What I learned this week, February 14, 2013


10 Gorgeous Growlers

A pint of beer is delicious, but not as delicious as four pints…poured into a massive bottle…that you can take with you. I’m talking growlers, people—everybody’s favorite Big Boy Traveler. We’ve rounded up 10 of the sleekest, prettiest, downright sexiest growlers on the market. These aren’t just growlers, these are conversation starters, party starters, and veritable works of art. It’s okay to drool.

In my opinion, the most gorgeous growler is one I have in my hand, with cold Lakewood Temptress, Peticolas Velvet Hammer, or even Revolver Blood and Honey filling it.

Four reasons US business leaders want to import Danish-style cycling

At long last, cycling is being supported by American business – not out of environmentalism but because it’s delivering profit

Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy

From 2006, an excellent piece from the Michigan Law Review.


This Essay examines what the Harry Potter series (and particularly the most recent book, The Half-Blood Prince) tells us about government and bureaucracy. There are two short answers. The first is that Rowling presents a government (The Ministry of Magic) that is 100% bureaucracy. There is no discernable executive or legislative branch, and no elections. There is a modified judicial function, but it appears to be completely dominated by the bureaucracy, and certainly does not serve as an independent check on governmental excess.

Second, government is controlled by and for the benefit of the self-interested bureaucrat. The most cold-blooded public choice theorist could not present a bleaker portrait of a government captured by special interests and motivated solely by a desire to increase bureaucratic power and influence. Consider this partial list of government activities: a) torturing children for lying; b) utilizing a prison designed and staffed specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; c) placing citizens in that prison without a hearing; d) allows the death penalty without a trial; e) allowing the powerful, rich or famous to control policy and practice; f) selective prosecution (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); g) conducting criminal trials without independent defense counsel; h) using truth serum to force confessions; i) maintaining constant surveillance over all citizens; j) allowing no elections whatsoever and no democratic lawmaking process; k) controlling the press.

This partial list of activities brings home just how bleak Rowling’s portrait of government is. The critique is even more devastating because the governmental actors and actions in the book look and feel so authentic and familiar. Cornelius Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, perfectly fits our notion of a bumbling politician just trying to hang onto his job. Delores Umbridge is the classic small-minded bureaucrat who only cares about rules, discipline, and her own power. Rufus Scrimgeour is a George Bush-like war leader, inspiring confidence through his steely resolve. The Ministry itself is made up of various sub-ministries with goofy names (e.g., The Goblin Liaison Office or the Ludicrous Patents Office) enforcing silly sounding regulations (e.g., The Decree for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans or The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery). These descriptions of government jibe with our own sarcastic views of bureaucracy and bureaucrats: bureaucrats tend to be amusing characters that propagate and enforce laws of limited utility with unwieldy names. When you combine the light-hearted satire with the above list of government activities, however, Rowling’s critique of government becomes substantially darker and more powerful.

full essay available for download

One-month countdown for Snuffer’s to reopen at original Lower Greenville locale

Snuffer’s on Lower Greenville is the first place I went to when I first visited Dallas in 1980. It had only been open for a year. A couple years later I moved into an apartment on the same block – it became our go-to place. I’m glad it’s re-opening on the original location and not too bothered by it being in a new building (the old one was spectacularly uncomfortable) but I will miss going and sitting in the same booth I remembered from 34 years earlier.

8 new acoustic songs to start out your day

What are the chances that a particle collider’s strangelets will destroy the Earth?

“Johnson and Baram are concerned that these changes might increase the possibility that the collider will generate strangelets, hypothetical particles consisting of up, down, and strange quarks. Some hypotheses suggest that strangelet production could ignite a chain reaction converting everything into strange matter.” Leading to the Earth becoming “an inert hyperdense sphere about one hundred metres across.”

Great… and I thought I had enough to worry about.

An Art Deco Airplane!

