Hopping down to Houston

Fueled by $29 each way flights to Houston, part of Southwest announcing new service to IAH in addition to HOU, I set to make a day trip in Houston.

Flying into IAH is of special interest to me because of the unique subway system that runs in the lower level of the airport. Outside the secure perimeter, in the plain, windowless lower level of the airport, is the only People Mover system built by Disney’s WED Enterprises that isn’t inside a theme park. Opened in 1981, the linear induction propelled train cars share little resemblance to their Orlando siblings except for the unique feel and sounds of the linear induction system and the train cars make the almost 20 minute loop around the airport terminals and hotel.

Having made the round trip on the “Subway” enough times to raise the eyebrows of airports employees, I grabbed my rental car and headed to my next stop, the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. This hidden gem of a museum is well worth the trip. The lovingly restored 1940 Art Deco terminal transports you to back rise of commercial air travel in Texas, its rooms filled with artifacts and models of bygone airlines and airplanes. The museum volunteers bring the history to life, an experience reminiscent of spending an afternoon listening to my grandfather’s stories.

My final stop before flying back to Dallas, was The Printing Museum in downtown Houston. Detailing the history of printing from woodcuts dating back to the 1300s up through modern day, the museum also hosts live demonstrations of historical printing process and in person classes. Another hidden gem in downtown Houston, The Printing Museum is certainly worth checking out.

Austin has always been my goto for weekend getaways.from Dallas, but with a little digging, you can find the weirder side in any city, even Houston.

Airbnb Review: Blue Steel

Link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15928911

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.

View of the Dallas Skyline through the barbed wire fence

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.

The mechanical side of the shipping container

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.

Free as in Beer?

With Macworld and CES going on this week, I’ve been looking forward to this year’s SXSW. This will be my first SXSW and I’m really looking forward to getting to see some of the panels and all the going ons at SXSW. Last year a lot of new media and social networking start-ups have been hit hard and even the big technology blue chips like Microsoft have had to announce layoffs. This brings me to my point. In these troubled times (take a drink) companies that normally throw huge parties during south by southwest are expected to drastically cut their budgets or not throw parties at all. This, I find to be very sad.  At a time when people throughout the tech sector face layoffs, we need  free beer.  It will be a true travesty of epic proportions that any nerd find themselves walking down sixth street sober. Without the social lubricating elixir of free beer and an open bar, the code monkeys of the world will curl up in their shells like a armadillo along side a dusty country road. I urge tech compaines to keep the beer flowing, if not for us but for the future of the web.

Fun in Chicago

I got back from spending almost a week in Chicago visiting my sister over thanksgiving. In my normal nerd fashion we spent most of the trip going to different museums in Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is a must see and takes a whole day to see everything. Upgrade from general admission to see the Smart Home (cool to see a lot of different green technologies come together) and take the tour of the U-505 (worth the extra 5 bucks.) We also went to the Field Museum, made me think of “Night at the Museum” but they have some cool exhibits and there is Sue, the fully intact t-rex on display.

The Lincoln park zoo is a great free thing to do in Chicago. This time of year they do “Zoo Lights” where the zoo is light up for the holidays and there ice sculptures and other fun for the kids.  We took a bus tour that went all around the city and drops you off at the John Hancock building. The only way to see everything in the city and gets you as close as possible to see Obama’s house and you learn a little history and travel into parts of Chicago you wouldn’t want to go by yourself. ( just a little weird to be on a tour bus, a the driver says “to your right you will see one of the housing projects that the south side of Chicago is so famous for.”) All and all a good trip and I got to see some snow before heading back to Texas.

Makerfaire this weekend

This weekend is the second annual Makerfaire Austin at the Travis county fair grounds. I went last year and really liked seeing everything and whole community of Makers there. This years Makerfaire in Austin promises to be even bigger and better than last year. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the robogames competition and the eppy birds. Last year I spent most of the day walking around and visiting booths, but this year I want to go to some of the sessions.

Planning my trip to Seattle

I have been working the past several days on planning our trip to Seattle and I can’t wait. I already bought the airline tickets and have our hotel reservation made and I’m trying to use gCal to plan out everything in our schedule. I working on some stuff so that I can be blogging while out and about seattle and keep in touch with the folks who haven’t really gotten into the whole social networking thing. Come on April 4th.