Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blog Maverick

Mark Cuban writes an interesting blog called blogmaverick. You can find it here: He’s often got interesting things to say and I’ve learned at least something about business from reading him.
Once and awhile, however, I read something that makes me realize just how different his world is from mine. His August 5 blog on his failed effort to buy the Texas Rangers has one of those passages:
It is not easy to get liquid to the point of $400mm dollars or more in just a few weeks.
Or, in my case, it would be easy in just a few lifetimes.

John P. Greenan


Mark Cuban writes an interesting blog called blogmaverick. You can find it here: He’s often got interesting things to say and I’ve learned at least something about business from reading him.
Once and awhile, however, I read something that makes me realize just how different his world is from mine. His August 5 blog on his failed effort to buy the Texas Rangers has one of those passages:
It is not easy to get liquid to the point of $400mm dollars or more in just a few weeks.
Or, in my case, it would be easy in just a few lifetimes.

John P. Greenan

Sunday, August 15, 2010


When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.

Nick Sowell

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Day

4th of July is the most memorable day in the history of United States of America. It is the day when America got independence and was free from British occupancy. The day is celebrated all around the country with patriotic sentiment.

"I like to see men proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."--Abraham Lincoln

"We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls."--Robert McCrackin

Nick Sowell

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Building

Look at the cityscape. Now focus on one building. Squint if you need to. Fifteen stories. As large as the entire town you grew up in. Once it’s firmly in your mind, close your eyes.

Now see the building in memory. See it as Picasso would see it as a series of foms, of cubes, as an abstraction. See the building as a fractal, breaking into pieces. See it as a lawyer sees it, as a bundle of property rights that can be unbundled and rebundled in endless variations.

Ask yourself what the building can be—retail, office, homes. No, better yet, ask the building what it wants to be. Not the whole unified building but each constituent part.

Once each part speaks to you and tells you what it should be, then start the hard work of creating it. First as an abstraction but becoming more and more real with each thought.

See the building as Walt Whitman would. Pipes humming and wires like nerves carrying power and information to each part of it. See the building as activity. Like Whitman’s mind the building can encompass all of us within us.

Each thing has its place in the building. Here the mother with her child. There the intellectual at his papers. Merchant and lawyer; rich and poor; man, woman and child; every dog and every pigeon have their place.

The building is not office or retail or residential. Disregard the illusion of unity. You see a whole only by disregarding the parts. The building is a series of spaces, not a building. Each space has its proper use and each its proper resident. This is mine; that is yours; over there belongs to neither of us.

John P. Greenan

Monday, June 28, 2010


When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.

Nick Sowell

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heard From Oak Cliff

Last night I attended a hearing in Oak Cliff on the Dallas Housing Authority’s proposal to house one hundred formerly homeless people at its Cliff Manor property. I haven’t seen such a frightening crowd since 1972. Here are some comments to the Dallas Morning News’ story on the hearing to give you a little flavor of the discussion—and my take on some of the opinions expressed.

Sharon Boyd

7:27 AM on June 22, 2010

A community's first priority is to the people who are law-abiding and pay their taxes. The druggers/alcoholics stepped outside the lines, but want everyone to pay their way back into society. I sympathize with the mentals, but they should be in institutions where they can be safe, fed and treated. They can never live completely on their own because they are not equipped for life's anxieties.

All the do gooder programs have caused incredible damage to Lake Highlands, Vickery Meadow and Oak Cliff. The Cedars is just now crawling out of the pit that decades of dumping on them created. The Sec 8 apts in NW Dallas are a disaster for my area.

Senior housing is one thing -- but the DHA always screws up and winds up ruining entire communities to help a handful of losers.

Fight on, Oak Cliff. This is Councilman Neumann's finest hour. He has never been more right on any issue

1 reply

The funny thing is, I live in Lake Highlands and I think it is pretty nice. JG.


11:13 AM on June 22, 2010

"I sympathize with the mentals..."

The "mentals"? I guess this is your new shorthand for the homeless? Like Mexicans are now called "illegals", you folks are Apathetic Pigeonholers, or "A-holers" for short.

This brings to light one of the overriding themes of last night. The homeless aren’t really people.


7:46 AM on June 22, 2010

Sharon Boyd, where are the impoverished and people without homes suppose to live? Do we just leave them all on the streets?

I can't wait to hear your answer.

3 replies

This is the question that I’d like some of the people who oppose permanent supportive housing to answer some day. Do they think we are better off with people sleeping in the streets? JG.


8:36 AM on June 22, 2010

Anyone who doesn't have a job would be "impoverished" and "without homes." Me, you, everyone. Gosh...let's see....let me about getting a job

No doubt a Bruce Hornsby fan. “Get a job!” JG.


9:08 AM on June 22, 2010

They should live with you

A helpful anwer—not. The person below actually has housed homeless people in his home. I’m moving into citywalk@akard where we are housing homeless people, but not everyone can do that sort of thing.

Karl Dennahan Tx

10:00 AM on June 22, 2010

bumrapper: TOUCHE!

John P. Greenan

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer fun starts for CityWalk kids


The Rainbow Days Kids' University camp started yesterday and several of our kids at CityWalk were able to attend. The camp will be held at the University of Texas at Dallas through this Thursday and our kids and their parents are super-excited about it.

The purpose of Kids’ University is "to promote literacy, higher education, develop social competency and build self-esteem." Some of the activities include courses in science and computers, as well as cooking, painting, arts and crafts and more. There will also be a graduation ceremony on the last day of camp where kids will walk across a stage and receive diplomas.

We're so happy that our kids at CityWalk are getting this opportunity to go to a free camp, where meals are provided at no cost to the parents.

Thanks so much to Rainbow Days and for all this organization is doing in the community.

Getting ready to go to camp

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Nick Sowell

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.

When life knocks you on your knees, your in the perfect position to pray

Nick Sowell

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Funny Stuff

Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Nick Sowell

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Death for Watching Soccer

Death for Watching Soccer

The following article caught my attention. Among other things, it shows just how differently some people see the world than I do:

World Cup 2010: Somali football fans executed for watching matches

Two Somali football fans have been killed by Islamic militants after being caught watching World Cup matches.

By Aislinn Laing, Southern Africa correspondent
Published: 5:59PM BST 14 Jun 2010

A Somali football fan adjusts the Television set for the group D game between Ghana and Serbia Photo: EPA

The deaths happened on Saturday near the capital Mogadishu when members of the Hizbul Islam group stormed a house where people were watching Nigeria play Argentina.

A further 10 people were arrested by the group, which has imposed a strict version of Islam in the areas they control in southern and central Somalia.

The following night, another 30 people including a 15-year-old boy were arrested as the watched the Germany-Australia game in two private homes in the town of Afgoye.

A spokesman for the group, Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, said the rest of Somalia should respect their ban on the World Cup – the first to be hosted in Africa – and focus instead on "pursuing holy jihad".

"We are warning all the youth of Somalia not to dare watch these World Cup matches. It is a waste of money and time and they will not benefit anything or get any experience by watching mad men jumping up and down," he said.

The ban, which has seen radio stations around the city taken off air for playing music, has resulted in people flocking to public cinemas in the few Government-controlled areas of the country.

Ahmed Santos used to live in an area of Somalia run by militants, but now is in a government-controlled area.

"I can now freely watch the matches," he said. "I am so sorry that some of my friends who are now living where I was once don't have that chance to watch the World Cup. I really feel sorry for them."

Others are risking the wrath of the militants, such is their love of the beautiful game.

One man, who lives in the militant-controlled livestock market area of the city said he watched Algeria-Slovenia at home with his family.

"I have one eye on the TV and the other on the door, and the sound turned down," he said.

I know I shouldn’t joke about such tragedies. It is an unspeakable horror to put people to death for such an innocent action, but there is something quite surreal about all this. I just, very literally, cannot believe that this is happening in the same world in which I live.