Buggatti 100P (click to enlarge)

Buggatti 100P
(click to enlarge)

Our MISSION is to build and fly a replica of the Bugatti 100P, the most elegant and technologically-advanced airplane of its time

Our VISION is to recreate – and share with others – the brief period in the late 1930s when Ettore Bugatti and Louis de Monge collaborated to create this singularly unique airplane

Our VALUES include a commitment to honoring the memory of those who designed and built this plane

Buried House, Nasher XChange, Entry Five of Ten

Previously in the Nasher XChange series:

  1. Flock in Space, Nasher XChange, Entry One of Ten
  2. X , Nasher XChange, Entry Two of Ten
  3. Fountainhead , Nasher XChange, Entry Three of Ten
  4. Moore to the Point, Nasher XChange, Entry Four of Ten

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House
2226 Exeter Ave.
Oak Cliff Gardens

I began to feel old, out of shape, and drained as I worked my way north from Paul Quinn College to the third and final Nasher XChange exhibition on my bike ride through South Dallas. It was only a 12.5 mile ride – but these were tough miles. The last half of the route was hilly, the road was rough, and I had to stop every block, fighting my way through the traffic.

But once I rode up to Lara Almarcegui’s Buried House, I realized that here, more than any of the other sites, really begged to be seen by bicycle. I simply can’t imagine what it would be like to drive up to the now-vacant lot in an SUV, step out for a minute or two, then pile back in and drive home. It wouldn’t be the same… you would miss the point.

The work is meaningless without experiencing the surrounding neighborhood.

It is a tough part of town. The streets and sidewalks are in bad repair, cracked and heaving. Trash pickup is spotty at best. The modest homes are a varied melange – a torn up shack here, a burned hulk there, but there are also well-cared, decorated homes that are obviously a great source of pride to an unassuming owner.

And there were plenty of other vacant lots – most littered with junk and sprinkled with empty bottles.

You don’t see the details from a car… but you do from a tired, slow-moving bicycle.

Ironically, this is the second blog entry this February where I found myself taking a photo of a vacant lot. The other one, Arcady, was in the most tony enclave of Highland Park. That neighborhood is the polar opposite of the rugged Oak Cliff Gardens district where Buried House is located.

Destruction, renewal, the inevitable ultimate victory of chaos and entropy… rich and poor, our fate is already written.

After I left the site I had a a short ride on neighborhood streets until I reached the DART Kiest Station and after a short wait, caught the Blue Line downtown, where I switched to the Red line to Richardson and home.

Lara Almarcegui Buried House

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House

From the Nasher Website:

Buried House
2226 Exeter Ave.
Oak Cliff Gardens

The buried remains of a house offer an opportunity for reflection on the transition
and rebirth of one of Dallas’s oldest neighborhoods: Oak Cliff Gardens.
Almarcegui’s project for Nasher XChange, entitled Buried House, involves working with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity on a house in Southeast Dallas already slated for demolition. After the demolition is finished, the artist will bury the house’s remains on the property, creating a sort of memorial site that nonetheless retains the building’s actual substance and provides a “free space” for reflection on the neighborhood’s past, present and future.

Almarcegui is working in Oak Cliff Gardens, a neighborhood in East Oak Cliff, with a history almost as old as Dallas itself. Near the site of the first stop for stagecoaches headed out of Dallas for Central Texas, the area surrounding the intersection at Lancaster and Ann Arbor roads became the small town of Lisbon, which was in turn annexed by the city in 1929.

Today, Oak Cliff Gardens is a neighborhood in transition. Many derelict, often vacant, homes will undergo renovations, thanks to the help of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. These “wastelands” in the neighborhood embody a significant historical moment of possibility when anything might happen. Almarcegui hopes to draw attention to this area and make people in Dallas aware of its rich and varied character, before it is changed forever.

From Google Maps Streetview - what the house looked like before the demolition.

From Google Maps Streetview – what the house looked like before the demolition.


Lara Almarcegui Buried House

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House

Label Text:

Lara Almarcegui
Buried House, 2013
Demolished and buried house

Born in Spain and based in The Netherlands, Lara Almarcegui brings attention to places most people pass without noticing, such as derelict, abandoned buildings and seemingly vacant plots of land.
Working in environments and places in the midst of transformation, Almarcegui researches and documents them, developing unconventional and creative ways of drawing attention to them. As her contribution to Nasher XChange, Almarceguui has worked with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity to locate a house already slated for demolition. After the demolition, she buried the house’s remains on the property. As the artist has explained, “This project is a sculptural work that is about the construction that used to stand, the history of the house and how it was erected. However it’s not just about the house, but about the past of the terrain and the future of the terrain. It is a work about construction and urban development.”