Kaleidoscopes (yes that’s the official term for a group of butterflies) of monarchs are continuing to make their annual spring migration from Mexico to North Texas this month and Richardson’s five dedicated butterfly gardens where you can view them.
The city’s butterfly gardens are located in the Durham, Collins, Berkner, Yale and Prairie Creek parks. Butterfly-friendly plants are also found in the landscaping of CityLine and Fox Creek parks.
Despite the harsh winter weather in February, the plants are flourishing, the city said in a prepared statement.
Richardson participates in the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, which is designed to help preserve the orange-and-black winged beauties. Pledge communities commit to create habitat for the monarch butterfly and other pollinators, and to educate residents about how they can make a difference at home, the city said.
Richardson joined the program in 2015 and since then the parks and recreation department has planted butterfly-friendly native plants in all new parks.
Delightful smells of flour, butter and sugar from Mrs. Baird’s baking plant filled the intersection of Mockingbird Lane and Central Expressway for almost 50 years.
But in 2001, the North Texas queen of bread closed down. What once was a highly efficient plant is now a Southern Methodist University data center and tennis complex.
The bakery’s absence left one reader asking Curious Texas: “Whatever happened to Mrs. Baird’s Bread?”
Executives made the decision to close the Dallas factory because its location didn’t allow much room for growth.
I have strong memories of the old Mrs. Baird’s bread factory at Mockingbird and 75.
In early 2001, during a difficult time, I took the kids (then nine and ten years old) with some of their friends down there for a tour of the factory. I didn’t realize that it would be gone in a few months.
From my journal –
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Bowling and fresh bread
After the bowling, we drove down into Dallas for a prearranged tour of the Mrs. Baird’s bread factory. They make white sandwich bread and powdered sugar donuts. I’m not sure if the kids learned anything, but I thought it was pretty cool. I liked the giant pans of dough.
They gave us samples to try right off the line. The donuts were hot and crunchy and a lot better than when you buy them at a gas station or something. Then we came to the ovens, and the tour guide pulled a fresh loaf right off the line, sliced it, slathered it with some butter, and let each of us eat a chunk. I’m not a huge fan of regular sliced white bread, but this – hot, fresh, and fragrant – was delicious. I wonder what they do after they wrap the bread to make it so bland.
The tour was over pretty quickly, only about a half hour. The kids were given presents – paper hats, brochures, and bags of sugared mini donuts. I loaded six into the MiniVan and proceeded to make a wrong route decision and drove right into a big traffic jam.
Stuck in city traffic with a van full of kids eating donuts is not a fun thing. Luckily, I was able to bail off the freeway and wind my way home by the back roads without much trouble. Still, the seats had a thick coating of powdered sugar before we made it home.
I still remember the taste of those donuts and the fresh bread. It was so, so much better than the plastic wrapped product peddled over the next few days in the stores. I always think they had a room full of giant evil flavor-removing machines hidden away somewhere.
There was another time, a couple of years earlier, that I learned something about that bread factory. I was at a meeting on the air pollution – specifically the high ozone levels of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Ground level ozone is a complex phenomena which is mostly generated by the mixture of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds – mostly solvents, like gasoline), Nitrogen Oxides, and sunlight which causes the normal O2 to convert into the toxic and unstable O3. – EPA page on Ground-level Ozone
I was at the conference talking to the guy next to me.
“I work for Mrs. Baird’s,” he said.
“The bread company? Surely you don’t have any air pollution.”
“No, you’re wrong. Every day we make hundreds of tons of bread dough. The yeast gives out a tremendous amount of ethanol, which evaporates in the ovens. It’s all VOC and we are have a terrible problem complying with the air pollution regulations.”
The newspaper article talks about running out of space – but I know a big reason the plant closed (and production moved to a more rural – and ozone compliant area) is the air pollution caused by the rising bread. You always think of pollution being caused by giant, ugly factories – but it can come from something as simple and necessary as baking bread.
“one captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duelist at his foe, blindly seeking with a six-inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That captain was Ahab.” ― Herman Melville
Last week, we took our first traveling vacation as an entire family (plus two dogs) in quite a while. We rented a cabin outside of Hot Springs Arkansas. It was a nice and relaxing few days.
