Monthly Archives: March 2014

Opening Day Blues

Yes, pray a pitching miracle.

Dear Jon Daniels,

The baseball season is really long. April-September (October if we’re lucky) is most of the calendar year. As GM of the Texas Rangers your job is realistically an all year commitment, but for the purpose of this letter, let’s call your “season” the team’s off-season.

Opening Day is here! Kick back, have a few drinks, and watch your off-season efforts in action! At this point the table is mostly set and unfortunately, that table is already wobbling on 3 legs.  That missing leg is the injury rife pitching staff and we can only to keep the table upright until the carpenters come to fix it. I recommend Yu & Derek’s Carpentry and their apprentice Matt. They do good work I hear.

We’ll see if Tanner can hold the table up today. He’s never done it before though so who knows…

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The Paul Slavens Show

Hey Paul,

Long time listener, first time submitter.

I love sharing and discovering music; It’s easily my favorite passtime. Spotify has taken the sharing of music among friends to the next level by essentially building a social platform around an endless library. I’ll admit that I get giddy when I receive music from a friend as most of my favorite bands were first shown to me by a close friend. Spotify has become an essential component to my life and is easily the best $10 a month I spend.

Sharing and discovering music is also the basic premise of your Sunday night show on KXT. I’m continually finding new bands through the show and could only hope that a suggestions of mine becomes somebody’s favorite new band.  Heck, I’ll be happy if it makes them bob their head a minute. So with much ado here are three songs for next week!

 

 

 

 

Mr. Cuomo

Dear Rivers Cuomo,

I’ve been a Weezer fan since I hit puberty. The 2005 tour with the Foo Fighters was the first concert I ever bought a ticket for. Actually I bought two tickets because I was told you always take a pretty girl to a concert, so I did.

Fortunately or unfortunately, my letter is not to reminisce about the glory days of Weezer. I want to ask you about the value and experience of a Harvard education. You graduated with an English degree in 2006 after attending on and off since Pinkerton (1996). Legend has it that you just decided to apply while in Boston touring the first album. Had you always wanted to go to Harvard? I felt pretty cool walking about their campus in 8th grade but even then had no illusions of going there.

And now that you’re an official Ivy League Alum, have you put  your degree to use? Do you feel prepared to join the workforce? Run for President or something epic. Or maybe become a teacher (that’s what every English major I know does)! It would be the quiet lifestyle that you desire and you could tour during summer vacation. Mr. Cuomo has a nice ring actually…


Well take care!

Prison Pen Pal

Jacob "Wil" McCreary # 01666063

Jacob “Wil” McCreary # 01666063

Hi Wil,

My name is Hayden Bernstein and I live in Dallas, TX. My personal project is to write a letter each day and today’s letter is for you!

I came across the Prison Pen Pal system while reading about a project called Concepting with Convicts. Basically these three advertising creatives worked with inmates to co-created ad campaigns. They wanted to prove to the inmates that their positive skills can be applied to life after prison and in the process showed how great ideas can come from literally anywhere. Pretty cool stuff.

So today I write to you as just another dude. One who believes in the power of a human connection, beyond situation and circumstance. You and I are both 25 years old and though we find ourselves in very different situations, we can share a honest conversation and learn something from each other.

Where did you grow up? Did you play any sports? I played basketball all through high school and still hoop in some city leagues. I’d describe my game as similar to Pau Gasol: standard white guy moves who rebounds well. On your profile you mention you like country music. I’m just starting to come around on country music. I’ve found myself listening to some old time honky-tonk George Jones kind of stuff lately. As corny as some of the songs are, the guy could sing. I’ve always thought it would be cool for a current artist to do a prison tour like when Johnny Cash played Folsom. Anyone you’d like to see in particular?

Hope to hear back Wil. Take care.

PS:  I’ve always wondered: how much internet access do inmates get? Twitter would really help pass some time… 

North Dallas Snob

“I would personally probably stay more focused on my own district, which does not have the same trash problems as others,” he said, to the amazement of some of his southern sector colleagues. “Why should I care if someone is shopping like at Southwest Center Mall and they want a plastic bag? If people in that community are satisfied with the conditions around that mall, why should I utilize my position in North Dallas to improve those conditions? I should just focus my energies on North Dallas redevelopment projects and not help another improve quality of life in other areas of the city.”- District 11 Representative Lee Kleinman

Dear Councilman Lee Kleinman,

I grew up in North Dallas just inside of your District. I still represent the #Norf-side but have taken up residence in Hamilton Park (District 10) since moving out of my childhood home. Thankfully, you are no longer my city council representative.

Your comments during the Bag-Ban vote were insensitive and embarrassing. North Dallas is already considered to be snobby and self-centered by the rest of the city; tell someone you grew up in Preston Hollow and watch them mentally label you a spoiled brat. I guess they were right all along. Your words officially declare that North Dallas doesn’t care what happens to the rest (majority) of the city. We have clean streets and nice parks in our area so why should I care if thousands of people south of the Trinity live in squalor? Out of sight, out of mind, not our problem right?

