Today is the First Day

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

― Rumi

Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

I remember back in high school during an assembly when the principal came out – he was an old, clueless, asshole who was gone within a year – stepped up to the microphone and said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” There was an immediate deafening groan. The idiot had read this somewhere and thought he was the first one to discover the saying. He must never have looked at a poster (this was, of course, decades before the internet and tacky posters were the communication method of spreading memes) and ignorant that the phrase he uttered was five years’ worn out. I almost felt sorry for the old fool… no, not really.

But today was, really, the first day of the rest of my life. After almost a half-century of going to work every single day, I retired. I turned in my work phone, my laptop, and my security badge and walked out to my car.

It’s an incredibly strange feeling – like something huge that used to be right there, all the time, and now is gone forever. I woke up this morning and instinctively reached for my work phone to see what disasters had occurred overnight that I would have to deal with… and found the charger empty.

So what was the first thing I did post-work? I’m sure you will not be surprised to read that I crawled out of bed at dawn, made a thermos of fresh ground coffee, and went for a long bike ride. It felt so good not having any time pressure. Even on Saturdays, when I was working, I would feel the pressure of upcoming Monday. And now Monday is just another day.

I stopped at one of my usual places and sat there and leisurely drank my coffee. I think I’ll do this every day. Actually, I thought about putting a list out somewhere with times and places I plan to have coffee, call it “East Richardson morning bike and coffee” or something and see if anyone ever wants to meet me and share a cup of Joe. Is that a good idea? It seems sort of weird, but it would be fun. Have to think about it.

After all, I can do whatever I want.

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.

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, February 26, 2021

Zen-like Christmas decorations, Waxahachie, Texas

The Zen rule for becoming happier: Change one thing

1. Start very small.
2. Do only one change at a time.
3. Be present and enjoy the activity (don’t focus on results).
4. Be grateful for every step you take.

Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

Train Your Body to Work Out—or Just Hang Out—in Colder Weather

So you hate the cold.

With coronavirus surging, restaurants and bars closed and the homes of even friends and family off-limits, does that mean your winter social life is doomed?

No, according to a host of scientists, professors and trainers who are experts on the physiological impact of frigid weather on humans. Adapting to cold isn’t fun— who loves to shiver?—but it’s possible, scientists say. And as a bonus: Cold, like exercise, makes you healthier.

Window washing job I couldn’t do
Downtown Dallas, Texas

The computers rejecting your job application

A professional journalist, I had recently applied for a new job, and for the first part of the recruitment process the publisher made me play a number of simple online games from the comfort of my own home.

These included having to quickly count the number of dots in two boxes, inflating a balloon before it burst to win money, and matching emotions to facial expressions. Then an artificial intelligence (AI) software system assessed my personality, and either passed or failed me. No human had a look-in.

I wondered: is it fair for a computer alone to accept or reject your job application?

Welcome to the fast-growing world of AI recruitment.

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

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

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Display at main Half-Price Books, Dallas, Texas

The Use and Abuse of ‘They’

Journalists and essayists in recent years somehow formed the impression that the academic study of English grammar is partitioned into two mutually hostile tribes: descriptivists and prescriptivists. Both are portrayed in cartoonish stereotypes.

The descriptivists allegedly think that anything uttered by English speakers is ipso facto good English and can never be erroneous. So if people sometimes say, “It’s in the, the . . . the hall closet,” we must deem that correct, and posit noun phrases with three definite articles in a row. This insane view is purportedly associated with the political Left.

But the other tribe seems just as deranged. Its members won’t change their minds about the sacred edicts of grammar regardless of evidence. No matter how many great writers may have committed some solecism, they say, it’s still wrong if the rules of correct grammar say it is. This view gets tagged as conservative.

Water Off A Duck’s Back

“-Hey, listen,” I said. “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?” I realized it was only one chance in a million.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Bachman Lake, Dallas, Texas

I watched the ducks go about their start of the day routine from a bench along the water at dawn. One ritual was to repeatedly duck under the water and rise up – letting the water run off their feathers. Like taking a little duck shower.

Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
—-Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) (born Steven Demetre Georgiou), Morning Has Broken

Sunrise, Boston, Massachusetts

I was way too tired. We had finished work the day before (a long, tough week) and treated ourselves to dinner at an Italian Restaurant in the North End (Ristorante Limoncello) some pastry (Modern Pastry shop, Mike’s was too crowded – line was down the street) and a drink at the end of the hockey game (The Black Rose). Then, when I settled down in my hotel room I discovered that HBO GO was on the TV complimentary and, against my better judgement, I watched the episode of Game of Thrones I had missed because I was flying the previous Sunday. It was getting too hard to avoid spoilers.

My flight was scheduled for eight (though, due to mechanical problems it didn’t actually leave until ten) so that meant I had to get up at five, which meant only a couple hours of sleep. I was woozy in the morning, but was treated to a glorious sunrise painting the buildings of downtown Boston a bright crimson.

Two Days Later

  • It’s even harder to get up at 5:30 on a Sunday than it is on a Friday workday.
  • There are fewer people on a train before dawn on weekends, but there are still more than you would expect.
  • A lot of people that are on the train that early on the weekend look like they are involved in sports. I guess that makes sense. It looked like an entire woman’s tournament (maybe volleyball) was going somewhere south in Dallas.
  • It’s cold before the sun comes up.
  • I estimated that the sun’s disk would rise up in the center of Main Street in Downtown Dallas two days after the official henge date.
  • I was pretty much right.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image - three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

Dallashenge from the triple underpass in Dealey Plaza. This is an HDR image – three shots taken at different exposures and combined with software.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.

A wide angle view of Dealey Plaza at dawn on the morning henge day (or two days later). The brick building in shadow on the far left is the infamous Texas Schoolbook Depository. President Kennedy was shot on the curved road on the left, almost fifty years ago.


The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

The sun rising in the canyons of Main Street, Dallas.

I took a lot of photographs in the short few seconds that the sun peeked up down Main Street. I’ll probably post some more as I post-process them.

So now I’ve done it, I don’t have to get up that early and go anymore. Well, maybe not. As I was walking back towards the train, I discovered another spot with a morning “henge” view directly down Elm street, right along the schoolbook depository. It wasn’t as scenic as main street, but had a more “canyon” appearance. Maybe next year I’ll go and shoot that one.

Morning Dallashenge – maybe a couple days early

I am not a morning person and when my alarm went off at 5:15 it took more than a little effort to drag myself out and about. I was worried about the weather, but at the train station I saw stars glinting here and there through the thick city night sky soup and I knew it was cloudless. But as I waited for the train, I saw the telltale glow in the east which quickly grew into the start of a salmon-colored dawn and I began to think I was not going to make it in time.

The train arrived and I climbed aboard, wedging myself in with the morning’s crop of sleepy commuting workers, having to make room for my backpack filled with a camera and my folding tripod across my lap.

It was April 19, the morning Dallashenge. I first came across this concept well over a year ago, when I read about Manhattanhenge – the day that the setting (or rising) sun lines up with the east-west street canyons of central New York. In a city (like Chicago) where the streets run exactly along the points of the compass, the henge date is on the spring and fall equinox – but in cities like New York (or Dallas) where the downtown street grid, for geologic or historical reasons, is a few degrees off-kilter, the dates will fall somewhere else.

Using the very useful website,, I was able to calculate the henge dates for Dallas – an evening henge falls on February 15, and a morning henge on April 19 – at about ten minutes to seven.

In February of 2012, I went downtown in the evening and took some shots of the henge. It was sort of fun. Now I wanted to do a morning “henge” and Friday, April 19th was on its way. For a long time I worked on finding a suitable perch where I could look down the long downtown streets. I thought about the parking garage and the jail, but one day I discovered that there was a walkway along the infamous triple underpass in Dealey Plaza that had a great view down main street.

After some test shots I was ready.

Despite my worries I made it down there in time. I set up my tripod and waited while the sky grew lighter and lighter. I wondered if my calculations were correct. Was I at the right place at the right time?

I was and I wasn’t. The sun did peek up right down main, but before the entire disk came up over the asphalt it had moved off to the side. I think a better photograph might come a couple days later, when the whole disk of the sun will appear over the dead center of the street.

So, maybe Sunday. I’m not sure if I can get up that early on a weekend morning… but we’ll see.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

The morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza. Maybe a couple days early.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.

Morning Dallashenge from the Triple Underpass in Dealy Plaza.