What I learned this week, April, 30, 2017

When Squirrels Were One of America’s Most Popular Pets


Restaurants in my Hood

BigDash Ice Cream & Pastries, 717 Lingco Drive, Richardson. If you’ve never tried Syrian sweets before, your’e in luck; the friendly folks at BigDash will fill you up with pistachio-laden ice cream and gorgeous crepes.

 

Bubba’s Cooks Country, 6617 Hillcrest Ave. It doesn’t get much more laid-back than this. With art deco decor, silky gravy and killer chicken fingers, Bubba’s is a prime date night destination for anyone looking to keep it simple this year.

 

SpicyZest, 13920 Josey Lane, Farmers Branch. DFW’s lone Sri Lankan restaurant is in Farmers Branch, and if your sweetheart loves to spice things up, this fiery fare will do the trick.

 

Desta, 12101 Greenville Ave. Ethiopia’s flavorful fare is well represented in DFW, and for someone who’s never experienced injera before, an Ethiopian meal can be especially fun. Try a beginner-friendly spot like Desta.

 


I link to this site in my sidebar, but I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. When I need a bit of entertainment or inspiration, I go there and click “Random”

But Does It Float


What would happen if we killed all the mosquitoes?


I really enjoy this video, and so should you.

One Star Amazon Reviews of Cloud Atlas

One of the soul’s great tragedies is to execute a work and then realize, once it’s finished, that it’s not any good. The tragedy is especially great when one realizes that the work is the best he could have done. But to write a work, knowing beforehand that it’s bound to be flawed and imperfect; to see while writing it that it’s flawed and imperfect – this is the height of spiritual torture and humiliation. Not only am I dissatisfied with the poems I write now; I also know that I’ll be dissatisfied with the poems I write in the future.

All we can be certain of when we write is that we write badly; the only great and perfect works are the ones we never dream of realizing.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Falling Water Fountain, Dallas Arboretum

I read somewhere where someone had listed a bunch of one-star Amazon reviews of one of their favorite books. Interesting. “Cloud Atlas” is one of my favorites… one that comes to mind. I loved it and was enthralled. However, I can imagine it isn’t for everyone.

And I am right.

Avoid it if you value your time
Cloud Atlas is one of those book you just drag yourself through page after page waiting for them to get interesting only it never does. It just drags and and drags and drags. It has these stories that never really come to a conclusion and are totally unrelated which are tied together by a flimsy piece of twine ready to snap at the first breeze.

I had to “slog” through it…
I read a lot of fiction, and this is the worst book I’ve read in a long time. The plot (was there one?) was impossible for me to follow. The book did not ” flow” either. I really did not like this book and only finished reading it to see if it would “take off”, which it never did.

Could not get past the first 200 pages
I have previously read two Mitchell books and liked them both, to a degree, but this one just bored me to tears in its first 200 pages. Maybe the stories conclude in the second half, but who cares? There is not one character in the first four stories that even remotely interests me. And the minutia of dialog and detail is downright tedious. Life is too short to waste hours on a book that just doesn’t make any sense for hundreds of pages. Sorry, but awards aside, this one really is a gimmick in search of a plot.

Not worth the read
While I did enjoy the overall arch of the story and how all of the characters interacted with each other, portions of this story dragged on a bit. I kept reading under the general impression that it would get better, but it did not.

Very tough to read, even harder to like
The story, which is not very interesting, is written in the first person. This means the dialogue is not easy to follow. But, this is probably good because the language changes with the time period of the main character. The 18th century language at least made sense, but when the story moves into the apocalyptic future and the author presents future dialects the language becomes nonsense.

The world is dying, but we never find out why. The big revelation is that some people will treat other people badly if it makes their life easier. Still this could have been interesting if there was a single character I could identify with. For me this story is a lot like The Road, a grim tribulation for the reader.

waste of time
So…I bought this book because I hated the movie so much. But they made a movie out of it, after all, so I figured there must be something to it that just didn’t translate well into film.

Well, I was wrong. I knew in the first 90 seconds into this book that it was unreadable. Still, I soldiered ahead, thinking maybe it was just one of those books that takes a while to get into. Nope. I’m still angry that I wasted an entire night trying to slog through this mess. Thank goodness it was only one night of psychological torture.

