#DFW Visiting The Fort Worth Botanical Gardens

The Fort Worth Botanical Gardens is one of my favourite places to visit in DFW. What’s more, it is free! What’s not to love about a free walk among traditional rose gardens, historical Texas gardens and nature trails? The only place you pay for is the Japanese Gardens. The Japanese Gardens cost $5. Oh, did I mention parking is free? Compare that to Dallas where the adult tickets are $15 and parking is $10. Granted, it’s bigger and has more events but still. In my opinion there’s no comparison.

Today I want to focus on one of my favourite projects that the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens have undertaken. I take my daughter for walks in the gardens most weeks and recently I decided to see how the restoration project next to the Rose Gardens was doing.

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The Botanical Gardens were originally designed and built in 1934 as part of the public works program to help bring the U.S.A. out of the Great Depression. It’s also the oldest Botanical Garden in Texas. Did I mention I love Fort Worth? As this plaque commemorates, it was a pretty big deal at the time but since then the original area had fallen into hard times. That all began to change a couple of years ago. The plan is to restore a large chunk of the garden area to it’s natural habitation.

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When I first visited the restoration project it was just a collection of walk ways and steps but with nothing to see. There’s still a long way to go but I’ve been impressed with the progress the landscaping team is making.

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I usually see the turtles chilling out at the Rose Garden. My daughter loves to spot them and it’s one of the many things we look for on each visit. With the addition of these new water ways they often navigate to sunbathe farther up the gardens. There’s also plenty of fish swimming back and forth.

I usually spend about an hour walking around with my 2 year old and we’re never bored. The Gardens are open from sunrise to sunset and with the knowledge this natural restoration project will be continuing for several years yet I’m excited to keep returning and see more of the progress.

If you want to find out more about the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens you can check out their website.  One of the most exciting  events going on throughout the early part of summer is also a great cultural learning opportunity. Concerts In The Garden feature the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and is well worth the time. The next one is on June 22nd and is a tribute to the music of none other than David Bowie. 

#PeopleOfDFW Lexi

I was driving Lexi downtown and she was obviously excited. Lexi was finishing big task for her boss. That night would see the culmination of weeks of work. She had known her boss for years, they grew up together in Oklahoma. He had moved to Fort Worth several years back, the head of a large law firm based out of downtown. He’s highly driven and she knew this before accepting his offer to be his PA. The last several years he had gone through PA’s quickly and was struggling to find one he knows he could trust.

Lexi knows the man behind the mask. Others see the driven personality with little room for error. But she has no qualms reminding him about the people behind the error. He listens to her and takes her advice to heart. Obviously that’s not all she does. She plans, connects and builds on the firms ever increasing reputation.

Tonight is a party. A stockyard themed party full of western ware and high rollers. Every detail has been painstakingly seen to. T’s crossed and I’s dotted. Invitations have been sent out and returned. She is practically buzzing with nervous energy. Proud of what she’s accomplished and wanting to see the finished results. If tonight goes well it will mean new clients and better job security.

So why is she out of the office in the middle of such a busy day? When Lexi moved she brought with her a 100lb Rottweiler. Since she works late if she can’t find a sitter she will make time to travel back home and let the dog out, walk him for a few minutes and then take him back home. The situation concerns her.

She feels that in her new role there is little time for her dog, but she loves him and brought him all the way down from Oklahoma. She is currently wrestling between re scheduling her hours or finding a new owner. On the one hand she risks her new career. On the other she will lose a dog she has loved for years.

5 Ways To Get Great Passenger Ratings On Uber

I’ve now completed just under 400 rides as a driver for Uber. I know what makes a good passenger and what makes a bad one. Here’s my top 5 trips to help you keep getting the 5 stars and make a driver happy.

1. Clarify The Pick Up Details

When you call Uber you put in your address. The driver then arrives X amount of minutes later. Easy right? Usually but not always. Sometimes your driver will need further instructions. Fortunately the Uber app allows you to text or call your driver before they arrive. Use this feature!

Do you have a gated community or apartment complex? If so, either text the driver a message that you will meet him/her at the gate OR text them the gate number. There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at the gate and trying to contact a passenger who knew there was a gate and never told you. Did I say nothing more frustrating?

Did I say nothing more frustrating? Perhaps there’s one more thing.

