Aug 19

Pedal pedal pedal

We had a nice bike ride this evening. Part of the ride was the regular basic route, through the neighborhood that has it’s own private Fourth of July parade that we’ll see one day, through the roads surrounded by corn fields, into the giant subdivision where I always see the same lady running, then over a small, but respectable, hill that would take you to the ice cream shop, which is a turnaround spot. Back over that hill from the other direction, which is a little shorter and sharper, then through the outskirts of two or three other little random subdivisions that aren’t especially distinct.

This takes you to a road that ends in a T-intersection. And, like all T-intersections, the only important things are the stop sign and where each direction will send you. If you turn left, as we usually do, you go about four miles down the road to the water treatment plant, the lake and a turnaround.

Let me just tell you: today we turned right.

We were on this road named after an ancient local family. They’d come to Bloomington from South Carolina — the first of their children was born here in 1837, just 12 years after the city was incorporated — and their ancestors had come over from Ireland before the American Revolution. That first kid, William, grew up to be a Presbyterian minister. He graduated from theological school, got a job and got married all during the first month of the Civil War. He worked in Illinois and Ohio, had five kids, lost his wife, got remarried, took on a church in Iowa, then moved to South Dakota in the 1880s and farmed and preached there until his health took a turn. He would move back to Ohio, where he died in 1916. About the time that William left Iowa, his younger brother David, the second son born here, moved to Florida to grow oranges, which makes sense. I looked up the family name, and there are still some of that family in town today.

We weren’t on that road for as long as it took me to look all that up. But there was time enough there for you to read that paragraph before we turned left onto a road named after a village that isn’t there anymore. The post office there, says the Wikipedia stub, was closed in 1904. Just down the road, at the manmade lake, there’s a beach that bears the name, but otherwise you’d never know of the place. And anyway, it’s a quick right-hander onto a road named after a thriving local family farm. They raise free range things, all organic groups. Anyway, the road they are on gives you views like this:

This is a road we’ve ridden before, but not recently, and it was a scenic treat, which was followed by a less interesting road named after another family that moved here in the town’s earliest days. I supposed that’s the way it is with roads and other named features. They have to be called something, and, Hey, you’re a family has been here forever and there’s still a lot of you around, so you’re it.

Maybe that’s a downside to being a Smith. You never know if this thing was named after your people or not. (Nothing has been named after my people, of this I am fairly sure.) But that’s an upside to being a Smith, too: I get to claim them all.

Anyway, it was a 25-mile ride, with a lot more negative splits than positive ones. It was a fine evening, and a delightful part of the day.

Aug 19

Thought bubbles, I really disliked the thought bubbles

Wrote a letter today. Who does that anymore? Well, I did, that’s who. I wrote and re-wrote and then proofread and then saved the file and uploaded it. But it was a letter! There were paragraphs and a salutation and everything!

This evening I went for a bike ride today, and once again my mind’s eye was stronger than my legs. I could blame the hills, I suppose, but the route I choose is about the flattest batch of roads available to me. And, even still, if I had the opportunity to ride tomorrow I’d think the same thing: I’ll do the usual and then add on the other usual for a super usual! But then I’d be out there and suddenly that doesn’t feel practical for any number of reasons real or imagined.

My speed has improved a little bit again, so back to average I guess, even as my left foot protests against the effort. The goal, as ever, is to build up many more miles. The usual is fun, fast, conveniently located and (mostly) flat. But it doesn’t add distance. And since I’m using all the flat roads, that means it’ll soon be back to the hills.

Here’s a bit of video from today’s ride. It’s of a new road we tried last week.

It is a lovely little neighborhood. Seems quiet and uneventful. I bet they don’t even need a Spider-Man.

I watched Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse today. Let me just say that Spider-Man was never my favorite. Peter Parker was always wrestling with his conscience and that wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to see in the limited amount of time I spend reading comics. (I was more of a Tony Stark comic fan. Before Robert Downey Jr. made it real, flying from your hands and feet was just cool. Plus the pulp version of Stark always played as more vulnerable than a worrier.)