Loved it….at first
I was very excited to get Cloud Atlas for my Kindle. Dived right in and loved the first third of the book. Extraordinary writing; Mitchell was weaving a spellbinding tale. Then I hit “the wall” with the chapter on Sonmi. The book turned toward preachiness and difficult-to-follow language and structure. I saw where it was going so I slogged through the chapter hoping for better. The next chapter was worse, mega-preachy and really hard to follow. It was like Mitchell put down a challenge to readers to get through it, and while he was at it bludgeoned us with stuff that made me feel like I was sitting through a basic, and boring, philosophy class. I skimmed that chapter, then gave up. Made it about halfway through, but by that time I didn’t care how it ended. Sorry Mr. Mitchell.

Waste of TimeI have read a few really bad books in my day and this one is one of the worst. The author writes like Herman Melville with a very bad case of ADD. I knew about the multiple stories and the time periods covered prior to starting the book and I expected it to be a difficult just because of this ambitious goal. What I did not expect was the multiple thoughts and vectors the author would take in the same paragraph throughout the book. It was extremely difficult to follow mainly because the book is written so poorly. It wasn’t a bad story and it seems that the author had great intentions with the story line, but the writing style is so bad that it completely detracts from the story and makes the book impossible to enjoy. There is a lot of detail and a great deal of description, but in far too many paragraphs throughout the book, the author goes from one thought to another, one time period to another, one character to another and these numerous vectors within the same paragraph are extremely hard to follow. Especially when the author makes no attempt to tie his thoughts together in the ensuing paragraphs.

One of the Worst Recommendations I’ve Received
I almost put this book down I was so frustrated with it. The only thing it has going for it is that the author successfully writes in six different styles, all accurate to the time period the stories are set in. However, I feel that it is poorly written and poorly executed. The idea of splitting the six stories in half and having them “fold in on each other” sounded clever when it was explained to me, but reading it was a different matter entirely. Since the stories were split up I lost interest in the characters and had a hard time remembering who was who when I got back to the second half of the stories. Many of the characters are stupid or unsympathetic. Also, the whole idea of reincarnation, which is supposed to drive this book, really fails in the stories. The Warner Brothers site claims that the book/movie “explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future.” But, the characters do not impact the lives of their future reincarnations at all. They learn absolutely nothing from their past experiences. Also, at one point near the end of the novel the author flat out explains his title to the reader, even though it was already abundantly obvious (to anyone with a brain) why he named it Cloud Atlas. If you have to explain the title of the novel within the novel you have failed. If you have to outright ask your reader whether your title is “revolutionary or gimmicky” the answer is already pretty obvious.

It’s too late to get a refund
It makes no sense, it’s impossible to follow, the stories aren’t interesting enough to keep reading. And now I’ve let too much time pass and I can’t get my money back. I’m only 8% into the book and can’t even imagine continuing and I read all of the Game of Thrones books! And I hated them, too, but at least there was a story.
Oh well – I fell for the Tom Hanks/Halle Berry movie trailer – at least I won’t waste my money on the movie. Sheesh – Penny Marshall and Cloud Atlas at the same time. I must be losing my mind……….

Clous Atlas
What a piece of crap. I read relentlessly and this is the most unreadable piece of drivel I have run across in a long while. It makes “Atlas Shrugged” seem like “Fun with Dick and Jane”. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.

Writing Prompt

At other times I find pages that I not only don’t remember having written, which in itself doesn’t astonish me, but that I don’t even remember having been capable of writing, which terrifies me.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Newspaper taped to a window, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Women Trampled as 26 Manhole Covers Burst

Shoppers Flee Terror-Stricken as Sky is Alight With Flame; Windows Shattered for Blocks

Hubert hated being the intern. Of course, he would be the one that the editor ordered back to the scene of the explosion, after all the excitement had died down, “Get the Hell back there and you count every one of those manholes!” the editor screamed, turning a deep shade of beet red. “I want to know if it was five or five hundred…. and be exact! And no Goddamn Lollygaggin’!”

Everyone in the newroom laughed at Hubert as he hung his head and slumped toward the door.

“Be sure and count them exact! Har! Har!” smirked Simpson from his typewriter. Hubert ignored him but glanced at the copy as he trudged by, “Injured, cut, and bloodstained…” was all he had typed.

What a crappy day – they would all be writing lurid copy while he was out counting manholes… getting them exact.