John Greenan

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dallas's 500 Most Powerful People

Dallas’s 500 Most Powerful People

Do you like lists? Here’s one of Dallas’s 500 most powerful people: The highest names on the list I’ve met are numbers 14 and 15. I’ve met seven out of the top 100, and know two of that seven well enough so that they know my name and would probably take my calls—on a good day.

After that, I go rapidly downhill. I’ve only met 16 of the remaining 400 people, and I know only two more of those that I have met well enough to even call them acquaintances.

It isn’t too clear who prepared the list, and it has some errors—like at least dead person. There are also some puzzling omissions. Where is T.D. Jakes? So if you didn’t make it, then I think you’ve still got room to argue.

I have to admit I’m fascinated by lists. The top ten this or the fifty best that always get my attention, no matter whether I know anything about the topic or not. There is something about a list that seems to restore order to the world. I’d be happy enough as Dallas’s 3 millionth most powerful person, just to know my place in the world.

I also find it interesting that I’m almost twice as likely to have met someone in the top 100 as in the next 400. Perhaps the reason those first 100 people are so powerful is because they know everybody? Even me.

John Greenan


Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.

Nick Sowell

Democracy or Disease?

Democracy or Disease?

This is the title of an essay by Aaron Renn, the author of the Urbanophile blog (, although this essay appears instead on New Geography and you can find it here:

The essay is about how California-style government through referendum and initiative has spread to other states, especially in the Midwest. Mr. Renn sees this as a problem. For example, in California the combination of tax cuts and required spending passed by the voters has made it almost impossible for the state to pass a workable budget. One of the most amazing misuses of this system took place in Ohio:

The last and most incredible example is Ohio, where a group of developers wanted to open casinos. Led by Rock Ventures, the investment vehicle of Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert of Detroit, the group spent $47 million to draft, put on the ballot, and pass a constitutional amendment permitting casino gambling in Ohio. But this initiative did much, much more than that. It only permitted casinos on four specific properties — properties controlled by the referendum backers — and thus granted them exclusive rights to open casinos. It exempted their casinos from zoning or most other types of local control, authorized them to operate 24 hours a day, and specified a very low license fee of only $50 million per casino to the state. It also permitted them not only to run any game currently allowed by any surrounding state, but also any game those states might approve in the future. It's undoubtedly one of the most incredible constitutional amendments in the history of the United States.

This strikes me as a terrible idea for the State of Ohio (but a very good one for the people who sponsored the referendum). I’m sure of us all feel that voters should have the final say in how we are governed, but there seems to be a problem with a too convenient system of initiative and referendum.

I know we should all be educated on everything we vote on, but I can’t quit my job to study the candidates and issues full time. I normally know what’s going on in the big races (President, Governor, Senator, Mayor and congressional candidates), but it’s hard to keep up with all the amendments to the Texas constitution, the races for judge (here in Texas we vote on all judges—sometimes as many as thirty races in Dallas County), all the local contests (County Clerk, Constable, City Auditor, etc.). Then we have multiple elections, Federal, State, City and School Board. That’s made more complicated by the fact that while I live in the City of Dallas, I also reside in the Richardson School District—and my kids (who went to private schools anyway) are long since grown. When am I going to find time to keep up with Richardson Schools?

By the way, there is also a Dallas County School Board, which is entirely separate from the Dallas Independent School District School Board. I lived here for a decade before I finally figured out that the job of the Dallas County School Board was mostly to run the school buses.

I read the local newspaper every day; follow the national news; check out a half dozen blogs and most of the local commentary on the web. It’s not that I’m not trying, but there are too many issues and too many candidates for me to follow them all.

In short, I agree with the Urbanophile that we’ve got to find a way to restrict initiative and referendum (and probably all votes) to the kinds of things that are important enough for most of the voters to spend their time learning about. At the same time, I think the voters ought to have the right to step in directly to set things right when necessary. I wish we had initiative and referendum in Texas.

There has to be some middle ground between no right for voters to directly speak on important issues and the opportunity for every rich person with a cause or a scheme to make voters decide whether it’s a good idea.

Maybe initiatives and referenda ought to be limited—perhaps to the three or five issues that have the highest number of signatures on their petition. Maybe there is a better idea out there. I do know that while I want my vote to count, I don’t want to vote on what I don’t understand.

John Greenan

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Donations are always appreciated at CityWalk


I received an unexpected call this week from Ann Yindrick who works in Lincoln Plaza, which is located across the street from CityWalk at Akard. Ann and her office team compiled a heap of toiletry donations to be given to our residents. I dashed over to her office the next morning with our resident assistant Marcus Harris and a dolly to find loads of soap, shampoo, shower gel and other items.

These essentials will be put into our welcome bags that we give to new residents when they move in. A “welcome bag” also includes paper goods, a CityWalk t-shirt, coffee, a can opener and a list of things to do in Dallas.

You, too, can donate goods or even sponsor one or more of our activities at CityWalk by providing refreshments, lunch or dinner for our residents. Contact me at 214.573.2570 ext. 2133 with donations or for more information on how you can help.

To Ann Yindrick and her team – thanks so much!

Ann Yindrick

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oak Cliff

North Oak Cliff: “We’ll Take a Few Homeless People if Preston Hollow Does.”

Part II

Here is the link to the Google Map I put together:

I hope it works because this is the first time I’ve tried to make a Google Map.

Well, it sort of works. If you open the hyperlink, then click on My Maps, and then click on Dallas PSH, then you will get a map of the dozen existing or proposed projects that I am aware of. Out of the twelve projects, four are operating (blue placemarkers), five projects are still under some stage of development (red placemarkers) and three have been abandoned (yellow markers). I have been extremely generous in counting projects as still under development—if they haven’t been completely and irrevocably abandoned, then I’ve counted them.

I haven’t tried to locate projects smaller than 40 units on the map, even when I happen to know about them.

The locations are really pretty well spread around Dallas. One in Vickery Meadows, one in Lake Highlands, two in Oak Cliff, one in Expo Park, two downtown, one in East Dallas, one in the Cedars, one in the design district, and two in South Dallas. With the exception of three outliers, which we will discuss in a moment, every project is in or near to downtown.

That makes sense because permanent supportive housing usually works best in dense inner city areas. Most people coming out of homelessness have limited means and no automobile. People need to be in walkable areas if possible and conveniently located for mass transit. That usually means in or near downtown.

The three exceptions are all developments where a property was available at little or no cost. Two are properties already owned by the Dallas Housing Authority and the third is the Jules Muchert Army Reserve Base, which was supposed to be used for a homeless project under federal law (a long story, but it wasn’t).

But, sorry North Oak Cliff, nobody has proposed a project for Preston Hollow. The minute somebody donates five acres of land there to me, I’ll start work on it though.

John Greenan

North Oak Cliff

North Oak Cliff: “We’ll Take a Few Homeless People if Preston Hollow Does.”

Part I

Once again another proposal to create permanent, supportive housing has run into a buzz saw of opposition from the local neighbors. Check out the comments to Roy Appleton’s blog for the Dallas Morning News here: The proposed location for permanent supportive housing this time is Cliff Manor, a property owned by the Dallas Housing Authority.

(appearing here in a photo taken for Channel 11)

Along with all the usual arguments (it’ll hurt land values; what about crime?; the children!; we’ve already done our share; etc.), a new favorite argument seems to be appearing: ”We’ll allow permanent supportive housing, but only if everyone else does as well.” It seems that no matter where someone proposes to locate a permanent supportive housing project that the neighborhood feels they are getting more than their share of projects.

I became curious whether that might not be true, there are several groups working on permanent supportive housing projects and we don’t really coordinate. Everybody develops their project independently for the most part. So I began putting together a Google Map of all the existing, proposed and abandoned permanent supportive housing projects that I knew about.

I hope to have it ready for tomorrow’s blog, and if it looks useful to other people, then perhaps it could be maintained as a tool for all of us to use.

