Ted's Tidbits

The 2020 State Fair of Texas Has Been Canceled

The State Fair of Texas:

After extensive consideration of the current landscape related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health and safety of all fairgoers, staff, business partners, and overall community, the State Fair of Texas Board of Directors has voted to cancel the 2020 State Fair of Texas. 

 “This was an extremely tough decision. The health and safety of all involved has remained our top priority throughout the decision-making process,” said Gina Norris, board chair for the State Fair of Texas. “One of the greatest aspects of the Fair is welcoming each and every person who passes through our gates with smiles and open arms. In the current climate of COVID-19, there is no feasible way for the Fair to put proper precautions in place while maintaining the Fair environment you know and love. While we cannot predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in September, the recent surge in positive cases is troubling for all of North Texas. The safest and most responsible decision we could make for all involved at this point in our 134-year history is to take a hiatus for the 2020 season.” 

I’m not surprised, but seeing the news still makes me sad.

This won’t be the first time in the Fair’s 134 years that it’s been cancelled.

The State Fair of Texas has previously canceled Fairs because of World War I (1918), planning for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition and 1937 Pan American Exposition at Fair Park (1935 – 1937), and World War II (1942 – 1945). 

The 2021 State Fair of Texas is scheduled to run Friday, September 24 through Sunday, October 17 in historic Fair Park.

I look forward to being there.

Computer Software and Historic Buildings

If you want to look at historic homes in Dallas, there are a a few options of places to look. You could visit the Dallas Heritage Village. Located on what used to be Dallas’s first city park, the Dallas Heritage Village is a collection of 21 historic buildings that functions as a glimpse of what life used to be like in Dallas in the late 19th century.

Your other option would be to visit one of Dallas’s designated landmark districts. These are neighborhoods protected by ordinances with preservation criteria, specific to each district, administered by the the city’s Landmark Commission. These ordinances preserve the homes within the districts by protecting them from willful neglect, demolition, and any renovations that aren’t appropriate for the time period.

Visiting either DHV or a landmark district will be like taking a step back in time. You will get a sense of how things used to be (for better or for worse) and learn a little about our history.

There is however, one crucial distinction between DHV and a landmark district. While DHV is a collection of actual buildings, it functions as a large outdoor museum. Those buildings exist to educate. Landmark districts, however, are functioning neighborhoods. You can learn some history from these buildings, but they primarily function as homes for families today.

This distinction influences how these buildings are maintained. DHV’s main concern is preserving every historical detail possible with their buildings. Any renovation work needs to be carefully done, so the final product still looks like a preserved historical artifact.

Homes in landmark districts are, well, … homes. The families that live in them have 21st-century needs and expectations. You can’t live in a preserved historical artifact. These building need modern amenities like electricity, plumbing, central air conditioning, and internet access. They need bathrooms, kitchens with modern appliances, etc. Maintaining a home in a landmark district means finding ways to add these modern affordances while still maintaining the original character of the building.

I am familiar with this because my family lives in a house inside a landmark district, and we are currently renovating the kitchen.

And while it would be fun to dig into the details of our kitchen project, this is actually a blog post about software.

For the past several years I have been maintaining a software project called Frontier. I’ll save the story of how I came to be doing this for another time. I also hesitate to use the word maintain to describe my actions. Mostly I’ve been tinkering, reading the source code, learning, and doing the bare minimum to keep it running on modern computers.

If you read through the source code, you can get a sense of the time of when this application was built. Frontier started it’s live as a (classic) Macintosh application. Most of the design decisions in the code seem to be built around the constraints of that computing platform. In the late 1990s it was ported to Windows, and in the early 2000s the application was Carbonized to run natively on Mac OS X. You can see all those layers in the source code.

Sadly, Frontier doesn’t run at all on the latest version of Mac OS X macOS. While software doesn’t wear down or rot like physical structures, computing platforms do change, and if the software doesn’t change with the platform, it will eventually stop working.

So I’ve been thinking about how to approach “restoring” Frontier, and this ties back to the beginning of this post. What is Frontier today? Is it a historical artifact that needs to be preserved “just as it was”, or is it a functioning application that caters to the needs of modern computer users?

