What I learned this week, May 28, 2017

Frack Yea!

Learn to use mental dispersion to strengthen creativity

Nowadays we are constantly confronted by a screen demanding our attention; whether this is our computers, phone, television sets or a film, street ads or an ecosystem of ads, becoming distracted is easier than ever before, and the attention required to solve a problem or to find innovative solutions is a rare and fleeting moment.

However, this might be precisely because we are used to feeling guilty for not being more creative, or because we do not pay more attention: according to large body of research, creativity is more closely connected to daydreaming and dispersion than with the intellectual effort of paying attention.


JODOROWSKY EXPLAINS WHAT MAKES THE TAROT A CREATIVE TOOL

A masterpiece of universal knowledge, the Tarot is a mirror that looks directly into the eye of the soul.

In the cult film, The Holy Mountain, filmmaker, poet, and magician, Alejandro Jodorowsky said: “the Tarot will teach you how to create a soul.” Did all of us not come into the world with a soul, our own, ready-made? But to ask about the nature of the soul in these abstract terms is a theological and speculative problem and one toward which little progress can be made. But to ask any individual and earthly soul is to open a door onto a passage along which the Tarot will help one to move.

The Tarot is an ancient game of cards, most likely created, anonymously, during the 14th century. Jodorowsky doesn’t hesitate to call it “an encyclopedia of symbols.” But during the 20th century, the use of Tarot became popular thanks to the printing of massive editions of the Tarot of Marseilles or the Raider-Waite deck. These cards don’t have fixed meanings, but are related and visually associated with one another based on the lives and experiences of both the seeker and the reader (i.e.; the person doing the reading).


The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles

It seems as if the decline in the cellular health of muscles associated with aging was “corrected” with exercise, especially if it was intense, says Dr. Sreekumaran Nair, a professor of medicine and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s senior author. In fact, older people’s cells responded in some ways more robustly to intense exercise than the cells of the young did — suggesting, he says, that it is never too late to benefit from exercise.


Here’s what a MacGuffin is, and 10 killer examples that made movies awesome

from Wikipedia

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot. The most common type of MacGuffin is a person, place, or thing (such as money or an object of value). Other more abstract types include victory, glory, survival, power, love, or some unexplained driving force.

The MacGuffin technique is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and thereafter declines in importance. It may reappear at the climax of the story but sometimes is actually forgotten by the end of the story.

The use of a MacGuffin as a plot device predates the name “MacGuffin”. The Holy Grail of Arthurian Legend has been cited as an example of an early MacGuffin, as a desired object that serves to advance the plot. In the 1929 detective novel The Maltese Falcon, a small statuette provides both the book’s eponymous title and its motive for intrigue.

The name “MacGuffin” was originally coined by the English screenwriter Angus MacPhail, although it was popularised by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1930s, but the concept pre-dates the term. The World War I–era actress Pearl White used weenie to identify whatever object (a roll of film, a rare coin, expensive diamonds, etc.) impelled the heroes, and often the villains as well, to pursue each other through the convoluted plots of The Perils of Pauline and the other silent film serials in which she starred.


What Milk Should I Drink?

Almond-milk drinkers, for years, have exhibited a special sort of self-righteousness, based equally, I think, on the impressive nutritional profile of their chosen nut and the hardship they endure to consume it. (It is thin, weak, balky in a foamer—this from personal experience.) Soy milk, the most fiercely partisan might have argued, was for people who enjoyed having their endocrine systems disrupted, or who worked for Monsanto, while cow milk was for gluttonous torturers. Coconut, hazelnut, cashew, hemp milks: distant sirens, usually encountered in punitively expensive hand-pressed blends at places that consider macchiatos tacky and instead offer cortados and Gibraltars. Even as the big companies got involved and managed to make almond milk creamy, thick, and voluminous, the movement kept its puritanical edge.