Arriving at a gate and discovering it’s an exit and not an entrance. As a passenger you can prevent this. If there are multiple gates, you know this. The driver doesn’t. Sent him a text or give him a call and tell him how to reach the correct entrance. GPS has come a long long way but it’s not always right. Likwise, if you’re in an apartment complex and you have a block number or you’re not going to meet the driver at the front entrance then let the driver know what the number is and how to get there. Remember, the driver may have never entered that community before.

2. If You Want To Talk, Jump In The Front

Conversely, if you don’t want to talk don’t sit in the front of your Uber car. This isn’t to say that some people who sit in the back don’t want to talk, but sitting in the front signals from the beginning that you want to engage in conversation. Unless you’re like the Cameroonian I picked up who sat in the front because they wanted to use the jack to play music from their iphone. He then proceeded to play the same song on repeat 5 times in a row while waving his fingers back and forth in the shape of a peace sign. He didn’t get 5 stars.

3. Remember Your Manners.

An Uber driver has invited you into their personal car. It’s okay to take phone calls, particularly if you’re working. On the other hand, don’t be like the one passenger I had who talked for 45 minutes and spent the entire time on the phone call using words I can’t repeat. She never gained 5 stars either. It doesn’t take more than 2 seconds to quickly say, as many passengers have to me, “I’m sorry, I’m going to be on the phone a while.” Those who told me that also never spent the call cussing out the person on the other end of the line.

4. Don’t Jump On Every Mistake

Of my nearly 400 drives I’ve received two 1 star ratings as a driver. Less than 1% of all journeys. I am quite certain who they are from, although both of these people made it in time to their destination and in one piece. I’ve never had an accident, I don’t speed and I don’t yell at passengers who show up five minutes late. The passenger should expect no less. Why then is it okay to yell at a driver who due to road works misses one turn, or who is late to your internal time table because you called for an Uber too late to reach the airport in time for your flight. It isn’t.

If you think there’s a quicker way than the GPS is taking you then let the driver know. I guarantee they’ll follow your lead and not that of the GPS. Just remember, you’re then responsible for any mistakes that follow. Drivers aren’t perfect and the last thing they need is someone yelling because you think they’re ‘late’ to pick up. Equally as bad are frustrated sighs when road works prevent a turn etc. The driver already knows that’s a problem and he/she is working on a solution. Why not be part of the solution and not part of the problem?

5. Share Your Stories

Uber offers the rare opportunity to meet someone you may never see again. It’s a great chance to interact with people from a different walk of life and potentially a different culture. I can’t count how many Nigerians, Canadians, French, Ghanaian, Mexican and Chicagoans I’ve given rides to. I’ve asked questions of every one, shared a little of my own story and listened to them if they’ve been willing to share. Two people having great conversation leads to great connection. Great connection means 5 stars. You don’t do it for the rating of course, but it’s a small side benefit. The biggest benefit is the enriching of your soul.

What We Never Tell You On Social Media About Our Daughter

She cries almost every night when we put her in the crib and leave the room.

We bribe her not to cry by promising she can watch Thomas the next morning if she doesn’t.

At present she is working through separation anxiety and follows us everywhere, even to the toilet.

We tell her not to kick and she kicks.

We tell her not to throw her food and she throws it.

We tell her not to run away and she runs faster.

We tell her we love her and she responds with “I don’t love you.”

Instead of asking for one drink in the morning she often asks for 3, with just the right amount of ice cubes.

She threatens to take her diaper off.

She will often try and touch her own poop.

She won’t peacefully go inside after being out on the swing until the swing has stopped moving completely.

But you know what?

That’s all part of being 2 and working through boundaries. Learning what is acceptable and what isn’t. Learning what is wrong and what is right.

Learning to laugh.

Learning to cry.

Learning to love.

Learning to live.

I know, I know. Everyone likes to post about the funny moments, the touching moments.

The beautiful moments.

The moments you are proud of and want to remember forever.

We never post about the stressful moments because, to put it frankly, who wants to even go on social media when they’re stressed? Or tired…if I’m tired and  have free time, I sleep.

I don’t want you to think I’m a bad parent.

I don’t want you to think my daughter’s a bad kid.

I don’t want you to see the real family behind the social media curtain.

But the truth is, all parents struggle, no kid is perfect, and I’m okay with you knowing we aren’t either. We all need each other and if I’m not open enough to be honest enough about my struggles then how can I ever expect you to be vulnerable.

