SocraticGadfly: 1/21/07 - 1/28/07

January 27, 2007

Houston driving

First, it is somewhat worse than Dallas, as Chuck indicated, but not horrendous, at least not comparing weekends to weekends. And, yes, streets aren’t always in the best of repair, even in better areas. The Central Market in Houston is about a mile and half east of the Galleria on Westheimer. The cross street on the east side has a number of poorly repaired potholes, and this is a high-rent neighborhood.

That said, I still hope — and plan — to not have to discover too much more about it.

As far as big cities in general, I’ve driven in all of the top-20 metropolitan areas with the possible exception of Boston, as I don’t know if it’s in the top 20 or not, and I’ve not driven there.

In general, L.A. is indeed the worst, followed by New York City in many ways. BUT, San Francisco’s west side is horrible because there’s no freeway on the west side. L.A. is bad because many of its freeways don’t have access roads, so it’s hard to dodge accidents.

Boy, the Dallas media landscape changes

From the new company, and its publisher for the Collin County newspapers that were formerly the Star Group, it looks like it’ll be raining shoppers in north suburban Dallas. Might not be raining quite so many paid newspapers in the future.

As for the Aussie group buying the Waxahachie Daily Light and its parent company… haven’t heard anything about them. Just remember that Rupert Murdock came from Australia, though.

January 26, 2007

Doorknobs almighty, the Snooze IS going to let real news rot on the vine

And the ever-so-insightful Jeff Melcher wonders why I would EVER be so scornful of A(ll) H(ail) Belo?

When I was given the tips about Nathan Smith being arrested for stealing from Lancaster High (funny, another person told me how he complained about the amount of things he missed from the old high school), then “resigning,” and about Eugene Smith getting shit-canned (over Pentamation, whether all his fault or not), I passed this all on to Kathy Goolsby and BEGGED her, or the now-freelancing Herb Booth, to effing write SOMETHING.

But, nooo….. this week, online (don’t think the Snooze had ANYTHING last week) it’s a

Compare fluff piece about the Heritage Foundation and it’s city decoration plays.

Of course, it’s written by formerly-of-the-Focus Joanna Cattanach, and I’ve already read your comments on her familiarity with a press release, Jeff. Yes, even you will miss me, even if you go ahead with your dream and sign up for the “surge” in Iraq.

January 25, 2007

Starting to feel better, or at least back to more of an equilibrium

First and foremost: Thank you to those of you who have listened to me via either e-mail or phone the past 10 days; you have been very helpful.

I used the word “shellshocked” with a couple of people. That’s what PTSD can do, it seems, when enough anxiety hits the table. I just had a different “war” in life than Iraq. Not meaning this to sound like self-pity, but I thought it was just an insurance billing diagnosis 8 years ago. Probably not, as I’ve learned since then.

A day of sun here helped a lot. So, too, does having my oven, not just stovetop, fixed and working. Those of you who know me better know how much I like to bake.

Now that I’m doing that, and otherwise feel a little better, I hope I stop losing weight.

For the one friend who made a comment to me about lightening up, in reference to something else, I’ve had enough of that. I’ve probably dropped a good dozen pounds in the last two and a half weeks, from my last week in Lancaster to now. And those of you who know me, know I don’t carry weight around like spare change.

Between that, and food not tasting like food last week, I was concerned, because I know what those two things are signs of. But, I seemed to have weathered the most acute emotional storms, so here we are.

Clinical depression when one is single and on one’s own just isn’t an “option.” I don’t mean that to extol some mystical triumph of the will, just that I can’t let it happen. So, I’ve been walking even more than normal, plus upping my amount of over the counter supplements to help fight anxiety and other issues.

That said, as I’ve told a couple of people, I expect to have a more chronic, if you will, emotional “trial by fire.”

I haven’t felt this way since I moved to Jacksboro, Texas, a little more than 8 years ago.

Those of you who know me really well know of a life change at that time; those of you who really, really, know me well know one other huge psychological change, or mental change, that hit me as a result of that.