John Greenan

A Proposed New Holiday

A Proposed New Holiday

On March 28, 2010, Dan L. Duncan died at age 77. Mr. Duncan did many admirable things in his life. He was a self-made billionaire, raised a family, gave $100 million to Baylor to fund a cancer center in Houston and seems to have been well regarded in Houston where he lived and died.

So it is rather unfortunate that Mr. Duncan will probably be best remembered for an entirely accidental event—he was the first (and so far only) American Billionaire to die without incurring one single cent in estate taxes. We aren’t talking about someone who just scraped into the billionaire category. Mr. Duncan’s wealth was estimated at $9 billion by Forbes Magazine, making him the 74th wealthiest person in the world and the wealthiest in Houston.

That $9 billion dollars will pass intact to his heirs—four children and four grand children. This is a first in American history. When America’s first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, died in the 1930s, his estate was taxed at a 70% rate. Since then the estate tax has gone up and down, different thresholds to be subject to the tax have existed, but no billionaire has ever escaped it entirely, and unless another billionaire dies this year, no other billionaire may ever again escape the estate tax.

This rare occasion was caused by the Bush Administration’s gradual repeal of the estate tax. Philosophically opposed to what was characterized as the “death tax”, the estate tax was repealed in full in 2010 after a series of gradual deductions, but in one of those amazing Washington budget deals, the entire Bush tax cuts expire at the end of this year. If Mr. Duncan has survived into 2011, then his estate would have been taxed at 55%, or $4.95 billion.

For the heirs of billionaires, this is a very good year to inherit. While there is no indication whatsoever that Mr. Duncan’s death was due to anything but natural causes, if I were a very rich person, especially one who didn’t get along very well with my relatives, then I would be careful as the end of the year approaches. There is an incredible financial incentive to die this year.

Finally, I think would only be appropriate to celebrate this unique event by some sort of holiday. Maybe Congress could make March 28 “No Death Tax Day” giving anybody who dies on that one day an exemption from Estate Taxes.

John Greenan

Words of Wisdom

All who call on God in true faith; earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.

Nick Sowell

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Living Below Your Means

Living Below Your Means
I read an article today entitled 5 billionaires who live below their means. The five wealthy people who were briefly profiled (see included some of the people you might expect like Warren Buffet, along with some people that you probably haven’t heard of like Carlos Slim Helu who is the richest person in Mexico and possibly the richest person in the world.
The group shared some commonalities. They seem to have made their own money, rather than have inherited it. Many of them are old enough to remember tough economic times. Most strikingly to me, however, the common characteristic seemed to be that they lived modestly not because they were depriving themselves, but because they had all they wanted.
This attitude was exemplified by Warren Buffet:
“When asked why he doesn't own a yacht, he responded, "Most toys are just a pain in the neck."

These are serious people and their pursuits are serious (unlike the celebrities we see on television and the tabloids). Now that he’s reached his 80s, how is T. Boone Pickens having fun? He is trying to solve the energy crisis.

That’s an attitude I appreciate. The most satisfaction in life (outside of your family) is going to come from what you can achieve. Andrew Carnegie started as a factory worker, built U.S. Steel—and did own a yacht—but he spent much more money building over 2,500 libraries. You can’t do that if you are spending all your money on private jets and vacation.

Now I doubt any of you that are reading this are billionaires (and if you are, please send me a check!), but I think we can all learn a lesson and we should all think about the opportunities that living below our means could afford us. It would mean we could afford to help a relative who needed it; afford to take a lower paying but more satisfying job; afford to start a new business; take time off to travel, educate ourselves or volunteer.

If you spend all you can, buy all you can and borrow all that you can—like too many of us do—then you remove yourself from a world of possibilities. In many ways that means that no matter how much you have, you are poor.

John Greenan

Thoughts For The Day

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
C.S. Lewis

To be satisfied with little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, inreaseth his cares; but a contended mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not.

Nick Sowell

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Weekend

I was shocked with hot hot it was this past weekend! We just jumped right into summer with temps around 103% this past weekend, which is why I made this last weekend an in-door movie watching weekend. Was able to catch up on a lot of good movies, if you would like to know, the new "Robin Hood" and "Iron Man 2" movies are great action-packed films that really got my heart pumping. Also, I've been put in charge of posting all new blogs while Naquanna is out of the office for the week, a new and interesting job I have had to learn quickly as computers are not my friend.

Nick Sowell

Bill Maher on Global Warming

Bill Maher on Global Warming

I’m usually pretty “meh” on Bill Maher. There is something about his “I’m smarter than you” style of satire that puts me off. But his recent essay on Global Warming hits one of my buttons:

That's the problem with our obsession with always seeing two sides of every issue equally -- especially when one side has a lot of money. It means we have to pretend there are always two truths, and the side that doesn't know anything has something to say. On this side of the debate: Every scientist in the world. On the other: Mr. Potato Head.

You can read the rest of the essay here:

I think one of the reasons that progress comes so slowly is that we (and by “we” I mean all of us in the human race) can’t seem to give up on old arguments. As Maher puts it, “For progress to happen, certain things have to become not an issue anymore, so we can go on to the next issue.”

It isn’t that we don’t progress at all. The Flat Earth Society still exists (, but I don’t think they’re serious. In 1992, the Catholic Church finally apologized to Galileo for his conviction in 1633 of heresy for holding that the Earth orbited the Sun, rather than the converse. Interestingly enough, the work that got Galileo into trouble, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was actually approved for publication by the Inquisition. The book was supposed to present a balanced view of the arguments favoring a heliocentric and geocentric universe. Galileo got in trouble because his arguments for a heliocentric universe were so much stronger. See,

So the problem began almost at the very beginnings of modern science. The whole basis of science is that all theories are not equally valid and, in fact, while always keeping in mind the possibility that new facts might alter our view, once a theory becomes generally accepted by the scientific community, then it is a fact on which we can base our life.

We can reach India either by traveling east or by traveling west because the Earth is round, not flat. We can send astronauts into orbit because the Earth orbits the Sun, not vice versa. These are facts, not debating points.

It’s important to remember that what is true isn’t determined by who can best argue the point. If you don’t believe me, get into an argument with one of the professional debaters at the Flat Earth Society. You’ll likely come away either believing the Earth is flat or with a new appreciation of the difference between facts and arguments.


Can you remember the last time you saw a praying mantis? Yesterday afternoon I was watching my kids play in the backyard when I discovered a baby praying mantis – such a fascinating creature! I snapped a couple of great shots of the kids observing this tiny, green, baby that seemed to love hanging out with us and running up and down are hands and arms. Below is a little information about the insect (

What Is a Praying Mantis?

A praying mantis is a carnivorous insect. The mantis family includes about 2,000 different species, which range in size from about a centimeter to about 12 inches long. It's these bigger ones that most people think of when they think of praying mantises.

About 20 mantis species are native to the United States, but the European and Chinese versions of the insects have also been introduced in the states, mostly in an effort to control pests on farmlands.

The insects range in color, usually looking pea green or brown, but there are also mantises in various shades of green and even pink. They are named praying mantis because of the folding of their front legs, which looks like the posture of prayer. Some people mistakenly call them preying mantises, which is also somewhat accurate, given their skill as hunters.

Fun Praying Mantis Facts

Praying mantises have triangular-shaped heads and a compound eye on each side of their heads. They are the only insects that can turn their heads a full 180 degrees, and some species can turn almost 300 degrees without moving the rest of their bodies. They're also very sensitive to movement and can see something move up to 60 feet away.

The praying mantis is exclusively predatory – it only eats other animals, usually other insects such as flies. The larger members of the mantis species have been known to eat lizards, snakes, frogs, birds and even small rodents.

They tend to ambush their prey and are very fast when they attack. The forelegs are spiked, which helps the mantis hold on to its victims. They also have very powerful jaws, making it easy for them to kill their prey.

