What I learned this week, April 29, 2022

A duck at dawn, Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

Massive Study Finds We Need Better Therapies Than Antidepressants. Here’s Why

Antidepressants are the mainstay for treating depression, but their use is clouded by questions about lasting efficacy. A new study now suggests antidepressants may not improve people’s quality of life in the long run, compared to depressed people who don’t take this type of medication.


Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

Global Stagflation

Technology-led disinflation will not shelter us from a storm of fast rising prices amid economic slowdowns

Stagflation is staring Biden in the face — but he refuses to change course

There are two ways to address inflation: Remove some of the money from the system, which the Federal Reserve did in the past via higher interest rates, and increase the supply of goods. At this point in 1980, when inflation soared, the federal funds rate was nearly 20%. Presently, it’s 0.33%.


Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Princeton investigating head of gerrymandering lab for possible data manipulation

Princeton University is investigating Professor Sam Wang, the head of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project over allegations of data manipulation and complaints that he created a hostile working environment. Wang is a neuroscientist who in recent years has turned his statistical talents to polling analysis and redistricting. Now there are allegations that he was essentially cooking the books.


How to Organize Your Life

10 principles for organizing your work, home, health, fitness, hobbies, finances, and more…


David, by Boaz Vaadia, 2009, New York, Material: Bronze and Bluestone

For microorganisms to fighter jets – what does it take to thrive?

I was thinking about ‘Agile outside the agile box’ (what I’m calling for now “organizational fitness”) and the weird librarian part of my brain brought this up.


80% of All US Dollars in Existence Have Been Printed in Just the Last Two Years

Since March of 2020, Americans and the world alike have watched from the sidelines as power hungry politicians have ushered in draconian lockdowns, shutdowns, police state measures, and brought the economy to its knees. While governments around the planet used their central banks to devalue their currencies by printing money to fund their tyranny, the US led the way down this road to fiscal horror.


Sundance Square, Fort Worth, Texas

How William F. Buckley Learned That Evil Is Real

The moral of this tragic story is that people are often too trusting of criminals professing their innocence, and ignore the reality of human nature: Evil exists. Heinous crimes don’t commit themselves. Some people are capable of unspeakable acts. As hard as it may be to contemplate, murderers and other predators can be normal-looking, intelligent, and engaging! Nearly all criminals convicted of a crime are actually guilty. Juries do not generally convict arbitrarily. Instances of innocent people getting convicted (beyond a reasonable doubt) for a crime they didn’t commit are exceedingly rare. Offenders deserve to be punished. Exculpatory claims by prisoners—regardless of race—must be treated with skepticism. Yet, smart people sometimes get deceived by schemers like Smith. Why?


Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, She Titles the Email “Things are Moving Along” by Caitlin Scarano

“i made myself a snowball

As perfect as can be.

I thought I’d keep it as a pet,

And let it sleep with me.

I made it some pajamas

And a pillow for it’s head.

Then last night it ran away,

But first – It wet the bed.”

― Shel Silverstein

Cedars Open Studios 1805 Clarence Street Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday, August 23, 1998

hold the chicken

I had big plans for today. I wanted to get up extra early and go bike riding downtown. I wanted to spend several hours writing. I wanted to start on the garage enclosure project. I didn’t do any of that.

It was tough pulling myself out of bed. Tired and sore, I flopped around the house, getting nothing done. I couldn’t even get up enough energy to scrub out K’nex and Mortimer’s (pronounced More-Timer) aquarium, and I feel bad about that. They do seem to perk up when I clean their little world.

Before I even knew what hit me, it was early afternoon and the kids had a birthday party to go to. Our Sunday volleyball games were scheduled for today too, so the plan was for me to make a token appearance at the birthday party (held at KidsQuest, a local park) and then head out to our friend’s house with some food.

When I showed up, though, the kids had other plans. There is a little triangle of dense woods and it was insisted by the under-ten set that I take them all on a hike through the trees. So I did. Rambling down the rough trails with a dozen little ones. The copse is usually thick and green, cool and humid, but the summer drought has taken its toll. The trees have lost most of their leaves and what is left is droopy and thin, the trails are wide and dry-packed.

We looped around through the faux wilderness for awhile and then I returned them all to the party and slipped off during the Opening of the Gifts.

It was fun to play volleyball again, we haven’t been able to get it in for several weeks. It was too hot, of course, and there was no breeze, and with the school year here, we all had to go home early, so we didn’t play as many games as usual. That’s fine, maybe I’ll be able to type this week, the last time I hurt my hands and arms enough to pain me for ten days.

Now it’s late, the TV’s on. I was going to write an entry about how I didn’t get anything done today, but I guess, looking back, I actually did something. Still, I sit here, the specter of the upcoming work week bearing down, I wish I had more time.