———–

“Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen….” Hubert counted as he walked along the street. He carried a small notepad and a pencil that he had pulled down from his hat, labelled “Daily Digest” after the paper he interned for.

“Hey, you! Are you a newspaperman?”

The loud, sharp, and unexpected voice broke his concentration, but he was able to scribble down a quick “19” before he forgot and had to start over.

“Not exactly,” Hubert started to reply, “I’m an inter….” Then he looked up to see what he was sure was the most beautiful woman he had seen in his life striding toward him. “Ummm, I’m the head reporter for the Daily Digest,” tapping his hat, “I’m down here to find out what happened today.”

(and at this point I had to go, maybe I’ll write more later)

Phosphorescent Squid

“The soft black talc blew through the streets like squid ink uncoiling along a sea floor and the cold crept down and the dark came early and the scavengers passing down the steep canyons with their torches trod silky holes in the drifted ash that closed behind them silently as eyes.”
—- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Dallas Zoo

There were some rare phosphorescent squid on display at the Dallas Zoo in the tunnel under the DART rail tracks. The poor creatures were hung on racks, strung up with monofilament fishline and flimsy hollow plastic poles. Their huge eyes, used to the inky blackness of the Stygian depths, stared featureless out at the crowd… at the children who screamed and taunted them.

“I WANT one Daddy!” they yelled. Apparently, desperate for funds in this day of official austerity, the zoo is actually hawking these fellows, to raise a needed buck or two.

The brats danced their frenzied waltz of greed in a rough circle around the squid while their procreators stood, horrified, trying to defend their wallets. I could bear no more of this scene and walked on to view some pachyderms.

Later in the day, as I was leaving, I spotted a limp, disconsolate squid being shoved into an open trunk door. It phosphorescent glow all but extinguished doomed to a long uncomfortable trip and a short demeaning captive life after.

I saluted the poor, hopeless beast and turned to board my train.

Crash

A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status — all these in one event. I myself see the car crash as a tremendous sexual event really: a liberation of human and machine libido (if there is such a thing).
—-J. G. Ballard

Deep Ellum, Texas

I saw something very strange on the drive in to work today. To see something, anything, different along the route I drive every morning, have for well over three thousand times now, is strange in and of itself… to see something strange is double strange.

First, I remember moving to Texas. Like anyplace that is of itself, Texas has a few things to get used to – two driving things, for example.

First, people park facing the wrong way on residential streets all the time. Anywhere else – this will get you towed immediately… in Texas, it makes no difference – half the cars are on the left hand side.

Second, people run lights. I remember moving here, hitting a yellow and going, thinking to myself, “Wow, that was close, probably should have stopped.” Then I would look in my mirror and a half dozen cars would be running through after me.

The other side is when that light turns green, don’t jump out right away, wait for everyone to come to a stop.

At any rate, I was on my way to work (had some equipment to haul and was driving instead of riding my bike) and waiting at a long, busy red light… you know the one, the one at Grove and Centennial , with the McDonald’s and the Chilly Mart across from me. The light turned red as I arrived, so I was the first one in the ever-growing line, waiting for the light to change.

The cross light went from red to yellow to green and I looked up to make sure the traffic was stopped. A small black car was approaching on my left with a huge dumptruck behind. I assumed both would run through, so I waited. To my surprise, the small car braked hard and stopped at the light – I think there was a little brake squeal.

The truck behind didn’t expect him to stop, and plowed right into the rear of the car. It had one of those huge steel bumpers, set high, and completely smashed in the trunk of the car. There was that POP-Bang-Crunch of metal rending in a crash. The impact pushed the little car through the intersection like a pebble from a slingshot. As it passed in front of me, I thought, “Good, it is past the intersection, I can drive through, I won’t be late for work.”

Then came the strange part.

The car never stopped. It just kept on driving. Because I was first in line I could see around the bend to the right for quite a distance, maybe half a mile, and the car didn’t slow down – it simply sped away. I guess the high bumper on the truck smashed in the trunk without damaging the wheels or anything important, as far as moving goes.
The car disappeared around the curve and I turned back to see the truck – it didn’t have a scratch. That huge slab of rusty steel bumper looked indestructible. There was a surprisingly small amount of debris in the intersection… my light was green… I couldn’t think of any reason not to… so I drove through and went to work.

