I Dreamt of Flax

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

—-William Wordsworth, The Red Wheelbarrow

Near the blacksmith’s shop -a woman running a spinning wheel.

I dreamt of flax. I looked up “dreamed” vs. “dreamt.”

Dreamt and dreamed are both past tense forms of dream. Dreamt is more common in Britain, while dreamed is more common in other English-speaking countries, including the U.S. Dreamed seems to be more popular than dreamt when talking about sleeping, but when dream has a hopeful, literary sense, dreamt might be used.

“Dreamed” would be more appropriate in this case, but there is a choice and I feel like a rebel. So, I dreamt of flax.

I dreamt I was raising flax for fiber, and harvested it too early. It looked more like onions than flax, but I had hopes it would make a passable linen anyway. I woke up before the cloth was woven so I don’t know if it really would have worked.

Why did I dream of flax? No mystery, I was exhausted late and, in a form of obscene meditation, sat there randomly watching obscure, useless Youtube videos – each one ten minutes long. One was on the growth of flax for fiber and how linen cloth is made from it. The raw flax fibers after they are extracted from the stems are soft, lustrous, and flexible – they look like skeins of long, blonde hair. Thus “flaxen” locks.

Another was on the different types of flush rivets used in aircraft. I did not dream of rivets.

I had never thought about flax before so I looked it up online. I had forgotten that linseed oil was pressed from flax seeds. I’m a chemist and worked for decades for a paint company so I know all about linseed oil and what triply unsaturated α-linolenic acid is capable of in the presence of oxygen. I did not know that you can eat linseed oil and that is it considered healthy.

I know the smell of linseed oil.

When I was a young boy I was given my first rifle. Along with the gun came a metal container of raw linseed oil. Every evening I would use a rag and apply a very thin coat of oil to the wooden stock. Over a couple of years it turned into a glossy, deep, clear finish and made the wood look great. I was careful to store and dispose of the rags properly (they can burst into flame).

The days are long and I’m tired. Maybe I’ll dream of rivets.

What I learned this week, April 30, 2021

Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

The Power of Writing by Hand


HDR Caterpillar
HDR Caterpillar – will grown into a monarch

Here’s where to see groups of monarch butterflies in Richardson

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.


Kyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas

Parents Are Sacrificing Their Social Lives on the Altar of Intensive Parenting

On the way to Toad Corners

Memorial Figure Papua New Guinea Dallas Museum of Art

The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence


(click to enlarge) Rodin Walking Man and fans Houston, Texas

The Simple Dutch Cure for Stress


The Sweepers Wang Shugang Cast Iron (2012) Crow Collection of Asian Art

How to Love: Legendary Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on Mastering the Art of “Interbeing”


Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas (click to enlarge)

Brain wifi

Instead of a code encrypted in the wiring of our neurons, could consciousness reside in the brain’s electromagnetic field?

The Worst Name

“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

Bait shop outside Hot Springs, Arkansas.

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.

What I learned this week, April 23, 2021

Chipotle Sourdough
Finished loaf of Chipotle Sourdough Bread. A little too much Chipotle, it made the dough a bit wet and it came out very spicy. Still Delicious. There are kids over and it was gone in five minutes.

How To Make Pita Bread at Home

I went through a home made bread phase. It was fun and delicious but the carbs almost killed me. Maybe pitas – small and unassuming – might be doable.


Campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

Everything You Need to Know About Sleeping Pads


Anna Karina

How to think like a detective

The best detectives seem to have almost supernatural insight, but their cognitive toolkit is one that anybody can use


Awning stretching out from the Opera House, Arts District, Dallas, Texas (Click To Enlarge)

Aria Code


Sheaffer Pens
Sheaffer Pens

Writing in pencil > writing in pen


Tokyo Nightmare

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

The Wave that Washes us all
The Wave that Washes us all

The last few days I have been haunted by the same nightmare. It’s the same because when I go to sleep my dream starts up right where the last one ended, when I woke up. This has been happening not only at night, but if I try and sneak in a nap.

I’m in the dream, of course, but the person in the dream isn’t exactly me. I’m someone else, though I don’t know who.

The dream is set in Tokyo, sort of. It’s Tokyo but not the real one. It’s a dream nightmare Tokyo (and no, I’ve never been to Japan). The city itself isn’t as big or crowded as the real Tokyo is – it feels sort of like an American mid-sized city… maybe Lubbock. It’s definitely Dream Tokyo, though, I know that, I remember taking a long dream flight to get there.

I don’t know why I’m in Dream Tokyo. There is some sort of work that I am supposed to do. I have a vague feeling that my job is very important, but don’t remember what it is that I am doing.

Dream Tokyo is a coastal city with a very complex harbor, with several peninsulas and inlets. The border between land and water is very important to me.

