I have a thing for Tiny Houses. I’m currently on the hunt for my first home, albeit something less tiny, I set out to fully immerse myself in one of my potential new neighborhoods, The Cedars. The Cedars is an area in the midst of revitalization; just south of Downtown Dallas, The Cedars is transforming from dilapidated industrial buildings to modern homes and multi-unit housing all radiating from ground zero aka The Southside on Lamar.
Late Thursday night, I headed south past the lights of the Dallas Skyline to find Blue Steel. On Akard Street, tucked behind a small apartment building, surrounded by a once imposing barbed wire fence sits the converted shipping container. The outside of Blue Steel matches its surroundings, doors and windows covered with metal bars it goes unnoticed among the construction sites of apartments and town homes scattered throughout The Cedars.
Once inside, I find a warm and expertly constructed tiny home. The wood and metal floors are all that remain to remind you that you are living inside of a shipping container. A stocked goody basket of ramen help complete this college flashback as I sit on the futon in the second bedroom/media room hovering over a bowl of chili ramen waiting for it to cool off enough to be devoured.
A concern with tiny house living is often the compromises that have to be made in the efforts to remain tiny and often mobile. Blue steel doesn’t have any of the RV type of equipment that is used in tiny homes, built with full residential fixtures and appliances and shelving made of threaded pipe help feed into the rustic industrial look of Blue Steel.
There certainly are some quirks, hot water while plentiful is accompanied with the roaring to life of the propane powered water heater attached to the back of the shipping container that sounds like a lawn mower’s first start after a long winter. The split heat pump sufficient for heat and cooling the home also produces some noise while running but to a lesser degree. Living inside of a shipping container is like living inside a tin can so the sounds of the city reverberate though the steel exterior and penetrate the minimal insulation and multicolored wood paneling throughout Blue Steel.
Everything said, I enjoyed staying in Blue Steel for a few days and would certainly do it again if I was looking to spend a weekend in The Cedars and go to a concert; it is a good way to avoid the parking nightmare that can be finding a parking spot near South Side.
I headed to Boston last weekend for TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics at MIT and to take in the sights and seafood of Boston.
Boston has a great public transit system making getting around cheap and easy. Sunday I went museum hopping starting off at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. The museum is right on the waterfront making it worth a trip just for the view. Sadly many of the galleries were closed during my visit while the museum is transitioning between shows but still had a selection from their permeant collection on display.
Stop 2 was the Museum of Science. Standouts for me were the Theater of Electricity with their 30 foot tall Van de Graaff Generators and the traveling Popnology exhibit with a bunch of “Back To The Future” props and my favorite a lego model of “The House of the Future” that used to stand in Disneyland.
Final stop for the day was the MIT Museum which is fairly small but a highlight for me because the whole trip was about robotics and the MIT Museum has a large selection of well known MIT built robots on display. Kismet is a robot I remember seeing on countless PBS specials growing up so it was neat to see it in person.
Monday came the whole reason that I was in Boston, TechCrunch’s Robotics Session, a day full of panels, workshops and demos of robot technology and the future of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see a wider array of robots where I have seen many tailored to warehousing and manufacturing earlier in the year at ProMat in Chicago. Personal highlight for me was seeing the Disney Imagineering session where they showed off their latest audio animatronic technology. Some of what they showed we weren’t allowed to photograph but they did have an animatronic head used in the Na’vi River Journey ride in Pandora that opened 2 months ago that drew a crowd every-time it came to life. It was also really cool to spend a day walking around the MIT campus which was a college that I dreamed of attending.
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images
It has been a month since my last playlist so it is not as regular as I had hoped. This one has a kind of singer/songwriter theme though I veer away from it with the first song. Here is a link to the playlist on Spotify.
Blur “Coffee and TV” I haven’t heard this song in years but it come on KXT last weekend and has been in my head since.
Sarah Jaffe: If you live in Dallas and haven’t heard Sarah’s amazing voice you must be living under a rock. Last weekend she played back to back nights at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton. These three songs are just a sampling of Sarah’s talent and range.
City and Colour: If you couldn’t guess from the spelling of Color, “City and Colour” is the solo project of Canadian Dallas Green. These are three of my favorites.
Gary Clark Jr.: 2015 was a breakout year for Gary Clark Jr. and the release of “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim” only helped fuel his rise in popularity. Gary is playing a sold out show at the House of Blues in Dallas on March 6. These are some of my favorites from the new album.
Usually when I tell people about my plan to run my first 5k race, that statement is met with puzzled looks as the other person looks me up and down to access their rightful suspicion that a fat guy would normally not be anywhere near anything involving the word run. For most of my life I would have agreed when the mere utterance of phrases like “presidential fitness challenge” and “fun run” would instantly strike fear in my mind to the level of a pop quiz over last night’s reading assignment in a textbook that has never been cracked open.
I didn’t think that I could complete a 5K race. In 2008 my sister and I volunteered for a great local charity called “Captain Hope’s Kids” who’s mission is to meet the critical needs of homeless children by partnering with a network of homeless shelters and social service organizations to help more than 45,000 kids in DFW just in 2014.
One of Captain Hope’s Kids fundraising events was the Mardi Gras 5K Run that went through the West End and Victory Park. Here’s a couple pictures from that day after the race finished.