So why did the car drive away like that? The accident was 100% the fault of the truck and it was a commercial vehicle – basically, insurance would buy the guy a new car.

I can only think of a few possibilities.

One, the car was stolen… but I don’t think that would happen at that hour of the morning.

The most probable reason was the driver had warrants and didn’t want to deal with the cops.

Or maybe the driver was a complete idiot and didn’t realize the rear of his car was smashed in like that (doesn’t make sense, I know).

All in all, a pretty strange thing to watch on a morning commute.

The Effort of the Frogs

We may know that the work we continue to put off doing will be bad. Worse, however, is the work we never do. A work that’s finished is at least finished. It may be poor, but it exists, like the miserable plant in the lone flowerpot of my neighbour who’s crippled. That plant is her happiness, and sometimes it’s even mine. What I write, bad as it is, may provide some hurt or sad soul a few moments of distraction from something worse. That’s enough for me, or it isn’t enough, but it serves some purpose, and so it is with all of life.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Frog Fountain, Dallas Arboretum

Day after day, the frogs threw out the water, tirelessly. Mostly for the amusement of children on hot summer days, the water still flowed on overcast afternoons when nobody was there to see it. Only on the rare forecast of freezing did the caretaker turn the brass valve that stopped the arching torrent. On those days, the frogs rested.

Trypophobia

Whenever we feel fear, it means we’re up against some kind of wall … on the other side of the wall is some kind of freedom.
—-Leo Babauta, A Guide to Fear Mastery

Lotus seed head, The Buddhist Center of Dallas – Watdallas

Does this photograph make you uneasy? Does your skin crawl?

Lookout, you might have Trypophobia… the mysterious “fear of holes”

I first heard of Trypophobia talking to a sculptor that I like and how the small holes in his work sometimes set off fear and revulsion in his wife. He even had a little monster head in a box named “Trypophobia.”

Of course, I had to do some web-searching and research. I discovered that the whole “fear of holes” thing is a product of the internet – a mental disease spread (and maybe caused) by people sharing images that made them uneasy. Sure enough, the more I looked at these things, the more uneasy I felt looking at them. I was acquiring my own fear of holes.

Luckily, I stopped looking and the unease went away.

There is some thought that Trypophobia is different than other phobias. The idea is that there is a natural reason behind the fear, that our ancestors had reasons to avoid animals that appeared this way — clusters of holes may cause fear because they share visual cues with animals or objects that humans learned to avoid as a matter of survival.

Is this true? Is Batman a Transvestite? Who knows.

It’s still sort of interesting, though.

from
Are You Afraid of Holes
Scientific American
By William Skaggs on March 1, 2014

In the early 2000s many Internet users bonded over their common aversion to pictures that showed clustered arrays of small holes, such as a beehive or even the popped bubbles on the uncooked top of a pancake. For almost a decade “trypophobia,” literally “fear of holes,” was nothing more than an Internet phenomenon, but finally researchers have found evidence of its validity and investigated its possible cause.

The story begins with the growth of online image sharing; soon many people realized they shared a revulsion that could reach the level of nausea to photographs of clusters of holes. The term “trypophobia” appears to have been coined by an unidentified Irish woman in a post on a Web forum in 2005. The idea went viral: self-identified trypophobics formed a Facebook group, created an eponymous Internet domain and posted informational YouTube videos. A Wikipedia article was repeatedly created and repeatedly deleted for lack of reliable sources.

Four years ago two psychologists at the University of Essex in England, Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins, decided to research the phenomenon. They showed a picture of a lotus seed head—anecdotally a potent trigger of the phobia—to 286 adults aged 18 to 55 years old. Eleven percent of men and 18 percent of women described the seed head as “uncomfortable or even repulsive to look at,” indicating a level of revulsion on par with phobia.

Cole and Wilkins theorized that the visual structure of the image causes at least part of the unease. They analyzed a set of aversion-inducing photographs and images of holes that did not trigger trypophobia and found that most of the disagreeable pictures shared an underlying mathematical structure that incorporates small, high-contrast features such as dots or stripes. This spectral pattern is seen in the skin coloration of many species of dangerous or poisonous animals; past studies have found that most people find this pattern uncomfortable to look at. Indeed, a variety of images taken from the Web site trypophobia.com produced discomfort in a group of 20 people who did not have the full-blown phobia.