The most obvious feature of Dream Tokyo is a highway bridge that links two parts of the city across a wide bay. This bridge is what gives the dream its nightmare edge. It’s not a regular bridge, of course. It’s very, very wide and extremely high. A huge arch reaching up into the sky. It is visible from everywhere in the city and dominates the horizon. Not only is it wide, but the edges simply end. There are no guardrails or other barriers along the side.

It should still be safe, though. It is so wide, almost like a field in the sky (it is green in color and covered with a very short grass, like a golf green) and not heavily used, so you could drive right down the middle with no risk of going over the edge.

That’s not how it works for me, though. I go off driving through Dream Tokyo (I know I wouldn’t ever actually drive in Real Tokyo, but here, there isn’t any mass transit) and I get confused on the poorly-labeled complex highway interchanges. All of a sudden, here I am, driving up the ramp to the vast grassy sky bridge even though it’s the last place I want to go. There is no turning back, I have to cross.

It is horrifying. I can see the sea off to each side and the blue water with the green bridge surface fills me with absolute terror – something about the open spaces sends me into panic (and no, in real life I do not suffer from agoraphobia in any way). I clutch the steering wheel with white, sweaty knuckles and drive quickly, almost with my eyes closed.

I do make it across. That was very odd – the road, despite being amazingly wide and crossing what must be a multi-billion dollar bridge, simply ends. The road narrows and ends in a short stretch of old, cracked tarmac that peters out at the water’s edge. Here the shoreline is paved and the water is dark and full of trash.

There was no clear path forward. I had to drive my car (a rental, I seemed to know that) over a curb and down onto a narrow paved alley that ran along the water and curved off into a neighborhood of run-down warehouses.

That’s the point where I woke up this morning. When I go to bed tonight will I be back in the car, entering the warehouse district? I doubt it. Writing the dream down will certainly kill it.

I’ll be somewhere else, somewhere completely different. A different city, a different seaside, a different bridge.

What I learned this week, April 16, 2021

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Phone call anxiety: why so many of us have it, and how to get over it

I DO NOT like to talk on the phone. I get so stressed when I have to call I have trouble dialing right. When my phone rings, I jump and I feel the panic rising (although now its usually junk calls). I know and see people talking on the phone for hours and don’t understand it. When I stop at a light on the way home and watch the cars going by and more than half are on their phones – I wonder, “Who the hell are they talking to?”


Artwork in the Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory

After a year of lockdown, many of us are finding it hard to think clearly, or remember what happened when. Neuroscientists and behavioural experts explain why

Oh, and I thought I was just getting old.


No Licence, No Problem
No Licence, No Problem

Our Brain Typically Overlooks This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy

People often limit their creativity by continually adding new features to a design rather than removing existing ones


Monumental Head of Jean d’Aire (from The Burghers of Calais), Auguste Rodin, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The Stoic Antidote to Frustration: Marcus Aurelius on How to Keep Your Mental Composure and Emotional Equanimity When People Let You Down

The art of tempering your fury with an infuriating existential truth.


Pomodoro
My Pomodoro timer, Moleskine, and Ivory Pilot Prera fountain pen.

I tried making a ‘to-don’t list’ instead of a to-do list. Here’s what I learned

For the last two weeks, I’ve been using “to-don’t” list, which sounds like an inverse to a to-do list, but is a bit more exacting. In essence, the list is a curated collection of activities that can derail your energy and motivation. They’re often alluring but end up creating a distracting spiral, sapping you of your most productive hours.


Here’s some origami I did. I’m working on a story and I decided to origami my draft. The design is called, “This is a bunch of crap.”

Office Reopening Anxiety

“I Do Not Trust People in the Same Way and I Don’t Think I Ever Will Again”

Workers are really, really not ready for offices to reopen.


Somewhere in the Caribbean

The rice of the sea: how a tiny grain could change the way humanity eats

Ángel León made his name serving innovative seafood. But then he discovered something in the seagrass that could transform our understanding of the sea itself – as a vast garden


Houston Museum Of Fine Arts

Anxiety Is in Your Body, Not Your Mind

Why you might want to stop talking about your anxiety and try this instead

What I learned this week, April 9, 2021

 

(click to enlarge) Book With Wings Anselm Kiefer Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Ian Fleming Explains How to Write a Thriller

“You have to get the reader to turn over the page.”


Lee walking in the surf at Crystal Beach. I checked my old blog entries – this was December 29, 2002.

How Fit Can You Get From Just Walking? 

Walking is good for you, obviously. But can it whip you into shape?


Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market Waco, Texas

Lessons From a ‘Local Food’ Scam Artist

Working summers at an authentically quaint roadside produce stand, a teenage salesperson is schooled in the not-so-subtle art of how to con a foodie from the big city.


Main Street Garden Park Dallas, Texas

How Crisco toppled lard – and made Americans believers in industrial food

Perhaps you’ll unearth a can of Crisco for the holiday baking season. If so, you’ll be one of millions of Americans who have, for generations, used it to make cookies, cakes, pie crusts and more.