This isn’t like that; but, it can be a time of personal development if I use it right, a time of change and growth.

And, with that thought, I’m sure I’ll be leaning on people… no, make that opening up to people, more as I need to, or as I want to.

Seems like TXU’s pro-coal citizens flak is a bit weak

Compare this list with the dozens of member cities, plus member counties and school districts, in the Coalition of Clean Air Cities.

Hey, I’ve got news for you folks in and around Fairfield. If TXU builds the same, or about the same number, of power plants, only cleaner burning ones, they’ll still be building in your neck of the woods.

As for coal-related jobs, all the coal they’re going to burn will come from Wyoming, anyway, so not one new Texas lignite miner will be hired. Period.

Will the first person inside TXU to actually tell the truth about all of this please raise your hand?

An open note to Carol and south Lancaster residents

If it’s true that Tommy Tompkins and Steve Topletz are busy thinking of “The Preserve II,” or “Hank Haney South,” or whatever they might call it, here’s two words of advice: Be proactive.

Draft a list of minimum requirements for such a development well in advance of it ever being officially presented to the city. Get it published somewhere, if you can. (Sorry that I can’t help you; try Marlon over at the Focus, or the Lancaster insert page of news in DeSoto Today.)

Carol, as mayor pro tem, and knowing that Headen will at least be listening to your views on development now, say that you’ll vote to dismiss with prejudice anything tha doesn’t at least meet these standards.

Feel free to call a southside town hall meeting to brainstorm what all should be on such a “minimum standards list.” Couldn’t hurt your re-election campaign to rally your supporters by having them be at such a meeting, either.

Ten Mile Crook: Great post on Lancaster development issues

“The Kid” has some good comments on how development problems have spread beyond housing itself. He specifically mentions housing quality, vs. quantity, and school district growth rates, as among the problems.

Here's what I posted in reply:
You're absolutely right on how uncontrolled growth has affected the school district.

Strange, a lot of ppl associated with Lewis, or the Ed Foundation, or whatever, were city bigwigs back in the late 1990s already.

As I've said, on things like design standards, not just house and lot sizes, these ppl let the city get at least one development code out of date.

If that hadn't happened, the school district wouldn't still supposedly be one bond issue out of date. (Of course, you have to get something built right, too.)

And, above all, a commercial real estate agent, and a residential one, who can remain nameless but everybody knows them on Town Square, should have known better about design standards as well as house and lot sizes.

Of course, if that affects your property values, or your wheeling and dealing ...

'Nuff said for now.

Another Mac OS X gripe: Stickies

I loved the Stickies program in OS 9. Windows had and has nothing like that.

For those of you unfamiliar with Stickies, it’s a program to create computer desktop notes that look just like Post-It Notes. You had half a dozen colors to use, several different fonts, etc.

WHY couldn’t Steve Jobs have something like this with OS X? At least with the version I have here at work?

January 23, 2007

Peak Oil’s hit on transportation and free trade: some specifics

Just how will a worldwide peak in oil production affect Wal-Mart’s “just in time” delivery system? What’s it mean for the global economy? And how can more localized economies develop in response?

To the degree there are answers, or at least suggestions for direction, they’re right here.

Here’s a sampling of what could be in store:
In the 1960s transportation accounted for about 23 percent of all energy expended in the USA — now the figure is approaching 28 percent. …

I currently reside in Wisconsin. To eat local is cheese curds, fried fish and venison. All these things can be bought (or harvested) locally. But the cheese company gets milk transported from around the state, uses packaging made overseas from natural gas. Its employees drive to work using cars made in Japan and oil from Nigeria and eat food imported from Brazil. Although the dairy farmers themselves use largely local inputs for feed and bedding, their milk buckets are made from steel processed in China, and the wood for the barn comes from a mill in Canada. It is not easy to decipher the ’localness’ of a product, unless one walks out and picks a wild mushroom. Use your mind however to imagine WHAT IF oil doubles triples or more in price, what sort of domino effects might occur in the production supply lines. …

High quality and abundant oil has obfuscated the difference between wants and needs. At a Walmart or a Safeway, young people today see quilted bathroom tissue, pork chops, colorful shoes, dental floss, and avocados as a natural smorgasbord, without internalizing the complex energy/trade chain that put them there. …

As a thought experiment, the next time you go to your nearest box store, look at the gazillion products on display. Try to imagine where they come from, where their parts come from, and how that supply chain might change when new oil production fails to match decline rates of older wells. While you are there, you might notice how many of the myriad products improve yours or your friends’ lives, and how many do not.