The praying mantis is considered diurnal, meaning that most of their activity takes place during the day, though sometimes you will see them flying around at night. They need the use of their keen eyesight to hunt, which is great news for us because we can often see them out and about in our gardens.

Downtown Dallas, Inc.

Downtown Dallas, Inc.

A major part of the effort to revitalize Downtown Dallas is spearheaded by (if you can’t guess the name already), Downtown Dallas, Inc. Its website is certainly worth knowing: In addition, Kourtny Garrett writes a lively blog that appears here:

Today seems a good day to mention Downtown Dallas, Inc., because the blog has a mention of one of Dallas’s most interesting people, my friend Brent Brown. Here’s a sample:

BE BOLD! (or “Don’t be timid” to steal a quote from my urban hero, Brent Brown) In contrast to previous sessions when feedback was consistently based on setting “realistic” goals and prioritizing – the tone seemed to shift, stressing that the creation of 360 is our opportunity to aim high. Perhaps an indicator that the frugality of the last 24 months is shifting? Do I dare say we are becoming more hopeful? The specific reference in this case was discussion regarding potential deck parks over I-30, ala The Park (Woodall Rodgers Park). Can we fund and sustain another project like Woodall? Tell me what you think. (As a Cedars resident, personally, I say yes! The connection is critical…)

It’s also a good time to think of Downtown Dallas, Inc. because later this month we will be hosting one of Downtown Dallas’s monthly meetings. I’m hoping there will be time for me to show off what we’ve done here at CityWalk. Downtown Dallas’s support will be important for the creation of more affordable housing downtown.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How Much Does Permanent Supportive Housing Save?

I received some Dallas-specific numbers today on the savings that come from permanent supportive housing. The total ranges between $27,000 and $37,000 per year for each person moved from the street to permanent supportive housing.

Dallas has, according to the official count, about 650 chronically homeless persons (that’s someone who has been on the street at least one year or four times during the last three years). Let’s do some simple math:

$32,000 (the midpoint of the range of estimates) times 650 = $20,800,000

If it costs $100,000 to build a unit of permanent supportive housing, then that cost will pay for itself in slightly over three years.

Think about the return over thirty years! The savings come to $602,400,000 in savings—or an average of over 92% per year. Try to make that return in the stock market!

Think about the people! A total of 650 people would no longer sleep on the street, or in camps or in shelters but in their own safe and secure home.

Think about our city! How much safer and cleaner and more beautiful would Dallas be without long-term homeless people? How much better would the world think of us if we solved the problem of homelessness? How many corporations would move their headquarters to Dallas? How much more investment would pour into our downtown?

Permanent supportive housing is probably the most effective investment we can make in our city.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lunch at Burger King

Sometimes you have to experience something in order to begin to understand it. On my recent road trip to visit my Dad in Traverse City, Michigan that happened when my wife and I stopped at Burger King for lunch. We ordered a Whopper, onion rings and a soft drink. When I went and looked at the nutritional chart posted on the wall, I was horrified at what I had just eaten. The meal totaled 1330 calories and included copious amounts of fat, sugar and salt.

How bad was the meal nutritionally? Well, here’s a comparison of eating that meal as opposed to drinking your dinner:

Burger King Meal
Calories - 1330
Sugars(grams) - 73
Sodium(mg) - 1730
Saturated Fat - 15 grams
Carbs (grams) - 159
Protein (grams)- 35

Bottle of Red Wine
Calories - 711
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg) - 0
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams) - 31
Protein(grams) - 1

6-pack of beer
Calories - 918
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg) - 84
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams)- 76
Protein(grams)- 10

12-pack of light beer
Calories - 1224
Sugars(grams) - 0
Sodium(mg)- 156
Saturated Fat - 0
Carbs(grams)- 60
Protein(grams)- 8

I’m not trying to suggest that you ought to start drinking your meals—especially if you are going to be driving—but just to provide some kind of context of just how unhealthy fast food meals are.

First, look at calories. The generally accepted standard for weight maintenance is 13 calories per day for each pound that you weigh. So, if you weigh 102 lbs., then this one meal has used up all the calories you need for a day. It’s half the daily calorie allowance for a 200 lbs person. It also uses up more than 75% of your daily sodium (salt) intake and 75% of your intake of saturated fat.

In short, except for its protein content, the fast food meal is much less healthy, from a nutritional standpoint, than drinking a bottle of red wine, drinking a six-pack of beer, or even drinking an entire twelve-pack of light beer. Taking everything into consideration, the healthiest of these four meals is probably the six-pack of beer because it has a more appropriate carbohydrate and protein content for its number of calories than the wine or light beer and avoids the excessive fat and sodium of the fast food meal.

I suppose my surprise mainly shows how seldom I eat fast food. I know many people eat regularly at fast food places and I also know that it’s easy to put on weight and eat poorly even if you never eat out. But when fast food meals compare poorly in nutritional value even as opposed to the least healthy alternative I could think of—then it gives me pause.

And makes me want to sit down to a big plate of vegetables. It would take more than thirteen pounds of asparagus or eighteen heads of lettuce or 684 servings to make up as many calories—and you wouldn’t need to worry about the fat or sodium.

I don’t know about you, but if I ate 684 servings of salad, I wouldn’t have time to do anything else in a day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A long, restful weekend

by Nick Sowell

The long weekend was nice to have. I hope everyone did something fun and enjoyed themselves. I just watched movies with my little sister all weekend before she left for camp to be a counselor for the summer. Other than that, it was a very restful weekend.

Monday, May 31, 2010

CityWalk Community Spotlight - YMCA


We started our Community Spotlight series with a visit from Paul Conklin, associate executive director of the T. Boone Pickens YMCA in downtown Dallas. The YMCA is offering membership discounts to CityWalk residents (the YMCA is located right next door to our building) so that they will be able to access all of the great resources at the Y.

Johnice Woods, our director of projects, made smoothies for attendees and gave away a blender.

Paul Conklin talks about the benefits of joining the YMCA.

Johnice Woods presents resident Synithia Page with a blender.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Healthy Eating Basics a hit


Jason's Deli hosted our first Healthy Eating Basics class for our residents at CityWalk. Renay Grubaugh of Jason's Deli talked to residents about the importance of eating "real" food and reading product labels.

The class also included an amazing buffet lunch by Jason's Deli that our residents are still talking about!

Thanks so much to Jason's Deli!

Renay Grubaugh of Jason's Deli

Resident Annie Brumfield

The food was so good, Miss Wanda broke out in a dance!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This Day in History

May 27, 1937:
Golden Gate Bridge opens


San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, a stunning technological and artistic achievement, opens to the public after five years of construction. On opening day--"Pedestrian Day"--some 200,000 bridge walkers marveled at the 4,200-foot-long suspension bridge, which spans the Golden Gate Strait at the entrance to San Francisco Bay and connects San Francisco and Marin County. On May 28, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to vehicular traffic.

The concept of bridging the nearly mile-wide Golden Gate Strait was proposed as early as 1872, but it was not until the early 1920s that public opinion in San Francisco began to favor such an undertaking. In 1921, Cincinnati-born bridge engineer Joseph Strauss submitted a preliminary proposal: a combination suspension-cantilever that could be built for $27 million. Although unsightly compared with the final result, his design was affordable, and Strauss became the recognized leader of the effort to bridge the Golden Gate Strait.

During the next few years, Strauss' design evolved rapidly, thanks to the contributions of consulting engineer Leon S. Moisseiff, architect Irving F. Morrow, and others. Moisseiff's concept of a simple suspension bridge was accepted by Strauss, and Morrow, along with his wife, Gertrude, developed the Golden Gate Bridge's elegant Art Deco design. Morrow would later help choose the bridge's trademark color: "international orange," a brilliant vermilion color that resists rust and fading and suits the natural beauty of San Francisco and its picturesque sunsets. In 1929, Strauss was selected as chief engineer.

