Dec 19

A random assortment from Monday

On Saturday, Poseidon had the howling cat blues:

He looks like a different animal with his mouth open. It’s weird.

Phoebe, meantime, was unimpressed.

What’s nice is that, as you can just see from that side view of the window, it was a gorgeous day. You can even see it based on the light bouncing off this Chick-fil-A window:

That’s one merry dairy cow, I said on Instagram. And not enough people appreciated that word play and my taking advantage of every chance possible to point out that, for decades now, Chick-fil-A has been using the wrong breed of cattle in their promos.

But it was a lovely day to make that argument. Today, today was less attractive in every way.

I used to count how many times I’d seen someone leave their cart in this particular parking lot’s handicapped spots. It’s a rural area. There are a lot of older people shopping in those particular stores. I visit once a week, or so, on a regular errand and I have met plenty of people that might take advantage of that spot.

The last thing anyone that needs a handicapped spot wants to deal with, besides the rain and the cold and whatever condition they feel like that particular day, is the laziness of a person who can’t push the cart to the corral not 25 feet away.

I’m sure you were just in a hurry.

So I pushed the cart up to the store. Someone ought to.

Every once in a great while you get to read a real treat of a story. I consume a lot of news, part of the job, and over the years I’ve written or read almost every kind of formula covering most any kind of story you can put in front of your eyes on any given day. They still have value, but you sometimes just know where a story is going.

But once in a great while, you get a treat. Here’s one now.

The first time he spoke to her, in 1943, by the Auschwitz crematory, David Wisnia realized that Helen Spitzer was no regular inmate. Zippi, as she was known, was clean, always neat. She wore a jacket and smelled good. They were introduced by a fellow inmate, at her request.

Her presence was unusual in itself: a woman outside the women’s quarters, speaking with a male prisoner. Before Mr. Wisnia knew it, they were alone, all the prisoners around them gone. This wasn’t a coincidence, he later realized. They made a plan to meet again in a week.

On their set date, Mr. Wisnia went as planned to meet at the barracks between crematories 4 and 5. He climbed on top of a makeshift ladder made up of packages of prisoners’ clothing. Ms. Spitzer had arranged it, a space amid hundreds of piles, just large enough to fit the two of them. Mr. Wisnia was 17 years old; she was 25.

You can’t excerpt a story like this, to give it justice, and you will find yourself glancing over at the scroll bar and sad to see how you only have so much of the story to go. You’re going to want it to go on, like a great book. You’re going to run through almost every emotion possible. And you’re going to want to keep reading it. So go read it.

Speaking of books …

It’s dense. It’s detailed. We’re starting to catch up to the period on electricity. I’m going to finish that one, some day.

Nov 19

We’re averaging 300 words per topic here

How was your Thanksgiving? As great as mine, I hope. The in-laws are in town, and we are having a lovely visit. The Yankee and her mother made a delicious meal (and I got in the way of things a little bit) and we were able to enjoy it last night and tonight. There’s still some good stuff in the refrigerator, so if you’re out of Thanksgiving provisions feel free to stop by.

Thanksgiving seemed to sneak up this year. It wasn’t until near the end of last week that it seemed an eventuality. I’ll blame the timeless nuance of the work structure. You’re bound into the regiment of the week, each week, this week, next week the one after, all just like the last in their own way. And it’s hectic in its own way. And then, suddenly, people are thinking and talking about their travel plans. And then the travel and you begin to focus on the good stuff: the family, the visiting, the food.

And then, almost as quickly as it arrives, it is gone. Swallowed by like leftovers, like a running back in so many bad Thanksgiving football games, or even worse Friday night games. It’s almost as if you’re reminded, just in time, to spend this moment as a moment for which you should be thankful, and remember all of the many blessings you have. That we have to reminded is a human failing. That we now follow a day of such humility with a day of crass commercialism – what once was shopping in stores became camping out and then shopping over night and shopping online and, now, “Dear Lord, how did all of these companies get my good email address?” — is probably the second problem.

Now it is the season of lights and cold and shopping and traveling and feasts and generically labeled office parties and more sugar cookies than you need and exploitive commercials.

Seven more emails from stores I once shopped at in 2011 rolled in just as I wrote that paragraph.

I put handles on the stove cover this evening. We started using it earlier this week, without them, to see if it was necessary. We quickly decided it was necessary.