…. Right there, I took a pause, Five Easy Pieces is on the tube, Jack Nicholson is badgering the waitress, trying to get toast with his omelet. I love that scene. For all his rebellion, though, he never did get his toast.

It comes to that, doesn’t it. Do you want to rebel, or do you just want to eat some breakfast.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

She Titles the Email “Things are Moving Along” by Caitlin Scarano

from Brevity

Caitlin Scarano Homepage

Short Story of the Day, Flash Fiction, Letting Go of the Dream by Pam Walters

“The toaster (lacking real bread) would pretend to make two crispy slices of toast. Or, if the day seemed special in some way, it would toast an imaginary English muffin.”
― Thomas M. Disch, The Brave Little Toaster

Cook throwing dough at Serious Pizza, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Monday November 06, 2000

Tropical

I woke up and lay there in bed, in the darkness. Thinking it was time to go to work I craned to look at the clock, but it was only three AM. While I restlessly padded around the dark and quiet house the dog looked at me through half-lidded eyes before he sighed and went back to sleep, convinced I wasn’t up to anything interesting. I tried the TV – they were selling kitchen appliances, loading whole chickens into rotisserie grills. The audience ooohed and aaahed. They couldn’t believe the price.

This wasn’t working so I gulped down a glass of milk and went back to bed. I curled up with stress, worrying about the upcoming workday – things I needed to do and don’t know how I’ll get done. My stomach churned, my palms burned, I tossed and turned.

One stress relieving technique is to have a place in your mind, a place to go, a safe harbor, an imaginary retreat. I have one, modeled on a real place from far away and now long gone.

It’s a simple boat dock, a swimming dock mostly, remembered from my youth on Lake Gatun, in Panama. In my mind I imagine the steep walk down the rough trail through the jungle to the lake. In real life it was rare to walk this without getting bit by a tropical ant or stung by some jungle bee – but in my mind they don’t attack.

The dock is crude, made of pallets and other thrown-away wood, attached to old metal drums. No boat is tied up today – a couple of handmade wooden canoes are upside down, pulled into some thick greenery at the water’s edge. Everything is green; the jungle is alive. There’s a big tree leaning way out with a rope swing. Giant lizards sit in the tree. I pull the rope back and climb with it a little way up the muddy slope – then swing out and drop into the lake.

The water is warm, tropical green, fragrant. I swim on my back out toward the center of the inlet then dive down, holding my breath frog-kicking down until my ears pop. Rising, breaking the surface, I turn and in a few strokes I’m back to the dock, climbing up, and stretching out, resting there for a few minutes.

Of course, this place didn’t really exist exactly like that – my memory has molded it. What did exist is long gone, even the base I lived on has disappeared along with the entire Canal Zone.

In my mind, though, I’m there for a few minutes at least. I smile a little smile.

The alarm clock went off.

And now, a piece of flash fiction for today:

Letting Go of the Dream by Pam Walters

from Flash Fiction Magazine

Spirit of Communication

“By being published, any author’s words cease to be his own, but rather belong to his reader.”

― Andrew Crumey, D’Alembert’s Principle: A Novel in Three Panels

Spirit of Communication (Golden Boy), Dallas, Texas

From Wikipedia:

Spirit of Communication is the formal name for the statue by Evelyn Beatrice Longman originally called Genius of Telegraphy. The statue has been the symbol of AT&T (and also the former Western Electric) since their commission was completed in 1916. It is also known informally as the Golden Boy statue and formerly as Genius of Electricity.

Commissioned for 195 Broadway in New York City. the sculpture has followed AT&T to other sites in New York and New Jersey over the years. In 2009, the statue was relocated to AT&T’s current corporate headquarters in downtown Dallas, Texas, U.S. As of 2022, the statue is located outside in the AT&T Discovery District in Downtown Dallas.

Sunday Snippet, Flash Fiction, War on the Carpet by Bill Chance

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

M41 Walker Bulldog Liberty Park Plano, Texas

War of the Carpet

There is a war occurring on the carpet tonight. An army of Batmans and Gargoyles are advancing from their living room headquarters around the shelving unit and down the hall. Opposing this formidable armed force is an equally menacing horde of Spidermans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Their base is the guest bathroom which they have fortified with overturned plastic tubs, their former abodes. The generals of the two forces are two giants, each hundreds of feet tall in the measurement of these miniature fighters. The two deadly opponents, brothers, provide the strategy, tactics, rules of engagement, motive force, and most important, sound effects. Their parent assumes the role of Florence Nightingale, because every couple of minutes they are brought some wounded soldier whose missing part must be reattached.

