What I learned this week, July 24, 2021

Republic Tower, Dallas, Texas

Loneliness: Coping with the gap where friends used to be

One bad (possibly the second worst) thing about being old is how difficult it is to make friends. Good friends you have had for a long, long time drift away and new ones are hard to come by. Is it impossible?

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Fully Oligarchic Luxury Californication

The tech elite have joined forces with progressive visionaries to establish a model of America’s feudal future.

Scott Burns: What history tells us about stock market returns

As I think/dream about retirement, the stock market becomes very, very important to me.

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

Changing Habits: Interview with Dr. Amy Bucher, a Behavior Change Designer

I recently caught up with Dr. Amy Bucher, the author of Engaged, a compelling guidebook on designing products and services that change people’s lives. She talks about behavioral design, the science of crafting products and services in such a way as to shape or influence human behavior. Here is our conversation.

Timeboxing: The Most Powerful Time Management Technique You’re Probably Not Using

Timeboxing is the nearest thing we have to productivity magic, yet most people don’t utilize it. Here’s how to overcome the top 3 reasons why.

“I can’t seem to get enough done.”

“I’m always distracted.”

“Why can’t I focus?”

I hear these complaints from my clients and readers all the time.

But when I recommend perhaps the most effective technique ever devised to help people stay on track, most of them balk.

“You want me to plan every minute of my day?”

Yes! Now what are you waiting for?

From Todd Alcott’s Pulp Tarot

The Pulp Tarot

A new Tarot deck, designed by graphic artist Todd Alcott, drawing inspiration from midcentury pulp illustrations

I use a Tarot deck to help generate fiction writing ideas. I just have an ordinary (cheap) Rider-Waite tarot deck – but I look at more artistic and interesting decks – it could be a rabbit hole – but if I had a little more money I know I’d buy a few.

From Todd Alcott’s Pulp Tarot

The attack of the garish, gaudy Evil Dream Hippies

Is Dreaming Real?

When you’re lucid, it can feel so real the distinction ceases to matter.

What I learned this week, July 16, 2021

Coal and coke fire, Frisco, Texas.

What Kind of Burnt Out Are You? (And Why It Matters)

Different types of burnout require different solutions.

Classic Songs Reimagined as Vintage Pulp Book Covers

Time Management Won’t Save You

How bacteria are changing your mood

Time blocking 101: A step-by-step guide to getting the most from your daily schedule

You can probably count on your fingers the number of times you’ve completed 8 hours of work in an 8-hour workday. Whether it’s endless meetings, constant emails, or coworkers popping in for a “quick chat,” your productivity rarely makes it through the day.

The problem is that when you design your to-do list for an 8-hour workday but end up with just 1-2 hours of productive time, you’re going to be in trouble.

loteria card

Deep Habits: Use Index Cards to Accelerate Important Projects

The Depth Deck

The idea behind the depth deck is simple. Identify one or two deep projects that are important to your professional life.

For each project, identify one or two concrete next steps that:

  1. require deep work;
  2. are self-contained in the sense that they have a single focus and a clear criteria for when they’re completed.

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Garland, Dallas County tag team on another trail to connect Garland to Richardson

Back to Handwritten

“She needs a new journal. The one she has is problematic. To get to the present, she needs to page through the past, and when she does, she remembers things, and her new journal entries become, for the most part, reactions to the days she regrets, wants to correct, rewrite.”
― Dave Eggers, How the Water Feels to the Fishes

The Window at Molly’s, the street (Decatur) unusually quiet, with notebook, vintage Esterbrook pen, and Molly’s frozen Irish Coffee

I have started writing in my physical journal on a daily basis again. For decades, I wrote every day into the computer, and published a lot (most? maybe, maybe not) on my Online Journal (these were days before the appalling word blog was invented). Then, when my kids were in high school, I had to stop the online thing – too many people were reading it and giving me shit.

So I went to the Moleskine. This was about the time my addiction to fountain pens started, so it was a good pair. I wrote every day in my Moleskine, at least a page, sometimes more, sometimes many more. I have a stack of journals I filled and go back and look at them sometimes.

Then I started to blog again (2011) and my daily scribbling fell off. I still wrote in journals, but not on a quotidian basis. I experimented with bullet journalling and planning and other techniques. But something was missing.

The other day, driving home from work, I was listening to a podcast – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Plannerverse – and the guy was talking about how he used his planner for planning… but he kept a hardbound journal to write in every day, to keep a record of what he was doing and how he was feeling.

And that resonated with me. I dug through my Moleskines and found one that was only a third full. The last dates in it were about ten years ago – toward the end they were getting irregular and gaps were appearing – I could tell I was on the way to stopping, only writing on through habit and inertia.

So now I’ve started back. I never realized how much I missed this. I have a small zippered pouch with a selection of pocket fountain pens (Kaweco Sport, Pilot Prera, Pilot Kakuno) that I can carry when I leave the house (usually on my bike) and I can stop and scribble somewhere. I have my grail pens (Sheaffer PFM, Lamy 2000, Parker “51”, Eversharp Skyline) and I love writing with them at my desk.