Summer and I showed up to help setup then took our spot at Ross and Houston street where we helped direct and cheer on runners as the sun began to set and the race was about to start. The smell of perfectly seasoned and seared meats permeated the streets in the West End as we waited for the heard of runners to turn the corner and head toward us like a stampede of cattle running toward their own slaughter at any one of the West End’s steak houses.
I had the impression that all the people running are “runners” you know the people that would look right at home on the cover of “Runner’s World” and that I wouldn’t see anyone that could even remotely look like me or have a body fat percentage even in the double digits. That world view was wrong as a tightly woven tapestry of humanity made their way past our little street corner. There wasn’t just the elite runners but people of every shape and age group blowing past my then confused face (kinda like the picture above) as the little voice that said I could never do this no longer had anything to say.
I no longer had an “excuse” of can’t but now had the challenge that I could, should and someday would complete a 5K race. All this leads me to last November when I decided to stop saying someday and sign up for my first race. Enter “Run the Trinity”
I was hoping to run the same race that Summer and I once volunteered at but the Mardi Gras Run no longer runs through the same path through downtown Dallas and isn’t scheduled for 2016. I started to look elsewhere when I came across “Run the Trinity” that crosses the Margret Hunt Hill and Continental Avenue bridges providing great views of the Dallas skyline. That’s the story up to this point, I signed up, started training and have been counting down the days to March 6th when I will finally quiet that voice of doubt.
In what will hopefully be a regular weekly thing, I thought I’d put together playlists of what I’m listening to each week. With Christmas coming up on Friday I guess I should have put together some of my favorite Christmas songs but with 70 degree temperatures it sure doesn’t feel like Christmas. Here’s a link to the playlist on Spotify
Coldplay: The new Coldplay album is a really positive collection of songs with some of my favorites “A Head Full Of Dreams” and “Up and Up”
Boy and Bear: You probably heard the song “Southern Sun” from their last album. Their latest release Limit of Love came out in October and “Breakdown Slow” and “Walk the Wire” are a couple standout tracks for me.
Bob Schneider: A Bob Schneider concert is an experience that you should never pass up on if you can help it. Bob comes back to Dallas on 12/30 to play at the Granada one of the best sounding venues in Dallas. “Montgomery” is from this year’s King Kong EP series and I also picked some live tracks that are stuck on repeat in my head.
Shakey Graves: Fellow Austin native Shakey Graves is playing a sold out show on 12/27 at the Granada. I picked a couple of his live Spotify Session tracks since I don’t have tickets to the show next week.
Leon Bridges: Fort Worth’s own Leon Bridges is blowing up and rightfully so. He played on SNL a couple weeks ago to great critical acclaim and I’m looking forward to see what comes next from Leon Bridges. I choose several songs from his SXSW Spotify Session earlier this year.
A trip down the DART’s Green Line to the Texas State Fair has become a tradition for me in recent years and this year I went all out buying a season pass and making three trips down to bathe in the fried food filled air that surrounds the Texas State Fair.
Big Tex 2.0
Last year I had the privilege to be one of the last people to see the original Big Tex, having made my pilgrimage the day before the unfortunate fire that tragically cut Tex’s life short. One year and half a million dollars later, the bigger (3 feet taller) and better (more lifelike silicone skin to replace the old fiberglass body parts) Big Tex was erected under a shroud of mystery as anxious news crews tried to sneak a peek before the planned worldwide unveiling on the opening day of the fair. The weather wasn’t cooperating and high winds on the day before the fair meant dropping the curtain around Big Tex a day early for fear he would be damaged.
Bottom: New for 2013, Fried King Ranch Casserole Top: Fernie’s Funnel Cake from The Dock
Each year a new smorgasbord of deep fried concoctions are unveiled enticing fair goers with odd and sometimes awful ingredients, but this year the Lipitor crowd were welcomed with several great new offerings. The Deep Fried King Ranch Casserole is a southern casserole staple that I was unfamiliar with but I am a sucker for food that is Texas shaped. The chicken and cheese with veggies and cream of mushroom soup Texas shaped helping is then deep fired in panko bread crumbs and served with either queso or my choice the slightly spicy sour cream dipping sauce that makes sure the King Ranch Casserole is going to become a longtime fair favorite. Another new addition and winner for best taste is the Fried Cuban Roll, a egg roll with a filling of pork shoulder, ham, pickles and swiss cheese that can easily be confused for the warm gooey feeling of a mother’s love.
No fair would be complete without some sort of dairy based sculpture, wether it be the old standby butter or more adventurous building blocks like ice cream or the often tried but rarely excellently executed cottage cheese sculpture. 2013 saw the creation of a butter based sculpture paying homage to Big Tex as the larger than life cowboy held several small children while weeping what are presumable unsalted butter tears. For me, going to the State Fair marks the beginning of Fall and is a perfect way to say goodbye to Summer. There are always new things to see and try as well as the old standbys like a Fletchers corny dog that no trip or three to the fair is complete without.
Wednesday I was able to go over to DFW and check out the Soler Impulse plane. The plane was in Dallas as part of it’s cross country tour in preperation for an attempt to fly around the world with a solar powered plane in 2015. There is more info about the project at solarimpulse.com