What I learned this week,April 12, 2013

Travelling Man - sculpture east of Downtown Dallas

Travelling Man – sculpture east of Downtown Dallas

Houston Rising

Why the Next Great American Cities Aren’t What You Think

America’s urban landscape is changing, but in ways not always predicted or much admired by our media, planners, and pundits. The real trend-setters of the future—judged by both population and job growth—are not in the oft-praised great “legacy” cities like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, but a crop of newer, more sprawling urban regions primarily located in the Sun Belt and, surprisingly, the resurgent Great Plains.

While Gotham and the Windy City have experienced modest growth and significant net domestic out-migration, burgeoning if often disdained urban regions such as Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City have expanded rapidly. These low-density, car-dominated, heavily suburbanized areas with small central cores likely represent the next wave of great American cities.

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.

A sketch I made of Boquillas, Mexico, in 2001

A sketch I made of Boquillas, Mexico, in 2001

Well over a decade ago, I went to Big Bend, my favorite place on earth, and crossed over to Boquillas, Mexico, to have some tacos and enjoy the international flavor. At that time, you paid a dollar to a guy with a rowboat (with the name “Frijoles” hand-painted on the transom) to get you across the Rio Grande. No passport, customs, or anything like that. It seemed silly, given that the river can be walked when it is low, and there is no real civilization for hundreds of miles in any direction.

After 9/11, of course, this all came to a screeching halt. No more unauthorized border crossing. The village of Boquillas was crippled by the disappearing tourist traffic. What a shame. It was gone forever.

Well, as it turns out, not forever. Now I have to get my passport in order and get ready to make that long drive to West Texas.

South County Bureau report: It’s open! Boquillas welcomes U.S. visitors, officials, media folks.

Boquillas is open! Go — and have a great time — and help our neighbors who’ve waited 11 long years for this day!

Remember to tip your boatman.

Crossing the Rio Grande in 2001

Crossing the Rio Grande in 2001

The 38 Essential Dallas Restaurants, April 2013

13 down, 25 to go.

Three on this list I’ve written about here:

Jimmy’s Food Store
Chicken Scratch

Early Adopter Beware: 7 Huge First Gen Products

Has a Seattle Building Discovered the Secret to Making Stairs Irresistible?

Seattle’s $30 million carbon neutral Bullitt Center, billed as the world’s greenest commercial building, will feature what its owner, the Bullitt Foundation, calls an “irresistible stairway” when it opens at the end of the month. The elegant, light-filled escalier offers panoramic views of downtown and Puget Sound. It’s intended to conserve energy and provide physical exercise for occupants. Will it be a lesson to companies trying to get employees to make healthier choices?

We all know climbing stairs is good for us: It’s a good workout and can even save time. In 2011, researchers at a Canadian hospital found that when they had doctors take the stairs rather than the elevator, the doctors saved an average of 15 minutes per workday—and they were required to walk, not run.

But despite the benefits, few office buildings do anything meaningful to encourage stair climbing. Many workplaces have grim, fluorescent-lit, concrete passages hidden away behind fire doors. Some all but prohibit stair use, in part due to post-9/11 security concerns.

The building where I work has very inviting, entertaining, stairs with nice views. However, it was built a while back and does not meet current fire codes. That’s why stairways are so grim – because of the codes that forbid clear openings between floors (because they encourage the spread of fire). I wonder how the Seattle building gets around that problem.


OK… Well, The internet provides the answer. They had to change the codes to build the building.

Bullitt Foundation says Living Building Challenge can only be met after code change

“We were shocked to learn that it is flat-out illegal to build this sort of ultra-green building in any city in America,” says Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes. “But Seattle changed its building code to allow super-green buildings to meet performance standards as an alternative to prescriptive standards. We wanted the design flexibility to construct a building that used less than one-fourth the energy of a (standard) code building.”

As Seen on TV: 21 Books From Mad Men

Why You Should Be A Writer

RIP Thomas Kinkade

Nothing but Net: The Citizen Kane of Bad Art

Although lost to us through a regretful combination of valium, alcohol, and Disney dreams, Kinkade’s abrupt end does not, however, signify the end to his ™. A digital immortal, his empire continues to expand post-mortem. Despite failing gallery schemes, his virtual gallery is growing. The “Kinkadian Master Style”, or official imitators, will continue to create new works through his website. Similarly, his impact remains ever present on visual blogs like tumblr. It is on these sites that iterations of his work are always being created. One current meme is to “Kinkade” an image, by adding his copyrighted cottages, or by filling any background with swaths of his paintings. It is unlikely Kinkade would be flattered by these depictions, but imagining the man, he would prefer being ironicized rather than irrelevant.