Consumer Justice Investigates Network Of Professional Panhandlers

Doug Denton runs Homeward Bound, Inc. — a non-profit agency that helps people overcome addiction. He said most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and that giving them money is likely just enabling their addictions. “Just assume you’re buying drugs for them,” Denton said. He says in many cases there are people controlling the corners, adding, “The organizers of these rings are supplying the drugs and alcohol and reaping the profits.”


READ THIS BEFORE YOU PLAY MUSIC IN PUBLIC

These are the rules.

I didn’t make them up. These are inalienable truths, a part of the divine spectrum of unquestionable constants that hold our universe together.

There might be those who feel deeply offended by some of the wisdom contained herein but I must insist that it is firmly in your interest to understand that the rules are quite infallible and with the greatest of respect, if you take issue with this doctrine, you are very probably a massive douchebag and it is thus all the more important that you adhere to these rules lest you reveal yourself as such.

Now read and obey.

Madison King at the first Patio Session

Deep Ellum

Courthouse Jam
Denton, Texas
(click to enlarge)

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What I learned this week, May 3, 2013


Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Stylish bike rider, French Quarter, New Orleans

Here’s What Americans Don’t Get About Cycling — And Why It’s A Problem

Bike rider in front of the Winspear Opera House. If you are wondering, the photo is cropped and upside down.

Bike rider in front of the Winspear Opera House. If you are wondering, the photo is cropped and upside down.


Paul Thomas Anderson directing a film of one of Thomas Pynchon novels. This is truly the best of all possible worlds.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice to Begin Shooting this Month.

Now I’m waiting for an HBO series made from Gravity’s Rainbow.


It may be more of a coincidence than anything else, but I live in one of these and spend time every year in seven of the twelve, including the top five.

The Top 12 American Boomtowns

Dallas Skyline from the Soda Bar on the roof of the NYLO Southside hotel.

Dallas Skyline from the Soda Bar on the roof of the NYLO Southside hotel.


Quick Hits:
Two hot books to watch for
Spice Things Up in the Kitchen with Homemade Taco Seasoning
Do These 9 Things in Your Kitchen to Lose Weight
The Great Gatsby and 7 other hideous movie tie-in book covers
In Germany, a U.S. beer invasion
Forget the Unemployment Rate: The Alarming Stat Is the Number of ‘Missing Workers’
The old order is dying. We are living in the age of Farage
US Headed For The Coldest Spring On Record


When I first saw this, I thought, “Oh, this has to be fake.” As time goes by (and a couple of hours is an eternity in internet-time) it looks like it might be real. At any rate, it’s one hell of a strange photo, real or not.

Rays reporter Kelly Nash takes an impressively dangerous Fenway Park self-portrait


Why Workout Pain Is Good

The reason the saying “No pain, no gain” is so common is because it’s true: If you never feel discomfort when you exercise, you’re not getting all the benefits. What separates great athletes from mediocre ones isn’t only talent and training – it’s also how well they can handle discomfort.


I was tired, turned on the TV, and saw a little of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner – and was appalled. The phrase that kept wafting through my mind was, “let them eat cake.” The next day I found this article, which echoed my thought.

The Narcissism Of The White House Correspondents’ Dinner Hurting The Media’s Already Tarnished Brand

“The breaking point for me was Lindsay Lohan,” Tom Brokaw recently said. While this statement could apply to so many circumstances, he was specifically referring to the annual gala event known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. “[W]hat we’re doing with that dinner, as it has been constituted for the past several years, is saying, ‘We’re Versailles. The rest of you eat cake,’” Brokaw added in a striking rebuke of what the night (which has evolved into a whole weekend of festivities) has become. There will come a day soon when members of the press will ask themselves why they did not listen to Brokaw. The political media has a credibility problem, and the WHCD is not helping.

I guess I have a low tolerance for narcissism (hypocritical for someone that has a blog – the most narcissistic thing there is), especially in elected officials – which are supposed to be servants of the people.


10 books from the 21st century every man should read

A worthy list. I have read most of these, and the rest were on my to-read. It’s nice to see so many short story collections on here. The Road is not one of my favorite Cormac McCarthy novels. But its only competition in this century is No Country for Old Men – which I would give the nod to, but that is arguable. I’m going to have to look into those Author’s Picks.


