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July 23rd, 2010:

Friday random ten: You made that up

In honor of “Refudiate-gate”, here are ten songs from my collection that feature words not found in nature:

1. Abacab – Genesis
2. Billy-A-Dick – Bette Midler
3. Boogie Oogie Oogie – A Taste of Honey
4. Boplicity – Miles Davis
5. Connjur – School of Seven Bells
6. Destrokk – MGMT
7. Harmonicar – Carolyn Wonderland and The Imperial Monkeys
8. Momamma Scuba – John Cale
9. Riu Chiu – The Monkees
10. Skokiaan – Bill Haley & The Comets

Genesis and Phil Collins, with songs like “Squonk”, “Paperlate”, and “Sussudio” in their catalog, may be the champion word-maker-uppers of the music biz. For the curious, “Billy-A-Dick” is a Hoagy Carmichael song, from the “For The Boys” soundtrack; it’s the onomatopoetic representation of a drummer doing his thing. I tried to be careful to avoid proper names and words that actually mean something in another language in compiling this list. I made an exception for “Skokiaan” because it’s such a cool word. “Riu Chiu” probably meant something at one time, but being archaic I figured it fit. The rest you can figure out. What nonsense do you have on your iPod?

Entire song list report: Started with “Jukebox On My Grave”, by Ellis Paul. Finished with “Kodachrome/Maybelline” by Simon and Garfunkel, from their historic “Concert in Central Park” album. That was song #2718, for a back-to-normal 103 tunes this week. I should note that this song came after the three other versions of “Kodachrome” that I have, by Conor Oberst, the Tufts Beelzebubs, and the original Paul Simon solo version. Finally, the last J song was “Justify My Love”, by Madonna, and the first K song was “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey”, by The Beatles.

Ripping vinyl report: It’s back! I finally had the chance to break out the USB turntable, and committed the first Van Halen album to digital land. That one too is from Greg Wythe’s collection, and he must really like it because it’s got a clear plastic cover on it. I’d forgotten how many of their well-known singles came from their debut record – I don’t think they had as many hits again until “1984”. All that and leather pants, too.

Metro finance update

What’s going on with Metro these days?

Although leaders of the region’s transit agency are confident that they will secure $900 million in federal funding to build more light rail lines in Houston, they have begun discussing fare increases and advertising on buses as ways to pay for rail if they do not get the money.

“We are looking at the mathematics of a fare increase to help with completion of the lines,” Metropolitan Transit Authority board chairman Gilbert Garcia said during a visit with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board Wednesday.

Acting Metro CEO George Greanias did not rule out a fare increase as part of the annual budget the board must adopt in September and said such a plan could emerge as early as next month.

No proposal is in the works, however, Greanias emphasized.

So this is basically a trial balloon. Look for the usual op-ed from Bill King any day now. Seriously, if you do have an opinion, now would be the time to express it to them.

The bit about ads on buses was interesting. Hair Balls makes it sound like that avenue has already been foreclosed.

About five years ago, Metro V-P George Smalley tells Hair Balls, the agency put out a request for bids for bus-shelter ads. The results showed the aforementioned “tens of millions” in revenue and savings over a 15-year period were possible. (The savings would come from bus-shelter maintenance being the responsibility of the winning bidder, not Metro.)

But there were problems: “The effort stalled, in part, because of an existing city ordinance prohibiting commercial advertising in city rights of way, which is where our shelters are located,” Smalley says.

Last year, the agency tried again, this time looking into advertising strictly on buses. Again, no go. “This was during the national economic collapse,” Smalley says. “I don’t recall the specific numbers in the bids, but the revenue potential was anemic and not deemed sufficient enough then to further pursue advertising on buses.”

He says there are no current studies, or plans to further request advertising bids, underway at Metro.

Well, there’s no proposal currently in the works to raise fares, either, so make of that what you will. I blogged about Metro’s previous attempt to do ads on buses, and I still don’t understand the reluctance about them. Heck, I think Metro shouldn’t limit itself to buses but should have ads on light rail cars, too. To my mind, this is basically free money. If school buses can have ads, why can’t Metro buses? Get with the program, I say.

According to the Examiner, there is some decent news for Metro and its financial situation.

[Greanias] called a decline in sales tax revenues a “far greater” concern than a possible change in federal funding or fare box revenues.

Earlier in the meeting, Board member Dwight Jefferson reported that tax revenues were down slightly compared to last year, but were still ahead of projections.

It would be nicer if they were up, but you take what you can get. Most of that story was about Metro modifying a questionable real estate contract with McDade Smith Gould Johnston Mason + Co. For the full details of that, read this Examiner story from a couple of weeks ago. That ought to save Metro a few bucks down the line, but even if it doesn’t, it was the right thing to do. Hair Balls has more.