So, fortunately, I’d purchased two drawer pulls earlier this week that are vaguely reminiscent of what is featured in the kitchen cabinets. And then I picked up four screws that were too long. So I sawed them down to an appropriate size earlier in the week. And then tonight, after everyone had retired, I agonized over how to do this.

It involved tape, a fair amount of muttering and wondering at how many ways I could get the measuring wrong. A lot, it turns out. But when you add hardware last, you are obliged to get the actual process correct the first time. This isn’t the finest piece of craftsmanship in the world, mind you, but when you put a drill bit into finished wood you are definitely stepping over the point of no return.

And I had to have that conversation with myself twice.

Sure, if you were making dressers or cabinets or anything in mass, you’d work up a template or a jig to speed things along. This was four screws on an artisanal piece of folk art from extra lumber and a few free moments grabbed from here and there. I’m an amateur, is what I’m saying.

For us amateurs, it isn’t the first screw that’s the problem. You have to have the second one in precisely the right spot, so the handle can actually attach.

That made for a few tense moment. Drill on wood, drill in wood, drill through wood. And now the screw, pushed from one side through the last. And where is the handle? There it is. They always escape, like they know something. Do they know something? Is this going to fit? Should I just start trying to soften up the handle now so I can warp it if it doesn’t fit? It isn’t going to fi — elbow grease it into place. It fit. But only just barely.

That was the second side when, presumably, I was more prepared for the task. When I’d figured out my process. After the first time, when I had to do a little hand shimming of the second drill bit whole.

Anyway, they both fit. The stove cover is done and in place and if it works for at least three weeks then we’ll have gotten the effort out of it, I guess. Also, the next time I make something like this, I’m using knobs. Just the one screw, after all.

So, next week, then, it is back to my tie rack. Only nine more pieces to sand!

But today, you have the books!

Today we’re wrapping up our examination of the April 1969 Reader’s Digest from my grandfather’s mound of books. It is the last of the Digest, so we’ll have to start something else in the next few days. Perhaps the stash of Modern Science. Perhaps some other thing that catches my eye. We’ll get them all eventually, but you can get this right now.

Click the book cover to see the latest. If you are catching up, you can see the entire 50-year-old April issue here. If you’d like to see some other things from the my grandfather’s collection — there are textbooks and notebooks and more — just follow this link.

Nov 19

Just enough to get you into a weekend mood

We’re hitting the books once again. Perusing the periodicals. Reading the rag. Making our way through the magazines. Digging the Digest …

This being my grandfather’s book. I have a stash of them. It’s not much, but it’s one window into his world that I don’t otherwise see a lot. I have a lot of his old books, and we’re slowly making our way through them here. Mostly just to make fun of the things we see inside. So click the cover above to see the latest installments. If you’re not at all familiar with what we’ve added from the April 1969 issue of the Reader’s Digest, you can see the selected pieces right here.

Next week we’ll wrap up the last of this book, and then we’ll move into something that isn’t a Reader’s Digest. Oh, the decisions I’ll have to make. These aren’t difficult decisions, of course. I’ll get to each of them in time. But, still, there’s an entire plastic tub of magazines to consider. And then a few boxes and bookshelves more after that. Which will be next.

It’s something to wrestle with. Speaking of which …

We think they’re brother and sister. Sometimes they act like it. Most of the time they do not, but now that they are recently curling up with one another it’s a cute moment. It probably has to do with colder nights. But whatever it is, it is cute.

And then Phoebe put Poseidon in a dream-induced headlock:

She’s really cinched it on, as you can see, and he’s starting to fade:

The referee is going to call this at any moment:

Not really. They were both calmly dozing. And the refs, us, kind of want her to stick up for herself anyway. So even if this was cute and a sleep thing and no one minded, The Yankee and I took this as a positive sign. She’s giving him the what for!

And then someone moved and there was a repositioning:

He somehow reversed the hold.

That’s the action around here on a Friday night. I hope yours is suitably outrageous, as well.

Nov 19

Today we partied like it’s 1899

I’m flipping through a 50-year-old periodical. My grandparents leafed through this same book. That’s how I came to have it. It sat in storage for decades and then I got to go through a bunch of things and sometimes that’s how things of no real value are inherited. Some night in an Alabama spring, perhaps, my grandfather read some of these articles, whichever ones might have interested him. I’m taking pictures of the ads with the supercomputer I carry in my pocket. (I wonder what he’d think of that.) So, you know, the same experience.

