in the new stadium might be followed by a trip to the new Tomato. Ahh, I can almost taste it...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of the First Stories I'll Blog About After Camp

Screaming from the headlines of this morning's paper (which I'm just now getting around to reading): According to a survey by researchers at Sam Houston State University, 4 in 10 Texas teachers have to work a second job to make ends meet. And they're probably not even talking about teachers like myself whose job has a natural down cycle during the summer. I'll be all over this story once the weekend comes around.

Camp is going well. Tomorrow night is our concert with guest artist Jeff Clayton; feel free to come listen if you're in the area.

Monday, July 19, 2010

So...20 MPH Was Just Too Fast For Them?

(I saw this sign across from my friend's office last week and just had to stop and take the picture; I'd never seen a speed limit that wasn't a multiple of 5 before.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Should Be a Happier Camper This Year

Jazz Camp starts this afternoon at my college, and, as always, the camp will probably "own" me for the vast majority of every day, so blogging may be somewhat sporadic during the week (though I'm likely to pop in with a funny camp-kid quote every now and then).

And why a happier camper this year? Well, considering that a year ago I was 1) not quite a month out of knee surgery and 2) awake at 2:30 a.m. on the first morning of camp to catch a flight back from a convention in Orlando to get to camp on time...yeah, this year should be more fun.

More info about the camp (as in concert days and times, etc.) is on my website.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Will a Maverick Ride In to Save the Day?

This isn't a baseball blog, I swear. (No, really.) But my beloved Texas Rangers, with their dueling stories of excellence on the field and complete turmoil in court regarding the sale of the team, are sometimes making headlines on both fronts on the same day, and it's hard not to keep talking about them.

So what's the latest? Well, this: The Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan ownership group (who--if not for some questionable tactics by the outgoing owner's creditors, and perhaps some grandstanding by a bankruptcy judge who likes to see his name in the paper too often--should have taken control of the team months ago), may have found some help in the person of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who announced today that he's interested in joining the Greenberg/Ryan group:
"I want to see the Rangers run," Cuban said to KTCK-AM in Dallas. "I think Chuck and Ryan deserve a lot of credit, and what they're doing is a good thing, but with the way the deal has been structured, there is some risk there. And so I offered to help on a bunch of different levels, so let's see what happens."

A few years ago Cuban tried to buy the Cubs, but lost out to the current ownership group. The Greenberg-Ryan group reached an agreement on Jan. 23 to purchase the Rangers and land around the Ballpark in Arlington for $575 million, but the sale is currently bogged down in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
At first glance, it seems like this could only help; Cuban has money to spend, and his involvement could help Greenberg/Ryan offer a higher bid when the team goes up for auction next month. And if this keeps the team from being sold to an unfriendly group (and I won't mince words here: The groups led by Dennis Gilbert--who's said he would run the team himself and toss out Ryån as team president--and Jim Crane--who backed out of a deal to buy the Astros at the last minute a few years ago--should be considered unfriendly groups by all true Rangers fans), then I'd say welcome aboard, Mark. Besides, I don't think he'd be quite so involved in the day-to-day affairs of the team as he is with the Mavs, and, as someone pointed out on a talk show this evening, the Ballpark could use a minor facelift, and Cuban's money could help out in that area.

As I've said before, I am so ready for this sad tale to be over, since it takes away from all the great things happening on the field this season. And the only proper end to the saga is for Greenberg/Ryan to be allowed to complete the purchase that was started in the offseason. I know that Cuban is a polarizing figure in local sports, but it sounds like his involvement here could be nothing but good.

UPDATE: And the good news continues on the field: Bengie Molina hit for the cycle tonight in the Rangers' 8-4 over Boston at Fenway Park. And the home run in said cycle was a grand slam.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'd Sure Like to Shave Some of the Cost From This Item

I put it off for as long as possible, but yesterday evening, I had to cave in: It was time to buy new razor blades.