But there was this sign on the highway leading to where we were staying. That has to be the worst name for an establishment, even one as lowly as a bait shop, that I have ever seen.
And Jeez, look at the size of and expression on that worm.
Labor well the minute particulars, take care of the little ones He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars General Good is the plea of the Scoundrel Hypocrite and Flatterer For Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particulars —-William Blake
I have no idea how I stumbled across what I stumbled across – but that is the way of the internet. I was surfing around looking at information/hints/tips on creativity and writing poetry. I found a reference to a list of writing inspiration by Allen Ginsberg. It was called Mind Writing Slogans and was a collection of eight four quotes from various writers (including himself) or philosophers that have some applicability or inspiration to modern poetry.
Trying to track down a clean version of this list I came across a larger work. It was called Poetics Practicum and contained the Mind Writing Slogans as part of the text.
The document seems to be something that Allen Ginsberg cobbled together from a number of sources to use as a text in his college poetry classes. There is a lot of cool, useful, and informational stuff in there. It’s not in the best format – but I like the ragged typography and mixed-up sources… makes it friendlier.
So I’m going to keep this document handy and look at it when I need some inspiration. There is a lot I can learn.
But more importantly… shouldn’t I make up something like that myself? I can imagine I’m teaching a class in something… something other than chemistry. Then I could make up my own brochure – a ragged list of lists – to put into print and commit to paper some words of wisdom that I can make my own.
“This sounded the death knell of small family businesses, soon to be followed by the disappearance of the individual entrepreneur, gobbled up one by one by the increasingly hungry ogre of capitalism, and drowned by the rising tide of large companies.” ― Émile Zola, Germinal
La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)
For all of 2021 I’ve been reading Germinal – reading too slow – I haven’t been reading enough. Over the last few days, however, I took a few days of vacation with the family in Hot Springs Arkansas, and that gave me the time to finish the book.
Germinal is generally considered Zola’s masterpiece and is the most popular of all the volumes in Les Rougon-Macquart cycle. It is the story of the terrible conditions in the coal mines of France during the Second Empire (set in the 1860s). It’s protagonist is Étienne Lantier, the son of Gervaise from L’Assommoir and the brother of Jacques Lantier from La Bête Humaine and Claude Lantier from L’Œuvre. Étienne suffers from the family malady of drunkenness and fits of violent madness, but balances that with a sharp mind and a truly caring spirit.
Suffering from a business slump the owners of the mines keep reducing the pay of the colliers in the pits until they can barely feed themselves. There is a strike, which does not go well for anybody.
The story is truly heartbreaking, both in the terrible conditions in the mine and associated villages – plus the inevitable doom as they all go on strike.
One overarching theme is the philosophical battle between capitalism and socialism (in several various flavors). Zola spills a lot of ink contrasting the struggles of the mine workers with the lavish lifestyle of the bourgeoisie living off their investments in the mines. It is well done and absolutely heartbreaking.
It is interesting to read a book about socialist and communist ideals written in 1885 – long before Stalin, Mao, or Castro. Despite the terrible horrors of the strike there is still a youthful optimism about the struggles that were to come.
Zola ends the novel on a note of hope:
Beneath the blazing of the sun, in that morning of new growth, the countryside rang with song, as its belly swelled with a black and avenging army of men, germinating slowly in its furrows, growing upwards in readiness for harvests to come, until one day soon their ripening would burst open the earth itself.
One other point that I have learned reading the entire Zola cycle is the importance of a good, modern translation. When I started I thought I’d read the free, Project Gutenberg ebook editions. However, those are contemporary and highly bowdlerized translations. I actually read Germinal… maybe forty years ago, in one of those versions and barely remember it. This time I bought the Oxford’s World Classic edition, translated by Peter Collier – and it is an amazing, modern, memorable translation. I highly recommend it (though there are probably other modern translations as good).
I also see that there are several film editions of Germinal. A fairly recent French version is available to stream and I’ll see if I can set aside some time in the next few days to watch it.