So here’s to vulnerability, and here’s to parenting.

Here’s to being a father and figuring out as I go.

Because every meltdown, breakdown, throw down is worth it for the prayers, the love, the kindness of E learning to love and discovering just who God created her to be.

A Response To The accusation Uber Made Money Off The London Terrorist Attack

Twitter seems full of the accusation that Uber deliberately made money off the London terror attack. There have been many fair accusations leveled at Uber over the years. This one is not one of them. I am an Uber driver in Dallas Fort Worth and having read their response and the accusation details I think it’s false and I want to explain why.

Uber has an algorithm that determines the prices people pay for a ride. The more people there are for each active Uber driver in an area the higher the pricing is. This does 2 things:

1: It encourages drivers nearby to move to the area and provide rides.

2: It encourages passengers to wait a few minutes or walk a few blocks for a lower fee.

This is automatic. This is crucial to understand. When a terrorist attack immediately occurs Uber has no way of knowing that it happened. News begins to go out over twitter, websites and Facebook. It takes a few minutes. During that time there is a surplus, or surge, of people requesting Uber rides as they are attempting to quickly leave an area they consider dangerous. Uber does not know that there has been an attack in such cases. All its algorithm detects is a surge of requests. There is no man at a switch saying, “Okay, this area let’s increase prices now.” It’s all computed and for the most part it works to meet its desired end.

Obviously, in the case of a terror attack things are different. Uber catches flack because of the surge prices, but it can’t control that pricing in the moment because it doesn’t know what’s going on. What matters most is what they do ONCE they know what is going on.

Metro news posted a story this morning that shows Uber responded correctly and is reimbursing everyone who paid for a ride in the wake of London’s terror attack. They also turned off the surge pricing as soon as they knew what was going on.

It’s impossible for an algorithm to detect a terrorist attack.

What’s more the same article goes on to explain that Uber sent messages to its drivers to ask them to help people get home. Despite the anger, all in all what has Uber actually done?

Firstly they sent drivers to the area to help out.

Secondly they have now made sure no one paid for any rides they took.

The fact they had to do so retroactively is due to their algorithm and the way Uber usually works. I do not fault them for this. I don’t see a way for an algorithm to solve this.

Wonder Woman – Good But Not Great

Rating 7/10

As a story, it was decent. It flowed well and it kept the attention. It is right around 2 1/2 hours long but it didn’t drag like Batman Vs Superman. In fact, it had a completely different feel. Where as the latter movie just felt dark and hopeless, this one had more light, more reason to believe in the hero and the purpose.

Wonder Woman is well developed as a character and Gal Godot does a masterful job in this role. I’ve not seen Gal Gadot in any other role but she doesn’t disappoint and I think she’ll really put her stamp on this franchise.

I think the Director does a masterful job at exploring the human heart. Rather than assuming, as many modern movies do, that the human heart is essentially good, this movie explores the reality of the human condition, that we are capable of both good and evil. There there is great opportunity for darkness within us but that we are redeemable and worthy of saving because there is also great opportunity for light. The evil of humanity is not brushed over. This is central to the movie finale.

If I believe all of this why only a 7 our of 10? Firstly, I don’t think the score is particularly memorable. You won’t find me humming it as I do chores around the house or in-between Uber rides. Secondly, when I go and see a movie I want to leave with that special feeling. You know what I’m talking about, the one which leaves you with the question, “Why did it have to end?” This was good but it didn’t do that. I didn’t want to dive right back into the DC world. It was hopeful and it soared to heavenly heights on occasion but it was not strong throughout.

The third reason is personal. I don’t like goofy characters. For a while I thought this movie would eschew them, but there were one or two thrown in. Not that these characters were on a level of goofiness akin to Guardians of The Galaxy but they had their moments and it’s just a personal preference of mine that modern day hero movies don’t need them. Judging by the success of Guardians, millions disagree with me and that’s fine.

Will I want to see a second Wonder Woman movie? Yes. Had this one intrigued me enough that I want to do some research on the comic book character? Yes. I’m a Superman fan but I know very little about Wonder Woman. Will I see the movie again? Yes, but not at the cinema. My money is now reserved for the third Thor movie, Justice League and Spiderman Homecoming.

My final verdict? If you haven’t seen it yet, go see it. Have fun, forget your troubles for 2 1/2 hours and find yourself looking forward to Justice League.