Category Archives: Letters

My P1 Leader

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Dear Craig “Junior/Junes/The Professor” Miller,

A few minutes into the job interview, I realized I was in the company of a fellow P1. I think my usage of “good dude” tipped him off. Always a good sign, I proudly declared that Junes is my P1 Leader and everything went well from there.

For those who know and love The Ticket, a person’s P1’s Leader says a lot about them. In some ways, it’s more revealing than any “So tell me a little about yourself” interview question. A few interests we share: cycling, adventurous traveling (RIP Anthony Bourdain) and maps. Yes, maps are freakin’ awesome.

The little station you helped start is one of the best things about DFW. For me, the warm hum of 1310 (I’m nostalgic for the AM side too) in the background of my daily life is the comforting sound of being in my hometown.

To wrap up this rambling letter, keep the rubber side down as you navigate the mean streets of Dallas on your bike. Hopefully our paths cross riding around White Rock Lake!

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The Artistic Astronaut

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Dear Nicole Stott,

I imagine there are few experiences more existential than looking back at Earth from space. The problems and politics of the terrestrial world must shrink away to feel so very insignificant when all of humanity fits within your window on the International Space Station. The perspective must be overpowering.

Isn’t perspective, in both senses of the word, essential for creating art? Creating art is to express your personal perspective on something, anything. So I imagine (again) that creating art in space removes you from the “noise” of everyday life and focuses your expression in that moment. Although, after being in space for over 100 days like you were, that was everyday life! Amazing.

Some recent projects at my job have reinvigorated the “space kid” part of me. I’ve been learning and relearning about the past achievements of NASA and what is still to come for human space exploration. When I see an image of the Space Shuttle, it brings back that same excitement and wonder I felt when I was 9 years old checking out books about NASA from the library. I hope kids today are still amazed by space and astronauts, but now it’s probably focused on SpaceX.

Which brings me to the #dearMoon mission! A very noble idea in the name of art as much as science, which I think is totally refreshing. You’ve said you would be interested in going on the mission. If you were chosen and it becomes a reality in 2023, how do you think your artwork would be different than what you created on ISS? Would you stick with painting, or maybe something more transportable like charcoal? Just a thought!

However it plays out, wishing you the best!

Don’t Throttle Me

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Dear Ajit Pai,

No one really wants to think about taxes or health care. Both are incredibly complicated subjects that always end with how much money will be deducted from our paychecks. They suck, but are ultimately necessary. So, we elect officials who we believe will handle these matters with our best interest in mind, then try to avoid the subjects for at least another 2 years.

Conversely, people are really really passionate about frivolous things like watching their favorite shows on Netflix and sharing junk on Facebook. Seems backwards, I know, but that’s how it is. We love our endless choices of on-demand entertainment; we are quite literally addicted to it. So when you meddle with our Internet access, the people who couldn’t care less about politics will start to pay attention. I can’t think of another issue that will galvanize every level of society against a political group faster than this. That is probably be the last thing you want– to have the “masses” involved in your game.

Here’s what I don’t understand. What is the long-term benefit of gutting net neutrality? Who “wins” in that scenario, other than maybe the small handful of mega media corporation that lobbied for it? And even then, I think it is a short-sighted move that will suffocate their own businesses and encourage people to find new way around them. The entire culture of the Internet is built on finding innovative ways to share information quickly and efficiently. Anything that stands in the way of this will get run over, under and/or around.

At a deeper level, people are passionate about access to information and expressing opinions. This issue is not far off from a 1st Amendment debate in my book. The FCC, an extension of the Federal Government, is allowing these companies to limit our freedom of speech. As consumers, we could chose to not support these businesses and the tenets of capitalism say they will eventually be replaced by companies that meet the market’s demand. That works in theory, but not when the entire media landscape is controlled by tightknit group of companies. As the President might say, this is a “bad deal.”

