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Friday random ten: Stuff I bought in 2016

A little later than usual because of the previous series, but it’s time for my annual review of the music I acquired in the last year. We’ll begin with purchases from iTunes, Noisetrade, and elsewhere.

1. Birdland – Maynard Ferguson
2. Something Tamed Something Wild – Mary-Chapin Carpenter
3. Crossing The Sabine – Piper Jones Band
4. Mainstream Kid – Brandi Carlile
5. Good Day – The Suffers
6. Late Night Radio – Cowboy Junkies
7. 4th of July – The Dig
8. My Love – The Delta Saints
9. Hotel Pool – Lily & Madelein3
10. Not Alone – Solas

I used to have a few of Maynard Ferguson’s albums, including Carnival from which “Birdland” comes, on cassette tape, but that was years ago. I finally re-purchased a few of the individual songs last year. The Piper Jones Band is a local Celtic group, some of whose components had been members of other local Celtic groups in the past. My friends Michael and Ginger attended their CD release show at the Mucky Duck and picked me up a copy of it. The Suffers had their first CD released last year as well, and Solas put out a 20th anniversary album via Kickstarter. Everything else is from Noisetrade, including some festival and mixtape compilations.

Keeping an eye on Katy ISD

This could be interesting.

Some of the details of George Scott’s “shadow school board” are still that – shadowy.

But as the conservative blogger has assembled a group to meet regularly to reach its own conclusions about the business of the fast-growing Katy ISD board, his mission is clear: to use public data to take aim at the district’s use of high-stakes testing.

He hopes the approach has far-reaching effects beyond the Katy ISD boundaries and will serve as a model for other districts.

“I’ve known George since I first became the president of the local, well over 30 years” said Gayle Fallon, the recently retired president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “He and I have not always agreed, but I think he’s got a good idea here and one that if it takes off, could have a national impact.”

Scott and Fallon don’t necessarily see eye to eye on many things. But their interests align when it comes to the burden that they say standardized tests have placed on classroom teachers and students.

“With this new emphasis on data,” said Fallon, “teachers spend hours they used to spend with kids just doing data for school districts.”


If he can raise $13,000 through his Kickstarter campaign, Scott said the board will meet on Saturdays starting next year for all-day sessions reviewing data from ongoing public information requests. The money would go toward information requests, facility rentals and meals during the meetings but participants wouldn’t be otherwise compensated, according to Scott. If he raises more than expected, then the shadow board would prepare a budget. All the financials would be publicly available. In April, the board would produce a position paper with recommendations on how to push back on testing’s impact in the classroom as well as on other issues.

“There is an immense amount of data and the typical school board member hasn’t a clue,” said Scott. “They don’t have anybody getting a real actual understanding of the correlation between all of this testing they have and what it means in the organization and delivery at the campus level and the concept of holding people accountable.”

As noted, Scott is a blogger and former member of the Board of Managers of the Harris County Hospital District, among many other things. He’s also been a voice for fairness and transparency in how properties, especially commercial properties, are appraised – I’ve cited his work here more than once. Like Gayle Fallon, I don’t see eye to eye with him on many things, but I respect him and his work, and I think this is a worthwhile project, whatever they ultimately do or don’t find. I wish you and your team good luck, George, and feel free to send me a press release any time you unearth something interesting.

Friday random ten: My year in music, part 2

Here’s Part One. These are some of the songs we got between July and December.

1. Problem – Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea
2. The Princess Who Saved Herself – Jonathan Coulton
3. Alienation’s For The Rich – They Might Be Giants
4. Count Me In – Dove Cameron
5. What I Like About You – The Romantics
6. Happy – Pharrell Williams
7. Tacky – Weird Al Yankovic
8. #SELFIE – The Chainsmokers
9. Song For Someone – U2
10. Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.

Again, TV (“Count Me In”) and movies (“Ghostbusters” – I recorded a showing on the TiVo for the express purpose of watching it with the girls, who loved it) were common inspirations. “The Princess Who Saved Herself” was a Kickstarter reward. “Alienation’s For The Rich” was on a free download of TMBG performing their first album live. We too were sucked in by Weird Al’s song-and-video-a-day album release, thus “Tacky” and subsequently “Happy”. I still don’t understand the fuss over Songs of Innocence. It’s a good album, and hey, free music. “What I Like About You” was inspired by Scalzi’s 80s dance party music set list, as it was a grievous oversight on his part. “Problem” and “#SELFIE” were songs the girls asked for, I forget the reason.

That’s not quite the end of the story. I went on a fairly sizable post-Christmas buying binge, which I’ll detail in Part 3. Among other things, that means I no longer have credit at the iTunes store. That may or may not change our often spontaneous buying habits, I don’t know. I’ve been reviewing some “Best of 2014” lists to see if there’s anything there I should have known about but didn’t. You can assume anything that results from that will be on my 2015 year in music review.

Houston needs a swimming hole

A fascinating proposal from Gray Matters.

The good idea: Houston needs a great big swimming hole.

Idea guys: Monte Large and Evan O’Neil, of Houston Needs a Swimming Hole.

Where the idea came from: Enduring the Houston heat. Large, an urban real-estate developer, doesn’t have a car and bikes everywhere. One summer day, the friends asked each other a series of questions while sweating in a coffee shop:

“What if Houston still had the Shamrock Hotel pool?

“What if Houston had a Barton Springs?

“Or our own beautiful big swimming hole in the middle of the city?”

Neither Large nor O’Neil is into the sport of swimming. Their hobby, they say, is helping Houston be cool.

Large and O’Neil recognize several realities about their hometown. Houston is a subtropical environment; it is very close to, yet painfully far from the ocean; and improbably, the city has become a leader in the use of green technology.

They researched available technology and decided that an enormous natural pool that filters the water with plant material would be a symbol of “the marvel Houston is becoming.” According to their research, there are more than 20,000 natural pools across Europe. Managed properly, natural swimming pools have clear water and require no chemicals to maintain. Instead, they are self-cleaning: cattails, water lilies and other water plants serve as natural filters.

Their website has more information. I drafted this awhile ago and hadn’t gotten around to scheduling it for publication, and in the meantime the guys behind this idea have created a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to do a feasibility study. They hope to collect $30K by January 9, and as of this publication were more than 10% of the way there. I’ll probably toss in a few bucks myself.

Anyway, these things are apparently more common than you might think. I’m sure the idea guys will encounter plenty of skepticism as they present this idea, though they say on that Kickstarter page that they have received a lot of positive feedback, which is encouraging. Hey, if such a thing can be built elsewhere – in Austin, in Minneapolis, in Brisbane – then why not here? What do you think about this? Give their Facebook page a like if you approve. Swamplot and Gray Matters have more.