At a time when Dallas is making a real effort to bridge North and South, you spout off some narrow minded garbage that reinforces decades of institutionalized neglect. I want to believe that your words aren’t representative of your constituency’s opinions and that people have some desire to build a stronger city as a whole. Now we know that you don’t.

Hopefully I see you at the Kosher Chili Cook-off this weekend so I can tell you this in person.

RESPONSE:

Here’s the back story:  I have been working to get a code violating concrete crushing plant closed that has been operating illegally next to the Soccer Complex that we opened today. Despite the fact this was paid for with $31 million in City funds, the Council Member has prevented enforcement and told me to stick to my own district.
My sarcastic point being – why should I care if others don’t.
Trust me I care about the entire City and frequently receive criticism for doing so. I should not have been so cryptic in my comments and should not have disparaged other parts of town.
Lee M. Kleinman

Dallas City Council

 

Innovate or Die

Leandre Johns is the GM for Uber Dallas and is leading the battle against City Hall’s proposed restrictions on Car Sharing. 

Dear Leandre Johns,

It’s deeply embedded in Dallas’ culture to look outwardly cool at all times (and at all costs). You have to look important when you pull up to Concrete Cowboy, that’s priority #1 (followed closely by overpriced shots). So being able to step out of a fresh black car at a somewhat affordable price fits perfectly into the 30 thousand dollar millionaire’s handbook.

If there is an alternative way to get around Dallas without a personal vehicle, I support it. Living a truly car-free lifestyle in Dallas may be a pie-in-the-sky, but thanks to companies like Uber, we’ve taken a step in that direction. Between DART, my bicycle, and Uber/Lyft I can successfully have a night out in Dallas without my car. Since DART leaves the city stranded from 12:00am – 3:00am and I live too far from cool places to bike back, UberX is often my ride home. So I certainly don’t want to see your business model torn to pieces by the city.

This ongoing beef with City Hall seems to be going nowhere which I’m sure you don’t mind. Uber will keep making money while they bicker. Why would the city stifle progress and innovation? (that’s a rhetorical question). The saying goes “Innovate or Die” and I see the black birds starting to circling over Yellow Cab and the like. Any new developments on this stand-off?

Thanks Leandre.

PS: I wonder if DUI numbers have fallen in cities with Uber since you offer a convenient way home. Any numbers on that?

 

 

Stuntin’

Dear Justin Casquejo,

I’m not a big thrill seeker necessarily. I don’t love roller coasters and you won’t find me jumping out of any perfectly good airplanes. That aside, I’ve always had a mischievous streak and get a rush from being where I’m not supposed to be. You tell me I’m not allowed in that seating section / VIP ONLY / backstage area, I’m going to find a way in because you said I can’t. If you act like you belong there, then who’s to say you don’t?

Your adventure to the top of Freedom Tower was a distantly similar endeavor. From what I read, one of the security guards even took you up one of the elevators (now that’s acting like you’re supposed to be there!). Then you snapped a few pictures, earned yourself a few thousand Twitter followers and some serious trespassing charges. When you make a fool of the New York Port Authority’s security on the site of the World Trade Center, they will be looking to make an example of you.  Best of luck with the case and lets hope they don’t pull out the Patriot Act on you. Even though the authorities aren’t happy, the stunt was obviously bad-ass. Props. 

Now that you have a following, the people will expecting you to top this. What’s next? 

Death by Powerpoint

Dear Robert Gaskins,

The words Power Point instantly make me cringe. My eyes glaze over, my extremities go limp, and my mind wonders to somewhere (anywhere) other than the room I’m sitting. This isn’t your fault exactly. It’s a classic case of a good idea being misused. The platform has been hi-jacked by lazy people with no regard for their audience. When you created the software back in the 80’s, did you have any idea it would turn into such an unstoppable and extremely boring monster?

You’re creation of said monster is comparable to that of Dr. Frankenstein. At the outset, your intentions were altruistic. You wanted to create something that would help people present their ideas and make their lives easier. But after you brought your creation to life, it took on a life of it’s own going far beyond your control. It started crushing people’s souls with no regard for human sanity and 20+ years later it still roams the globe in search of boardroom’s attention spans to devour.

Like “the Creature” in Frankenstein it just wants to experience real human interaction, but I’m afraid we’re past that point. Too many ugly slides have been presented and the negative associations  run too deep. It’s time to put the monster down, to learn from our past transgressions.

Do you have any thoughts on Prezi?

PS: This very interesting article talks about how we try to boil everything into bullet points for PPT slides. Problems aren’t always that simple, eg, the Iraq War. 

