What I learned this week, May 21, 2017

Will Bike For Beer: The Five Most Bike-Friendly Bars and Restaurants in Dallas

On a sunny Sunday afternoon — one of those pre-summer days that’s hot but not quite the surface of the sun — cyclists have swarmed Deep Ellum. They may not outnumber the patio-seeking brunch crowd, but there are dozens of them. These are not the typical bikers who are mashing around White Rock Lake as fast as possible in head-to-toe moisture-wicking fabric.

These riders, dressed casually in jeans and peddling leisurely on cruisers, are going somewhere. And more and more, their destinations are Dallas bars and restaurants.

My Xootr Swift folding bike in the cool bike rack in front of the Cold Beer Company
Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas


Guy Sucks At Photoshop, Spends 10 Years Mastering Microsoft Paint To Illustrate His Book

Turns out, sometimes our resistance to learn something new and master a new skill can lead to something pretty amazing. Pat Hines, who couldn’t be bothered to learn Photoshop and illustrated his ebook using good old Microsoft Paint, is the proof. “I suck at Photoshop and other programs, and have worked exclusively in Microsoft Paint for over ten years… I honed my craft working long overnights at a hospital reception desk…,” the guy writes. That’s why when it came to choosing the program to create illustrations for his novel Camp Redblood And The Essential Revenge, he looked no further and just went for something he was already good at.


15 Dallas Hiking Trails You Probably Never Knew About

Umm, I knew about all of these.

Wasps at the Trinity River Audubon Center


Map Shows How Much Land the Government Owns In Every State


10 Valuable Lessons I’ve Learned About Street Photography

After shooting all sorts of things from 2011 to 2012 without ever finding myself and feeling my photography, I discovered my deep passion for street photography in the first month of my 365 project in 2013. Since then, I’ve not only spent almost every single day on the streets of the world to capture wonderful moments, but I’ve also built my life around it.

Vivian Maier


5 Things Cyclists Do You Didn’t Know Are Perfectly Legal

It’s true that city cycling is on the rise in the United States, and that has come with some backlash.  The mere sight of a bicycle can send some motorists into a fury — often due to drivers not knowing the law. This has caused an alarming number of injury accidents that were completely preventable. Odds are, that annoying thing the person on the bike is doing — is completely legal.

Bicycle Drag Racer on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge


For the world to be interesting, you have to be manipulating it all the time

Acoustic listening devices developed for the Dutch army as part of air defense
systems research between World Wars 1 and 2.

 


 

What I learned this week, May 07, 2017

Meet the device that could bring back cassettes

This is the coolest shit thing I’ve seen in a long time.


The Serious Eats Guide to Shopping for Asian Noodles

I have just discovered frozen Udon – a new staple.


Beyond “Sissy” Resilience: On Becoming Antifragile


Solargraphy – Sun Trails and Long Exposures Like You Have NEVER Seen

Pinhole camera photographs with exposure times of several months. Oh yeah!

 


Just in case you haven’t already seen this:

I’ve always wondered what is the ultimate use of the internet. This is it.

They did the whole fracking album. The whole thing.

Now I’m going to have to go listen to Sgt. Peppers a few times.

Goodbye to the Starship Pegasus

“Our opponent is an alien starship packed with atomic bombs,” I said. “We have a protractor.”
—-Neal Stephenson, Anathem

Starship Pegasus
Italy, Texas

Starship Pegasus
Italy, Texas

Starship Pegasus
Italy, Texas

If you drive down I35 from Dallas to Waco, Austin, and San Antonio, you can’t help but remember the Starship Pegasus, at the exit to Italy. A bilious representation of the famous Starship Enterprise reimagined as a roadside attraction. At one time, it was a greasy spoon restaurant and entertainment venue, but for years it has been a weed-infested patch along the highway with a slowly deteriorating doomed spaceship made of concrete and galvanized sheet eternally earthbound.

A while back, I drove down there to visit the open house at the Monolithic Dome Institute (and realized that the Starship was made with one of their domes), stopped and took a few photos.

Now I read that the thing has been demolished – the plot bought by the McDonalds across the street and served up to the wrecking ball.

‘Starship Pegasus’ roadside attraction along I-35 demolished

It has been a useless eyesore for as long as I can remember – and wasn’t destined to be anything more.

Still, I can’t help but be sad at the loss.