I came somewhat late to shaving (at least in my own estimation), but by my sophomore year in high school, it was an everyday thing. I wasn't exactly part of the Blade World for a while, as I used an electric shaver up until the final month of undergrad school. (Even then, it was only out of necessity; my car broke down while I was student teaching, and I had to stay with friends unexpectedly one night. Since I had no change of clothes and no way to get home, I walked over to the nearby Kmart to grab the necessities. Since I certainly wasn't going to buy a new electric razor, I purchased disposables for the first time, and--until I got used to them--I looked like a Dracula victim for a day or two.)

But eventually, I became a regular with the blade. (I should mention that, during my electric shaver days, I shaved off two entire beards with one. My running joke at the time was "Now I know what the lawn feels like when it's being mowed.") For a while, I would go with whatever new model my company churned out, proceeding from Sensor to Sensor Excel and then on to Mach 3 and Mach 3 Turbo, with which I've remained for many years now. And in the beginning, the blades for same were priced fairly reasonably, but it the past few years, they've suddenly gone through the roof; while I can remember paying $7.00 for a 3-pack for the longest time, but now they've gone to 5-packs as the smallest quantity, and the price has shot up to nearly $15.

So I griped about this on Facebook last night, and the responses from friends pretty much ran the gamut: "No-shave July!" (umm, no, I have camp next week and can't scare the young'uns); "Go Thelonious Monk style; toss the razors and let it grow" (see above; I can't really pull that look off); someone suggesting a straight razor (I'd likely decapitate myself); and the usual snark about how the government should regulate razor prices (I'd slap the guy who wrote that if I didn't know that he was being sarcastic).

But someone did post an article that at least shows that I'm not alone in having this problem:
This spring, the titans of shaving, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette (NYSE: PG - News) and Energizer Holdings Inc.'s Schick (NYSE: ENR - News) launched another round of their endless duel, with systems touting improved blades, more ergonomic handles and, inevitably, higher prices.

Shaving is big business. Gillette brings in more than $4 billion in annual sales; Schick sees sales of around $1 billion a year, according to analysts' estimates. Though the recession hurt sales of blades and boosted sales of cheaper disposable razors, the two companies still have a lock on the U.S. market. Gillette commands 70% of the razors-and-blades category, and Schick holds about 10%, according to market-data firm Euromonitor International Inc.

A hardy subset of men, however, isn't interested in playing the game and takes extraordinary measures to opt out.

"I'm a full-on capitalist, but there's a little bit of 'sticking it to the man' here that I enjoy," says Mr. Hagan of his stockpile of Mach3 blades, which Gillette launched 12 years ago.
The guy in question has amassed 100 of the blades, and he's also found oil that extends the life of them even longer.

Speaking of extended blade life--as they've gotten more expensive, I've also delayed replacing them for a little longer. (Yes, I follow the little color strip above the blade, but when it completely loses its color is open to debate.) While I used to replace them every two weeks, it's more like three nowadays; the blade I'm about to change out is going on Week #4. (And it must be noted that I'm both goateed and mustachioed, so I'm not covering as big of a surface area as someone who needs to shave his entire face.)

I realize that, even at the ridiculous price, I am getting a lot of time for my dollar; five blades @ three weeks per blade @ $3 apiece still gets me nearly four months' worth of shaving for my $15. But why did they stop selling them in 3-packs? Paying nine bucks at the current price would be one thing, but $15--as another Facebook poster said--wrecks my grocery budget when it's time to buy thees things.

So I'll toss this one out to the blog world: 1) What do you normally pay for razor blades? 2) How long can you get a single blade to last? 3) Any suggestions on getting even more out of my blades (like the oil referenced, but not identified, in the linked article)? Any comments would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Crazy Rangers Bankruptcy Isn't Taking an All-Star Break

For some sports teams--just like for some of the people who follow them--things are never really easy. While the Texas Rangers have had a remarkable season so far, there's always been that unsettling undercurrent brought on by the team's efforts--frustrated so far by a variety of entities, including a legion of creditors (some undeserving in my estimation, but more on that in a minute) and a bankruptcy judge who might be allowing his ego to get in the way--to be sold to a group led by businessman Chuck Greenberg and team president/local icon Nolan Ryan.

