Delayed Pain

Plus: Viva la Alcaldesa!; Donkey Kong

Craig Bennett's now a sophomore in high school. His mother views his life as a miracle of science and God, but not necessarily in that order. Craig's on the football team, though he has to wear a special helmet--with its extra padding, Avila calls it "the Troy Aikman helmet." His marks in school are good--earlier this year he was student of the week--but he struggles mightily for those good grades and is allowed extra time to work on tests.

But if you degrade Craig, even in jest, he is known to blow up and become quite angry. Sometimes, Avila's oldest son, Joey, will call her at work, unable to calm down his brother. "It's Craig," Joey will say. "He's acting up again." That's when Avila tells Joey to see if Craig's taken his prescribed medication to soothe his impulsivity. "Nine times out of 10," Avila says, "he hasn't." --Paul Kix

Viva la Alcaldesa!

Little Havana, a month-old restaurant on Greenville Avenue, boasts that it serves the most authentic Cuban food in the city. You can even get non-Cuban cigars there to smoke on one of two open-air patios. You can, that is, unless you're Mayor Laura Miller.

Miller has been barred from Little Havana, much like tobacco smoke, which was banned from Dallas restaurants by a city ordinance pushed by Miller.

The mayor may not be allowed in Little Havana, but her face is there, prominently displayed on the restaurant's version of a no-smoking sign required by the city. A doctored photo depicts Miller wearing green military fatigues and cap, one finger upraised, peering at The Man himself, Fidel Castro, who's puffing on a big cigar. "Madam No is banned from Little Havana by order of the owners. Oh, and...no smoking," the sign reads. "It's meant to be lighthearted, but the message is clear," says John Leatherwood, general partner in Little Havana. "We're all about people being able to make choices."

Lighthearted, maybe, and Little Havana is not looking to start a political movement--they want non-smokers and smokers alike as customers--but it's serious, too. The mayor really can't come in, Leatherwood says.

If you're thinking that restaurant owners know how to hold a grudge--the smoking ban is nearly two years old, after all--you may be right. Tracey Evers, executive director of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association, says that while the ordinance has harmed some restaurants, it has left owners generally feeling dissed by the city. "We need a city government that understands we're an economic engine in this city," Evers says. "We need all the help we can get."

Nevertheless, the fact that the mayor can't get a Cuban sandwich or mojito at Little Havana isn't likely to change her mind. "The mayor has been thrilled with the smoking ordinance and the feedback we have been getting," says Crayton Webb, her chief of staff.

In fact, leaders from other communities have called City Hall, asking about replicating the smoking ordinance. Madam No's revolution may spread. --Patrick Williams

Donkey Kong What they teach at Southern Methodist University's Guildhall is video games--how to design them, program them, critique them. This avant-garde graduate program does not teach politics, but politics has entered a Guildhall student's latest project.

Ray Barbiero, a 22-year-old programmer who's graduating next December, made political Pac-Man in his free time and released the game on the Web last week. In the game, the head of George Bush or John Kerry gobbles up bags full of campaign dollars while avoiding either donkeys or elephants, depending on party affiliation. Once the money's gone, a swing state appears for the nominee's taking. One then proceeds to the next level, where there's more money and swing states and crazed attackers.

"In writing this game," Barbiero says--"writing" serving as tech-speak for "programming"--"I kind of didn't want to stop."

No kidding he didn't. The idea to make the game came from a midterm last semester. He was told to create Pac-Man from scratch in five hours. Once Barbiero finished the test, he had a "cool" idea, stayed until midnight and worked on the game he really wanted to make.

Some three months later, between other projects and after consultations with his professors, Barbiero's Pac-Man is available for download at http://guildhall.ecsrv.smu.edu/work/BallotByte.htm.

"I made this game as bipartisan as possible," Barbiero says. "I dare anybody to catch me on it."

For the sake of the game, Barbiero won't reveal whom he's voting for. But he hopes in playing it, some people will vote who otherwise wouldn't.

And no, the game isn't a statement in support of campaign finance reform. "They'll always figure out ways around those things," Barbiero says. --Paul Kix

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