I Think I’m Ready Now

With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
You’re toxic I’m slipping under
With a taste of a poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic

Intoxicate me now
With your lovin’ now
I think I’m ready now

I think I’m ready now
—-Toxic, Britney Spears

Last Saturday I went on a fun bike ride – a fundraiser for the Santa Fe Trail that runs from White Rock Lake to Deep Ellum and Fair Park (my favorite Dallas trail). We ended up at a new place, The Goat Ranch which was fun.

At the end of the festivities, instead of riding straight back to White Rock, I rode into the thick crowd at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival. I had been there the evening before to buy a little monster head in a box (this was my seventh – will have to write about that soon), but thought I’d check it out for a few minutes and see what was going on in the crowded melee of a Saturday Afternoon.

I locked up my bike and hobbled in on my SPD cleated cycling shoes along Murray Street until I saw a woman setting up with a guitar and a small Fender amp on a little busking stage at Murray and Commerce. There was a table with a chair available so I decided to sit and listen.

Alexandra Tayara and her Fender amp

Alexandra Tayara and her Fender amp

Her name was Alexandra Tayara and she was very good. Surprisingly good.

Her first song was the chestnut “House of the Rising Sun.” I’m not sure if she knew the significance of singing that song in that spot. This was the heart of Deep Ellum, of course, and I could almost feel the ghost of Leadbelly wandering those very streets with Blind Lemon Jefferson and singing “House of the Rising Sun.”

She went on to sing some original tunes (really liked “Hurt Boy” – you can get a copy from her website) along with some covers.

My favorite was an emotional bluesy version from that master of emotional bluesy songs – Britney Spears. I had heard people say that “Toxic” was a very good song, but until that Saturday, I didn’t understand it.

I wasn’t the only one that was affected. The crowd grew on the sidestreet as members of the thick throng parading by on Commerce were pulled in by the sound. A guy sitting next to me kept shouting out – his girl would walk over and admonish him but he would reply, “I can’t help it.”

Alexandra Tayara

Alexandra Tayara

She did a few more songs and then finished up. She was going to perform on a larger stage at seven that eveing. I would have enjoyed hearing her again, but I had a lot of work to finish, so I unlocked my bike and began the pedal home.

Interstellar Bait Shop

saucer1

Van Taurus examined the planet below as he orbited, trying to determine the best place to land. He knew that through his planet’s research and his extensive personal surgical procedures he would be able to superficially mix with the inhabitants of the planet below – even speak a few rudimentary phrases of their languages. But he had to pick the proper place to land. He didn’t want to set down in a densely populated city – it would create too much attention – or even a panic that would overwhelm him and make his mission of study impossible. Likewise, he didn’t want to settle in an isolated spot – that would make his intention of personally interacting with the natives difficult or impossible.

He knew his predecessors had made a policy of seeking out tracts of small, portable rectangular identical dwellings clustered in rural areas – thinking that such simple folk would be more accepting and malleable – but their missions had all been abject failures, so he rejected that plan.

He noticed the layout of some cities of what looked like more modern construction – a spoke and wheel arrangement. The dense central urban area that had strips of some smooth material radiating out – most connecting with other population centers some distance away. He decided to land somewhere along one of these connections, thinking that would be a spot little noticed but one that would give him eventual access to the population of the planet.

Van Taurus selected a large – but not too huge – urban area, then a spoke radiating out, and finally he found a vacant area next to the smooth strip. During the dark period he maneuvered his ship through the atmosphere and set it down in the center of the vacant area, about five ship-widths from the transportation corridor.

saucer6

Location of the landing

He knew from the research on the planet’s electromagnetic communication that the people were very familiar with the shape of his ship – obviously learned from the many failed missions that had preceded him. The circular ship, oval in cross-section – and lined with viewing ports had become a symbol of his planet’s visits – yet the population didn’t seem to take it all that seriously. It was almost treated in their entertainment communications as a subject of strange humor, rather than the momentous discovery it really was.

This was another in a long string of curious mysteries that Van Taurus had intended to solve when he volunteered for the dangerous mission – one that no fellow explorer had ever returned.

So it was with trepidation that Van Taurus peered from his viewports as the planet’s single star rose above the horizon. He expected to see a large, agitated crowd of the planet’s population, possibly afraid, possibly hostile.