If it’s the former, then I don’t think there’s much more to do. Frontier runs fine under emulation. I could put together some documentation for how to emulate a classic Macintosh system that runs an older copy of Frontier. I would keep the source code up on GitHub for people to study and that would be it.

If it’s the latter, then there’s a lot of work to do. I basically need to strip the structure down to the studs and begin to rebuild. I would need to find a way to build a modern application that meets the needs of modern computer users while still preserving the “character” of the original application.

Anyway, these thoughts have been swirling around in my mind lately. Does this comparison make sense to you? Are you familiar with Frontier? If so, which category does it belong in today?

Distraction of The Week: Erykah Badu

This week, the local Dallas media gave lots of free press to Erykah Badu. This came in the form of a controversy. As I’ve watched everything unfold, I have come to the conclusion that the controversy is all manufactured. Please allow me to lay out my case.

When the Story Broke

Ok, so here’s a quick summary of events.

  • Erykah Badu films a video downtown in which she strips naked.
  • This offends the sensibilities of the citizenry of Dallas.
  • Investigations begin questioning how this could have happened.
  • New laws are proposed.

Here’s the problem with that: According to our paper of record, the scene was shot on March 13, three weeks ago. The first reporting of the “incident” wasn’t until March 30. Why did it take almost three weeks to break a story about a celebrity stripping in the middle of downtown Dallas in broad daylight?

What else happened on March 30? That was the same day she released her new album featuring the song she recorded in the video. Coincidence? You tell me.

Where's the Outrage?

Aside from the fact that it took nearly three weeks for anyone to realize that a celebrity had exposed herself in the middle of downtown Dallas, why have there been no witnesses coming forward to complain? In an article dated today, our only paper mentioned this fact:

Dallas police said this week that no witnesses had come forward to complain. That has since changed; police now say they are gathering information and have spoken to at least one woman who said she witnessed the video shoot.

So no complaints from the citizens. The paper claims there was one witness, but we are not provided with a name or a statement. All we know is that somebody saw the video being filmed, a fact which is obviated by the crowds of people that appear in the video iteself!

The News Is Promoting the Video

Take a look at the original article again. I want you to notice a few things.

First, look at the page header. What section of the paper is the story in? Breaking news? Local news? Nope, it’s in Entertainment news.

Now, look for a box in the body of the story titled Also Online. Here is where they will typically link to related stories. There are three links for this story. The first is a link to an interview with her about the video. The second is a link to her website where you can watch the video. The third is a link to her Twitter page. This isn’t a news story, it’s a PR stunt.

The Disturbing Part

What really bothers me about this whole thing is the story that “broke” today in The News.

Regardless of whether Dallas officials decide to charge Erykah Badu with a crime for getting naked in Dealey Plaza last month, city law ought to be strengthened to prevent similar incidents, Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway said Thursday.

Was this really such a horrible incident if no one complained and apparently no one even noticed it had happened until three weeks after the fact?

Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway had this to say:

None of this would have occurred had she stayed clothed. But since she didn't, it elevated the need for making sure that we have policies in place that will protect folks and the integrity of the city as best we possibly can.

Who do we need to protect? Who was injured? Has our reputation as a city been ruined by this incident?

He goes on to say:

What if there is a part two and we don't take some type of action or put it up for discussion and she comes out and really gets with it and does a Michael Jackson-type video and have 15, 20 people and all of them take their clothes off?

Right. We have to act now or we’re going be infiltrated with legions of people stripping and filming! It will be pandemonium!

Give me a break! Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating public nudity, but we already have laws and ordinances that deal with this. The fact that someone breaks a rule doesn’t mean the rule wasn’t strong enough. The solution isn’t more rules and ordinances. If she broke the rules (and I’m pretty sure she did), then she should pay the penalties. Then we should all move on with our lifes, and remember that if it wasn’t for the Dallas Morning News promoting her new album, none of us would have even known it had happened.

Ballpark is Ballpark Again