It is so odd to look at the ten+ years old entries in the same book I’m still scribbling in. So much has changed, so much is still the same.

We’ll see how many years I can keep this up now. How many do I have left?

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

What I learned this week, July 9, 2021

The More Options You Have, The Happier You Are

I have read some opinions that the opposite is true, that we are all suffering from too many options. This article makes more sense to me, though.

(click to enlarge)

New website allows users to track mesmerizing journey of a raindrop

Take a look, play around with this website. It is really cool. Try Western Colorado.

River Runner

The river and downtown, from the Crescent Park Bridge, New Orleans

How to Make Time Slow Down

Japan’s unusual way to view the world

Wabi-sabi offers a refuge from the modern world’s obsession with perfection, and accepts imperfections as all the more meaningful – and, in their own way, beautiful.

By Now, Burnout Is a Given

The pandemic has stripped our emotional reserves even further, laying bare our unique physical, social, and emotional vulnerabilities.

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, by Umberto Boccioni, Cole and Blackburn, Dallas, Texas

Fight Fatigue by Harnessing the Power of Your Internal Clock

Sluggish? Tired? Seven tips for getting your body into better alignment.

Bicycle and Coffee

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup”
― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

As I (we) come out of the pandemic nightmare I (we) still grapple with purposelessness, boredom,and loneliness. I struggle for something to do, anything to do.

I have discovered one thing. I get up before dawn, make a thermos of coffee in my Aeropress, and then ride somewhere on my bicycle. I sip the coffee as the sun comes up, then I read a bit, then I ride home.

Unfortunately, I can only do this on the days when I don’t go into work, so it isn’t very often. If I could, I’d do this every day. I find myself looking at maps of my city and finding places to go… places that may look interesting at dawn, places with a place to sit, places just the right distance away.

I think this weekend I’m going to up my game a bit. I think I’ll ride to the DART station and ride the train somewhere, then ride my bike, then drink coffee. I might even take my grinder, Aeropress Go, and a few beans to make fresh coffee. There is a new park in downtown Dallas I’d like to visit.

Or maybe ride to the train station and get on the next train, no matter which direction it’s going in. Get off where I feel and then look for a place to sit.

It isn’t much… but it’s the best I can do for now.

My coffee thermos.

What I learned this week, July 5, 2021

The ponds at the end of my block, Richardson, Texas

People Think What You Do With Your Shopping Cart When You’re Done With It Says A Lot About You

I remember sitting by the ponds at the end of my block, reading and enjoying the beautiful day. I saw two kids on the other side of the block pushing a shopping cart from the local Kroger with about three items in it. When the path they were on veered away from the water they took their items out and pushed the cart down the slope into the pond, where it promptly sank. They were across the water and too far for me to do anything, but I was disgusted.

A year ago they drained the ponds to clean out the silt, it was full of carts. The Kroger has gone out of business, replaced by an Aldi where you pay 25 cents (refundable) for a shopping cart.

Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

He Didn’t Make the Olympics—So He Used His Bike Racing Skills to Rob Banks Instead

After fizzling out on a number of disparate career paths that included a go at social work, the Catholic priesthood, and underwater welding, Justice started robbing banks. As Leckart tells it, it wasn’t about the money—it was about doing something he could be exceptional at. At first, Justice gave away most of what he stole, leaving bags of money in alleys for homeless people to find, or in port-a-potties. But he later kept the cash to cover his growing drug habit.

From the Pistons and Paint Car Show in Denton, Texas

Whether slow or fast, here’s how your metabolism influences how many calories you burn each day

Does the speed of metabolism really vary all that much from person to person?

Got too much stuff? Try these 7 tips to help pare down

Most of us have no problem admitting that we have more than we need. The difficulty lies in the next steps: How to get rid of it? What room to tackle first? Should we toss, regift, donate, recycle, repurpose, sell?

Over 60? Here Are 5 of the Best Exercises You Can Possibly Do

This total-body workout builds strength, stability, mobility, and better posture.

You Fail to Reach Your Goals Because You Designed Them Badly

Reaching any goal requires motivation, self-discipline and commitment. But where do those things come from?

Want to taste the sweetest onions in Texas? Order the rings at Lakewood Landing

A few miles south of Tyler, in the little town of Noonday, the soil is the right mix of sandy and rain-soaked for growing onions. Accordion to legend, as written in Onion World Magazine, it happened by accident:

“Several farmers here in East Texas started experimenting with growing yellow onions and soon discovered they had the proper type of sandy soil to produce a sweet onion.”

They’re both easy and difficult to find. They show up at Central Market every now and then for a little bit more money than your other local onions. Or you can make a phone call and gas up the car:

“Tomato shed, how can I help you?” “Tex” answers the phone. There are no social media handles, and the online store leads you to a physical address. They’ve got small-to-large bags of Certified Noonday Sweet Onions, ranging from eight bucks to 30, right from the ground of the vice president of the Noonday Sweet Onion Grower’s Association.

What I learned this week, June 25, 2021

My commuter/cargo bike along the Duck Creek Trail. Taking a break while riding a circuit of grocery stores, looking for Banana Ketchup.

