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April 28th, 2013:

Weekend link dump for April 28

Better music through data. Metadata, that is.

It’s hard to find a scripted drama that hasn’t used rape and/or murder as a plotline at least once. I will note that their list is incomplete – by my reckoning, “Royal Pains” and “Veep” are not listed, and there may be others. But you get the point.

“When you bump, it shows your nearest common ancestors. If you bump with someone who’s too closely related, you get an alarm sound and a text warning.”

“It must be tough to co-author a book that reveals that the creator of one of your favorite comic strips was a pretty horrible human being. I guess that point is unavoidable when you write about a serial rapist.”

A carbon tax has much to recommend it.

A kid’s view of Houston, in photos.

“[Maureen] Dowd’s real problem is that she hasn’t kept up with either academic research or simple common sense over the past half century.” Hell, she couldn’t even cite a recent Hollywood production to back up her ridiculous claims.

The GOP will not be moving to the center in 2016. I expect Maureen Dowd to write a column about how that is all President Obama’s fault any day now.

When Uhuru and Spock were supposed to have kissed.

Has no one ever explained to the Family Research Council that lying is a sin? It’s right there in the Bible!

Eats, shoots, and leaves commas out of sentences that need them.

RIP, Chrissy Amphlett and Richie Havens. Monday was a rough day for singers.

A little public shaming of the individuals who don’t know the difference between Chechnya and the Czech Republic would seem to be in order.

Thankfully, that hasn’t stopped the Czech Republic from helping out the people of West, Texas, many of whom are of Czech descent.

RIP, Professor O Z White, the kind of person they don’t make like that any more.

I’ll say it again – Mariano Rivera is a mensch.

RIP, Allan Arbus, a/k/a Dr. Sidney Freedman on “M*A*S*H”.

Ten ways to reduce crime that probably won’t offend the voices in Wayne LaPierre’s head.

Generally speaking, when a powerful interest wants to keep something secret, it’s because they really really don’t want you to know what that secret is.

Add Regal movie theaters to your list of businesses to avoid, at least until their management learns how not to be obnoxious greedheads.

Conjunctive adverb, I wish I had a rhyming couplet for you.

Dull and Boring, together at last.

Shark fin soup should be banned.

The past and future of organizing committees on labor.

Speaking of such things, a little collective action at the LA Times could go a long way.

Happy 80th birthday, Willie Nelson.

The Senate sucks. Sequestration sucks, too. We’re doing exactly what austerity-loving government-hating shills have said we need to do to grow the economy. Still waiting for it to happen.

RIP, George Jones. This really has been a rough week for musicians. Katherine Geier’s heartfelt tribute to the man and his music is the best thing you will read about his life and times, and most importantly his music.

HCDE Trustee Jim Henley to resign

Got this in my inbox late Friday afternoon:

JimHenley

Trustee Jim Henley (Democrat at-large) submitted his resignation from the Board earlier this year.  The Harris County Department of Education Board will have an open application process to fill the remainder of his term that goes until January 2015.

The HCDE advertisement and FAQs regarding filling a board vacancy are now available via our website under FEATURED NEWS.  Applications are due Thursday, May 2, 2013 by 5 PM.

Link to our website:  http://www.hcde-texas.org (look under the headline FEATURED NEWS).

Direct link to the notices:  http://www.hcde-texas.org/default.aspx?name=BoardVacancy.

I haven’t seen any reporting on this as yet. I’ve sent an email to Henley to ask him about it, and will update when I hear from him. In the meantime, if you’ve always harbored the secret desire to be an HCDE trustee, here’s the Board Vacancy FAQ to tell you everything you need to know:

Q: How will the vacancy be filled?

A: The HCDE Board of Trustees approved procedures to fill the vacant position on April 23, 2013. Qualified applicants who would like to serve as an HCDE trustee must submit application packets by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 2, 2013. If more than six applications are received, the Board will meet to screen the applications and select no more than six finalists to be interviewed by the Board of Trustees. If six or fewer applications are received, all applicants will be interviewed by the Board. The interviews are expected to take place on Monday, May 13, 2013, beginning at 3:30 p.m. and if necessary, continue on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Interviews will be open to the public, but only members of the HCDE Board of Trustees shall be permitted to comment or ask questions of the finalists.

Q: When will the HCDE Board of Trustees make its decision?

A: The HCDE Board of Trustees anticipates that the Board will vote to appoint an individual to fill the vacancy at its meeting on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.

Q: How long will the appointed trustee serve?

A: In accordance with former Tex. Educ. Code § 17.04, which governs HCDE, the individual appointed to fill Position 7 shall serve the unexpired portion of the Position 7 term that runs until November 2014, when elections will be held. If the appointed individual chooses to run for election, he/she may do so and if he/she wins, he/she would serve a full six-year term. If the appointed individual chooses not to run for election in 2014, he/she would serve until January 2015, when the elected trustee for Position 7 would assume office.

There’s more, so click over if this interests you. I’m sad to see Henley step down – he’s a fine person, and he did an excellent job on the HCDE Board. With his departure, the remaining Board is evenly divided among Rs and Ds, so party will not be the deciding factor in naming his replacement. As I said before, elections for these offices are pretty much determined by the partisan tide, though one presumes a candidate of either party that can get enough support to be selected might have a small edge on the margins. I thank Jim Henley for his service, and I wish the Board good luck in finding someone of his quality to fill out his term.