Instead, he saw no one. The only activity was a steady stream of transportation modules along the smooth strip of prepared surface. There were a wide variety of metal capsules moving at a high speed, most containing only a single individual. They sped along without any visible means of power or guidance, and Van Taurus used his remote spectrograph to discover that each was spewing a mixture of toxic gasses out the small pipe in their tail. Why? He couldn’t imagine.

Another mystery.

After a few diurnal cycles without anyone paying any attention to his ship, Van Taurus felt confident and bored enough to venture forth, walking along the transportation strip in the direction he knew the distant city to be located.

He didn’t have to travel far before he came upon a small, colorful structure that seemed to offer for trade a selection of foodstuffs and other small items. He entered and moved in front of an individual that stood at the front of the room. He had carefully prepared his statement.

“My name is Van Taurus and I am an alien on your planet. I mean you no harm.”

“An alien? Well hell, what’s one more? Let me tell where the folks around here go for labor”

Van Taurus didn’t know exactly what the word “labor” meant, but the man seemed to understand that he was an alien and didn’t seem too disturbed about the fact. Perhaps this civilization had expected someone like him and prepared a location to communicate with aliens and he was being directed to it. He allowed himself a bit of praise in his choice of landing spot – so close to the alien gathering place.

When he reached the location described to him he found a group standing around. Metal capsules, larger than most, would arrive and the occupant would gesture at a small number of the group, and these individuals would climb into a large open box on the back of the capsule. They would then speed away.

He was confused by this, but one gestured at him from a capsule, and, almost reflexively, he climbed in with the others. He was transported to a spot where the group spent the day picking up blocks of artificial stone and carrying them from one location to another. At the end of the period, they each were handed a small bundle of flexible sheets.

On the return trip, his crude knowledge of at least three of the planet’s languages allowed him to learn from the others in the back of the capsule that these sheets could be exchanged for food and other goods from locations such as the one he had visited earlier.

He stopped on the walk back to the spaceship and the man seemed glad to see him, once he displayed his collection of sheets. He exchanged a few for various foodstuffs. Van Taurus found the food to be palatable though strange, and oddly unfulfilling.

He settled into a routine of walking to the gathering spot, going off to do some strange, meaningless task, often involving killing and removing harmless vegetation, and afterwards purchasing food at the small building.

Some days he would spend in the space around his ship, doing scientific research. He was fascinated by the small, long, wriggling eyeless creatures that lived in the soil where he had landed. He traded for a tool from the building and had dug out a pile of these animals when he was surprised by a capsule stopping and the occupants offering him a small stack of sheets for the creatures.

He asked his fellow laborers about that and they explained about “fishing” and helped him make a sign of cardboard that said, “Van Taurus Bait Shop.” It wasn’t long before he was collecting enough sheets in exchange for the creatures that he didn’t have to go on the trips with the laborers again, though he did miss the companionship.

Van Taurus was alarmed when he began to exhaust the supply of creatures around his ship. But the man in the colorful building explained that he had collected enough of the exchange sheets to move to a location a distance away that had a structure made of some sort of cut and assembled vegetative matter. It was at the intersection of two transportation paths and was thus, as the man explained “A Prime Location.” More importantly, the space behind it had a terrible odor and was always wet with excess water – Van Taurus suspected that is was used for the disposal of waste products from various creatures. However, it did contain the wriggling creatures in a tremendous, virtually endless, supply. They were larger and more vigorous also, and brought in more exchange sheets.

Van Taurus was able to trade these for another, larger flat communication display that said, “Van Taurus Baits – Best Wigglers West of the Mississippi!” The man from the building had recommended that – even though it confused Van Taurus, he was able to exchange more of the creatures than ever before.

Over time, he forgot about his mission and concentrated on activities that accumulated more and increasingly valuable exchange sheets. His spaceship was neglected and eventually vandalized by the younger local inhabitants. Finally, it was reduced to an ignored shell sitting along the transportation corridor.

saucer2

saucer3

saucer4

saucer5

The Sun In the East Flushed Pale Streaks Of Light

“They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them.”
― Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

Rising Sun Adolph Alexander Weinman American Bronze Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Rising Sun
Adolph Alexander Weinman
American
Bronze
Houston Museum of Fine Arts

Written In Invisible Ink

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible”
― Vladimir Nabokov

Sheaffer Snorkel snorkel extended - waiting for new ink

Sheaffer Snorkel
snorkel extended – waiting for new ink

“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second chance at biting into our experience and examining it. …This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.”
― Natalie Goldberg