The 50-mile trail around Dallas: When White Rock to Trinity Forest will open and why that matters

The 7.5-mile Spine Trail segment will mean that, for the first time, residents south of Interstate 30 “won’t have to use a car to get out of our neighborhoods.”

What Happened When I Told Marie Kondo I Have a Better, Higher-Tech Method of Tidying Up

Throw them away? “By keeping less — documents, folders, files, emails, etc. — you create more space in your life,” Kondo told me. “Though digital clutter is not tangible like clutter in your home, I believe it carries the same weight.”

I don’t agree. Precious memories don’t need to go into dusty photo albums or the trash. They should go online.

I Know the Secret to the Quiet Mind. I Wish I’d Never Learned It.

Of all the injuries we suffered, mine is the worst. My brain injury has shaken my confidence in my own personality, my own existence.

Hey, There’s a Second Brain in Your Gut

Scientists have known for years that there’s a “second brain” of autonomous neurons in your long, winding human digestive tract—but that’s about where their knowledge of the so-called abdominal brain ends.

Recycled Books Denton, Texas

8 Ways to Read (a Lot) More Books This Year

How much do you read?

For most of my adult life I read maybe five books a year — if I was lucky. I’d read a couple on vacation and I’d always have a few slow burners hanging around the bedside table for months.

And then last year I surprised myself by reading 50 books. This year I’m on pace for 100. I’ve never felt more creatively alive in all areas of my life. I feel more interesting, I feel like a better father, and my writing output has dramatically increased. Amplifying my reading rate has been the domino that’s tipped over a slew of others.

The Damaging Double Standard Behind Intermittent Fasting

Is it “optimization” or an eating disorder?

This Is the Most Bizarre Grammar Rule You Probably Never Heard Of

But I’ve been following it all my life, and so have you.

What I learned this week, Jun 18, 2021

Car fire just north of downtown, Dallas.

What We Really Lose When Highways Destroy Historic Neighborhoods

A few old news reports about Deep Ellum in the late 1960s unintentionally document the huge costs of highway-driven demolition.

Employees/Artists from Orr-Reed Wrecking. Her T-Shirt says, “Show Us Your Junk,” which is their motto.

4 Ways to Cut Dow Your Stuff Without Going Insane

You may not be a capital-H hoarder, but chances are you’ve got more stuff packed away than you really know what to do with. If it’s time to reduce the clutter, start here.

Running of the Bulls, New Orleans, Louisiana

Trying to Lose Weight? Here’s Why Strength Training Is as Important as Cardio

Don’t spend all your energy on the treadmill if you’re trying to drop a pants size. Strength training is an important way to boost your weight loss. Here’s why—and how.

Resistance training: here’s why it’s so effective for weight loss

The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five

Research shows that five work hours a day can improve productivity and bolster wellbeing. There’s only one thing holding companies back

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

How Low Can America’s Birth Rate Go Before It’s A Problem?

Earth’s core is growing ‘lopsided’ and scientists don’t know why


“If I could not walk far and fast, I think I should just explode and perish.”
― Charles Dickens

Near Main Street Garden Park, Dallas, Texas

I was starting off on my drive to work, having made one turn… my drive crossed the walking path that runs along the creek behind my house. This trail is crowded at dawn, mostly dog-walkers but quite a few exercisers, some wanderers, skateboards, unicycles, cyclists, and stray coyotes returning to their lairs. All are out trying to get in some perambulation in the relative cool of the morning before the killer Texas sun rises too high in the sky.

A little bit past the trail crossing I slowed to let a man cross in front of me. He had a leash in one hand and a plastic poop bag in the other – the bag swung to and fro, indicating its possession of a cargo of (presumably canine) shit.

But he had no dog. A leash and a bag of poop, but no pet. What the hell?

Maybe his long term pet had passed away and he still went out every morning for a walk, carrying a leash and a precious, saved crappy souvenir to remind him of his dear departed pooch. Maybe not.

I didn’t stop and ask.

What I learned this week, Jun 11, 2021

The Joys of Short Bike Rides

Trophy from the Gravity’s Rainbow Challenge. Yes, I read the whole thing.

How to Think Clearly

By learning to question and clarify your thoughts, you’ll improve your self-knowledge and become a better communicator

Thanksgiving Square, Dallas, Texas

The Most Irrational Number

The golden ratio is even more astonishing than Dan Brown and Pepsi thought.

Hot Pants, Love Potions, and the Go-go Genesis of Southwest Airlines

Fifty years ago this month, the Dallas-based carrier first took flight. Those who were there reflect on its past as it confronts a future shaped by the pandemic.

Bachman Lake at dawn, Dallas, Texas

The ’20-5-3′ Rule Prescribes How Much Time to Spend Outside

Americans today spend 92 percent of their time indoors, and their physical and mental health are suffering. Use this three-number formula to make yourself stronger and happier.

Posing for photos at the Leaning Tower of Dallas

Want to Make Difficult Conversations Easy? Try This 1 Counterintuitive Trick, According to Psychology

anxiety you feel before entering a tough conversation can be greatly mitigated

The Key to a Good Life? Lose Yourself in Something

A Danish PSA for wearing bicycle helmets is the best Viking movie in 63 years