Beyond all the health care and tax noise, this single issue will be the biggest political rallying point in November. I’m excited to watch, that is if I still have access.

The Guy Who Stops to Ask Why

 

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Dear Tim Urban,

Wait But Why inspires me. Every time I finish reading a blog post, I come away with a new tiny glimmer of hope that we can positively affect/change ourselves, our personal future, our perception of the world, and even the world beyond ourselves. Your content tackles huge concepts with a simple ease, which as a writer and fellow “sometimes” blogger, I know the process is anything but easy. Your commitment to the topics shines through your work and I have the utmost respect for what you create.

Now that I’ve professed my love to your blog (glad that’s out of the way), here are some favorite posts I would like to share my thought on.

You Life in Weeks / 100 Blocks a Day

Get up, go to work, cook dinner, make time to exercise, watch some Netflix, get 7ish hours of sleep and do it again. It is easy to hit cruise control and look up a month, or year later. The finite time we all have, the reality of our mortality, can be a frightening concept. It’s not something we are apt to think about often.

Breaking an entire lifetime into 1-week little boxes that all fit on one page is a great way to quantify this huge concept. Or, to show an entire waking day as 100, 10 minute boxes. That’s all you get! Time really is the most precious commodity and life is ultimately defined by how one chose to “fill our little boxes.” The perspective is sobering and refreshing. (This post filled at least 4 of my 100 boxes today.)

How are you filling your boxes these days?  

How Tesla Will Change the World

Before I read the Tesla post (and the entire Musk series), I was 99% sure the environment was doomed. Now I am slightly less certain, perhaps 95% sure, which is a major improvement from “totally screwed.” The next car I own will be electric, I will make sure of that. I am less sold on Musk’s ambitions with Space X and Hyperloop, but I’m glad someone is pushing the envelope.

Since writing the post in 2015, what are you thoughts on the state of Tesla?

Why Sports Fans are Sports Fans

This was actually the first WBW article I ever came across. Now that I know the site well, I see it’s a playful one, but it still keys into some fundamental human truths. Everyone wants to feel connected to something larger than themselves. People crave emotional stimulation. The emotional highs and lows that sports provide as a player or spectator are authentic, real feelings, and that is valuable to the world. 

I assume you’re a sports fan. How are your teams doing?

Keep doing what you do Tim and tell Elon I said HEY!

PICK ME! PICK ME!

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Dear Jeff Bezos,

With one wave of your magic wand (or Fire Stick), $5 billion will descend from the sky like an Amazon delivery drone into the city of your choosing. How is the proposal review coming along? If I may, I’d like to add some perspective to Dallas’ proposal as a (nearly) life-long resident.

The prospect of Amazon’s 2nd headquarters landing in Dallas has a lot of people excited here. In our very Dallas way, we can’t fathom why you would choose anywhere else. We boast a friendly business climate, half-decent weather, a multitude of shopping and eating destinations, plenty of eligible real estate, and…. did I mention a friendly business climate? Here in Dallas, we pretty much sell zoning laws and TIF districts to the highest bidder. I’m guessing the Mayor put that in writing somewhere in our proposal. Our proposal might have been titled: Dallas — Name Your Price. We like BIG deals in Big D and your’s would be the biggest yet. We so desperately want to be considered a “world-class city” that we will do whatever it takes to land Amazon “HQ2.” And then, maybe, we can finally move past the Kennedy assassination.

Seattle complains that Amazon’s presence is leading to the destruction of everything unique about their city. They fear losing that quiet coffee shop, Pacific Northwest way of life– the culture that probably attracted you there in the first place. See, here in Dallas, we don’t have much identity to sacrifice! Molding our way of life to fit the needs of corporations is what we do here– that is our identity. Just ask AT&T, Ross Perot, Harlan Crow, or Jerry Jones.

Here are some other reasons to pick Dallas for Amazon HQ2:

  • Your shiny new toy Whole Foods is just down I-35.

