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Save money; keep up with news

We're doing a little belt-tightening in the Wilson household, and one of the things my wife has in her sights to eliminate is my three-day-a-week subscription to The New York Times.

I love reading The Times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, especially on Sundays. My favorite section is the one with columns, comments and editorials. Like, this last Sunday featured a wonderful confessional by Dave Tomar, author of "The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat." What an eye-opener; what a sad commentary on our times.

Fortunately, the library subscribes to The Times. But, I can't come down on Sunday mornings and drink coffee in front of the fireplace.

Turns out I will not have to forego reading The Times when the paper copy no longer lands on my driveway.

The library also subscribes to World Book online. And Worldbook Online provides a subscription to The Times online edition.

The experience of reading the paper won't be the same. But the material available will be. And I can settle for that while saving some money.

Getting it right -- in Oklahoma

When I was growing up, my uncle was a state senator in Oklahoma.

I was very proud of him but also a proud native-born Texan, as was he and my dad.

But, sometimes we got into discussions with him about how Texas was so obviously superior to Oklahoma, including UT football, of course, and the state of our Texas highways, which were vastly better than the roads in Soonerland.

I'm not so sure that Texas' roads are better today than the ones in Oklahoma.

But, after reading Sunday's The New York Times piece by Nicholas D. Kristof, I'm certain about one thing that Oklahoma has us flatly beat on. And that's early childhood education.

In Oklahoma, to paraphrase Kristof, every 4-year-old gets to go to school for free, "and some families get home visits to coach parents on reading and talking more to their children."

Wow.

The attitude in Oklahoma, unlike the attitude in Texas, seems to be that the state gets better and better as the kids get smarter and smarter, so it's wiser to invest in schools than in prisons.

The brain science has been around for quite some time showing the importance of early education. Texas ignores it at its peril.

And that ignorance will be very expensive down the road.

My late uncle would be as proud as I am envious.

A progressive place

Wow. Round Rock voters approved a $23.2 million bond issue for public libraries in yesterday's election.

The measure passed on a 60-40 vote.

The library package was just one piece of a larger proposal put before voters in the Williamson County city. In all, they OK'd spending almost $124 million on fire department, police department, lilbrary and other public facilities.

It takes courage these days for elected officials to ask voters to approve bond programs, given the anti-government flavor of our times. And in a lot of places, funding for libraries is being cut.

So, hats off to Round Rock. Citizens there seem to care about the quality of life they provide for themselves and their children.

Amazon's top book and ours

The Library Journal reported today that Amazon editors named "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt as this year's best book.

No. 2 was "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini.

The Journal does not say what criteria Amazon used to make the selection of the Top 100.

If you go just by how many times the book was accessed, that would be selection based on popularity. And what's popular is not necessarily what's best.

We don't have a set of editors to make a list of the top books.

But, in terms of popularity, "The Hit" by Baldacci was the book most checked out so far in 2013. No. 2 was "Inferno" by Brown. And No. 3 was "Second Honeymoon" by Patterson.

None of those were in the Amazon Top 10.

Not sure what that means about our patrons or Amazon's editors.

Handing over the ID

When I voted last week at the Wimberley Community Center, I duly handed over my drivers license as required by law.

The woman working at the polls ran it through a scanner and handed it back to me.

That's probably the first time anyone has ever scanned my DL, and it surprised me. I thought the poll worker would just look at the DL and see if my name matched the information on the registered voter list and my voter registration card.

I don't know what the election folks get when they scan my license. Do they get the color of my eyes, my date of birth and the kind of DL it is? So they know that my license is only good if I wear glasses?

So, who can access the information that was scanned? Is that going to be for sale through the county elections office? Can the political parties buy that? Can Wal-Mart?

Just wonderin'.