RESPONSE:

Dear Hayden Bernstein,

Thanks for your note.
   I think that perhaps your experience of PowerPoint has been limited to “the point of delivery” (such as in a classroom), where indeed there is a lot of misuse.  Workgroups actually use PowerPoint for many purposes beyond visuals for a specific speech.  For instance, it’s common for business metrics (such as financial results) to be summarized periodically in standard PowerPoint presentations; the slides can be used as the focus for a discussion, or just circulated (online or in print) and filed.  Most uses of PowerPoint are not theatrical.
  A good source of information about how PowerPoint is used in larger workgroups is a book chapter by Rich Gold, a researcher at Xerox PARC, entitled “Reading PowerPoint”.  I’ve archived a copy online because it’s hard to find in print.
Here’s an example:
“Because the slide in PowerPoint is so stable and formalized, and the
means of PowerPoint production are so ubiquitously distributed on most
PCs, and it is so easy to electronically exchange slides, and we live in an
age of appropriation, annotation, and quotation within most corporations,
there is a brisk trade and economy in slides. It is not uncommon to see
presentations composed primarily of slides produced for other talks by
other people. While this can produce a jarringly ugly and disjointed visual
experience, it does not matter as much as you would expect so long as the
verbal gloss, which is the heartbeat of the presentation, flows.” …
“What arises as the resultant vector is an elaborate gift culture in slides.
“Can I use one of your slides in my presentation?” is an oft-repeated
phrase in any company. The answer is almost always’ “yes,” but it sets up,
or adds to, a balance sheet of favors that over time must get reconciled. If
the favor is considered large, or if the two participants are of unequal status
(either way, it turns out), the phrase “I will give you credit” is appended
to the request. Eventually, a network of slides and favors bonds together
entire departments and can form the basis of corporate cultural identity.
It is not uncommon, for instance, for a certain slide to be used so often,
by so many different people, that it completely breaks free of its original
owner and is considered an “ur-text” of the company. Such texts, because
they remain in PowerPoint (unlike slides produced in Illustrator, for
instance), are highly malleable and can be seen to mutate over months and
even years as they are cast and re-cast into different presentations. A
knowing audience can read these changes, as Soviets used to read the
appearance of Politburo members on the balcony, for changes in the corporate
wind.”
   Gold has many more insights into how PowerPoint is used.  Read the whole thing.
   In another direction, Nancy Duarte actually recommends using PowerPoint for laying out the pages of books!   In fact, she has just released a new book created in PowerPoint as an example of the idea.  See
This is an example of many layout tasks undertaken in PowerPoint, which have little to do with presentations; it is the graphics application that most people feel comfortable with (contrast, for example, Adobe’s excellent Photoshop).
   You ask about Prezi.  I probably haven’t seen it used in its latest version, but I have seen some Prezi presentations.  It appeared to me to be useful for making good-looking “performances” such as a consultant might make to a captive audience, but perhaps less well adapted to the every-Wednesday-morning discussion of last week’s financial results among several people sitting around a table (which is vastly more typical of presentations).  To the extent that Prezi minimizes the concept of “slide” as a first-class object, of course, it lends itself less well to the “brisk trade and economy in slides” noted by Rich Gold.
Best regards,
Robert Gaskins
P.S.  Everything in this reply is also in my book about PowerPoint’s history.  There’s a searchable free full-text copy online at

Bag Ban

Capture

Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway is fighting to enact a citywide band on single-use plastic bags.

Dear Councilman Caraway,

We are creatures of habit and the idea of change can be intimidating.  When it comes to changing a simple habit like not using plastic bags at the grocery store, people might get a little flustered. How can I get my groceries home without 17 plastic bags, some may ask? What about satisfying my customers, business owners will complain? What right does the government have to tell me what type of bags I can or can’t use, Tea Party Members will decry?

Often times, the best ideas are the most simple. This one seems pretty straightforward to me: plastic bags are a huge source of litter -> restrict business from giving thousands of them away every day -> reduce the amount of litter.

I’ve got a guerrilla social awareness idea. Let’s get all the businesses that support the bag-ban to fly a plastic bag up their flag pole the day the city council will vote. It will at least get people talking.I’m really glad you are pushing for a ban on single-use plastic bags in Dallas. Austin didn’t implode when they enacted a bag ban last year. In fact, early reports are hailing it a success.

I really hope your initiative makes it through the city council gauntlet. Best of luck!

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Hey, Its the Sun!

Dear Jonathan Rottenberg,

During your talk on NPR you spoke about how evolutionary, we humans are meant to be outside in the sunshine basically looking for food during the day. We sleep when it gets dark and hunker down during the winter to save energy. Conversely, the modern person does almost the exact opposite. We are inside the majority of the day and fool ourselves into being awake (and assumable productive) at night with artificial light. Humanity is being exposed to less and less sunshine. By throwing 10,000+ years of evolutionary practice to the wind, people find themselves moody and often depressed.

While depression comes in many form, the closest I’ve personally gotten is your garden variety season depression. I’m lucky to have lived pretty high on the hog so far, no major complaints. Since starting a standard 9-5 desk job I do feel the seasonal effects are amplified. First world problems right? But seriously, it’s not cool.

I haven’t read your book (yet) but I’ve never totally bought into the idea of depression as a disease and I’m glad there are people in the field who share this view. I have first hand experience with the depression of a loved one and have to agree that it’s not just a matter of fixing brain chemistry with the right pills. I’m starting to think the first thing to be prescribed is  a healthy dose of sunshine.

I think this song sums things up nicely:

RESPONSE: