Apr 17

Conference over, it is back to campus, then

I got to chair one of the last sessions of the conference last weekend:

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to spend part of a beautiful spring day in a nice Greenville, South Carolina park:

Spring, it seems, has appeared everywhere. Or the places which matter, which is to say the place I am at the moment:

We hung out at a waterfall:

We temporarily also solved a running problem:

And that means a delicious sandwich, the likes of which you just can’t do in Bloomington:

A friend of ours in Bloomington is from Georgia. He’s a big Publix guy, he knows our pain and he has assured us there is no reasonable substitute. That didn’t matter this weekend, though, because we got to have a picnic.

Back to it today, though. I rode my bike to work, because weather and my schedule conspired to work together for a change. (Usually I have to stay past dark or it is raining or too cold or whatever. But, finally, a 5 p.m. Monday and nice weather mean I could spend my commute turning small circles with my feet. And I saw this:

They were pouring concrete. They were still on that site when I went back by later this evening. I imagine they got a lot done today. You better when you have a big concrete boom like that out there, I suppose.

It is surprising you can’t really hear them. But, according to the legend I’m making up as I type, under a quiet, full moon you can hear the muffled screams in the concrete beams.

Apr 17

Finally, Greenville, South Carolina

So you’re going to drive about eight hours, as we intended to do yesterday. A good thing to do is to have an almost-violent flat tire in the first hour of your trip, things change.

So there I was, side of the highway, tiny little shoulder, inches from trucks whirring by as I pulled off an empty case of vulcanized rubber and put on a smaller tube of air. Sometimes the trucks move over. Sometimes they can’t, because there’s someone in the left lane. Sometimes you could look down the road and see they were going to be so close I’d simply stand up and move away. I’m used to cars and trucks not leaving me any room on the road, but on the highway it seemed a bit much.

Anyway, to another rental car office, where they could not give us a new sedan. Finally, after the three staffers tried for a long time to reconcile our route and their other stores along the way, they gave us a Dodge Ram pickup:

And you’ll forgive me, but I didn’t take a photo of the first rental car. Why would you? Anyway, it was an Altima, a few years newer than mine, but there is virtue in renting a car with which you are familiar. This was one of the reasons I wasn’t interested in a pickup. I don’t normally drive a truck and I’m not interested in parking one all weekend and gas mileage and so on.

Also, the big, bad Dodge Ram doesn’t have a gear shift. It has a knob:

Odds are pretty decent, you’d like to think, that Sam Elliott didn’t know about that when he signed on to do the voiceover work in their TV spots. He might have. He probably didn’t care, but it fits the idea in your mind, doesn’t it?

So we drove the Dodge for about an hour yesterday, which was the plan, to another rental car shop, where the crew would have either a sedan or a small SUV waiting for us. So we got this:

I moved the luggage in the first part of the rain while The Yankee handled the paperwork. We got into the Liberty and realized it didn’t have a USB port. She wanted a USB port. So we changed to this Mitsubishi:

If you’re keeping track, that’s four rentals in a few hours. And through part of Kentucky and all of Tennessee we drove in the big storms and learned that the Mitsubishi is not an especially fun thing to drive. Crosswinds were pushing us all over the lane. I would have looked like a DUI if there were any police on the road, but they were probably off stopping floods or something. The storm was intense, but hey, the Mitsubishi did well with standing water and hydroplaning.

We may try to swap this one out this weekend. How can we get to rental car number six and seven if we don’t get number five, first?

Crossing over the Ohio River to Louisville, just before the traffic and the storms turned this eight hour journey into a 12-hour odyssey.

Which made this morning’s panel no less fun.

Hey, we’re here now — and the subject matter improves, too. There were storms and almost everyone had a tough time getting in, but we’re all here, from Texas and Mississippi and Indiana and the fun and friends and scholarly talk can begin.

Mar 17

My favorite are the ‘Double Grip Bison Brand’

We went for a bike ride on Saturday. We set out with a bike club friend, who offered us a route south of town or another one that he hadn’t yet written down. And then there were the choices of which hills and which direction you wanted to go. So we chose the southern route, because who has time to write down turn-by-turn directions? And we picked the counter-clockwise route, because there were rolling hills this way or one big hill that way. So we chose what we chose and then our bike club friend realized, oh, yes, there’s this hill, too.

That’s the thing about hills. You never realize them in their intensity or in count when you aren’t actually on them.

So on the last big hill our friend, Stephen, was just in front of me and he said “Oh, yes, this hill, too. This is the worst hill on this route.”

And I said that, at the top of the climb, he would get to explain that to The Yankee, who was just a bit behind me. And after four-and-a-half miles uphill from there … he said just that. Our bikes pointed uphill for about six or seven miles today, according to the map.

