I’m not a huge fan of the open atrium design of some modern hotels, with their enormous open central spaces, the glass-walled elevators zipping up and down, and the faint susurrus of lobby conversation wafting up through the cavernous atrium to the floors high above. I think the design is disorienting.
But, if you like sharp angles and geometric precision in the interior of your hotel, the open atrium approach is about as good as it gets. These are hotels that appear to have been designed through use of compass, protractor, and slide rule. You can imagine the architect carefully calibrating the intersecting lines in the floor plan, and efficiency-oriented engineers reveling in the exacting measurements and crisp, ordered, no-frills appearance.
My eighth grade geometry teacher would have loved this place.
In Houston, and enjoying the twilight hours from my high-rise hotel room. The heavily refracted sunlight softens the buildings, the lights begin to appear on the horizon, and a few stray clouds are backlit by the setting sun.
In most cities, if you want to ride your bike to work, you’ve got few options. You can carry your bike to your office, if your boss permits it. Or you can lock your bike to a bike rack, or a tree, and leave it exposed to the elements — and the tender mercies of any mean-spirited, thieving passerby who might want to steal a tire, or cut your bike chain with boltcutters, or leave your bike a twisted hunk of metal just because they happen to be in an unsociable mood.
Today in Houston I saw something I’ve never seen before in the urban bicycle security area. Apparently installed by the Houston Department of Public Works and Engineering, it’s called Bikelid. It consists of a metal frame against which you put your bike, and a fiberglass canopy that descends to cover your bicycle to a point about an inch from the ground. You then lock the fiberglass canopy against the metal frame. Your bike stays snug and secure under the fiberglass cover until you come to pedal it away.
There were about a dozen of the Bikelid devices in front of one of the high-rises I passed by today, and almost all of them appeared to be in use. Seems like a pretty good idea to me. If we want to encourage bicycle commuters, we need to give them a place to store their bikes while they are working. Bikes are costly investments these days, and people aren’t going to take the risk of cycling to work unless they’ve got a secure area to put their bikes. And while the Bikelids aren’t the most attractive additions to the municipal landscape, they aren’t nearly as ugly — or as dispiriting — as a bike that has been vandalized.
When I travel, I take along the world’s oldest laptop. It’s an ancient MacBook, chipped and cracked and scarred.
The laptop lacks any and all modern features or recent technological developments. The battery is totally shot; it works only if plugged into an electrical source that is directly linked to the power grid at the Hoover Dam. I’m not sure exactly how old it is, but I’m confident it dates from the pre-Twitter era, when email was a novel item and cell phones had antennae. It’s unfashionably thick and heavy. I think some of its components might be made of stone.
It was Richard’s laptop, three or four laptops ago. (He’s the one who put Alfred E. Newman on the screen.) He abandoned it when he got a new one and I exercised the time-honored parental right of adverse possession of discarded kid items. I take it with me on the road precisely because it’s older than Methuselah. I don’t care if it gets jostled or dropped or treated roughly. But it does what I need it to do, and I have deep respect for its durability and reliability. I’ve used it for years now, and it’s never failed me yet.
As I say to my kids and my younger colleagues, newer isn’t necessarily better.