John Bradley is a political hack: Film at 11

John Bradley, the District Attorney for Williamson County and the hand-picked-by-Rick-Perry Chair of the Forensic Science Commission, continues to be the single biggest impediment to the Commission doing the job it was specifically created to do.

In an op-ed on these pages last November, Bradley denied charges that his actions were politically motivated and decried those “[who] have made exaggerated claims and drawn premature conclusions about the case.” He then assured Texans that the commission’s investigation “will be completed” using a “disciplined, scientific approach.” Instead, what we have seen so far is not a review of scientific issues but a bureaucratic effort to undermine, if not end, the Willingham inquiry by rewriting the commission’s rules and its jurisdiction.

Last week, after closed meetings that may violate the Texas Open Meetings Act, Bradley sent out an unsigned legal memo instructing commissioners that they have a “relatively narrow investigative jurisdiction.”

Employing “Catch-22” logic, he claimed that commissioners lack the “discretion or power” to investigate evidence that was not from a laboratory accredited by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) — which, as it happens, did not accredit labs before 2003, years after the Willingham fire. By this reasoning, the TFSC cannot review any pre-2003 matter, such as the Houston Police Department crime lab evidence, the scandal that gave rise to its formation.

In 2008, the TFSC carefully considered the jurisdiction question, and, with assent from the Attorney General’s office, determined that the Willingham and other old cases like it are well within its authority.

And rightly so: The Willingham inquiry into the use of unreliable arson analysis is an urgent matter for more than 600 people incarcerated in Texas whose arson convictions may have been based on invalid science. If its investigation is derailed, the commissioners would be turning their backs on these potentially innocent Texans.

Remember when the Forensic Science Commission was about making forensics better in Texas and not about covering Rick Perry’s ass? Those were the days. Grits and the Trib have more. A brief statement from State Sen. Rodney Ellis is beneath the fold; the full version of the statement is here.

UPDATE: Rick Casey piles on.


Adolfo Santos

Last week, HISD Trustee Diana Davila resigned her position. It’s not clear yet whether the Board will appoint a replacement or there will be a special election, but Marc Campos is floating the name of a possible successor.

UH-Downtown Political Science Professor Adolfo Santos is expressing an interest in replacing Davila. Santos’ resume is being passed around by respected H-Town Latino business and professional leaders. In recent years, Santos has regularly submitted Op-Eds for publication to the Chron.

Here’s his UH-D page, and here’s his curriculum vita. I couldn’t find any of the op-eds that Campos mentions in the Chron’s archives, though I did find a letter to the editor in response to one of them. I also found a couple of mentions of him in various stories. Here’s one about school uniforms, from 2007:

Reactions like this don’t surprise Adolfo Santos, political science professor at the University of Houston-Downtown who studied uniform polices at HISD middle schools in the late 1990s. Poorer communities can benefit from standard dress requirements, he said, because the clothes are often cheaper than trendy ones. And minority communities, especially Hispanics, he noted, are often more open to the idea of a strict dress code. All of the majority-Hispanic high schools in the district have standardized dress.

“When you look at predominantly Hispanic schools, there is often a large immigrant population, and these are students coming from Mexico and other countries where kids are accustomed to wearing uniforms in school,” Santos said.

He was also quoted in this story about the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and this profile of UH-D. Finally, possibly the most interesting thing I found in Googling around was this think piece about the future of education, from 2005. I don’t know if Dr. Santos will actually be a candidate to replace Davila, and if so if he’ll have to run a campaign or not, but at least now we know a little something about him.

UPDATE: Via email from Marc Campos, here’s a fuller version of Dr. Santos’ CV.

The State of Texas versus IBM: Down dooby doo down down…

It just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it?

All the finger-pointing and fault-finding over the state’s troubled data center contract has technology analyst Tom Starnes wondering if Texas and IBM Corp. want this marriage to work.

“It’s like they don’t want to be together and that’s bothersome to me,” said Starnes, who has been researching public-private technology partnerships, including Texas’ $863 million data center consolidation project.

Breaking up, Starnes said, will do no one any good.

IBM’s business reputation would take a hit, Starnes said.

And the state would have to start all over again with another vendor to merge the data centers of 28 state agencies into two updated and secure facilities. There is no guarantee the next relationship will work any better, he said. In the meantime, the agencies are stuck in a technological limbo.

But a split might be imminent.

You know where I’m going with this, right?

You just can’t go wrong with Neil Sedaka, I always say.