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When I was a wee lad back in 1966 a local grocery store ran a promotion where for 19 cents you could purchase a glass figurine of a president of the United States. As a budding history nerd at the tender age of seven I was intrigued and I badgered my parents to get president Kennedy for me. To my delight my mother returned from the store one day with all of the figurines from Washington through Johnson except for Kennedy, which was in high demand at the time and on back order. He was added a few weeks later.

I have carried these figurines and the cheesy styrofoam stand around the state of Texas in a Wonder Bread wrapper for the better part of the past half century. They have spent most of their existence in a box in various attics. Nothing has broken or even chipped. Lord knows what is in that paint. The plan now is to obtain a shadow box with several shelves and properly display these fellows. It’s about time they get a proper home.

Thanks to this collection I could recite all of the presidents in order in my elementary school days. I began to gather trivia on many of them, which lead to deeper reading here and there and I eventually completed a B.A in History with an emphasis on American economic history many years later, perhaps because I stared at these guys for so many hours in my youth. Who knows how these things unfold??

Then there is the fun fashion aspect of the display. First, they are all the same height. James Madison at 5’4″ only dreamed that he could have been as tall as Thomas Jefferson standing next to him. Note that long neckties begin to show up about the time of Benjamin Harrison and then become a staple in the twentieth century. Who will break that trend? F.D.R. has his dashing cape (which he wore at the Yalta conference) but there is no wheelchair and his hair is ginger, not gray. Poor Calvin Coolidge is displayed with a hat that I was never sure went with the suit and was certainly not as grand as McKinley’s top hat. At least he is not wearing spats. But then, Calvin was never one for trendy fashion. Some are standing at attention, some are gesturing. Harry Truman seems to be pleading. Must have been when his approval poll numbers were in the 20’s.

I’m glad to have rediscovered them and I look forward to getting that shadow box display up on a wall. Stay tuned.

Full Greco-Roman revival styrofoam display.


Madison, larger than life.


Coolidge and his hat with a pleading Truman in the background.



I’m thinking about growing some olive trees on the hill in Hermosa. I may be senile or dead before they get all gnarly and look really cool but what the hell. I think I’ll do it anyway.

(via Wired)

Integration of body, frame and battery is intriguing. I’d like to have a closer look at that design….

How did Uhlarik build what almost certainly will be the lightest bike on the grid at any of the 14 races on the TTXGP calendar this year? He started from scratch. Whereas almost everyone else converted a conventional motorcycle, Uhlarik started with a clean sheet of paper. That allowed him to do something radical: The P1 doesn’t employ a traditional frame. The battery is the frame, and much of the bodywork as well.

“We’ve integrated the body, frame and battery into the same structure,” said Uhlarik.

(via Wired)

So, two things on my mind. First, the extremely warm spring in Houston has yielded zucchini on April 20. I cooked it into a pasta sauce – early stages shown below. Fresh basil from the garden was added as well. A nice glass of dry Italian red wine, some good music and the Astros game (muted) on the screen made for a superb evening.

Second, I stopped by the Green Building Resource Center of Houston today and checked out the various building materials and systems for LEED certified housing. Now my current flight of fancy involves building a LEED Silver certified house in Central Texas sometime in the next five years. Lots of research obviously needs to be done and more than a few road trips as well. I’m in the very early stages of this fantasy come reality so the optimism meter is off the chart. (FYI, my Meyers-Briggs is INTP so I am easily enchanted with big, fat ideas brimming with possibility). Nevertheless, there you have it. One has to start somewhere and my general philosophy is that if you throw enough stuff against the wall, sooner or later, something is going to stick.

The mesquite flooring sample at the resource center (mesquite is indigenous to central Texas) was beautiful.

OK, if anyone is out there, please chime in. I’m looking for thoughts and ideas on environmentally sound residential construction in central Texas.

Early stages of tonight's pasta sauce

…For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
– William Butler Yeats

click the little guy


And I am very pleased to read that number two is one of my favorite haunts here in Houston – The Menil Collection.

These works are nothing short of spectacular. (via Kottke)

When I was ten years old, I really, really wanted to be Herb Alpert and play cool tunes on the trumpet. Oh, and be served a cocktail by a beautiful woman reclining on the wing of a biplane.

This past weekend I downloaded Going Places and Whipped Cream and Other Delights, then spent a lazy sunny afternoon driving around town on the motorcycle listening to these great sounds from my childhood. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass had such a unique, distinctive style. Their tight arrangements and infectious melodies made them one of the greatest pop music groups of the mid 1960s. After a run through of both of these albums, I wanted to put on some nice clothes and have a martini. But it was Sunday and I was out of vermouth. (Sadly, no booze may be purchased in Texas on Sunday.)

Most of my reading is done online but when I venture into anything more lengthy than a journal article it is almost always with an actual book. For me, the look and feel of a beautifully bound book greatly enhances the experience of reading, especially fiction. And if the quality of the cover art is in league with the craftsmanship of the book, bonus points!. Designer David Pearson has a new project called White’s Books where deluxe hardcover editions of classic works are being released with beautiful cover art. Very interesting interview with David Pearson here.


Last Friday night the balcony seats to Lohengrin that I purchased online somehow morphed into 12th row center orchestra. I asked no questions but hastened straightway to the new digs for the evening, halfway expecting the seats to be occupied by some matronly season ticket holder who would assure me that there must be some mistake, dahling. But no! The seats were empty and I was golden!

And what a treat it was. Hard core opera heads might raise a fuss but I really liked the staging, which was a vaguely dark mid 20th century European setting. It conveyed the mood that times were tough, strongmen were in control, justice was not on the menu and people yearned for a savior to make things right. The villainess was supremely evil and the hero superb. Hat tip to HGO orchestra for a most excellent musical performance as well.