Dove’s Fake New ’Real Beauty’ Ads

Very effective and heart-rendering… but it’s fake.



How to Make Taco Bell’s Crunch Wrap Supreme at Home

Nothing sums up the deliciousness of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme more concisely than the love letter to it on the daily humor website McSweeney’s. All of the Crunchwrap’s beauty is perfectly summarized in that piece: the convenience of not having to choose between a soft or crunchy tortilla, the patches of sour cream randomly placed throughout it, and a creamy, indulgent nacho cheese sauce that is the ying to the meat’s yang. And it’s all wrapped together in a soft tortilla shell that makes it easy to enjoy one-handed without making a mess.


You’ll Be Shocked by How Many of the World’s Top Students Are American

Arbor Hills and Carrollton Blue and Orange

The overlook at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano, Texas.

Slowly, I am able to ride farther and farther on my bike. I’m still slow – I am riding an old, inefficient mountain bike (which does have the advantage of being able to go anywhere). I have my ancient road bike which I’m trying to get into rideable condition… but I am struggling with mystery flats. When it is fixed I should be able to up my speed and distance. Right now I am limited not so much by my fitness but by time and the amount of water I can carry. I drink an amazing amount of water in this heat.

What I like to do on weekends sometime is to load up my bike in the back of the Matrix, fill a cooler with bottles of iced water, and set out across the city. I use GoogleMaps on my phone, with the Bicycling option turned on – showing up the bike trails and dedicated lanes bright green. I look for long stretches or connected clusters and give a shot at riding somewhere I haven’t been before.

On Sunday, I headed northwest and the first place I came across was the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. This is a large Plano park which I had seen a couple years ago when I made a wrong turn leaving the hospital where Candy was getting surgery. It had an odd parking lot, beige rock buildings, and a big ol’ mess of hilly woods. I looked it up online and had wanted to pay a visit ever since.

It was an interesting place to ride a bicycle. First – it does lack distance – only a couple miles of paved trails (I wasn’t in the mood for hitting the dirt). It isn’t a very good place for speed either – the trails are lousy with clots of people wandering around and others walking their dogs.

What is nice, though, is its hills. There are a lot of wooded nature trails in the Dallas area, but almost all of them are located in worthless river bottom floodplain and are as flat as a pancake. Arbor Hills has a good bit of ups and downs – not enough to make it too difficult or even unpleasant, but enough for a good workout.

The trails all wind around and rise up to a stone lookout, a nice destination, a pretty place looking out over the trees and scrub fields with only a hint of the millions of rooftops rising along the horizon – a reminder of the fact that you are not really in a wilderness, but merely a forgotten pocket of vegetation left over somehow when the world was paved over.

I looped around a couple of times, then packed my bike up and drove on. I wanted to go down to Carrollton and check out their trails. I had read about how they had been doing a lot of work on extending their hike/bike trail network. I did a circuit of their Orange and Blue trail routes, about ten miles total.

I applaud their work, and some of their trails are nice… running beside some swampy ponds and wild green creeks. They need to do more to access the network, though. It was fine for some exercise, but the pavement doesn’t really go anywhere – it would not work for commuting to work or shopping.

Sitting at a little shaded bench I gulped down my last bottle of cold water and knew it was time to head back to the car and go home. There is always tomorrow, and more stretches of pavement in a different direction.

Don Draper is Such a Card

I’ve been riding my bicycle for fitness – about ten miles a day, about five days a week. If I don’t commute home from work, I drive to a trail on the way home or at least go out in the evening in the neighborhood. I want to change myself into a morning person and get in a quick little ride at dawn, before work… but this old dog doesn’t learn new tricks without a lot of pain.

I need to increase my options for when I can’t ride outside. I am dealing with the heat with a lot of ice water and ibuprofen but soon the days will be getting shorter and I’m not sure I can ride in the dark without getting killed.