But for all Crisco’s popularity, what exactly is that thick, white substance in the can?

If you’re not sure, you’re not alone.


Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities

Electric cars aren’t truly zero-carbon – mining the raw materials for their batteries, manufacturing them and generating the electricity they run on produces emissions.


Trinity River Levee Dallas, Texas

Construction kicks off soon on Plano’s $1 billion Collin Creek redevelopment

I remember in 1981, when I first moved to Dallas, driving all the way from Oak Cliff to Plano in horrible evening traffic (it took over an hour) to visit this brand-spanking new wonder of a mall that had just been built – Collin Creek. Now its gone. I think I actually shopped there twice in those forty years, even though I’ve lived very close to it.


What I learned this week, April 2, 2021

Found by a photobooth, Molly’s At the Market, French Quarter, New Orleans

Don’t Follow Your Gut

How should we make decisions in life? Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist, says that whatever you do, Never Go With Your Gut. It’s such bold advice that Dr. Tsipursky decided to make it the title of his latest book. In this interview, Dr. Tsipursky discusses his unorthodox approach and warns against the dangerous mental blindspots that lead to decisions we later regret.


(click to enlarge) Sixth and Camp in New Orleans – a beautiful row of Camelback Shotgun Houses

The Case for Rooms

It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design.


Sleep
Sleep

Why You Stay Up So Late, Even When You Know You Shouldn’t

There are certain traits that lend themselves to “revenge bedtime procrastination.” There’s also a way out.


Drinks menu… the coffee looks good, but “Treats from the Teat” – I don’t know if that’s as catchy as they think it is.

How To Make Starbucks-Style Cold Brew Coffee at Home


I wonder what this guy was thinking… “Wow, there are too many people here! I give up!” or, more likley, “Hey! Quit staring at my penis!”

Hypocrites: How to Survive in a World Full of Them


Woman writing in a Moleskine Notebook, Wichita, Kansas

Can Introverts Be Happy in a World That Can’t Stop Talking?

Acceptance is key to the well-being and authenticity of introverts


Paula & Lucky Santa Fe Trestle Trail Dallas, Texas

Don’t Tell Your Friends They’re Lucky

Luck has a lot to do with success. We just don’t want to admit it.


What I learned this week, March 26, 2021

Running of the bulls, New Orleans, Louisiana

What’s the Minimum Dose of Training to Stay Fit?

A new review assesses what it takes to maintain endurance and strength when circumstances interfere with your usual training


Paths, Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Why We Procrastinate

We think of our future selves as strangers.


Dallas Skyline at Night

Reasons People Are Moving From Los Angeles to Dallas

More Important Than Escaping Higher Taxes


Future Generations, by William Zorach, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The Ultimate Guide to Bizarre Lies Your Mom Told You

Turns out mothers all over the world are telling a lot of the same outrageous fibs.


Monumental Head of Jean d’Aire (from The Burghers of Calais), Auguste Rodin, Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

How Our Brains Work: A Reading List for Non-Scientists

Your brain is more complex than you probably realize. Let neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett expand your mind.


Dallas Arboretum

The fence is uncomfortable, but it affords the best view

To be human … means constantly to be in the grip of opposing emotions, to have daily to reconcile apparently conflicting tensions.
– Stephen Fry, Bafta Lecture, 2010


A Kansas Bookshop’s Fight with Amazon Is About More Than the Price of Books

The owner of the Raven bookstore, in Lawrence, wants to tell you about all the ways that the e-commerce giant is hurting American downtowns.

Second Shot

“These so-called bleak times are necessary to go through in order to get to a much, much better place.”

― David Lynch

Ellis County Courthouse, Waxahatche, Texas

Exactly three weeks ago today, I drove in a rainstorm down to a vaccination hub in Waxahatche, Texas (the hub was set up by my medical provider) for my first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine shot. Today was the end of my waiting period and I was scheduled for my second shot at the same place.

The day was sunny, cool, and beautiful. The drive was easy and the paperwork non-existent. We did enter the large senior center building from one door and exit from another. A large man was walking by yelling, “Why the fuck do they make us leave by a different door!” The exit was a good twenty feet farther from the parking lot. He was very angry. I was mostly grateful for getting immunity from a deadly pandemic.

It was such a nice day and I had driven an hour, so I decided to take a spin on a local Waxahatche bike trail. I threw my bike into the back of my car before I left and after my shot I drove a couple miles to Lion park where a trailhead was. I felt bad about taking up a parking spot – the tiny lot was filling fast due to a kid’s birthday party.

The trail is about four miles each way and runs along Waxahatche Creek past a dog park, downtown bridge, cemetery and finally to Getzendaner Park – a big park in the middle of town.

The weather was beautiful and people were out and about all along the route. Walking dogs, playing basketball, birthday parties, hiking the trail, visiting the cemetery, or riding the mountain bike trails that also run along the creek.

I saw nobody wearing a mask.