To finance the bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District was formed in 1928, consisting of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Del Norte, and parts of Mendocino and Napa counties. These counties agreed to collectively take out a large bond, which would then be paid back through bridge tolls. In November 1930, residents of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District voted 3-1 to put their homes, farms, and businesses up as collateral to support a $35 million bond to build Strauss' Golden Gate Bridge.

Construction began on January 5, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. Strauss and his workers overcame many difficulties: strong tides, frequent storms and fogs, and the problem of blasting rock 65 feet below the water to plant earthquake-proof foundations. Eleven men died during construction. On May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to great acclaim, a symbol of progress in the Bay Area during a time of economic crisis. At 4,200 feet, it was the longest bridge in the world until the completion of New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964. Today, the Golden Gate Bridge remains one of the world's most recognizable architectural structures.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Greener Pastures


If the grass is greener on the other side, then water your own.

This quote can be interpreted in many different ways according to your perspective. To me, this quote means work on yourself to better your life, which will make you happy with who you are and what you do. Once you are happy with your position in life then that will reflect onto others and in turn will make others happy and content. This may sound superficial, but you are only able to help others if you have first helped yourself.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Madame Butterfly

The Dallas Opera performed one of the most beloved operas of all, Madame Butterfly, this May. The performances (with one exception) were exemplary, the singing glorious, and the sets and costumes very well done. I was impressed and enjoyed the opera.

I hope never to see it again.

The problem with Madame Butterfly is the story. An American naval officer named Pinkerton marries Madame Butterfly while he is stationed in Japan. To him, the marriage is a meaningless sham; it means no more to him than the house he rents. To her, it is everything. She changes her religion and is estranged from her family. When his ship goes to sea, Pinkerton largely forgets her and marries an American wife.

Madame Butterfly waits loyally for him with his son (born after he leaves for sea). Pinkerton returns to claim his son and, after much beautiful singing, she kills herself.

I think the problem is not only that Pinkerton acts so horribly but also that he is the character with whom it is easiest for us to identify. He is the American. I don’t know if Italian (the opera is by Puccini) or other audiences would face the same problem, but for me I can hardly stand to watch this dashing American naval officer act in so despicable a fashion.

I don’t know how the opera could be saved for me. I don’t see the opera as melodrama, where we know who the villain is and expect no more from him than evil. Melodrama makes the moral choices easy. Perhaps a different staging, where Pinkerton is less attractive—or more so—either simpler or more complex could make the opera appealing again to me.

For now, however, like The Merchant of Venice I think Madame Butterfly is a work that is now culturally inappropriate. Until someone works out a way of treating the characters differently, I really would rather not see it again. It doesn’t matter how beautifully it is presented.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moby Dick at the Dallas Opera

Earlier this month I saw the future of opera. It is Moby Dick at Dallas’s Winspear Opera House.

Moby Dick, which was commissioned by a group of opera houses that included Dallas, Calgary, San Francisco, and South Australia, was dramatic, compelling and, best of all, new.

If opera is to remain a living art form, then it needs to be dragged into the 21st century. Even opera buffs can’t be happy seeing the same operas like Don Giovanni (which I’ll see for the third time next year) or Madame Butterfly (which I’ll review soon). Audiences unfamiliar with opera are going to be even less excited about classic works in foreign languages. In its heyday, opera was contemporary art told in the vernacular. New operas were in great demand and the genre didn’t shy away from contemporary technology.

Moby Dick is the first 21st century opera. It is American and dares to turn one of the most heroic novels in American literature into a story for our time. The opera also embraces technology. The whaling ship is projected onto the stage as are the figures of the whaling boats and the sea.

Everything worked to stunning effect. It’s too late to see Moby Dick in Dallas now. It’s run is done. But if you happen to have a chance to see it during its tour, I couldn’t more strongly recommend it.

I’ll be looking forward to reviews from other venues to see if the technological advances used are dependent on the Winspear Opera House or work in other places as well. Maybe at some point one of you can let me know.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Man in the Arena


It has always had a deep profound meaning for me.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Visit Home

Next week I will be off to visit home—the Traverse City, Michigan area. I don’t get back very often. That is partly because I rarely take time off and partly because it’s a long way to drive from Dallas. It takes either three days or two very long days to drive. You can fly into Traverse City, but the airport is small and the flights are expensive.

Here’s an aerial picture of Traverse City:

The city nestles at the bottom of a long bay off of Lake Michigan. The Traverse Bay is divided into two parts (creatively called East Bay and West Bay) that are separated by a narrow band of land known as Old Mission. The views from the surrounding hills are tough to beat.

Old Mission has become a favorite location to establish vineyards over the past few decades. I don’t know if it is especially good for growing grapes, but the narrow band of land between the waters is certainly a great location to establish picturesque wineries.

This will be a pretty low key vacation. My wife and I are just going to drive there and spend time with my father and his wife and my brother and sister-in-law. We will do some sightseeing, maybe a little walking, at the most maybe we’ll find time to paddle a canoe.

I hope to decompress from an extremely busy winter and spring. There are some books that I’ve been wanting to read and I have some material for blogs that I just haven’t had time to write. I hope I’ll have time next week to do those simple things.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The 1970s Come Back Again

On the way to work, I often listen to KERA and today I heard an opinion piece that made me wonder whether I’d fallen through a time warp and back to 1970. The topic was whether it was permissible for a woman to keep her original surname after she married. You can read or listen to the commentary here:

When I get home, I guess I’ll check the date on today’s newspaper to make sure I didn’t misplace forty years, because I thought the right of a woman to keep her birth name if she wanted to was decided about that long ago—and if it is 1970, then I want to know why I’m not twenty-five years old again.

There comes a time when we need to put an issue behind ourselves as decided. We can’t keep fighting the same wars over and over again—not that I’ve run into anyone in years who says it’s wrong for a woman to keep her original surname after she marries. I don’t doubt that there are some people who believe that still around. There are people who believe the moon landing was faked; that they’ve been abducted by aliens; that the world is run by a secret society of Jewish Bankers, but not all opinions are equal and we don’t need to respond to everything.

Sometimes we just need to go forward and ignore some people’s opinions. We still have a lot of racist people, but I can’t see wasting time to argue with them whether racism is wrong or not. When you act as though an outdated opinion is worth arguing against, then you give it credence.

Not every issue has two sides. Not every question is open to argument.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Day in History

Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive patent for blue jeans

On this day in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world's most famous garments: blue jeans.

Born Loeb Strauss in Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1829, the young Strauss immigrated to New York with his family in 1847 after the death of his father. By 1850, Loeb had changed his name to Levi and was working in the family dry goods business, J. Strauss Brother & Co. In early 1853, Levi Strauss went west to seek his fortune during the heady days of the Gold Rush.

In San Francisco, Strauss established a wholesale dry goods business under his own name and worked as the West Coast representative of his family's firm. His new business imported clothing, fabric and other dry goods to sell in the small stores opening all over California and other Western states to supply the rapidly expanding communities of gold miners and other settlers. By 1866, Strauss had moved his company to expanded headquarters and was a well-known businessman and supporter of the Jewish community in San Francisco.

Jacob Davis, a tailor in Reno, Nevada, was one of Levi Strauss' regular customers. In 1872, he wrote a letter to Strauss about his method of making work pants with metal rivets on the stress points--at the corners of the pockets and the base of the button fly--to make them stronger. As Davis didn't have the money for the necessary paperwork, he suggested that Strauss provide the funds and that the two men get the patent together. Strauss agreed enthusiastically, and the patent for "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings"--the innovation that would produce blue jeans as we know them--was granted to both men on May 20, 1873.

