What I learned this week, September 28, 2012

‎”When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end.”

–Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)

Read even more good great evil lines here:

30 most evil lines from books

I’m still excited about the Cloud Atlas movie – be sure and read the book!

Putting Words in Halle Berry’s Mouth

Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell tells the New York Times what it was like seeing his novel come to life: “Wherever the ‘Cloud Atlas’ screenplay differed from ‘Cloud Atlas’ the novel, it did so for sound reasons that left me more impressed than piqued.”

It was a quarter-century ago today that the world was introduced to Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, Miracle Max, the albino dungeon keeper with a frog in his throat and an impressive clergyman with a speech impediment. To celebrate we bring you 25 Great Quotes from ‘The Princess Bride.’
“Life is pain, Highness, anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Why You Hate Cyclists

Partly because of jerks like me. But it’s mostly your own illogical mind.

Walter Russell Mead is one of my favorite political writers. He is very wise and his columns are well written and thought out. He has a point of view, but is not overly dogmatic about it. For example – this column on student college loans is burdened with a very provocative title, but has a lot of truth within:

Obama’s War On The Young

From the column:

The student loan program is a shining example of the blue social model in the midst of decay. It’s a program that used to work pretty well, but over time has morphed into a nightmare. Conceived at a time when college costs were low, a relatively limited number of mostly pretty qualified young people went to college and full employment made the transition from college to the workforce a straightforward process, the student loan program helped a generation of young people to a good start in life.


A sensible and helpful initiative gradually turned into a devouring beast. ….. They borrow more money than they can repay, or their school experience goes bad and the credential doesn’t work or they fail to earn it and President Obama’s hired debt collectors are turned loose on them to hound them into the grave.

Those who get in trouble, by the way, are disproportionately from poor and minority families, are immigrants, and are the first in their families to attempt higher ed. The young people that President Obama’s debt collectors are hounding most relentlessly are exactly the kind of people he hoped most to help.

Read the whole thing….

The Top 5 Best Uses of Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams”

No Shades of Grey – Black & White Book Covers

The Icebergs is leaving! I am going to miss that painting. I’ve spent hours looking at it – even wrote a (very bad) short story about it.

Bon Voyage to The Icebergs

I was talking the other day about slide rules – I was a freshman in college when the switch from slide rules to calculators occurred. For my first… say, three semesters I always carried a slide rule to exams in case my calculator failed. A lot of strong, pleasant memories of my youth are associated with slide rules. I must not have gone out much.

Here’s a nice collection of the things.

Slideshow: Slide rules and charts – a personal collection

I think I had one of these

There is a workshop coming up in October on how to build a cargo bike.

Cyclesomatic 2012: Cargo Bike Build Workshop, October 13th – 14th

Put on by Tom’s Cargo Bikes… it looks really interesting.

Museum of the American Railroad

Years ago, when my kids weren’t much more than toddlers, I made a discovery down along the edge of Fair Park – The Museum of the American Railroad. Along one side of the Art Deco complex of buildings was a strip made up of a half-dozen sets of steel rails with an amazing collection of rolling stock. They had everything from an old station to restored dining cars to some of the largest steam engines ever made.

The kids loved the place. They would clamber around an on the huge masses of steel. Their favorite thing, of course, was to climb up into the cab and sit in the driver’s seat, looking out and around the giant boilers. You could see their imaginations working.

The only problem was that it was a terrible location. A weedy, hidden spot, neglected, unknown – the powers that ran Fair Park obviously didn’t want the trains there and had no appreciation for the unique and amazing history on steel wheels. I kept expecting to read that the place was melted down for scrap.

Nevertheless, over the years, there were rumors of renewal and movement. For a while I read about a spot in downtown’s West End where a developer would use the trains to anchor a new complex. But the ups and downs of the economy always killed the ambitions and plans and the railroad museum began to get more and more run down.

There is nothing worse than watching a potential jewel, especially one in a city that is so sorely lacking in any history whatsoever, slowly corrode and die. It was obvious that the city and the Fair Park management were waiting until the place was so far gone they could kill it once and for all without fear of reprisal.

Then, a couple years ago, I read that the City of Frisco was coming to the rescue. When I moved to North Texas, Frisco was a small town, far to the north of the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex. Over the last few decades the urban sprawl has vomited itself out across the cotton fields and swallowed Frisco whole. Now it is a huge shiny new city and hungry for signature attractions. What could be better than a museum made from a collection of antique locomotives? They already have a nice local museum up and going. So they put together a piece of valuable property right in the new city center and started plans for a new railroad museum.

When I first read about this a couple years ago my first thought was, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I had seen this act before. However, I underestimated Frisco’s ability to get something done, and now, a short few years later, the site is ready and the rolling stock ready to move out to the suburbs.

