They Ring And You Run

“So that’s the telephone? They ring, and you run.”
― Edgar Degas

Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Oblique Strategy:
Always first steps

I think of the technological advances during the time I have lived.

In college, I had to punch cards to produce input into a computer that took up an entire floor of the business school. I would hand my precious stack – chits of holed paper with one corner gone – through a window to some anointed guardian like it was the gate to the Emerald City. I would then stare at an empty vending machine for hours until my stack of printouts flopped down into a numbered wooden bin.

Almost a decade later I was writing database programs to run on a Radio Shack TRS-80. I would write the program on an 8 inch floppy disk, and the data for each site was on another 8 incher. I think each held 180 K bytes. We kept having problems with data until I discovered my assistant was holding the extra disks onto a copy board with magnets. Reports were slowly spit out on an incredibly loud daisy-wheel printer. Still, as crude as this all was it revolutionized the storage and retrieval of information that we had been doing by hand.

The IBM PC was another incredible advance. Of course, I remember when it was kept in a wire cage and you had to get a key from a manager to use it. They thought it was a waste of money – and couldn’t understand why it didn’t get more use. I finally convinced management to get it out of the locked cage and let anybody sit there and type. Soon, a mouse wandered over and the early versions of Windows came out. It was painfully slow – but I remember when I realized I could cut information from one program (a spreadsheet, say) and paste it into another (a word processor). I remember that moment still – it was like a whole new world opened up.

Another moment like that was the first time I saw a laser printer spit out a piece of 8.5 x 11. I think it was the silence that impressed me, even more than the quality of the work.

And on it goes – for most of my adult life, every year brought new wonders – having my own computer at home, laptops, video games, thumb drives, GPS. All amazing. It’s only recently, as the corporate behemoth ropes everything back in, gets its evil tendrils into and around every byte that I feel we have begun to fall backwards. Things are now getting harder and harder, less and less amazing.

When I talk to my kids about this, the quintessence of millennials, they agree without hesitation that it is the Smartphone that is the game changer. For me, it’s probably the internet… but for them it’s the little piece of glass in their hand – that goes everywhere, that does everything. They can’t imagine life without one.

Each little phone is, of course, many, many times more powerful that that immense leviathan that spread across that entire building when I was in school.

Cool People Live Here

Urban Reserve

Entrance to the Urban Reserve

When I was riding down the Cottonwood Trail to the White Rock Creek Trail, there was a little neighborhood I wanted to visit on my bike. It’s called the Urban Reserve, and it’s one street lined with custom homes “designed by a select group of regionally and nationally recognized architects.”,

Dallas is such an ugly city… both naturally (it is flat as a pancake, and far from the coast) and man-made (despite the great architecture downtown, most of the metroplex are cookie-cutter suburban developments thrown thoughtlessly across the prairie). So it’s pretty cool to see somebody doing something like this.

I discovered this spot driving around when Nick played basketball at a private school next to the Urban Reserve. The southern end of the street has a little strip of concrete that connects to the White Rock Creek Trail.


Some of the homes have water as a design feature. Unfortunately, that doesn't work well with the horrible drought conditions. If Frank Lloyd Wright did the work, it could be called "Stagnentwater." Architecture humor.

Since I found it, I’ve been trying to get Lee to go with me down there and look at the homes. He’s studying architecture at Tulane and I thought he’d be interested in something like that in his own city. Despite my best wheedling and pleading, he never was able to carve out enough time to go with me, and he’s back at school, so I’m pedaling around by myself.

See-Through House

Not all the planned and designed homes are built yet. Do you want to live in the "See-Through House"?

X-acto House

How about the "X-acto House"?


The architecture is billed as “modern.” A lot of the homes are of the contemporary boxy style – Personally, I’d like to see more variety.

Now, why would people pay the extra money to live in a place like this?

See the little blue sign against the dark wall in front of the house in the picture above? Look closely.

Cool People Live Here

This is what is says. “Cool People Live Here. please do not disturb.” This is it, really, isn’t it? Buy one of these houses, and be one of the Cool People.

Would I like to do that? You bet your life. I’ve always wanted to be one of the Cool People. If I could afford one of these houses, I’d do it.

Wouldn’t you?


I wasn't the only lonely bicyclist.