Veasey v Garcia, Round Two?

Looks like we’ll have at least one high profile Democratic primary next year.

Domingo Garcia

Domingo Garcia

Domingo Garcia’s pursuit of the national presidency of the League of United Latin American Citizens has just as much to do with politics as activism.

The former state representative is considering whether to seek a rematch against Rep. Marc Veasey in the 33rd Congressional District, the seat created last year that stretches across Dallas and Fort Worth.

The presidency of the nation’s oldest Hispanic civil rights group would give him a bigger platform. In theory, he would get the group to focus on North Texas voter registration and turnout efforts, which would ultimately help him if he decided to re-enter the political arena.

Marc Veasey

Marc Veasey

Meanwhile, Veasey has already begun his re-election campaign, including a recent mega-fundraiser in Dallas. He’s made a strategic effort to appeal to Hispanic voters and make inroads into Dallas County.

Veasey won the Democratic runoff by 1,100 votes in July and the seat overall in November. But the campaign never really stopped. While it’s still a question whether Garcia will opt for another campaign, the actions of both men suggest a second round is likely.

“Last year was just a warm-up,” said former LULAC president Hector Flores, a Garcia supporter. “I believe Domingo will run again.”

[…]

Garcia and others are registering voters on both sides of the county line, hoping to add enough to the total to overcome Veasey’s advantage.

With the support of Sal Espino and others, Garcia is finding open ears with Tarrant County Hispanics that didn’t know him last year.

“My goal is to register 20,000 new voters,” Garcia said. So far, he added, 4,000 have signed up.

Garcia’s campaign for the LULAC presidency has been contentious. He’s running against incumbent Margaret Moran of San Antonio. The election is scheduled for June at a Las Vegas gathering.

But LULAC officials say Garcia isn’t eligible to run. They sued to keep the Democrat off the ballot. Last week, Garcia countersued.

Veasey has stepped up his outreach to Hispanic voters and residents in Dallas County. He’s opened an office in Dallas, as well as Fort Worth.

And Veasey has tried to become a player in Congress on immigration. He invited a so-called Dreamer, a young immigrant brought to the country illegally by her parents, as his guest to the president’s State of the Union address.

Later, he hosted an immigration roundtable discussion on the issue in Dallas with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. And he participated in an immigration reform rally in Washington and met with Proyecto Immigrante, a North Texas group.

His local staff has been a fixture at various Hispanic events, some where there were fewer than a dozen people.

“I’m meeting people in Oak Cliff and new people in areas I’ve never represented in Fort Worth, Irving and Grand Prairie,” Veasey said.

It may be awhile before anyone can take a breather in this district. On the plus side, if that incentivizes voter registration, it’s all good. You can listen to the interviews I did for the 2012 primary with Veasey and Garcia. Really, the right answer here is for there to be two new minority opportunity districts – as Rep. Yvonne Davis has demonstrated, one can certainly draw such a map – but that ain’t happening without a court order. Assuming it doesn’t, all things considered I’d prefer to see Veasey hold the seat – he has a higher ceiling than Garcia, and Veasey has done all the things I’ve wanted him to do. But as Veasey himself says in the story, no one is entitled to a seat. I’m sure he’ll keep working hard for it, and that’s just fine by me.

Check this out

Scan while you shop, and other technological advances to get you checked out faster.

In February, San Antonio-based H-E-B invited customers to try out a new scanning “tunnel” for the first time at its McCreless Market location on South New Braunfels Avenue.

The company spent about three years developing the so-called Fast Scan technology, which lets cashiers at the end of the register focus on bagging the already-scanned items, said Jaren Shaw, H-E-B’s vice president of customer service. She said the company is in the “very early stages” of testing the checkout system and will wait to decide on expanding the concept.

“We were introduced to the concept of 360-degree item scanners in Europe a few years ago and have been watching the technology emerge since then,” Shaw said in a statement. “H-E-B took an inclusive approach and developed the checkout fixture based on feedback from customers” and employees.

[…]

Like H-E-B, Wal-Mart cited customer feedback as the catalyst behind the development of its mobile scanning app that it has piloted at more than 200 locations across the U.S.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer offers its Scan & Go service at stores in the Austin, Dallas and Houston areas.

There, shoppers can scan items on the Wal-Mart app, which then transfers the shopping list to one of the store’s self-checkout registers so customers can pay without re-scanning the products.

Wal-Mart plans to roll out the app to other mobile devices in the near future, spokeswoman Hardie said.

“We began testing the feature late last year in two markets, and so far this year, more than half of our customers have come back to use the technology a second time,” she said.

Recently, H-E-B has pulled the self-checkout registers from some stores.

“H-E-B’s top priority in checkout is to offer the best customer service while getting our customers through the line quickly,” spokeswoman Dya Campos said in an email. “We are not completely satisfied with the technology of self-checkout and the satisfaction of our customers as they interface with it.”

Eliminating self-checkout lanes follows a trend in other supermarkets. Wal-Mart is going the other way, with more reliance on self-checkout. That figures, since it means they can pay less on labor, which is the Wal-Mart way. That said, I like the idea of being able to scan purchases with one’s cellphone while shopping, so that when you’re done all you have to do is pay. Someday, that will be handled by your smartphone, too. I think that’s great as an option, but it’s not going to be for everyone, and it will be smart of retailers to give people more than one way to do it. What do you think?