Strauss brought Davis to San Francisco to oversee the first manufacturing facility for "waist overalls," as the original jeans were known. At first they employed seamstresses working out of their homes, but by the 1880s, Strauss had opened his own factory. The famous 501 brand jean--known until 1890 as "XX"--was soon a bestseller, and the company grew quickly. By the 1920s, Levi's denim waist overalls were the top-selling men's work pant in the United States. As decades passed, the craze only grew, and now blue jeans are worn by men and women, young and old, around the world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Volunteer Appreciation Potluck


CityWalk residents Leslie and her six-year-old daughter hosted an appreciation potluck this past Sunday for the volunteers of Dwell with Dignity, the nonprofit organization that designed their new apartment.

It's wonderful to have a place like our beautiful 3rd floor community room and patio to offer to our residents for events. Just another reason why CityWalk is a great place to live.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Back to Nimbyism, Part II

Another commentator in the Unfair Park discussion offered up this piece of satire:

As the owner of a luxury home here you can imagine how appalled I was when I saw a old Honda parked on the street, someone who clearly could not afford to live here was spending time in my neighborhood, likely getting intoxicated and using restroom facilities that were not their own. . . . Just the thought of sharing the street with people that have so little money compared to me makes me sick, who knows what kind of diseases and pests they are bringing with them. Many of them can't even afford a Lexus, even an used entry level model and instead assault my eyes with junk like 15 year old Hondas and Chevys. . . . . I want to be very clear, I don't "hate" poor people, I just wish they wouldn't be so, poor, it's so distasteful.

This is funny stuff, but it would be even funnier if it weren’t absolutely true.

One of my favorite recent issues was a dispute over whether a Frisco resident could park his new Ford 150 in his driveway. The homeowner’s association (“HOA”) said no:

Earlier this year, [Jim Greenwood] the Concentra Inc. CEO began getting notices from the Stonebriar HOA threatening to fine him for parking his truck in his driveway. They say pickup trucks are not allowed in the driveway – although other luxury vehicles, including the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Mark LT, pass muster.

Bill Osborn, a board member with the association, had explained that those vehicles are “fancier,” “plush with amenities” and do not look like pickups. Most domestic pickups are banned.

What could be worse than having to look out at your neighbor’s home and see a domestic pickup?

Seriously, though, if people are concerned enough to worry about the type of car your neighbor drives, I have to think that it will be a long uphill battle to convince a neighborhood to let us build homes for homeless people in their neighborhood. This isn’t work for the faint at heart or the easily discouraged.

It seems to bring out a primal fear in people. Perhaps it’s the fear that you won’t be able to keep your separate status. If people can see that your neighbor drives a domestic pickup, then maybe they will assume that you drive a domestic pickup as well.

The next thing you know everyone will be driving a 15 year old Honda or Chevy instead of a Cadillac Escalade or a Lincoln Mark LT.

Can you imagine anything more distasteful?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to Nimbyism, Part I

Once again I’ve been thinking about Nimbyism (Not In My Backyard). Take the opposition to EVERgreen Residences, a proposed project to be located at 3800 Willow, near Exposition Park in Dallas. The neighborhood spoke out against this particular project:

This type of residential housing, we don't oppose," said Ken Maxwell of Exposition Park Association to the near-capacity crowd of approximately 175 people gathered in the Central Library auditorium. "We actually want this kind of housing, and think it should be a part of Dallas.

"However, this is not the neighborhood for that kind of housing," he continued. "Across the street from a gallery? Next door to 500X? Adjacent to the Santa Fe Trail? This is not where you put this type of housing."

Quoted in Unfair Park:

There is a long discussion (69 Comments!) about this project at the link above that I got somewhat involved in. Here’s part of my comment:

If I hear one more person say I support this kind of project but it doesn't belong in my neighborhood because (we're too rich; we're too poor; we don't have any homeless people; we already have too many homeless people; etc.) I will vomit.

Man up and just say you don't care what happens to these people so long as they aren't allowed in your neighborhood. I can respect honesty.

I thought about this discussion recently when I read the following statement by a former resident of the Robert Taylor Homes, a massive former housing project in Chicago:

“They didn’t care about these people when they were in the buildings,” he said. “They don’t care about ‘em now.”

I think we need to start with what is true and try to work out a solution from there. It sounds a lot nicer to say that you support permanent supportive housing in principal and then offer some rationalizations as to why your particular neighborhood just happens to be the wrong one in which to build it, but I don’t believe it. Most of us just don’t care very much about the down and out. That’s especially true when it might inconvenience us in any small way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Almost Perfect Biscuits

I’m still making biscuits and still trying for that elusive perfect biscuit recipe. I want a recipe that will make a fluffy, flakey, high-rising biscuit with a perfect “biscuit” taste every time. I’m getting pretty close, but I’m not there yet. Let me talk about what I’ve learned, and then I’ll offer my current best recipe.

First, you’ve got a trade off. The more baking powder that you use (within reason), the higher your biscuits will rise. There is a penalty. Too much baking powder will affect the taste of your biscuits—I found that out early on ( But this trade off is different for every person. It depends on your taste buds. If I use more than two teaspoons of baking powder, then I can taste it in the biscuits. Some people can’t taste the baking powder if you use twice that amount. So a recipe might be perfect for you—and I won’t like it.

Second, even small variations in the ingredients make a big difference. I find that using pastry (cake) flour helps the biscuits rise. I also find that I get a better biscuit, flakier and more flavorful if I use lard as the fat. Lard is, after all, a southern tradition.

Third, if you want high biscuits, then it’s best to roll out the dough as thick as an inch, or even more. The biscuits only rise so much, but if they are bigger to begin with, then they will be taller when you are done.

Finally, you can’t get away from measuring. I love to cook by eye, but when I try to bake by approximating the quantities, the results are uneven at best. So here is my current recipe:

2 cups white pastry (cake) flour
1/3 cup lard
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Either sift the dry ingredients together or do what lazy people like me do: Pour all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and use a whisk to stir them together. Add the lard (if you insist on using butter or another fat, then you’ll need ½ cup rather than 1/3 cup). You need to mix the lard with the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly incorporated and the biscuit dough looks like pea gravel or large grains of sand. The only way to do that is with your fingers—don’t believe anyone that tells you a pastry cutter works as well.

But if you put the lard in the center of the bowl and toss some of the flour over it before you start squeezing then you won’t get as much lard stuck to your fingers. After you are done mixing the lard with the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk in all at once. Use a wooden spoon to mix the buttermilk in until you get a dough that barely sticks together (if it won’t stick, then use a little more buttermilk—but only as a last resort). Put the dough on a floured board and knead it a couple of times before flatting it out so you can cut the biscuits.

Real experts use a biscuit cutter, but I don’t have one so I just use a glass.

Cut out as many biscuits as possible and put them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Take the leftovers and gently form them together, either to cut out more biscuits or just sort of form them by hand. The less you work the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be.

Place the biscuits in the oven and bake for twenty minutes. Then eat them with butter, jam, honey, slivers of ham or whatever you like.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Praise of Renting

Homeownership has long been central to the American dream. At the very founding of our country, ownership of land and civic virtue were seen as intertwined:

"I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural."- Thomas Jefferson

Homeownership is often seen as the key to individual financial stability and strong communities.

I think it may be time to start thinking differently (of course Central Dallas CDC is mostly a developer of multifamily properties—a landlord—so you may want to take that into account in considering what I say). In the United States today, less than 3% of us work in agriculture. For most of us, our home is only a place to live, not to grow our food. In 1930, when we had less than half as many people as we do now, we had more than six times as many farmers.

The recent housing crisis has brought home the risks of homeownership. JPMorgan Chase issued a warning just yesterday that 29% of homeowners in the United States may owe more on their home than it is worth. (See here, for example, There are a lot of cool calculators on the Internet that purport to show whether it’s better to buy or to rent a home. Here is one from The New York Times, with great graphics:

The problem with all these calculators is that in order for them to work you have to tell them how much home prices and rents will increase or decrease over the number of years for which you want information. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a clue what will happen to the economy tomorrow, let alone in thirty years. In general home prices have risen over the long term—but not for the last couple of years. Government tax policy also generally supports homeownership, if you are in the right tax bracket, but government policy can always change.

