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

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

Ant on Glass

“It’s just men and ants. There’s the ants builds their cities, live their lives, have wars, revolutions, until men want them out of the way, and then they go out of the way. That’s what we are now _ just ants.”
― H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

Ant Lion Pits

This morning I was sitting in a break area waiting for my cup of water to boil in the microwave (to make a cup of coffee in my AeroPress Go) and started looking around (the water boils faster if I don’t look at it). There is a large, high window, a window-wall really, that opens up into a green space atrium.

As I looked at the window I noticed an ant. A single ant, wandering around on the glass, on the outside. I watched the ant for a while, roaming aimlessly, waving antennae. It was windy outside and the ant struggled to keep its footing on the smooth vertical glass – but the surface  wasn’t all that clean so there was enough to hold on to.

I checked around to see if there was a column of ants but there was not. This one was all alone. The window is on the third floor and the ant was over my head, a good forty feet above the nearest ground in the atrium below. The ant was moving around but trending upward, away from the ground and, I assume, the colony.

The more I watched the more I felt sorry for the ant. An ant only has meaning in terms of the colony – a single ant is nothing. The ant was lost, alone, a long way from home, and moving with difficulty in the wrong direction. I know how that feels.

There is nothing I could do for the ant and little bubbles started to appear in my water so I went off to make my coffee.

What I learned this week, May 22, 2021

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The Dark Horse Path to Happiness

There’s a lot to learn about the good life from sommeliers and hot-air-balloon pilots.


Why your most important relationship is with your inner voice

Your internal monologue shapes mental wellbeing, says psychologist Ethan Kross. He has the tools to improve your mind’s backchat.


Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and Neuroscience All Agree: Your Daily Routine Needs More ‘Non-time’

Your busy daily routine is healthy and productive. It might also be killing your creativity.


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

Forget To-Do Lists. You Really Need a ‘Got Done’ List

Most digital productivity tools focus on what you have yet to do, but they never celebrate what you’ve accomplished.


The 20-Minute Daily Clean Routine That’ll Give You Your Weekends Back

Weekends should be for recharging, not for catching up on work we didn’t get to during the week. This includes housework. While we like the end result, cleaning the house (for most of us) isn’t a fun or relaxing endeavor. To get to your housework to-dos before the weekend, commit to cleaning for 15 to 20 minutes five days a week. Then welcome freedom — and a tidy home — when Friday night comes.


Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge

Here’s How Quickly We Become ‘Unfit’ if We Drop Our Exercise Routines

Getting in shape isn’t easy. But after all that hard work, how long do we actually maintain it? Turns out that even the great effort we put into training, taking a bit of time off can mean that we become “unfit” much faster than it took us to actually get in shape.


Es café macerado en ron, posee todas las propiedades organolépticas del ron, pero tiene grado de alcohol

A Beginner’s Guide To Buying Great Coffee

I did not set out to be a coffee nerd, really. But I realized that I liked good coffee better than bad coffee. And that is a rabbit hole. I’ve found James Hoffman’s Youtube videos to be very educational – if sometimes a little too much… but you can learn a lot from a little too much.

Here’s a good example:

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 19, 2021

Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Why we procrastinate on the tiniest of tasks

When we put off small jobs, they balloon from tiny checklist items into major irritants. Why do we keep doing this?


Mark Rothko, Orange, Red and Red, Dallas Museum of Art

Mark Rothko on How to Be an Artist

Seven years ago I saw the play Red at the Dallas Theater Center. It was a fantastic play about the artist Mark Rothko as he painted the famous group of large murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. Really good – one highlight is that during the play the actor playing Rothko and the one playing his assistant actually paint a giant canvas right there, in front of you. You could smell the linseed oil.


Something In front of Braindead Brewing Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

How to Quiet Your Mind Chatter

To break the tape loop in your head, talk to yourself as another person.


