What I learned this week, May 2, 2014

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

People from the Seersucker Ride at Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

7 Reasons Bikes Are for Everyone—Not Just “Cyclists”

Don’t let the spandex-clad iron men scare you off! Here are seven reasons why all types of people are biking to work—and why cities are encouraging them.

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

Waiting for a flat to get fixed.

Dallas’ downtown has improved so much over the last few years – it’s become a cool place. It still has a long way to go, and it still has a bad reputation as a giant desert of concrete, steel, and glass. However, the “best” downtown isn’t very far away.

America’s 10 Best Downtowns for 2014, According to Livability

On the other hand….

Paradise lost: The most exciting house in Dallas is gone. A preservationist and a photographer have questions.


I have written before about how beautiful old homes get torn down for awful modern mansions.

4320 Arcady, Highland Park, Texas - a few months ago

4320 Arcady, Highland Park, Texas – a few months ago

4320 Arcady, now

4320 Arcady, now

Global Beat: Alfonso Lovo


10Best: Weird & Interesting Public Art

A familiar buddy from Deep Ellum made the list of weird and interesting public art. Cool.



Forrest Gump by Wes Anderson

Here are the opening credits to the movie Forrest Gump if Wes Anderson had directed it.

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Why It Makes Sense To Bike Without a Helmet

A very interesting article, although I disagree with his conclusion. I am opposed to mandatory helmet laws but I personally (almost) always wear a helmet.

His argument that ten times more head injuries occur in cars is not a valid one – because there are probably a thousand times more miles driven in cars than on bikes. Also, the argument that helmets reduce the cycling rate is valid from a public policy perspective, but not a personal one. Once you are used to wearing one, it is not a detriment. The argument that a helmet increases risky riding – I think it’s the other way around. Cyclists that engage in risky riding (fast, extreme off-road, heavy traffic) tend to wear helmets, not the other way around.

Now, the idea that cars will come closer to a cyclist with a helmet is interesting – but not strong enough for me to offset the 85% reduction in head injuries. Personally, I made the decision to always wear a helmet thirty years ago. At that time, I had a cyclometer on my bike and I was going down a long, steep hill on a light narrow-tired road bike and the reading hit forty-five miles per hour. I realized that a pebble in the road would be a fatal accident. Now that I think about it, I wear a helmet not so much as protection from cars (those will be bad no matter what) but as a protection from simply falling and hitting my head on a curb or something.

Now, the idea of wearing a helmet while driving or riding in a car is an interesting one. That’s something I could support.


Tenth of December

Almost a year ago, for the month of June, I read and wrote about a short story every day, for the entire month. I’m collecting online stories again this year (already close to the requisite thirty) – though I haven’t decided whether to do the same thing again.

Any suggestions or feedback would be greatly appreciated. Si o No.

On Day 7 of last year I read and wrote about the story Sea Oak, by George Saunders. It made me want to read more. I have just finished a long, interesting, but somewhat repetitive tome and wanted something shorter and lighter. So I picked up a book of George Saunders short stories in a digital loan from my library. It was the collection Tenth of December – and has been almost universally praised, often listed as one of the best books of last year.

And it did not disappoint.

First of all, though, the negative. George Saunders has a great skill – an innovative way – with words. Sometimes it feels as if he is showing off. Unusual forms, unexpected voices, mannered style – it’s all here and may be layered a little thick. I can see why the jaded literati have are so enamored – he can be challenging. In a few places I wanted to tell him to simply get on with it.

But, still, the stories had heart. The true judge of a work is whether or not you care about the characters and in these stories you do. They will break you in unexpected places and in an unanticipated fashion.

Back to the style. One technique that he uses to devastating effect is to tell a story from several points of view – from characters that are about to intersect in surprising ways. He uses this technique to illustrate how completely different the world is seen by different people. He exposes the little lies everyone tells themselves… simply to get through the day.

The first story in the collection uses this technique in triplicate. A popular girl, an unpopular boy, and a meter reader with bad intentions all tell their own stories in their own voices, observing each other under harrowing circumstances. A delicate structure, but one of great strength.

Another story – this one available online from the New Yorker, Puppy – uses the same technique for two women. They observe and are observed by each other and both found lacking – though they both are doing the best they can.

The title story – also available online, Tenth of December – has a young boy living in a fantasy world inside his head and an older man with a big problem intersecting on a freezing mountainside. Each has no idea of the others plight but are able to arrive at an understanding in the end.

Arguably the oddest, and possible the most powerful story, the The Semplica-Girl DiariesRead it here, too, courtesy of the New Yorker – is written as a diary from a father to future generations. The jarring language and constant use of abbreviations makes it a hard read (I was halfway through before I figured out what “SG” meant) but by the end you realize it is worth the effort. A devastating comment on consumer culture, international capitalism, and exploitation of third world workers – all disguised as a diary of a father trying to have a nice birthday party for his little girl.

So, there are three stories you can read online. If you like them, get the book – it’s worth it.
And those are three more stories I can’t use for my month of short stories in June, if I decide to do that.

Don’t worry, there are more where those came from.