Now, in one of the craziest occurrences in this entire odd sags, we have the following: The Greenberg-Ryan group is suing to force the team to be sold to them, which means that, yes, Ryan is suing his own team:
In Monday's suit, the Greenberg-Ryan group accused the club of breaching the purchase agreement the group struck with owner Tom Hicks on May 23, which it claims still gives it exclusive rights to negotiate the team's purchase.

If a new round of bidding is ordered, the action demands that the Greenberg-Ryan group be given the difference between their offer and whatever price emerges from an auction. It valued its package at more than $500 million, including a $304 million cash portion. It did not mention a $70 million side deal for property that's also part of the proposed purchase.

That purchase became part of the team's "pre-packaged" voluntary bankruptcy plan filed May 24. It has been challenged by lenders, who are owed $525 million. Their opposition prompted Snyder's appointment as chief restructuring officer to determine the best deal.

The lawsuit, drawn up by Greenberg's new attorney, Thomas E. Lauria of Miami, apparently was timed to beat his group's imminent loss of exclusive rights to negotiate the purchase.

It urges Lynn to prevent the team, under Snyder's direction, from discussing a sale with rival bidders and asked the judge to order that the May 23 deal be consummated. And the lawsuit wants a preliminary injunction stopping Snyder by 4 p.m. Monday. The team is scheduled to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy July 22 under new ownership.
This whole situation brings up several questions to me:
  • Some of the creditors involved in blocking the sale aren't the original creditors of the club at all; rather, they are firms who bought the existing debt for pennies on the dollar. But they're trying to assure that they are paid the entire amount of the debt, which is exponentially more than what they paid themselves. I'm certainly all for capitalism, but I'm also wary of the whole seemingly sleazy industry of debt-purchasers. Do they really have a right to be assured of recouping the entire amount of what was owed to the people from whom they bought the debt (who have since written off that amount, of course), or is it only important that they be assured of making some profit?

  • It still seems like Tom Hicks is getting off a little too scot-free in all this. I'm not saying that they should seize his personal assets or anything, but it's not like the guy is out of business; in fact, he just announced some new ventures a few months ago. Can't they force him to pay some of the team's debt out of his other business assets?

  • And finally, Major League Baseball needs to be able to approve anyone buying one of its teams. What happens if the team really is sold at auction, but to someone whom the owners reject? Doesn't the whole mess start all over again?
I certainly hope that this mess comes to an end soon, and it needs to conclude with Ryan retaining his team presidency, since the team's turnaround this year can almost certainly be credited to his work. I'm interested to see how this latest move fits into the grand scheme of things.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The End of the Road for Lance?

I didn't get to see several stages of the Tour de France this weekend because of my trip to Indiana, but I kept somewhat caught up via tweets and quick glances at the news. One thing that caught my attention pretty quickly was when Lance Armstrong tweeted the following:
When it rains it pours I guess.. Today was not my day needless to say. Quite banged but gonna hang in here and enjoy my last 2 weeks.
So it sounds like, after dropping a number of places after yesterday's stage, he doesn't think he can win the Tour anymore. And this article tends to confirm it:
Armstrong,’s hopes for yet another title were dashed Sunday after he got caught in three crashes — one of which brought him down — and struggled to keep up during two tough climbs in Stage 8, the race’s first foray into the Alps. He and his team said his hip got banged up, keeping him from pedaling hard.

[...]“My Tour is finished,” said Armstrong, 38, who fell to 39th overall.
If it's true that there's no way he can win, it'll be unfortunate, although there are plenty of emerging young riders to keep everyone's interest for years to come. And I'm glad to see that Lance isn't considering dropping out, choosing instead to enjoy the next two weeks and support his teammates. But with everything that Lance has done in the past, can we really count him out?

Today's a rest day, but I plan on tuning in tomorrow to see what the Alps have in store for everyone.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Travel Advisory

I'm off to Indiana for the usual fraternity conference. It's a short trip, and mostly business, but so far, it counts as my only "vacation" of the summer. But hey,sometimes it's like that, so you take what you can get.

Blogging will resume when I return on Sunday.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Some Lawyer Types Don't See Glory in the Green

The proposed UNT at Dallas College of Law has gotten a bit of press since the bill approving its creation was signed into law by Gov. Perry a little over a year ago. Most of the reaction that I've seen has been pretty positive...until today, when I read this post by one Elie Mystal at the "tabloid law blog" Above the Law. Mystal slams the idea of one more law school for what could be considered a good reason: A lot of law school graduates are un- or underemployed and facing massive amounts of debt. But that still doesn't seem like a reason for him (yes, "Elie" is a guy) to pick apart the law school's raison d'etre point-by-point, referring to all of them as "extremely stupid reasons."

It's certainly vaild to ask if the Dallas/Ft. Worth area could use a public law school, since the only one in Dallas is located at SMU, where the tuition isn't exactly affordable for lots of people. And commenter "George B." makes what I consider to be one of the best points in the thread:
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has grown to about 6.5 million people mostly due to strong job growth during good economic times. Shouldn't universities expand where the people and jobs are, Northern suburbs of Dallas in this case, instead of insisting that students give up their current life and move to a college town?
A lot of people live and work in the DFW area; why not let them get this part of their education here as well?

And again, it's also valid to ask if there are too many law schools already (and, by extension, too many lawyers?). But there's no reason for all the cheap shots here. Sure, there's a chance that the school may not turn out to be a rousing success, but it seems like it's worth a try.

Extra bonus: I get into it a bit with another commenter--a lawyer who had a bad UNT undergrad experience and considers it to be little more than a "trade school." Of course, I call him/her out on such snobbery.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This Is Not Surprising, But Will Washington LIsten?

As regular visitors to this site may know, I'm not a big fan of polls. But sometimes, they do state the obvious, and since so many people in politics and government seem to thrive on them, we can only hope they'll pay attention to this one:
Most Americans would not pay higher taxes for specific public services in their states, but they are more supportive of paying for education and staffing law enforcement than supporting state employees and entitlement programs.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Adults shows that only 19% would be willing to pay higher taxes to avoid layoffs of state employees. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say they would not be willing to pay more in taxes for this reason. Another 11% are undecided.

Adults feel similarly when it comes to funding entitlement programs. Twenty-two percent (22%) would pay higher taxes to prevent cuts in entitlement programs for low-income Americans. Sixty-three percent (63%) say they would not pay more to keep these programs afloat. Another 15% are undecided.

Americans are slightly less opposed to paying higher taxes for education. Thirty-four percent (34%) say they are willing to pay higher taxes to provide funding for public education, but 54% say they are not. Another 12% aren’t sure.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) say they are willing to pay higher taxes to increase the number of police and firemen in their communities. Still, 52% say they would not be willing to do so. Another 10% are not sure.
As always, we have no idea how the questions were framed in this survey. But the part where only 19% would be willing to pay higher taxes to avoid layoffs of state employees is telling, and it's unfortunate that only police and firefighters are cited. I'd be willing to bet that many people, when confronted with the phrase "layoffs of state employees," aren't thinking of police and firefighters--they're thinking of bureaucrats, many of whom absolutely should be laid off, and those who remain should have their salaries cut by 15% as an additional cost-cutting measure. (And let's not limit this to state employees, either; those at the federal level should be the first to go.) Many people in the private sector are feeling the pain of the recession right now, but it appears that many public employees are still getting fat and happy on our dime, and enough is enough; they need to feel the pinch as well. Why is this option never brought up when cost-cutting measures are proposed?

Many of us don't want the amount of government we have right now; even fewer of us truly need it, and none of us can afford it. It's time for someone to muster the political courage to let the budget axe swing freely in this area.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sometimes, It's Only a Game...

..and this is one of those times.

By all other accounts, tonight's Rangers game was a great one; the team bounced back from its first two-game skid in a while to beat Cleveland, 12-1, and six of those runs were driven in by two little-used players, Joaquin Arias and Andres Blanco.

But the game was overshadowed by what took place in the bottom of the fifth inning:
The Rangers-Indians game was delayed 16 minutes in the bottom of the fifth inning when an unidentified male fan fell from the second-deck club level and into the lower bowl at the Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday night.

The fan flipped over the railing before landing on his back in section 35, which is roughly a 30-foot drop.

He was conscious and able to move all of his extremities. After being stabilized, he was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.

"He's over at the emergency room having tests done," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said. "The preliminary indications are that it could have been a lot worse. We really don't know at this point in time. I think that obviously he'll remain in the hospital for observation. We're hopeful that what injuries he has are minimal."
Evidently, the fan was reaching for a foul ball when he looked back, lost sight of the position of the railing and fell. A few other people had minor injuries from being landed on (and thank goodness they were there to break his fall!), but nobody else had to be taken to the hospital.

As of the end of the game, there were no further updates; my thoughts and prayers are definitely with the guy, and it's good to know that so far, he's OK.

Monday, July 05, 2010

This Summer, It's Time for Some "Young Love"

No, not the kind that has spawned so many cheesy teenage movies, but the kind that has to do with sending another Ranger to the All-Star Game. A year ago at this time, I was soliciting votes for Ian Kinsler, who had just missed making the team but was one of the finalists in the "Last Man" competition. This year, it's Michael Young, who has been to the game many times and even ended up as the MVP of the game back in '06.

There are a few more days of voting left, and the online ballot may be found here. And congrats to the Rangers who have already made the team: Josh Hamilton and Vladimir Guerrero (starters), as well as Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus and Kinsler.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Once again, some random thoughts on a quiet holiday:
  • On this day, I'm decked out in one of those Old Navy flag T-shirts, as I have been every year on this day since 1999, when I celebrated in Switzerland atop Rochers-de-Naye, the tallest mountain in the Montreux area. (I still get a kick out of thinking about all the schoolkids back in '99 who, when they found out I was spending my first Fourth out of the country that summer, asked me if "they have the Fourth of July in Switzerland." Their calendars, I'm happy to report, don't exactly skip from 3 to 5 or anything...)

  • By the way, this year's shirt feels softer and fits better than any of the ones from previous years. My hat is off to whomever made that decision.

  • Can't make it to a fireworks display tonight? As always, you can make your own right there on your computer screen.

  • One thing that's weird about having the Fourth on a Sunday is that nobody's quite sure when to do the celebration. A lot of area cities (including Richardson and Plano around here) went ahead and scheduled their displays tonight, figuring that a lot of people will have tomorrow off, but many others (including Firewheel down the street from me, as well as Addison's well-known "Kaboom Town") were last night. And Dallas itself is doing one tomorrow.

  • I didn't get to see the local 'works last night, as I had a gig--a wedding reception held at a very cool venue, the repurposed Filter Building on the shores of White Rock Lake. Though the weather moved everything inside last night, the area still looked gorgeous; check out the photo album at the link for an amazing sunset picture.

  • A year ago, I noted that there are a lot of people out there today who love their country but are extremely frustrated with their government. As we celebrate 234 years as a nation, we must never forget the principles of freedom and limited government on which this nation was founded. There are plenty of people in power at the moment who would prefer to use that power to their own ends, rather than what is best for the nation as a whole, and it is up to us as citizens to speak out against such things and show the most grievous offenders the door via the ballot box in November.
Despite her faults, America is still the greatest nation the world has ever known. May you celebrate this day in whatever way you see fit.

UPDATE: I usually add some inspiring words from others on this day; here are some from my city councilman, Douglas Athas.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Way to Turn Congress Into Progress

Sometimes when I'm a bit slow to post, it's because I've been visiting other blogs and offering up my opinions over there. But if I post something elsewhere more than once in a given week, and it's never been covered here, then, well...there's my newest blog post!

I can't even remember the exact post that caused this idea to spring forth from my keyboard, but the second one was an Althouse post about the Al Gore kerfuffle involving a massage therapist who alleges that Gore wanted more than a massage. In the comments, a reader who was a constituent of Gore's (as both congressman and senator) noted that, in younger days, Gore was a pretty good guy, but Washington obviously changed him, and not for the better.

As someone who has never been a big Gore fan, mostly because of the hypocrisy (trying to get everyone else to reduce their "carbon footprints" while ignoring the Sasquatch-size prints of his own--huge mansion, hundreds of trips to climate-change conferences in private planes, etc.), it didn't even occur to me that he could have ever been a good guy. But if this is true (and I respect the Althouse commenter in question enough to take him at his word), then perhaps we should be doing something to keep people from falling victim to the cesspool that Washington has evidently become, because it's not as if Gore is the only one changed for the worse by being there. Mr. Smith may try to change Washington, but it's usually the other way around.

So how would we change Washington? My idea is to keep people away from there as much as possible. As I posted at Althouse,
Washington changes a lot of people, and often not for the better. So let's pause for a moment here and think about a solution to this problem.

Here's mine. It's a little unorthodox, but bear with me for a second: We should require members of Congress to spend a lot less time in Washington, instead requiring them to be in their home districts for about 75-80% of the year.

How would that work? By using today's technology--teleconferencing and the like. Most of the "work" of Congress gets done in their offices anyway, and there's no reason that office can't be at home, where they can stay close to their constituents and actually, oh, listen to their opinions on the things that are about to come up for a vote. Committee meetings, caucusing--even minor votes like naming a building after someone--can all be done by tele- or video conferencing, and everyone would only have to show up in Washington for really important votes such as spending bills.

Just think of all the advantages of this:

1) Congresscritters wouldn't have to maintain two households like they do now; they'd live in their own houses most of the year, and then stay in small apartments or hotels for their brief time in Washington. (The "carbon footprint" of flying back and forth would also be significantly lessened.)

2) It would be very difficult for lobbyists to get to all of them on a regular basis if they're spread out around the country. (And it would waste lobbyists' time and money to try, which I consider to be a feature, not a bug.)

3) The best part would be that they would likely be kept much more grounded by having to live in the regular world, among the people they are supposedly serving, rather than in the toxic bubble of Washington.

Sorry for the slight threadjack, but this is definitely an idea worth considering the next time someone wants to do a major overhaul of our federal government. (Term limits for both Congress and bureaucrats wouldn't hurt, either.)

And what made me think of it was Trey's post quoted above. I've been so disgusted by Gore over the years that it almost never occurred to me that he might have been a good guy at one time. And if Washington really is what does that to people, then it's time to keep them away from there as much as possible.
This is, as I said, a really unorthodox idea, but it could really work. The Founders never meant for public service (and I mean true public service, not the self-service that often goes on in Congress today) to be a full-time career, and the best way to prevent that might be by keeping people in the real America they're supposed to represent, not the artificial world that our nation's capital has become.

I realize this would take extraordinary means to implement, but it might reap some great benefits. Your thoughts? Let your voice be heard in the comments.

UPDATE: I posted my Althouse comment rather late in the thread, so it only received one reply, but it's a funny one. Obviously thinking of his/her representatives staying home more often, commenter "jgm" said, "There goes the neighborhood." Heh.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Welcome to Dallasseattle, Part 2

Last fall, I noted that we'd been having a ridiculous amount of rain for the entire semester thus far, and this week's weather has been downright Seattlesque once again. In fact, it might be more correct to call it Houston weather, because it's doing exactly what I remember as a kid: Hot early afternoons, rain breaking out sometime in the mid-late afternoon, and then pretty muggy in the evening after it clears up. (People from Florida will be able to relate to this as well.)

I'm not complaining, mind you; my lawn is nice and green again, and after a decent amount of rain early in the year, we'd gotten behind again, so it's nice to catch up, even if it's chosen a single week to do so. But if it continues to do this for the next several days, it might (literally) put a damper on people's picnic plans and some of the local fireworks displays.

The weather app on my iPhone shows rain for the foreseeable future, but hopefully, we'll get at least a brief respite from the wet stuff for part of the long weekend.