A reminder of what one of these looked like at the unveiling

Tips from neuroscience to keep you focused on hard tasks

Understanding cognitive control can help your working life.


Mexican Vampire Kiss Mural, Cozumel, Mexico

The Vampire Problem: A Brilliant Thought Experiment Illustrating the Paradox of Transformative Experience

“Many of [life’s] big decisions involve choices to have experiences that teach us things we cannot know about from any other source but the experience itself.”


Running up that hill at the end.

What a brief jog can do for your brain

If you have 15 minutes to spare, do not sit and chill. Instead, a new study says, you should go out for a quick, light jog. It will leave you feeling more energetic than resting, which will lift your spirits and in turn make your thinking more effective.


My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

I Tried 5 Methods to Make Italian-Style Coffee at Home. The Winner Was Clear (and Surprising!)

It’s not surprising to me. After a lifetime of trying different ways of making coffee – the Aeropress is the best. I miss going to coffee shops – but I can’t imagine getting a better cup than what I can make with fresh-ground beans and my ‘press.

The Smell That Separates Night From Day

Black As Night Sweet As Sin

Coffee in the… Well, Sorta Wilderness

A Lot More Than Just A Drink


I can’t believe that this is a half-century old. I mean, it does have the 1960’s esthetic, but it is still really, really cool. The movie was a disappointment at the time (I looked it up) but this Bob Fosse dance number is fascinating. I’m a little obsessed.

Short Story (Poem) Of the Day, Coffee by Bill Chance

“Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all.”
David Lynch

Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#27). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.

 


 

Coffee (from an old Turkish proverb)

Black as death

Hot as hell

Bitter as lost dreams

Thick as love

She liked her women like she liked her coffee

Dark, Bitter, and Colombian

 

 

Sunday Snippet – A Ring in a Cup of Tea

After a period of time he decided to choose a different coffee shop, one that was not quite as mysterious. He knew he would miss his waitress, but there would be another in the new shop and he didn’t want to get to the point that his harmless crush would seem creepy.

—-Bill Chance, A Ring in a Cup of Tea

Mojo Coffee, Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
(click to enlarge)

I don’t usually use writing prompts – but I was suffering from a moment of writer’s block and picked one out of a list. It said “A man finds a ring in a cup of tea.” OK

Sunday Snippet

A Ring in a Cup of Tea

There was a ring in his teacup. He looked around the coffee shop. At every table there were people doing what people do in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning. One middle aged man reading a newspaper… a few couples discussing the upcoming day… more than a few people confessing their sins of Friday night. What there didn’t seem to be was anybody that would have slipped a ring into his teacup.

He looked at the waitress. It was the same woman that he had bought tea from many times before. She was young and attractive in a coffee shop waitress sort of way. A world-weary smile that looked like it belonged on someone older than her. Slim, despite being around pastries and calorie-stuffed sugar-loaded specialty coffee drinks all the time. Short hair that bobbed a little when she turned her head. Odd glasses with heavy frames with a line of rhinestones on the side – glasses that have been out of style for fifty years – so out of style they looked cool in a hipster post-modern coffee shop on a Saturday morning.

Could it have been an accident? The waitress had brought the cup empty and he had picked a teabag out of the big wooden box that she presented to him – taking his time as long as he dared in order to enjoy the waitress bending over slightly in front of him. She then unpeeled the bag and said, “Good choice,” like she always did, even though he knew nothing of tea and picked the bag at random. She then had filled the cup with clear hot water, setting down the pot and leaving before the leaves had a chance to turn the water semi-opaque.

If the ring was in the cup she would have seen it. He might have, except he wasn’t looking at the cup.

He picked up the sugar spoon and fished the ring out of the hot tea, setting it on the table for a second to cool. He picked it up, still a little warm and examined the plain gold band. A fan of fantasy fiction he almost expected to see glowing writing in an elvish hand around the circumference – but it was an ordinary , plain, non-magical ring. No special power there.