A while back, I did a project where I installed a computer screen on my recumbent bicycle… and that worked well for a while. I’m getting stronger now, and the recumbent is good for some easy work, but I need something more strenuous. I wondered if I was getting strong enough to ride my spin bike (an Ironman 112 I bought off of ebay a few years ago for a hundred bucks or so) which has been gathering dust out on the porch for a long time. I was surprised at how well it worked out.

So I cleaned the thing off and dragged it into Club Lee (he’s in New Orleans for the time being and doesn’t need his room). The last time he was home he carted his big television back to the Big Easy and left the crude wooden stand I had built for it. It was the perfect height for what I needed.  I dug out a monitor and a sound system I bought at a thrift shop – set it all up. I can bring in my laptop and hook it up to the monitor and sound system.

My Spinning Bike setup.

So now I try to ride the spin bike when I can – especially when I don’t get in an outside ride. I’m watching stuff on Netflix and on Hulu Plus (mostly the Criterion Collection) while I ride. I don’t have time to watch what I want to… so much entertainment and so little time.

Mostly though, I’m working my way through Mad Men on Netflix. Two episodes back to back is a good workout on the spin bike.

That Don Draper is such a card.

“The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons. You’re born alone and you die alone and this world just drops a bunch of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts. But I never forget. I’m living like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t one.”

Season I, Episode I

 ” Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”

Season 1, Episode 13

“I hate to break it to you but there is no big lie. There is no system. The universe is indifferent.”

Season I, Episode 8

“If you listen, he’ll tell you about the time he thought he was an angel or dreamt of being perfect. And then he’ll smile with wisdom, content that he realized the world isn’t perfect. We’re flawed, because we want so much more. We’re ruined, because we get these things, and wish for what we had.”

Season 4, Episode 8

 “Every day I tried not to think about what would happen if this happened.”

Season 4, Episode 11

 “Every woman wants choices, but in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box. She’s unique. She makes the choices and she’s chosen him. She wants to tell the world he’s MINE. He belongs to ME, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He’s her possession. You’ve given the gift of total ownership. “

Season I, Episode 8

 “I’m enjoying the story so far, but I have a feeling it’s not going to end well.”

Season 2, Episode 2

My Commute Home from Work

I used to tell people that I couldn’t ride a bike to work because the route wasn’t safe. The streets I drive on have a long, blind, fast curving stretch that would be fatal for a slow bicycle. But as I thought about it, I figured out that I could find a safe route – especially after the Glenville Trail that runs behind my house opened up. I thought about it for a year, then finally started to ride. It seemed like a big deal for me when I was thinking about it and when I rode the first time, but now it’s routine.

I don’t ride to work… there is no way for me to take a shower and I sweat like a stuck pig in this summer Texas heat – so I get someone to drive me in to work in the morning and I ride home. This has another advantage of taking away any time constraints so I can ride as slowly as I want. Friday I loaded a point and shoot into my handlebar bag and took some shots along the way.

Near my work I have a couple routes through the parking lots of an extensive area of small business parks. Looking at these businesses – of a tremendous variety – is always interesting to me. I admire and am fascinated by entrepreneurship and these strips of cheap space are the heart and birthplace of new industry.

Magrathea

Magrathea Incorporated? What a cool name. I looked them up – they are on facebook – they’re in the business of restoring classic old cars. A bit of a fall from making entire custom ordered planets – but still pretty interesting.

Wood World

Wood World – a neat store with all sorts of rare and useful wood raw materials, tools, and pen kits.

I emerge from the industrial parks and cross Spring Valley at a busy intersection next to the DART station. It’s a long, long light – then I play chicken with the transit busses turning left in front of me.

Here’s the hardest and most fun part of the ride. When you drive around Dallas, you think it is as flat as a pancake. But there are hills that you can notice on a bicycle – when you have to expend the energy to get up them. There’s this alley that I found – almost a mile long, and a slow steady uphill the whole way. When I first rode, it was a struggle riding that stretch. Now I barely even have to downshift. It’s a shock how quickly that changed.