The vehicles of these battling hordes are a motley collection. Eighteen wheelers, plastic airplanes, horses, cows, dinosaurs, conveyances of all ages, and of unmatched scales. Even a little space shuttle does its wartime duty. The generals are now calling for the “Secret Weapons” – yelling and running as the big guns are brought out of their hiding places under the couch and behind the toilet. The Batmobile advances toward the Gotterdammerung occurring in the hallway as a model police car leaves the bathroom, some sort of CHIP chip inside is yelling “Call 911” as the miniature siren wails and the LED’s flash.

“Time for SECRET WEAPON NUMBER TWO” comes the new call. Two more giant plastic tubs are overturned revealing two plastic F-14’s – one for each army, one red, one blue. The slaughter is witnessed by a giant dog, who sits in the corner with his slobbery tennis ball, forlornly staring at the generals, trying to get them to play fetch with him (don’t feel bad for the dog, the generals played with him for half an hour earlier, he’d play fetch 24 hours a day if he could).

Suddenly, a break in the carnage! The generals negotiate a sudden truce. After a bribe of bagels and chocolate milk the warriors retire to watch television.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we stayed this way. All we would have to do in Ukraine is send over some Hershey’s and the newest Disney release.

Monolithic Dome

“After our negotiations were completed, the dome would be imploded and launched toward the nearest black hole, so that none of its atoms would ever contaminate this particular universe again. I thought that last part was overkill.”
― John Scalzi, Old Man’s War

Monolithic Dome Institute, Italy, Texas

What I learned this week, April 22, 2022

Spring Snow, Richardson, Texas

There’s a Massive Antarctic Exploration Vehicle Lost Somewhere at the Bottom of the World

In 1939 a joint government-private sector project ran into the question of how best to traverse Antarctica’s frozen wastelands. The obvious answer? A car. A really, really, really big car. Or so thought Thomas Poulter, designer of the doomed Antarctic Snow Cruiser.


A Yumbo meal spewing existential malaise into the atmosphere

Should we be eating three meals a day?

The idea that we should eat three meals a day is surprisingly modern. How many meals a day is best for our health?


My son’s dog, Champ

Inside the World of Guide Dog Dropouts

In this highly competitive training, pup perfection is demanded — and not every student can make it to graduation. Here’s what happens to the still very good boys who need a sudden ‘career change.’


Dice Life Links

Decatur, Texas

The People Who Base Their Life Decisions On a Dice Roll (vice.com)

Roll the Dice – Ultimate Decision-Making Strategy: May Seem Irrational But Can Be The Most Rational… – BizShifts-Trends

Should You Let the Dice Decide? | Psychology Today

Can’t make a decision? Have you ever tried rolling for it? | by Franko French | Medium


Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Physical fatigue is in the brain as much as in the body

Over the past couple of decades, scientists too have become increasingly interested in the potential of ‘mind over muscle’. Their findings suggest that there is far more to it than a motivational mantra.


Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Ways to Train Your Brain to Get What You Want

Contrary to theory, which cannot get you very far in the end, people who have actually been “there” provide practical steps on what you need to do to get there too. Here are the five things you should focus on. Forget everything else.


While I was eating, a rugged group on Bicycles, braving the rain, came up for some food.

Got food cravings? What’s living in your gut may be responsible

Eggs or yogurt, veggies or potato chips? We make decisions about what to eat every day, but those choices may not be fully our own. New University of Pittsburgh research on mice shows for the first time that the microbes in animals’ guts influence what they choose to eat, making substances that prompt cravings for different kinds of foods.


Short Story of the Day, Autobiography, Leaving School by Ann Quin

“The leaves were sun-baked lizards, stirring towards the sea that churned its chain of silver snakes, which would, if given half the chance, coil round, pull him out of this urban setting, vomit him on dry land.”
― Ann Quin, Berg

Renner School House desks.

From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Saturday, June 8, 2002

Trash

It was getting hot, really sticky and humid, as I walked around the point and stumbled into the mother lode. Working my way south along the shore I hadn’t found much; but here there was a north-facing shore and with the summertime hot southerly Texas wind all these cans and bottles were massed up – blown across Sunset Bay from the popular family picnic spots on the other side. Everything was mixed up in the big round clumps of grass that protect the shore or hidden in the gobs of bright green seaweed – mostly aluminum beer cans plus plastic soda bottles, thin Red Bull cans, and a plastic quart of oil.

I fell into a routine as I worked along the shore. I’d use the grabber-a wooden pole with a little swivel handle that pulled on a thin rod that worked the flimsy pair of plastic-coated jaws on the far end-to grab the cans and bottles and lift them out of the vegetation. I’d line them up on the steep bank, upside down – so the lake liquid inside, brown and green, would drain out. After a few minutes I’d return, pick up the aluminum cans for the blue bag, everything else in the black.

Across the cove I could see a group doing the same thing. They had a long aluminum pole with what looked like a net on the end and a whole swarm of kids running around with trash bags. Two guys in kayaks slid by moving into the thick vegetation of the inner cove itself, looking for floating tires and other crap, I suppose.