Still looked fresh on our way home, though:


Last night I spent the evening hanging out with The Black Cat:


It rained a lot yesterday. I read a lot. It was a good day.

Found this today. In 1897 there was a huge cycling convention in Chicago. The Indianapolis News included this art with their January 23rd story.

1897 bicycles

There were seven bicycle factories in Indianapolis at the time the story was written, a time when the reporter felt it important to list how many “electric lights” were going to be burning — 25,000. The story ranges all over, talking of upcoming six-day races, a national meeting in St. Louis and objections by the good people of Baltimore to an ordinance outlawing coasting. It also discusses the possibility of a continuous road between New York and Chicago within 10 years. So 1907. That didn’t happen, obviously. Back in Chicago, the biggest turnout of the week was to see the women’s race, a two-hour derby where the racers covered 41 miles on a track. And it mentions the quarter-mile world record. This was a standing start event and, at the time, it was held by a John S. Johnson, who set the record in Iowa in 1893 at 28 seconds.

No one really does this distance anymore. But, the Internet tells me that Francois Pervis set the most recent world record for the 1000-meter distance from a standing start.

Someone calculated his splits and estimated that his 400-meter time would be approximately 25.754 seconds. You figure if he’d set out to do 400 meters that’d change his race and he could perhaps go a bit faster, so maybe he gets down close to 25 flat, let’s say. But, to me, that makes Johnson’s time all the more impressive. He was 120 years behind on the technology — no true aero position or a skin suit or wind tunnel training — and his time is not far off. Shame there’s no video of that on YouTube.

Mar 17

Tuesdays, we ride

OK, OK, I’ll stop writing about the eventual oncoming of spring. We’ll just assume that it is here. Until, that is, another cold snap comes through and drops snow or ice or both on us, and then we can all grimly shiver under four layers of blankets. But until then, spring:

I mark it because more trees are now in bloom than not. And also because the almost-warmth in the air has a sense of dedication and staying power to it. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Who can say. What I can say is that we went for a bike ride this evening. One of the groups of the 300-strong local cycling club meets near our house for Tuesday and Thursday rides and they are a nice group of people. If the right combination of folks are there it is a challenging group. But this is early in the year and I will need a few more miles in me before I am ready to seek out something really challenging. So today we didn’t even go down the big hill — which required turning around and coming up the big hill.

It kept us fresh for a few late evening photos:

Two of the strong guys from that group were there, and we hung on to their wheels. They’d also gone down the big hill and the people behind us had, too. But I came up a little slope to get to the beginning of the group ride and knew I wasn’t trying that hill today. Sometimes you know, you know? And they say that wisdom is in listening to what you already know.

At least I said that. Perhaps others have too. Let’s see.

No, no one has ever said that. Lhamo Dondrub said something similar, and wiser: “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

But that’s the Dalai Lama for you.

I’m never this enlightened on my bicycle. Well, almost never. Usually I’m breathing too hard. After the fact, when my legs are resting and my lungs aren’t burning, sure, I can think up all sorts of things about hills. Also, hills are always much shorter in my imagination and memory than in reality, as we’ll soon see.

Mar 17

Notes that end the winter, and start the spring

It is the first day of spring, when everything should be new and possible, or impossibly new. It has been cold and damp and gray, because we have no respect for meteorological certainties.

But things are blooming on the ground. Last week, in the snow, the carefully installed pansies and daffodils were bent over low by a wet snow. And while that stuff is gone, the dampness is hanging over and clinging to us. The chill is made downright cold because of the damp, and upgraded to demoralizing based on the gray skies, because the gradient suggests it will never ever change.

So, on this, the weekend that prefaces spring, we had a dismaying end to winter. As for the winter itself, mild. Not so bad. A few harsh and cold days here and there and just a few small snow showers to hide from. It was, as they say, a mild one. But it has persisted enough, and the new has not yet begun with the proper zeal required by my discriminating tastes. (Rain today. Pleasant tomorrow. It is a fickle start to the season.)

So, on Saturday, I stayed inside and worked on a puzzle:

I received three puzzles at Christmastime. And I said they would be terrific winter weekend projects. As I am officially over the season, and the season has yet to be over itself, I am puzzling in protest. This is Declaration of Independence. I did the borders first, and then the historically accurate doodles along the bottom — Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams and Franklin. Then I slowed down as I worked on the signatures, because I went back to this book. It was also a gift a few years ago, about the origins and fates of the 56 men who signed the broadside.

And, of course I had a helper:

So that was Saturday. And yesterday, we actually saw the sun. It was the second time in a week, and such an exceptional occurrence that I’m now counting the times it happens each week. And I go outside. So, yesterday afternoon, a bike ride:

First one of the year. Felt like it, too!