Bike Lane on Grove.

The City of Richardson has started designating the right hand lanes on many of their neighborhood thoroughfares as bike lanes. It’s working out well – the bikes like it and it helps control the traffic. The only problem is making left turns out of the right-hand bike lanes – there is no way to do that safely.

One surprising barrier to bicycle transport are the rail lines. This one cuts right through the city and there are few routes across it – and they are narrow, busy roads.

Glenbrook Trail

The last mile and a half of my commute home is on the Glenbrook Trail – which starts out running under a power line right of way. It was supposed to go farther, but they could not get permission to cross the railroad right-of-way (see above).

The Glenbrook Trail crossing Beltline road.

The trail crosses the very busy Beltline Road (everything in the suburbs of Dallas is on Beltline Road) a block west of Plano Road. It’s a nasty intersection – when I went to meetings on the planning of the Glenville Trail they said they were really struggling with this section – there is simply not enough room.

The other day, while I was waiting for the light to turn, a woman in a VW made a left and a huge SUV was coming way, way too fast and she turned in front of him. There was a screech of brakes, horns, and skidding tires – the SUV went up on two wheels and swerved right past me – in the end nobody hit anything, though it was close. I stood there watching it thinking that if the truck hits the VW it will bounce off and crush me standing right there, four feet away, on the sidewalk with my bike.

The whole thing was over in three seconds.

The intersection is lousy with surveillance cameras and I wondered if I had died a sudden spectacular death would it be captured on one of the traffic cams. Would my demise make it onto Youtube? Texas bicyclist crushed by careening Tahoe. Would I go viral?

Plano Road crossing

Where the trails cross busy roads without lights (this one is on Plano Road) they have these S-Shaped islands. At the planning meetings it was explained that this design forces bicycles and pedestrians to stop in the middle of the crossing and then turn and face oncoming traffic to see and wait for a gap to continue across. It actually works really well – I feel safer at these crossings than I do at the lights (see above).

The ponds at Huffhines.

The last part of my commute is the easiest part – the trail goes through the ponds in the park at the end of my block. This is on the bridge over the ponds next to the new Huffhines Recreation Center.

Wal-Mart panniers.

I bought these panniers on clearance from Wal-Mart, believe it or not. They are not the best quality in the world – I wouldn’t go on a cross-country cycle journey with them, but they are handy and work great for clothes and whatever work I have to take home.

I Need a Victory

This is the one year anniversary of me starting up my blog again. I’ve gone one year, posting every day. Actually, according to WordPress, I’ve published 369 posts. It was leap year… I know I published two in one day on one occasion… I wonder what the other extras are?

My first post was on the Monk Parakeets that live in a power yard near my house.

My goal was to go a year publishing every day and now I’ve done it. I think, going forward, I’m going to relax a little and be willing to skip a day if I don’t have anything. I want to go for quality, rather than quantity I want to write more and photograph less. I want to try different things, write out a few more ideas and push it more.

Any comments, opinions, or suggestions would be appreciated.

Pack Straps

My bike with an experimental bag I tried out. The panniers work a lot better.

I carry a notebook (at least one) around with me always, along with a quiver of fountain pens, ready to record any fleeting thoughts that creep into my thick skull, on the off chance one might prove useful someday. Things… things have been tough lately and last Friday I wrote down, “I need a victory.” Then I followed this observation with a short list of attainable goals I’ve been working toward. I perused the list, crossed a few off, then circled the item “Ride my Bike to/from work.”

First, I scribbled through the “to.” I have come across a possibly insurmountable obstacle to riding my bike to work – there is no place to take a shower. I’m working on that, but it will take time, politics, and a budget from somewhere. However, there is no reason I can’t ride home after work.

I have been working on a route to/from my work for a long time now, and have it figured out. The route is important because my goal does not include me being killed and ground beneath the wheels of unstoppable traffic. However, I have found a route made up of paved bicycle trails, wide sidewalks, empty residential streets, quiet alleys (I have to be careful there – cars can back out unexpectedly) and parking lots.