The ducks and geese that live there were getting pissed off at all this commotion, after convincing themselves that I didn’t have any stale bread to throw out. The circled and clucked and clacked and gave me the Evil Eye. A mother and five ducklings arced out of a hiding place behind a clump and swam off into a more protected part of the cove. Off to my left was a more open field lined with trees. A photographer was wandering around gazing up into the trees, looking for an artistic shot of the limbs, and eyeing me every now and then. I could tell he had no idea what I was up to. Past him, a couple had set up easels along the treeline of the thick bottomwoods, protected by a stretch of swampy ground. They were painting away, sometimes walking back and forth to see each other’s work. I wanted to work my way over to them and see what they were doing; but the wet ground kept me away. There was plenty of trash where I was anyway.

On past the painters was a colorful clot of balloons arcing over the road at a finish line. Lanes were set up, tables of water bottles, a big yellow elapsed time indicator, and an ambulance – set up and open with oxygen bottles, gurney, and a couple of bored-looking paramedics in blue uniforms. When I first arrived a flashing police car had escorted the winning runner through and now the rest of the race was streaming by.

I’ve always been jealous of runners. Not of how they look, but of the fitness needed to do these races. Even when I was in good shape and riding my bike a lot I couldn’t run. I was a strong swimmer and thought about triathlons (God, that feels like so long ago) but my ankles and feet couldn’t hold up to the running. The constant pain of shinsplints was more than I could take.

An older woman runner went by, her safety-pinned race number flapping in the warm breeze. She was hoofing it as fast as she could with the finish line finally in sight, making a loud guttural huf huf huf as she ran. I turned back to the water and poked at another clump of lake grass that was making a tinkling, metallic sound as the waves washed over it and pulled a goodly mass of cans out from under the blades.

The cleanup was supposed to last until eleven, but it didn’t take me long until both my bags were bulging full. I was getting really overheated – most everybody had worn shorts and T-shirts but I wanted some protection from the nasty trash juices and fetid lake water so I had worn jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. I was spattered with brown mud thrown off when I pulled cans out of the lake – so I guess I had made the right decision. After putting my bulging trash bags (black for trash, blue for recyclables) in the proper spot I walked back north to the Bathhouse Cultural Center where I had parked my car.

A younger guy and his cute girlfriend were walking the other way, carrying trash grabbers like me. Their bags were still stuck in their pockets.
“Having any luck?” I asked.
“Nothing,” the guy said.
“Well, I’ve already been by here,” I said.
“You must have done a good job, there’s no trash left,” his girl said.
“Usually there’s stuff along here in the clumps of grass,” he said,” most people don’t want to get that close to the lake.”
“Keep going,” I said, “Around the point there should be plenty to pick up.”
I felt for the guy; I could tell he felt diminished by the fact that somebody had beat him to his favorite trash spot and cleaned it out before he could get to it.

The second Saturday of each month an organization called For The Love of the Lake sponsors a trash pickup of the lake. I’m going to make that a regular thing for me – I’ve spent so much time at White Rock over the years it’s not too much to give a little back.

I’ll spend my Saturday morning picking up trash. Once you go to school and get a real job – knock yourself out to be successful – whatever the hell that means – you end up doing the stuff that you dedicate your life to avoiding, for fun. You buy a car and spend your leisure time walking, running, or riding a bike. You buy a big house and spend your free time doing yard work, carpentry, or plumbing. I always worried that if I didn’t work hard I’d end up as a janitor – picking up trash.

And now, a short piece of autobiography for today:

Leaving School by Ann Quinn

Between Scylla and Charybdis

“Fancy me between Scylla and Charybdis.”

― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

There is a lot of food at the ends – Por Ejemplo – the King of Candy Apples

For a couple months now I have been eating Keto – no carbs at all. I always resisted this… for several reasons… but now have arrived at the point that it is the only way that I can keep my blood sugar under control.

It’s working – we’ll see how it goes long-term – but there is one bad side effect. I absolutely crave certain things – pasta, pizza,tortillas, and other starchy or sweet things. I know there are substitutes, but it isn’t the a same.

Every morning I drive to work and enter the straights between Scylla and Charybdis. One Beltline, only a few blocks from my house – in a spot where traffic is heavy so I can’t speed through – there is a brand new Dunkin’ Donuts on the right and a brand new Mochinut on the left (that’s a shop that sells a hybrid Japanese/Hawaiian style of donutish pastry).

It drives me crazy. The thought that I will spend the few years I have left and never eat another donut is more than I think I can stand.

And then, last night, I dreamed I was eating a chocolate donut. It was so real. I wonder if, years from now, I won’t remember enough to know what it is like.