There is something to be said for renting, however. Renting allows us to be mobile. We Americans tend to move a lot. One in six of us move every year, and as a group we average almost twelve moves in a lifetime. My wife and I have lived in the same house for twenty-three years now (but we are moving this year) and almost everybody else I know has moved once or more during that time.

Each move makes homeownership less financially attractive. We may be at the end of a time period in which housing prices always rose at more than the inflation rate. That doesn’t mean that people still won’t want to buy homes and live in them and, hopefully, pay them off. It might mean, however, that it won’t make sense to buy a house until you are done moving. Too many people now would like to move for a new opportunity and can’t because they can’t sell their house.

Two great American loves, owning our own place and the freedom to pick up and start again somewhere else, have always been in conflict. That conflict may be getting worse.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I’ve said it before, but I often need to repeat the fact: Central Dallas Community Development Corporation is a landlord. In many ways we aren’t like most nonprofits. We don’t give anything away. If you don’t pay the rent or you break the rules at one of our apartment complex, then we will evict you.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t trying to help people. All our efforts are to develop high quality sustainable and affordable housing. The way we help requires more severity than most programs directed towards low income people. If we can’t pay our bills, then we can’t help anybody. More than that even, affordable housing currently has a poor reputation in communities. The only way I think that reputation can be improved is by long-term, consistent excellence in the operation of our projects.

There may be times when we fall short of our goals, but those goals are always uppermost in our minds.

Because, however, we do evict people, we have a responsibility to think about the effect of our actions. A recent post on the Urbanophile ( reprinted from One Story Up (, brings home how evictions effect people. Here’s an excerpt, but you should really go to the link above and read the entire essay:

“We know a lot about the consequences of incarceration. That doesn’t mean that no one should be locked up,” [Matt Desmond] says. “But it probably means that not so many people should. It may be the same for eviction.”

That means anti-poverty programs need to listen up. Free school lunches are nice. But no amount of school lunches make up for not having a home and not being able to get one. We’ve got to figure out what’s going on in our communities and what solutions can help.

We’ve still got a lot to learn. But to begin, I think we need to start seeing eviction – witnessing what’s happening in our city.

Imagine it’s you. You lost your job. The bills are piling up. The rent is three months late. You’ve borrowed money from everyone you can think of, and there’s nothing left. The notice comes, and you pray it won’t happen, but it does. Your stuff – in boxes. Your children don’t have a place to come home to after school. Where will you go? And how will you put your life back together?

In the same way that we need to think about the after effects of incarceration—because almost everyone in prison comes back to the community sooner or later—we need to think about the after effects of eviction. Just like sometimes we have to jail people, sometimes we have to evict them. It’s part of our responsibility to the larger community of people who live in our apartments.

Even though we’ve had to evict someone that doesn’t mean they disappear. They are here somewhere in our community; maybe on our streets.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Swimming with Canoes by John McPhee, Part II

Last Thursday (May 6) I talked a little about an essay by John McPhee called Swimming with Canoes. I hope you’ve had a chance to read it, but if not here’s the link again:

In addition to being beautifully written, I think John McPhee embeds an idea in his work that we need to re-embrace—the value of play. When the canoe overturns and McPhee is trapped beneath it, he knows just what to do. Not because he’s trained for that particular event, but because he’s spent hours playing with the canoe. He’s stood up in it (surely someone has told you never to stand up in a canoe!), he’s fallen out of it, he’s spun it around and around and swam underneath it.

The canoe in all its capacities is familiar to him. That isn’t something you learn by formal training. Sure, if you want to go fast in a canoe, then you need to spend your time practicing and perfecting your stroke (right, brother?), but if you want to know everything a canoe can do, then you need to play with it; use it in unconventional ways; stretch the limits of the possible.

The same principle applies to most things. The best way to learn to use a computer or a cell phone is to play with it. You can find out all, or at many, of the things it can do by playing with it. You don’t need to worry about making mistakes, because in play there are no mistakes. You aren’t trying to go anywhere or do anything in particular. You are just playing.

When we become adults, we often lose the ability to play. When we do, we lose the ability to be creative. You can play with ideas, just as you can with things.

For me, many of my ideas—like the concepts that led to CityWalk@Akard--begin as play. In my mind I spin the building around; cut it into layers; combine uses; combine different funding mechanisms; draw sketches and trials of numbers. All this activity is usually dressed up with fancier terms—brainstorming or something—but it is just play.

Here’s a thing or an idea. What are all the things we can do with it? Most of those things turn out to be silly, like standing up in a canoe. Sometimes though, you discover a way to use an idea that opens new and different possibilities.

The more we open our minds to look at all the possibilities, the better is the chance that we will find something new.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is It Still a Frivolous Lawsuit If You Win?

One benefit of not actively practicing law for me is that I get told a lot fewer lawyer jokes. But here’s the story of a lawsuit that probably justifies all those lawyer jokes:

In 1996 an Israeli woman sued a TV station for predicting fair weather, prompting her to dress lightly and be rained upon later that day. She asked for $1000 for her resulting sickness which caused her to miss work. We don't know what's more strange: the fact that she actually sued over an act of nature, or the fact that she won (source).

Even I never thought seriously about suing the weatherman or weatherwoman. Looks like I missed a good bet.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Day in History

May 11, 1947:
B.F. Goodrich Co. announces development of tubeless tire


On this day in 1947, the B.F. Goodrich Company of Akron, Ohio, announces it has developed a tubeless tire, a technological innovation that would make automobiles safer and more efficient.

Pneumatic tires--or tires filled with pressurized air--were used on motor vehicles beginning in the late 1800s, when the French rubber manufacturer Michelin & Cie became the first company to develop them. For the first 60 years of their use, pneumatic tires generally relied on an inner tube containing the compressed air and an outer casing that protected the tube and provided traction. The disadvantage of this design was that if the inner tube failed--which was always a risk due to excess heat generated by friction between the tube and the tire wall--the tire would blow out immediately, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

The culmination of more than three years of engineering, Goodrich's tubeless tire effectively eliminated the inner tube, trapping the pressurized air within the tire walls themselves. By reinforcing those walls, the company claimed, they were able to combine the puncture-sealing features of inner tubes with an improved ease of riding, high resistance to bruising and superior retention of air pressure. While Goodrich awaited approval from the U.S. Patent Office, the tubeless tires underwent high-speed road testing, were put in service on a fleet of taxis and were used by Ohio state police cars and a number of privately owned passenger cars.

The testing proved successful, and in 1952, Goodrich won patents for the tire's various features. Within three years, the tubeless tire came standard on most new automobiles. According to an article published in The New York Times in December 1954, "If the results of tests…prove valid in general use, the owner of a 1955 automobile can count on at least 25 per cent more mileage, easier tire changing if he gets caught on a lonely road with a leaky tire, and almost no blowouts." The article quoted Howard N. Hawkes, vice president and general manager of the tire division of the United States Rubber Company, as calling the general adoption of the tubeless tire "one of the most far-reaching changes ever to take place in the tire industry." The radial-ply tire, a tubeless model with walls made of alternating layers--also called plies--of tough rubber cord, was created by Michelin later that decade and is now considered the standard for automobiles in all developed countries.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another busy weekend


The past four days have been long days for me. I’ve had my best friend’s wedding that I was a part of, which of course as you know involves a lot of stuff. However, I am very happy for both he and his new wife.

Also, happy belated Mother’s Day to all those mothers out there who have worked so hard for their children. I love my mother very much, so I was very happy to have spent Mother’s Day with her, my father, and my brother and his girlfriend.

I’m also happy to be starting a new week.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This Day in History


On this day in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issues a presidential proclamation that officially establishes the first national Mother's Day holiday to celebrate America's mothers.