  • You can wear a cowboy hat to cover your bald head and no one will look at you funny.

  • You will be the richest person in the city and state (DAMN YOU BILL GATES!).

  • You be credited with solving all of our city’s problems.

  • You will increase my property value over night.

If you need a tour guide to show you around, I am available most weekends. Lodging is also available in Oak Cliff’s finest Garden Casita. I’ll make you a GREAT deal. 😉

Hope to hear back soon!

USAC Lost & Found

USAC Hike from Prague to Příbram

Hi Anna,

I’m a fellow USAC alum who also spent a semester abroad in Prague (fall 2009). Facebook recently reminded me that 8 years ago, I was also crazy enough to hike through 35 miles of Czech forest during the middle of the night. I came across your travel blog because I couldn’t remember the name of the town we hiked to from Prague, so I Googled “czech overnight pilgrimage hike” and bam, there was your blog post!  

I really enjoyed reading your account of the “35 mile hike from hell.” Only someone who experienced the same struggle can ever really relate. So in the spirit of shared experience and the beautiful randomness of the internet, I wanted share my account (written now 8 years later) of our semester’s hike with you.

As you may remember, our program director Jan was quite the outdoorsman. Actually, the guy was a total beast when it came to athletics. He easily outran me in some of the local races he encouraged us to participate in. When he asked if we wanted to join his group in an annual overnight pilgrimage to a Czech town with a historic church, I didn’t think twice about not going; of course I was in. The hike is in honor of students who would make this trek in the middle of the night to avoid scrutiny during Communism (religion and Communism don’t mesh). What a cool experience, I thought! I even convinced my best friend who was visiting from his study abroad program in Vienna to join us on the adventure.

First step was to stock up on bottled water, cheese sandwiches, and pocket-size bottles of vodka (for warmth) from the bus station kiosk. Then we set off! After about an hour of light hiking, the group stopped at a rustic Czech restaurant on the outskirts of town. I noticed all the experienced Czech hikers were eating heaping plates of steamed potato dumplings and stewed meats. I should have followed their example, but instead, only ordered a beer and french fries because I had eaten before leaving the apartment (clearly a mistake).

Ok, back into the woods for what would be the remainder of the night. Although it was a cold night with misty rain on and off, I remember our spirits were high for at least the first few hours. Someone slips down the rocky hillside and would laugh it off. Then someone trips over a rock hidden by 100 years of leaves and we would have another good laugh. Haha! ha … ha.

…the novelty is starting to wear off.

The next phase I’ll call “content silence.” The distance between hikers begins to grow as we march down the trail. I was enjoying myself, just walking and listening to my iPod with the occasional sip of vodka. We stop for a group photo (I’m top left). Smiles are still present.

USAC Hike from Prague to Příbram

The hills get steeper, the rocks get harder, and the darkness gets darker, or that’s how it felt about 5 hours into the hike. The group stops for a few minutes to rest our feet and reality starts to set in. Everyone is looking weary and we are not even half way. I pass around the vodka to lift our spirits, if only momentarily.

The aches and pains begin. Each step is harder than the last. We bond over our shared misery, only until everyone gets separated. At certain times, the closest person is barely within ear shot. I’m cold, but sweaty. Every pebble feels like a boulder through my shoes and the vodka is no longer helping. I think I’m following the correct painted trail markings on the trees, but I have my doubts. I see a friend walking back from the direction I am heading. We made a wrong turn. I’ve never heard worse news in my life.

Czech trail markers

Our only way out of the Czech forest

Miraculously, we get back on track. My body enters zombie mode and I continue to trudge through the cold in a state of semi-consciousness. Hours creep by. I find the group stopped for final time, now down to a few students, Geiger, and one Czech woman. We all sleep for 15 pristeen minutes. We start again and I eat the last bits of the food I brought (the vodka is long gone). A faint dawn light starts to break through the darkness. Eventually, daylight brings on a new form of delirium. The terrain flattens out and I start to pass small homes that I’m sure were quaint, but I don’t care at this point. ZOMBIE MODE

Finally, I walk into the town of Příbram, our destination. I made it, or whatever. I didn’t even go into the church. All I could focus on was finding the bus stop and leaving immediately. I saw my friends down the street getting on a bus and they yelled, “HURRY, it’s the last bust for an hour!” Somehow I ran that last 100 yards to the bus and immediately fell into a groggy half-sleep back to Prague.