Anyway, you can check out some of these images too. We’re about halfway through this last copy of Reader’s Digest. Click the book below if you’ve been following along.

To see all of the parts of this issue I’ve photographed, click here. To see all of my grandfathers books that are, so far, on the site, start here.

Sometimes red lights aren’t a bad thing. I had just enough time at this one to see this, decide it would be a good idea to capture the moment, and then make it happen.

That’s just a thing we do now. The technology isn’t terribly impressive at this point. That we can do it is a minor modern miracle, really, but we seldom even acknowledge that these days. What’s impressive is that we sit there thinking Should I? Is it worth it? What’s impressive is how quickly we’ve adjusted and adapted to do that.

Sort of like electricity. Sure, that’s my great-grandparents wonder, and your birthright, but you only think that because it is there every day, all day. We lost power on campus today, and the hard-working electricians from the power company didn’t get the entire outage restored until late in the evening.

I was watching a group prepare a television program when everything went off. They ended up doing it with field equipment and lots of batteries. I checked in on a handful of students who were about to record some podcasts, but they were out of luck. I visited with an instructor who was set to deliver a big social media lecture with videos and slides and, oops. She did the whole thing in the dark, students looking for examples on their laptops, eyes occasionally darting up to the power icon. I gave a tour of the radio station to a high school student, using flashlights. I sat in the dark at the end of the day and caught up on a few emails, also with my eyes darting up to the laptop’s battery icon. Welcome to Indiana University, in the 19th century. Except it is nothing like that.

A view from the parking deck this morning:

That tree is pretty incredible, but I bet it will be hardly recognizable by the next time I have a chance to check on it again.

I’m proud of this tree. The leaves show up early in the spring and they’re staying for as long as possible. Not like those maples, quitters that they are.

The still-novel-to-me parking deck foreground shot:

I just looked up at this one and thought the lights and colors made for good lines:

Speaking of maples, this Red maple is probably the last one still trying. But the green is gone, the yellow is giving ground. The seasons must grind to a halt.

The Red maple, then, is nature’s traffic light. And next week, winter will be here. Until April.

Probably the next time I show you the River Jordan, it’ll be frozen.

It’s diminutive for a river, I grant you. I prefer the previous name anyway: Spanker’s Branch. Maybe there was someone named Spanker, maybe parents spanked their kids for getting in the creek. No one knows why it had that name. But from such harmless mystery good lore can emerge. As it is we have to say: Jordan was a 19th century president who didn’t think a building should be named after him, so he said just name the creek after me and by the 1920s people were calling it the Jordan River casually, and it was formally renamed in the 1990s.

Spanker’s Branch is the better name, then.

But what’s even better is the weekend. And I hope you have a great one!

Nov 19

This week we show color

Took the day for myself … and I vacuumed, because thats self-soothing. Also I slept in, and had a big lunch, and petted cats and took a few things off the DVR. So it was fine. I could do more, I could always do more, but I did enough to enjoy a casual day off.

We had a bike ride this evening. It was cold and I need shoe covers. It is also the time to wear wool socks. You only need to learn that lesson once a year. But a light windjacket and gloves kept the rest of me warm. And many people were out enjoying the first sunshine we’ve seen this week. Here’s my shadow selfie, near the end of the ride:

And here’s a little video, also near the end of the ride, cruising through a pleasant little neighborhood.

It would have been better if I’d taken this video the first time through, the sun was behind me and perfect, but I would have had to get to my phone, take off a glove and so on. Somehow that seemed easier the second time through.

We return to the books! Regular readers know this feature is an examination of my grandfather’s books. Presently, we are leafing through the April 1969 Reader’s Digest. I have four of his Reader’s Digests — which means a few weeks from now we’ll have to move to some Popular Science or some encyclopedias or something. Anyway, click the book below to see the latest.

If you want to see all of the ads I’ve digitized from this issue, click here. To see all of the books — including some early-mid 20th century elementary and middle school books — click here.

And to you, I say, happy weekend! We are going to a football game and the theater this weekend. Patrons of the arts and athletics, we are. Looks like I will need that extra hour of sleep. What are you going to do with that extra hour?