The other day, I rode down the Dallas Santa Fe Trail from White Rock to Deep Ellum, and took a left turn under the mixmaster and into Fair Park. I rode around and took some photos. One stop I had to make was to see what was left of the railroad museum. It was sealed up with only a watchdog to bark at me through the wire. There weren’t any signs of activity that day, but I’m sure they were working on getting these huge old hunks of steel ready to move.

I’ve been following the news, trying to figure out when the big steam engines are going to move. I’d love to see these things on their journey – the first time they’ve moved in decades. That is so cool.


I have been looking for new places to go for a bike ride – and willing to drive farther from home. With the seats folded down, my bike fits in the back of the Matrix and it gets nice gas mileage – so it’s all good.

Looking over Google Maps with the “Bicycling” option turned on, I spotted a green line going north from Highway 380, just east of Denton. It’s the 380 Greenway/Ray Roberts Greenbelt trail and runs ten miles north through the riperian forest of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, ending up at the dam of Lake Ray Roberts.

So, after wasting the morning futsing and dutsing around the house, I loaded up my stuff and drove north through the big evil city until I reached the parking lot off of Highway 380. The Greenway trail is a branch of the Texas State Park system, so I had to pay to use it, sealing seven dollars into a little envelope and dropping it in a steel box. I checked all my gear out, saddled up and headed north into the woods.

The trail is flat as a pancake for the whole distance, which makes it easy and fast, though you never stop pedaling. The trail splits in two – with the equestrian trail on one side of the river and the hike/bike on the other. There were a few folks walking near the south end, but after a couple miles I only saw the occasional mountain bike. The southern section is locked in heavy woods – which is really nice, anything to shade the blazing Texas sun. As it goes north, the landscape opens out a little, with the occasional hayfield or open meadow breaking up the scenery.

It was a really nice ride through some bucolic scenery, but I made a tactical error. I didn’t read closely enough before I left and didn’t think about the trail surface. It is an improved hardpack with gravel surface. I left my thin, smooth, street tires on the bike. They are wide enough, so I didn’t have any problem riding – but the stones cut them to pieces.

I was no more than a couple miles up the trail when I stopped to take a photo of the trail through the woods. When I started back up my bike tire was flat. I carried an extra tube and a patch kit, so I sat along the trail and swapped the tube out. I couldn’t find a thorn or anything, but did find a small hole and patched it, keeping that tube as a spare.

Six miles up the trail, it crosses a highway and I stopped there for a protein bar and some water, and my tire went flat again. Out with the tire levers, off with the tire, on with another patch. This time I did find a tiny glass sliver – took it out. Since this was my second flat, I thought about heading back south to my car, but I sat there for twenty minutes and it seemed to be holding, so I went north to ride the whole trail.

I stopped again at the base of the Ray Roberts dam to rest for a bit. A big, expensive SUV drove up and a couple climbed out. They walked up to me and the driver, in a thick New Jersey accent, asked me, “Do you live around here?”

“Umm, I live a long way from here, but maybe I can answer your questions.”

“Well, we’re looking at a house near here and I wanted to see about this park. It says you have to pay to park here.”

“Oh, if you lived close, you could buy an annual pass. It’s about fifty bucks, I think. You could use this trail and the Ray Roberts park has a nice beach and a lot of stuff to do.”

We talked a bit about the trail (he had looked at it on Google Maps) and where it went and how it connected to the park. The two of them walked around and looked at stuff. I wished them good luck on their house hunting and they drove off. I packed up and headed back down the trail.

A few miles down the trail I felt my back wheel hit a rock hard and immediately the tire went flat again.

This time I found three holes in the tube, patched them, and pumped it up. I counted my patches, three left, plus one spare patched tube, so I was pretty sure I could make it back to my car, but I was getting tired of working on those flats, and my arms were sore from pumping up those fat tires with the little portable pump.

I was able to hammer on down the trail without any more trouble though. As I neared the southern end more walkers began to appear – the day was getting long and the temperature was cooling off.

I went past a woman walking along wearing an outrageous frilly bright red dress, thick makeup, and high heeled shoes that were completely useless on the gravel trail. She looked sheepish, stumbling along, and next to her was a man carrying a tall, transparent, lucite chair. I certainly hope the two of them were walking to do a photo shoot in the woods – otherwise… well, I don’t know.

It was nice to see my car in the parking lot while I still had some air in my tires.

The trail runs through thick forest near the south end. While I was taking this photo – my tire was losing air.

A nice rest spot near the north end of the trail.

Ruins of an old bridge near where I took the photo above.

Under the old bridge – the Elm Fork of the Trinity is surprisingly clear and pleasant.

The northern terminus of the trail below the Lake Ray Roberts dam.