The idea for a "Mother's Day" is credited by some to Julia Ward Howe (1872) and by others to Anna Jarvis (1907), who both suggested a holiday dedicated to a day of peace. Many individual states celebrated Mother's Day by 1911, but it was not until Wilson lobbied Congress in 1914 that Mother's Day was officially set on the second Sunday of every May. In his first Mother's Day proclamation, Wilson stated that the holiday offered a chance to "[publicly express] our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

In 2002, President George W. Bush echoed Wilson's sentiments by acknowledging mothers in his official statement on Mother's Day in 2002. He commended foster mothers as well as his own "fabulous mother" for their "love and sacrifice." He also mentioned past presidents' expressions of appreciation for their mothers. He quoted John Quincy Adams as having said "all that I am my mother made me" and Abraham Lincoln's sentiment that "all that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother...[my mother's prayers] have clung to me all my life." Bush's own mother, Barbara, was a popular first lady when the elder Bush served as president from 1989 to 1992.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

TV Moms We Love

From some of the most popular TV shows in history, here are some of the most memorable TV moms.


The Munsters, 1964-66
Character: "Lily Munster"
Family: Herman, Eddie, Marilyn

The Brady Bunch, 1969-74
Character: "Carol Brady"
Family: Mike, Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, Cindy

Family Ties, 1982-89
Character: "Elyse Keaton"
Family: Michael, Alex, Mallory, Jennifer, Andy

The Cosby Show, 1984-92
Character: "Claire Huxtable"
Family: Cliff, Theo, Sandra, Denise, Vanessa, Rudy

Friday, May 7, 2010

Life Skills set to change lives


Our Life Skills sessions started yesterday evening with the Our Calling ministry,which is headed up by Wayne Walker. Several of our residents came out to meet Wayne and his team and to talk about some of the topics/personal issues that they want to address and work through during the sessions, which will now be offered at CityWalk on a regular basis.

Some of the topics to be addressed include:
Personal Dignity - Character - Relationships - Ethics
Health - Addictions - Life Purpose - Honesty
Money Management - Responsibilities - Tolerance
Communication - Forgiveness - Keeping a job
Accountability - Anger - Fear - Stress - Life Management

Our Calling also provides bible studies, 12 Step programs, mentoring and coaching. You can find out more about this organization here:

Here's Wayne (right), Taylor Patterson and an Our Calling ministry volunteer.

We're excited and grateful to be working with them!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Swimming with Canoes by John McPhee, Part I

First, let me say this, if you don’t already know John McPhee’s work, then you need to come to know it. McPhee is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 and the author of thirty books, including such classics as Levels of the Game, The Survival of the Bark Canoe, and The Control of Nature.

But today I’d like to draw your attention to a short piece that’s posted on the Sierra Club website. Here’s an excerpt:

Now and again, Keewaydin let us take our canoes not so much onto the water as into it, during swim period. We went swimming with our canoes. We jounced. Jouncing is the art of propelling a canoe without a paddle. You stand up on the gunwales near the stern deck and repeatedly flex and unflex your knees. The canoe rocks, slaps the lake, moves forward. Sooner or later, you lose your balance and fall into the water, because the gunwales are slender rails and the stern deck is somewhat smaller than a pennant. From waters deeper than you were tall, you climbed back into your canoe. If you think that's easy, try it.

After three or four splats, and with a belly pink from hauling it over gunwales, you lost interest in jouncing. What next? You sat in your canoe and deliberately overturned it. You leaned hard to one side, grabbed the opposite gunwale, and pulled. Out you went and into the water. This was, after all, swim period. Now you rolled your canoe, an action it resists far less when it is loaded with water. You could make your canoe spiral like a football inside the lake.

You can read the whole essay here:

I hope you will read it, because there are some ideas buried in the essay that I think we could all benefit from thinking about.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thank you Winstead!


Yesterday, Colleen Lujan of Winstead PC dropped off monies donated by Winstead employees that will help furnish two of our apartments here at CityWalk. The employees held a Jeans Day event to raise money for CityWalk and have also been donating household goods on a regular basis to assist our residents.

For information on how you can help, please contact me at 214.573.2570 ext. 2133.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Day in History

May 4, 1865:
Lincoln is buried in Springfield, Illinois


On this day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln is laid to rest in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.

His funeral train had traveled through 180 cities and seven states before reaching Springfield. At each stop, mourners paid their respects to Lincoln, who had been assassinated on April 14. Lincoln's son Willie, who died at age 11 from typhoid fever in 1862 and had originally been buried in Washington while Lincoln was serving as president, was interred next to his father in the family plot that same day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Day in History

May 3, 1952:
Fletcher lands on the North Pole


A ski-modified U.S. Air Force C-47 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher of Oklahoma and Lieutenant Colonel William P. Benedict of California becomes the first aircraft to land on the North Pole. A moment later, Fletcher climbed out of the plane and walked to the exact geographic North Pole, probably the first person in history to do so.

In the early 20th century, American explorers Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, both claiming to have separately reached the North Pole by land, publicly disputed each other's claims. In 1911, Congress formally recognized Peary's claim. In recent years, further studies of the conflicting claims suggest that neither expedition reached the exact North Pole, but that Peary came far closer, falling perhaps 30 miles short. In 1952, Lieutenant Colonel Fletcher was the first person to undisputedly stand on the North Pole. Standing alongside Fletcher on the top of the world was Dr. Albert P. Crary, a scientist who in 1961 traveled to the South Pole by motorized vehicle, becoming the first person in history to have stood on both poles.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


Mental health issues affect all of society in some way, shape, or form. It is estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year and that translates to about 57.7 million people.

Research shows that the number one obstacle in seeking treatment for mental illness is stigma. Negative stereotypes and a lack of understanding of mental illness keep people from actually getting help for treatable conditions.

Mental illnesses are medical conditions that disrupt a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through "will power" and are not related to a person's "character" or intelligence. Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity.

Mental health issues are treatable and without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society can create unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, and even suicide. The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.

During mental health awareness month professionals, organizations, schools, communities, hospitals and even media outlets will join together in an effort to raise the awareness about mental health and attempt to decrease the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

This Day in History


On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City's Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turns on the building's lights. Hoover's gesture, of course, was symbolic; while the president remained in Washington, D.C., someone else flicked the switches in New York.

The idea for the Empire State Building is said to have been born of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, to see who could erect the taller building. Chrysler had already begun work on the famous Chrysler Building, the gleaming 1,046-foot skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Not to be bested, Raskob assembled a group of well-known investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith. The group chose the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates to design the building. The Art-Deco plans, said to have been based in large part on the look of a pencil, were also builder-friendly: The entire building went up in just over a year, under budget (at $40 million) and well ahead of schedule. During certain periods of building, the frame grew an astonishing four-and-a-half stories a week.

At the time of its completion, the Empire State Building, at 102 stories and 1,250 feet high (1,454 feet to the top of the lightning rod), was the world's tallest skyscraper. The Depression-era construction employed as many as 3,400 workers on any single day, most of whom received an excellent pay rate, especially given the economic conditions of the time. The new building imbued New York City with a deep sense of pride, desperately needed in the depths of the Great Depression, when many city residents were unemployed and prospects looked bleak. The grip of the Depression on New York's economy was still evident a year later, however, when only 25 percent of the Empire State's offices had been rented.

In 1972, the Empire State Building lost its title as world's tallest building to New York's World Trade Center, which itself was the tallest skyscraper for but a year. Today the honor belongs to Taiwan's Taipei 101 building, which stretches 1,670 feet into the sky.

Friday, April 30, 2010


In the sunlight I can see
No longer fingerprints that belong to me
Now only the smoothness of my skin
Like dreams long since vanished in the wind.

The sunlight reveals my dreams - so clear
It’s that moment I should not fear
To understand the trueness of my being
I must accept the sadness of my seeing.

What though is sadness, if not regrets
If only somehow I could pay back all of my debts
Then most assuredly I would see
What the sunlight is revealing to me.

C.N. Lemmon
January 2010