What I learned this week, March 22, 2013

Burgers and Beer

Smashburger and Deep Ellum Brewing Co Pairing Menu

Turandot at the Death Star

Creates Device that Harvests Energy From Air

The 8 Most Incredible Stop-Motion Animation Music Videos From The Past Decade

A Dictionary of Similes


Crunchiness brings wealth. Wealth leads to sogginess. Sogginess brings poverty. Poverty creates crunchiness. From this immutable cycle we know that to hang on to wealth, you must keep things crunchy.


Video: Making a 10,000-Year Clock


In a desperate and assuredly ultimately futile effort to get something useful accomplished I have been cleaning, de-cluttering, and organizing my office room. To that effect, I bought something from an estate sale – it was marked a dollar, but I bought it on half-off Saturday… so I paid fifty cents.

It’s a bilious cube of cheap turquoise green plastic, with four clear lucite drawers. I have a vision of organizing small parts in these drawers and setting the unit within reach of my work table… when I need some tiny something or other, there it is – rather than spending a tired wasted evening looking in vain, digging through tangled piles of crap, and uncovering, too late, items that I had pursued weeks ago and now find useless while my grail quest goes forever ungratified.

A useless and hopeless vision, I know, but such is life.

One unexpected bonus, though – easily worth the four bits I paid. Inside the thing I discovered an original sales label touting the virtues of the purchase.

It’s a Handi-Chest – made in the U.S.A. By Campro Products, of Canton Ohio. There are four helpful illustrations indicating possible uses:

  • On the dresser for jewelry, notions
  • Mighty handy for sewing supplies and accessories
  • For the office a real “organizer”
  • In the workshop “a place for everything and everything in its place”

So maybe my delusions of adequacy aren’t unique – the thing was designed and constructed (from my best guess, about the time I was born) to meet the same fantasy that still flits around all these long decades later.

I love old postwar advertisements. It was a simpler time – a time of smiling men and women, a time without snark, a time made up of line drawings. It was Mad Men time – the advertising executives thought up this stuff right after their three martini lunches (that might help explain the surreality lurking below the surface) and sent it all off to the Midwest to be extruded, printed, boxed up, and set out on the shelves.


Those were the days.

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

What I learned this week, March 30, 2012

In his defense of Obamacare, the Solicitor General quoted from the Preamble to the Constitution. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t immediately familiar with the exact wording of the Preamble – but I found this video that explains it all.

Strangest of Places

Abundance Is Our Future (and We All Know It)

A Museum on the Streets of Rome

The odd and amazing story of Sealand

Sealand is a small country located off the British coast on an abandoned WWII artillery platform in the North Sea.

Things I want to do in Dallas (coming up)

Candy and I have tickets to the SavorDallas Wine and Food Stroll tonight down in the Arts District. I bought them for her birthday.

The Deep Ellum Arts Festival is coming up April 6-8th. My favorite band, Brave Combo will be there. I’m trying to save enough cash to buy another sculpture by David Pound.

April 14th is Ciclovia de Dallas – where the Houston Street Viaduct will be closed to traffic and open only to bicycles. Looks like fun – another bridge party.

Free concerts in the Dallas Arts District. Unfortunately, these are on Thursdays and my writing group meets then – but I might be able to work something out.

Any other ideas? What am I missing?

Free Things to do in Dallas

For all of you Mad Men fans out there:

Seven Things I Wish I’d Have Known When I First Became A Photographer

  1. Care about what you are photographing
  2. Learn how to use your camera and stop changing systems
  3. It’s not the camera that makes the shot – it’s the photographer
  4. Find the light first, the background second and the subject third
  5. If you photograph people or make pictures professionally understand that being nice is better than being good
  6. The best photographs in the world happen when …. there is solid, real emotion and/or love
  7. Serious photography is about protecting memories, telling stories, keeping moments

Sorry, I’m sure this is more interesting to me than it is to you….