Am I glad I did it? That in that moment, I would have told you HELL NO. Eight years later, I like to tell the story. Would I do it again? Not without multiple flashlights, GPS tracking, a thermos full of coffee, real hiking shoes, plus a grand feast and scheduled ride waiting at the end.

So probably not.

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Oak Cliff, YEAH, That’s My Hood

Scott Griggs Dallas District 1

Dear Councilman Scott Griggs,

I believe in the future of Dallas. It’s where I grew up and where I now choose to live. I believe in it so much that I purchased my first home here this past summer and I am excited to officially own a tiny piece of the city in a part of town that excites me. I am literally invested in the future of Dallas. For this fact, and given the state of our national politics, I’ve decided to redouble my focus on what is immediately around me. My street, my neighborhood (North Cliff), and our District.

As you well know, north Oak Cliff is a “transitional” area of the Dallas. I don’t want to use the “G word”; that’s what is happening in over in West Dallas (Trinity Groves). The growth and diversity in District 1 feel more honest, more sustainable and I would consider myself part of this transition. But where does progress stop and gentrification begin? How do we maintain this delicate balance of elotes stands and artisan pie shops, both of which are reasons why I like living here? These are mostly rhetorical questions, but they are on my mind often.

On a personal level, I am coordinating an effort to extend the North Oak Cliff United Police Patrol to our North Cliff neighborhood in light of a recent drug-related murder a few blocks away from my house. I hope this tragedy can be used to galvanize the neighborhood, though the likelihood of our area being able to raise the funds to support this non-profit patrol is slim. Do you have any tips or alternatives you would recommend for improving the safety our neighborhood?

On a macro level, here are a few issues that I believe will most affect our city’s future:

  1. We must improve the D.I.S.D. in innovative ways. For north Oak Cliff, how can we replicate the Lakewood, Long, Woodrow tract? Rosemont Elementary appears to be a good start.
  2. We must stop the Trinity Toll Road at all costs, even if it is at the expense of the park. Another highway, especially one in a floodplain that will further divide an already very divided city, is the last thing we need to pour billions of dollars into.
  3. We must find a compromise on the pension fund crisis. A poor police department and a bad school district are a deadly combination (Do you watch The Wire?)

Most of all, we must hold ourselves accountable. What happens here is the responsibility every individual who calls this city home. When someone doesn’t care, it’s our responsibility to help them learn to care. I’m looking forward to making more progress this year, here and beyond.

RESPONSE:

Thank you for the email. I’ll respond shortly.
Which neighborhood did you move to? My office can help with NOCUP.
We are very aligned on issues. If you would like to have coffee and discuss more, please call Mina at 214-XXX-XXXX. She keeps my calendar.
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Trump Me Once…

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Dear President-Elect Trump,

I have a feeling this wasn’t the plan, but here we are. You got a little carried away with being in front of the camera and woke up the President-elect of the United States of America. Welcome to the most difficult job in existence. The only job where your actions literally affect every living creature on the planet, from sea plankton floating in the Arctic Ocean to the approximately 10,000 American babies who take their first breath tomorrow under a Donald Trump presidency.

That is a lot of responsibility. Are you up to the challenge? I have my doubts, but I hope you prove me wrong. I really do. That would be an even bigger surprise than you winning the election in the first place. But I’m not here to call you names or tell you how unqualified you are for this job. You’ve been hearing that for two years now and will continue to hear it for four more. I think it’s part of what has motivated you up to this point. Just to say that you did it your way and screw everyone for doubting me. But now that the beast has been slain, from where will you draw your motivation? Will it come from genuine concern for our country? Genuine hope? Will it be from anywhere beyond your own ego or self-interest?