One weekend a while back I did some extra work and was rewarded with a gift card. Looking around, I found a surprisingly inexpensive set of panniers from Wal-Mart and bought the things. They are cheaply made, but well designed and they fit on the rack on my old crappy bombing-around-town bike. I can haul any work I need, plus stuff extra clothes in them.

On Saturday, I decided to test my route. Loading up the panniers with a dummy cargo, I rode from home all the way to my workplace, about 5.2 miles, along my chosen low-danger route. I looped around the parking lot and rode back home. No problema. So I knew I could make the distance.

Candy agreed to drive me to work on Monday morning, with my bike in the back of the car. I set it in the rack (there are about a dozen other folks riding bikes – a pitifully small number) and carried the panniers to my desk. At the end of the day I changed clothes, clipped the panniers back on the bike, and headed out.

My bike needs some adjusting and lubrication, I need to work on the pannier mounting (my heels clip the bags every now and then), and I look like a complete ridiculous idiot… but otherwise I really enjoyed the ride. The bicycling itself is the easiest part – the difficult thing is the logistics of it – what to take, what to pack, getting this here, making sure that is there…. Everything is too complicated.

Once I was on the bike and moving, it felt like freedom.

My goal now is to ride home at least twice a week. On the days I can’t do that I might get up a little early and ride for forty five minutes around the neighborhood at dawn – that would be nice. I can go to the store too, those panniers will work well for groceries.

Sounds like a plan. Sounds like a little victory.

A Bit of Dappled Shade

The looping trails through the Spring Creek Natural Area converge on a little footbridge over the creek. There is a nice bench there - a good place to rest and get away from the city for a few minutes.

This is the time of the year full of those rare North Texas days of cool mornings and warm afternoons. I can feel the killer heat of summer crouched on the horizon, ready to pounce. But in the meantime, it is so nice, so much of a shame to be cooped up in a cubicle for so many hours. When the whistle sounds, I want to be outside – to capture as much of this time as I can in preparation for the blazing oven season ahead.

There is this spot – the Spring Creek Natural area – where the concrete bike riding trails enter some thick creekbottom floodplain woods and loop around to give a bicycle rider the illusion of being outside of the city for a few minutes.

Candy and I have swapped cars for a few days. The car I have now is a tiny hatchback – much smaller than the one I drive on most days. With the back seats folded, however, I discovered my bicycle can fit in the back without even taking either wheel off. Maybe I’ll keep driving this car and carry my bike with me – get in some quick rides in different parts of the city. Maybe I don’t have to spent my money on a folding bike.

Candy was worried about leaving my bike in the car. “I bought it for used for ninety dollars twenty years ago,” I told her. I remember now, I was saving to buy a bike and then found this one at a pawn shop. I figured it could get me by until I saved enough for a decent one. I guess I have my money’s worth. “You’ve put a lot into it, though,” she said. Well… not really. Tires and tubes, of course. I had to buy a new brake lever/shifter set – but I found that on clearance and paid less than fifty dollars for it. I need to buy a new chain – but those are cheap – the thing has been slipping cogs if I push too hard and I think the chain is worn.

The bike is a hunk of crap – but I’ll take it apart, clean and lube it… one more time.

I rode around the Spring Creek woods, taking it easy. I’d stop every now and then at a place with a bench and read a story on my Kindle. Sometimes I’d check the baseball scores on my phone. That’s a nice way to waste a day.

After hanging out in the dappled sunlight of the woods for awhile, I thought about how nice it would be to have other people do this. We could ride along the central trail along 75 to Eastside and grab a burger, maybe a cold beer, then ride back. Never happen, but I rode the route anyway, just to see if it was doable. A nice little ride, actually. It’s a shock to leave the deep, muffled forest and be suddenly along a screaming eight-lane highway, though the trail makes the ride easy. I didn’t get anything to eat, but sat on a bench at Eastside for a bit, watched the folks come and go before cruising back down into the woods.

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