A $39 Southwest flight, a rental car and a 3 hour drive from the modest 5 gate Midland International Air and Space Port, lands you in the middle of the universe, otherwise known as Marfa, Texas.
32 miles West of the Dairy Queen in Marfa, is “Prada Marfa.” Along the drive, I spot a white speck amongst the lines of stratocumulus clouds stretch along the west Texas horizon, but this speck doesn’t move and I tick down the mils toward the West Texas Prada outpost, an ever increasing refrain of “what the fuck is that” echoes within the Toyota Rav 4 as the stationary speck increasingly grows in size. The speck then begins to take the form of a blimp; now having ruled out aliens but not yet being able to identify said flying object, I’m left to ponder why the Goodyear blimp would be in West Texas. Maybe in these Covid times without many major sports going on the blimp finds itself covering a high school football game, Friday Night Lights style.
Past the large cutouts paying homage to the 1956 James Dean film “Giant” that was partially shot in and around Marfa, I see the answer to now identified flying blimp that is used by customs and border patrol as part of a radar network scouting low flying aircraft crossing the border from Mexico (Wiki- Tetherd Aerostat Radar System)
Having crossed “Prada Marfa” off the instagram bucket list, I set about exploring the rest of Marfa. There are pretty much 2 main streets in Marfa, dotted with eclectic shops, restaurants and galleries that would have been packed on any weekend in the before COVID times, but are struggling like so many small businesses. I wasn’t able to make reservations to visit The Chinati Foundation that arguably put Marfa on the map with their collection of its founder work, Donald Judd, who moved to Marfa in 1977. Next time.
The next day, following the only other other road out of town, I headed south toward Presidio and East along the Rio Grande River, traveling the scenic FM 170 towards Big Bend National Park. The picturesque and roller coaster like FM 170, where I actually saw a road runner and I have got to say cartoons have been lying and road runners(at least this one) are more like road speed walkers; also there was no coyote to be seen. My short trip only allowed me a couple hours to explore Big Bend, another thing to add to the list for the next trip…
- (Gates Notes) Bill Gates released his annual list of books to read over the holidays. “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” jumped out at me and at first glance reminds me of Susan Cain’s “Quiet” as something that may speak to me.
- (Popular Science) An interesting article of how the supply chain for Dippin’ Dots is similar to the cold storage chain required to safely distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. There is also a great episode of “How I Built This With Guy Raz” on the story of Dippin’ Dots (NPR)
Pic of the week:
- Video: “Lego Train Journey Through the Forest”(YouTube) You think you get made when you step on a lego barefoot, just imagine if you were a bear
- Video: “8:46 – Dave Chappelle(YouTube) Watch it, process it, watch it again
- Book: “Pizza Girl” (Amazon, Audible) Smart, dark, funny; an totally enthralling distraction from covid craziness
Photo of the week
- Movie: “Becoming” (Netflix) Hope, I think we could all use some at this time and watching the Netflix documentary on Michelle Obama takes you back to a time in our nation’s not too distant past full of hope for a brighter future that is missing in most of America bearing the weight of Coronavirus.
- Book: “For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity”(Amazon) I’m rereading Liz Plank’s “New Vision for Mindful Masculinity” and with the isolation of quarantine I find myself with the time for both self reflection and reflection on the world around.
- Podcast: “Sam Harris” (Tim Ferriss Podcast) Because everyone should have some Sam Harris in their life
Photo of the week:
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.
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.