He held it up to his eye and waved it around a bit – not enough to be obviously nuts – but he hoped that if it belonged to someone, had slipped off a finger into his cup, unseen, they would see him brandishing it and would say something.

“Excuse me, is that my ring?” they would say.

“It must be, it isn’t mine,” he would reply with a bright chuckle, “It must have slipped off your finger and fallen into my tea.”

“Well, then, sorry, let me pay for a fresh cup,” would be their slightly embarrassed reply.

But there was only silence.

He didn’t know whether to drink his tea or not. After looking carefully at the ring, he decided it was clean enough and gold isn’t going to wear off into hot water so he drained his cup anyway. Then he carefully slipped the ring into his pocket and stood up to leave. He looked around, put his coat on, expecting someone to come up to him and explain the joke of them slipping the ring into his tea.

But there was only silence.

At that point he couldn’t think of anything to do except to go home. He thought of leaving the ring in his cup, but that was crazy. At his place he rolled it up in a ball of socks (bright purple ones – a present from an old girlfriend – so ugly that he never wore them – but the woman brought back fond memories so he kept the pair) in his underwear drawer.

The next day, and every day for a week he stopped by the coffee shop and checked the bulletin board carefully – checking for a notice of someone looking for a lost ring.

But he found nothing.

After two weeks he decided to choose a different coffee shop, one that was not quite as mysterious. He knew he would miss his waitress, but there would be another in the new shop and he didn’t want to get to the point that his harmless crush would seem creepy.

He lived for many, many years and when he died his nieces and nephews were given the task of going through his things. He was a man of simple tastes and it wasn’t an overwhelming job. For some reason, though, his favorite niece decided to unroll the balled-up purple socks, so out of place, and found the ring inside.

The family talked for days about this discovery.

“I’ll bet he proposed marriage and she jilted him, wouldn’t even take the ring.”

“No, we would know about that. He probably just loaned some money and the ring was collateral and the loan was never paid back.”

“Maybe it was his mother’s?”

“No, it is too plain for her.”

They speculated over and over again. Every explanation for the ring was offered up and rejected.

Except nobody could possibly even imagine that it simply showed up in a cup of tea.

A Lot More Than Just A Drink

“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

I’ve written before about my AeroPress – It took me over sixty years but I have finally found the best way to make coffee. The AeroPress is a perfect brewing machine… I thought. Something has surpassed it. The only thing that could possibly surpass it – a better AeroPress.

The AeroPress Go.

The various parts of the Aeropress Go

The Aeropress Go, collapsed inside its own coffee cup.

For my birthday I was elated to get one. I actually needed a second Aeropress – one for home (kept with its parts in a small blue zippered case near the kitchen) for morning jolts – and one for work to make it possible to get through the day. The Aeropress Go is perfect for that. I carry it in on Mondays and home at the end of the week  – that way it is available to carry with me on my bicycle for sunrise stops to sip some Joe.

Is it better than the original? I think so. The coffee is just as good and it is very small and I even like the cup that comes with it (it is plastic – but quality plastic [precious resin is what fountain-pen aficionados call it] – but the little ridges keep it cool in the hand).

Now all I need is a portable grinder… and a metal filter… and a portable coffee container… and to get up earlier in the morning… and a coffee nap.

Reviews:

Review: AeroPress Go

If you’re serious about brewing your own coffee when traveling, this is the kit for you.

One thing I noticed in the AeroPress materials is how they highlight a water temperature preference of 175 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius), which is notably cooler than the just-boiled water from my kettle. So, I bought a kettle with six presets and paid particular attention to the effects of water temperature. Trying this out is part of coffee testing’s scientific method, but the insistence on 175 degrees also read like marketing hokum.

I immediately knew I was wrong in my first head-to head. With all other variables locked down, I made a cup with 175-degree water and another with water right off a 212-degree boil. Both made good coffee, but after smelling the 175-degree cup, I noticed it lacked the smoky/burnt/caramelized aromas that stuck out clearly in the 212-degree cup. Whether you enjoy those smells probably depends on how much you like burnt marshmallows.

The bigger difference was in the sipping. Again, both cups were good, but the 175-degree cup reminded me of high-end coffee-shop coffee, while the 212-degree cup had rougher edges and sharper flavors. I had been brewing with a medium-dark roast, so next I experimented with an oily dark roast. I found similar but less-pronounced results. Still, it was good enough to convince me to brew at a lower temperature in the future.

If you do tinker—give it a try!—just remember to tweak only one variable at a time and use coffee that you know you like. As long as you’re in the ballpark, it’s hard to go wrong, but Jessica Easto’s Craft Coffee is excellent if you’re looking for a primer on brewing methods.

Regardless of method, the Go is superior to its already excellent predecessor.

First, it’s made to travel. People like to talk about traveling with the original, and there’s an accessory bag you can get to do that, but the Go’s cup and lid make it much more compact, and less clunky too. Fly into a new town for a week, grab a bag of ground beans when you land, and your home kit is now your road kit.

Second, between the mug and the lid, you’ve got places to set things down as you work. The best thing I’d figured out with my original was to put a loaf pan next to my kettle, creating a little accessory bin so I didn’t have to set a wet, grounds-covered stirrer or slightly drippy brewer on the counter. It’s not perfect, but it’s better with the Go.

Third, packed into its cup with the lid on, it looks much nicer on a kitchen shelf.

Fourth, they both cost around $30.

Bikepacking Review – AeroPress Go

In their own words, inventor Alan Adler and the team at AeroPress designed the new Go version to “provide all the delicious brewing capabilities of the original AeroPress plus a convenient drinking mug that doubles as a carrying case.” I think that’s a fittingly anticlimactic summary of the AeroPress Go. It hasn’t been completely reinvented or seen any revolutionary modifications. Rather, it’s simply an AeroPress that packs into a 15oz mug for travel. It still brews the same cup of coffee, and it’s not meant to replace the original; the two exist alongside each other in the company’s lineup.

the AeroPress isn’t well suited to brewing massive cups of coffee—if that’s what you need to get going in the morning—but don’t let its diminutive size fool you. It’s designed to brew small, concentrated cups, and it does so exceptionally well. Personally, I like to make an extra strong brew and then dilute it with some water after, yielding an Americano.

The AeroPress Go comes with a generous 350 paper filters, and a replacement pack of 350 costs just $5. They’re very reasonably priced when compared to filters for other common brewers, work great, and have a tiny footprint. And it’s entirely possible to reuse your paper filters several times, just by giving them a quick rinse in between batches.

All that said, it’s worth considering picking up a reusable metal filter for your AeroPress or AeroPress Go if you plan to use it regularly. The one pictured above is a fine DISK filter from Able Brewing. At $15, it may be half the cost of an entire AeroPress kit, but it’ll last you a lifetime if properly cared for, and also means you won’t create unnecessary waste with each cup.

Aeropress Go Review: Is Smaller also Better?

Review: The AeroPress Go Is the Better AeroPress (Even If You Don’t Travel)

 

Coffee in the… Well, Sorta Wilderness

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

Campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

Nick and I had a desire to go on a simple camping trip for one night. We packed up and went to a campsite on Lake Ray Roberts, not very far north of the city. It wasn’t much of a wilderness adventure – but sometimes it’s a good thing to get out and sleep on the ground. I rode my bike around the paved trails in the state park – the route was surprisingly hilly. It also was pretty cold at night. I’m getting old.

But the best thing is making coffee in the morning. My trusty Aeropress and a burner makes a nice cup of Joe.

My Aeropress at a campsite, Lake Ray Roberts, Texas

Oh, and I have discovered that there is a new Aeropress available – a travel version that collapses down into its own self-contained coffee cup.

I think I need to get me one of those bad boys.