Smart talk 

Nonstop to the beach

We reported recently on continuing efforts by Little Rock National Airport, the new Mexican consulate in Little Rock and others to establish scheduled air service between Little Rock and Mexico City. We picked up one more piece of information on international flights after that item appeared. An airport spokesman said Frontier Airlines also has expressed some interest in establishing a Little Rock-Cancun route. Senor Frog's here we come!

If you can't beat them …

The University of Arkansas is bringing together a conference for video game experts this Friday, Sept. 7, in Fayettteville from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Donald W. Reynolds Center. No, the idea isn't to perfect ways to crack Donkey Kong or Final Fantasy. It is to study the ways by which video games could be employed to teach today's students, increasingly geared to the machines. Speakers include a maker of games about social and political issues and UA grads Jason and Sunny Cerchie, who create content for the Electric Sheep Co., a virtual world in which gamers build houses and businesses, sell goods, meet, go to school or simply wander around. Academics who study video and computer games also will speak. There will be displays of games and related gear. A student panel is planned, but it's not clear if it includes a true expert — a 20-something accustomed to pulling successive all-nighters while guzzling Diet Cokes and madly thumbing a game controller. If such an expert is needed, an editor here has a lead on finding one.

Traffic jumbotrons

A reader asks about the giant “jumbotron” screens going up on freeways in Central Arkansas — up but bearing no messages.

Glenn Bolick of the Highway and Transportation Department says 19 of the new message boards, known as variable monitors, ARE activated, those in the Pine Bluff area. Another 21 signs erected on Little Rock-area roadways will be activated in the second phase of the program. But that doesn't mean you'll see messages on them routinely.

The federal government is helping pay for the $3.8 million project because the first priority is to use the signs to provide information in the case of a chemical stockpile emergency at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, where destruction of outdated munitions is underway. They would guide evacuating traffic. The monitors also can be used to display other information — about weather and traffic conditions, Amber Alerts and the like. But the monitors will be used sparingly, a spokesman said, lest motorists become accustomed to ignoring routine messages. The installations include cameras and flashing beacons.


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