Caring more for something beyond yourself is the most honorable thing a person can do. It can also be the hardest. So I’ll ask again. Are you up to this challenge? There are still a few hours left to do some soul searching and decide this hard work thing just isn’t for you. Before anyone gets hurt. Before any permanent damage is done.

PROVE US WRONG AGAIN.
P.S. Have you ever read the U.S. Constitution in its entirety? Great read, I highly recommend it.

Save Me

Dear Ben Baldanza,
As I write this letter, I am sitting on the runway at LAX after a quick trip to Los Angeles. My flight should have landedin Dallas almost two hours ago and the mood is tense on this plane. They just turned on the A/C – a luxury I’m surprised we’re being afforded – to cool off the rising tempers.

Wait, now we’re back at the gate and apparently we aren’t going anywhere tonight. “Abnormal smell and sound in the rear of the aircraft.” I smelled it way back in seat 26D but assumed it was just the by-product of some substandard cleaning product in the restroom. A 12 hour delay awaits us all which for me means more time with my girl friend who I came to visit (silver linings).

I’d heard Spirit Airlines horror stories of 12, 18, even 24 hour delays on social media but had had no issue after two recent trips. When I bought this $125 roundtrip ticket I felt like I was almost stealing something. It knew it was a gamble and this time I came up snake eyes. The wager was time and potentially my job, we’ll see how much I lost.

Considering it all, I can’t say I won’t fly Spirit again. I have a long distance relationship to maintain and price is my number 1 concern right now. In fact I think I want to buy some stock in Spirit. Ya’ll have keyed into a market segment that other American airlines won’t acknowledge (or are afraid to) and are making money in a volatile industry.

All signs point to a society deeply divided by economic standing. These traditional airlines aim to provide a middle-of-the-road experience to a middle class customer. Truth is that they aren’t far from the bottom themselves. As the middle class disappears it’s time for brands to choose which side of the divide they will serve.

Spirit Airlines is a proud, unapologetic bottom-feeder which I respect in some perverse way. At least you’re self-aware which is more than I can say about most companies.

Until my next ultra bargain flight, GET ME THE FUCK OFF THIS RUNWAY.

Don’t Buy This Jacket

Dear Yvon Chouinard,

Today is Cyber Monday. Consumers will spend an estimated 2.5 billion dollars shopping online today for…well what are they really shopping for? I guess people justify it because we are selflessly buying things for other. That makes it a noble endeavor.

Then who can blame you for trying to save a few bucks when you are obligated to buy something for all your family, friends, and co-workers (For the first time this year I heard about online deals that start at 5:00am, similar to the doorbuster deals of Black Friday. I value my sleep far too much.)? You don’t want to look like the greedy dude who sits back and only receives during the holidays. Plus, if we don’t buy all our friends a gift they might think we don’t care about them or our family members might assume we don’t love them.

A few years ago on Cyber Monday, Patagonia ran my favorite advertisement of all time. The line was “Don’t Buy This Jack”, urging people to examine their consumption habits. It probably didn’t help sales that day, but it was a brand building piece that keyed into exactly what people love about your brand and it absolutely hooked me. It encourages us to buy something when we need it and plan to use it well. And when that time does come for a new jacket, Patagonia will provide a high-quality and conscious produced item. It’s refreshingly honest and in stark contrast to every other brand, not only competitors in the outdoor apparel category, but all consumer goods. It’s so crazy that it works, just like a lot of ideas you are behind.

So this year, rather than spending money on our family, lets spend time with our family. Lets take that time to reflect, both inwardly and together, on what is really valuable to us: our family, friends, environment (I’ve already lamented on the narrow definition of environment), and new episodes of Louie.

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