It’s a long post in full, but well worth reading, if you’ve heard anything at all about Peak Oil.

NOT impressed with OS X

And no, this has nothing to do with my emotional state, or where I do or do not want to be.

After seven work days with OS X, I say: What’s the big deal, other than another brilliant marketing job by Steve Jobs?

Here, I’ve had problems with both Quark 6.5 and Photoshop CS2.

Sometimes on Quark, if I’ve done an Apple-A/Select All on text, and changed tracking, etc., and then need to make further changes, Quark doesn’t want to do anything unless I first save.

Photoshop? Pics seem slow to open, compared to Photoshop 7 on Mac OS 9.2, my reference point. Commands also seem slow.

If it were just Quark, with its quirks, doing this, I’d say it was a Quark problem.

But, two programs, and two of the “creative” programs that are supposed to run so well on Macs vs. PCs? Nope, that’s an OS problem, not a program problem.

Plus, I was trying to find a file, a Word doc, by body copy content. The search parameters are different, and I don’t know if the server here automatically indexes or not. (Up at Today, I couldn’t search docs on the server by body copy content because it wasn’t set to auto-index.) Well, here, after I launched the search, I wasn’t given an error message to that effect (the server here is on OS 9, while we work on OS X), and so I expected a result or results to be spit out soon enough.

Wrong. Ninety minutes later, my computer is still spinning search wheels.

Is Microslob still behind Mac in some ways? Yes, no doubt about it.

But, has the gap closed in the last few years? Absolutely.

On the Windows side, the “jump” from 2000 to XP was significantly more, IMO, than the Mac jump from OS 9 to OS X. Again, mark Steve Jobs as master salesman and spinmeister first, true innovator second. The iPhone and Apple TV should show that to anybody.

Lancaster wayyyy off the News’ radar screen

So much for the hope that Kathy Goolsby might actually be given, or find, the time, to follow up on the Smith Bros. and other things at Lancaster ISD, soon to become known as WH-West, perhaps.

Tanya Kersh working for Alan Steele … clawing out of the LHS principals’ box?

Never heard before of an assistant principal at a school making a move like that. I guess working for Alan may give her a layer of "insulation" from both Randall and Lewis?

January 22, 2007

Astrological signs predict accident rates??? Puhleeze

I’m sure a study like this is too stupid to even waste the time refuting, with selecting perception/cherry-picking evidence, etc.

To think I could have been a Latin teacher at LHS

Supposedly, Lancaster High is in need of one or two such critters. Well, my undergrad major is classical languages, so, though noncertified as a teacher, I could meet the academic qualifications nemo problema.

And, to think of what imprecations against Lewis or district stupidity I could have taught those high school minds. You would have loved personally trying to deny a recommendation to hire me, Larry.

Illegitimi non carborundum, baby.

January 21, 2007

“Life’s one big long barter”

So says a friend of mine:

Life's one big long barter, as far as I can tell. Things are forever
changing, including us, so it's prioritize and then re-prioritize, over and over and over again!

Calling bullshit on one item of cowboy mythology

In a federal appeals court ruling upholding the standing and enforceability of a 1949 Texas law banning the slaughter of horses for sale for food, Judge Fortunato Benavides said:
“The lone cowboy riding his horse on a Texas trail is a cinematic icon. Not once in memory did the cowboy eat his horse”

Judge, your memory is awfully underinformed, you’ve read too many dime novels or something.

Cowboys and other westerners might view eating one’s horse as a last resort, but horses did get eaten if people were hungry enough, in dire enough straits, and the horse was about to get to “downer” point anyway.