Otherwise, it’s on to the next book, Nana. This is about the half-sister of Étienne Lantier and her decent through the underbelly of sexual exploitation in Paris. It’s another one that I read a long, long, time ago and am looking to revisiting a better translation.
It’ll be slow, though. My Difficult Reads Book Club is about to embark on Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 – which will be a good bit of work.
“The ambiguous role of the car crash needs no elaboration—apart from our own deaths, the car crash is probably the most dramatic event in our lives, and in many cases the two will coincide. Aside from the fact that we generally own or are at the controls of the crashing vehicle, the car crash differs from other disasters in that it involves the most powerfully advertised commercial product of this century, an iconic entity that combines the elements of speed, power, dream and freedom within a highly stylized format that defuses any fears we may have of the inherent dangers of these violent and unstable machines.” ― J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition
Blonde in a Black Corvette
The traffic was the worst Earl had ever seen… and he had seen a lot of really bad traffic. He made the decision to bail off the freeway but he was sleepy and distracted by a stalled bus, made a mistake and found himself forced back on; merging back into the wide endless molasses-slow river of brakelights.
He spent a long, long time behind a blonde driving a black Corvette convertible. Her hair was long and she brushed it for what seemed like twenty minutes. She took some phone calls and worked on her makeup – it looked like she put new blush on and redid her mascara. Her car had giant rectangular exhausts – dual. They belched blue exhaust smoke. The license plates were temporary – dealer’s plates. It was cold and drizzly outside – her fabric top was up. Finally, Earl reached the next exit down and was able to bail. She pulled out before him, turned right and sped away. Earl drove a lot slower than she did, especially in the morning – going to work.
In less than a minute she was gone, moving past a curve through a fog of exhaust smoke.
“Home is a notion that only nations of the homeless fully appreciate and only the uprooted comprehend.”
― Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, September 5, 2002:
I was walking along Mockingbird back to the train, dodging the heavy rush-hour traffic when I noticed a chunk of gravel arcing overhead and bouncing down into the street. As I watched, a couple others followed it, one hitting asphalt, but the other pinging off of an expensive SUV. I looked closer and saw a homeless man in the center of a clump of bushes. There was a big transformer in there (probably related to the electric train) and the guy had a bed made up next to it. He was really pissed off at a crow sitting on the wires overhead, and was cursing, screaming, and throwing gravel at it. Of course, the gravel was missing the bird and landing out in the traffic.
I tried to think of what to do – but luckily, the bird flew away and the man immediately stretched out and went back to sleep.
All I could do was shake my head and go back and catch my train.
“Aimless extension of knowledge, however, which is what I think you really mean by the term curiosity, is merely inefficiency. I am designed to avoid inefficiency.”
― Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel
From my old journal, The Daily Epiphany, February 15, 1999:
Shit, what a long, tiring day. Oh, look at the top of the page, it’s a Monday. No wonder.
I sat the morning through a two hour Lotus Notes class, a professional trainer, twenty years younger than me explained in excruciating detail everything I already knew and displayed his ability to scrunch up his nose when I asked a question.
Meanwhile, the hourly folks in the class had a lot of trouble. I really felt sorry for them, the instructor would rattle off, “click here, go back, minimize.” He would always say click when he should have said double click. Not that the poor hourly guys can double click anyway. They are used to terminal emulators with tacked up dog-eared Xerox copies of lists of odd key combinations. They’ll be alright, they’ll get gooey eventually. Those tough callused hands trying to push a mouse around, that look of confusion; it’s a difficult world.
I spent most of the class leaning slightly forward with my eyes closed rubbing the corners of my lids.
The rest of the workday was meetings. More lid-rubbing.
I didn’t really do anything, did I? I sure was exhausted when I came home. My head was splitting, my right ear isn’t working again, I should have gone to a cycling class, but I booted. I should have played with the kids, worked on the garage, written some stuff, read some chapters, but I didn’t.
All I managed to do was flounder around horizontally, watching some sports on TV.
And rubbing the corners of my eyelids ’til the headache finally went away.