And while Spidey was never my favorite, and I don’t normally watch a lot of cartoon movies, this was such a great story. It was just as good or better as every one had said. It is hip, it moves fast and it feels like a comic. It doesn’t insult the audience at all. The characters that are supposed to be likable are lovable. The villains are ill-defined, but that’s a complaint you probably never said about them in print, and seems very much a Cinematic Problem. But all of the usuals make an appearance, however brief. There’s some sort of understanding that you already have the gist of the bad guys, but let’s be realistic and acknowledge that people don’t come to these things as a blank slate. Even if they did: bad guy is bad.

Perhaps most importantly, it re-sets Spider-Man as a young character again. The new guy is back in high school, with some new new skills. Surely Sony will be looking to capitalize on this. Assuming they even have the rights, this week. Who can keep it all straight?

Even better, it introduced me to Spider-Noir. Give me a semi-fourth-wall-breaking 1930s Nick Cage Spider-Man show and I’d faithfully watch every sardonic adventure.

Now you may be wondering what this has to do with the letter I wrote today. The marginalia was filed with dangling webs. A sticky stationary makes for a letter that is hard to put down.

Aug 19

One out of three isn’t bad for a Monday

This is just a little update today. I’m starting a new theme today, because it wouldn’t be a Monday without a theme with no real purpose or obvious end date.

The idea: celebrate Small Victories. The everyday ones. We’re not talking about Inbox Zero, here, no. (Though I am presently at Inbox Zero in one account and have four in the other.) Nothing quite so amazing here. We’re talking the very small indeed. This is not the sort of thing you’d make mental note of to share with friends or family the next time you gather. No, somewhere between that and the slightly less impressive and semi-irregular achievement of deleting three apps you don’t use anymore.

I had this idea with three such items in mind. I’d already planned a long bike ride and aspired to build a small thing this evening. Thinking of those plans earlier in the day, I was working my way up a stairwell at the office, thought up a good joke and had the opportunity to use it almost immediately when someone coming down the stairs perfectly set up the punchline. That’s a small victory.

There was a bike ride, this evening but it was not a long one. I didn’t feel so hot, so I turned for home at the 12 mile mark, much earlier than I should, and licked the proverbial wounds, realizing I should have gone for a morning ride instead. But there’s always tomorrow’s ride. We had a fine pork chop dinner, I washed dishes and then went to the hardware store to pick up a few pieces of lumber. I have an idea for a quick test project, a quick and dirty proof of concept, if you will.

Only, by the time we left the hardware store it was dark. It was about 9:30, after all, and the days are sadly getting shorter again. I decided, wisely, that I was too tired to play with power tools. So that small victory will wait until tomorrow as well.

So one-out-of-three. Doing that every day would get you a contract extension in the majors. Of course, my baseball equivalent of small victories would probably be going to the plate with my bat and not someone else’s. A bad simile, indeed. I’ll work on that for tomorrow.

Also on tomorrow’s small victory agenda: cleaning up some bookmarks and deleting a few things from the Netflix queue. It’s best to start these things out … small.

Aug 19

There’s math below; assume I got the (n) and (r) correct

Another evening ride with my bride was the highlight of my day. We were out just long enough to get the heart rate up and the perspiration perspiring. No motorists were foolish, the sun was out, my legs were sluggish, some of the other cyclists actually waved back for a change. It was easily the highlight of the day.

On the way back to the house, two neighborhoods before ours, I tried an attack off the left side of the road. You can see just before it started here:

Farther away, maybe she won’t hear me or see me until it is too late. I think she heard my derailleur click, took two hard downstrokes on her right pedal and that was the end of my attack.

The other highlight of my day was giving a tour for someone. So, yes, let us talk more about the bike ride, shall we!?

Living near a creek bed, as we do, you’re always starting your ride going uphill. You must pedal up and out of the intersection. And then, depending where you are going, some actual hills may come into play. These aren’t mountains, by any means, but they may as well be to me. The one “big” hill we climbed today I had to spin up through my small crank today. Some days I go up that same hill in my smallest gear and continue accelerating over the top. Not today. But still, an average ride is better than no ride at all. And a poor ride, well, that might be the best of all, because maybe you stunk it up and really suffered out there, but you still got it in.

Do you know how many times I’ve told myself that, huffing and puffing over the headset of my bicycle. I’ve gotten that whole speech down to one sentence this year.

But, still, a nice ride.

Elsewhere, today, let’s see. I did some behind-the-scenes organizing of things on the website. You won’t care about any of those, but there were some pages section needed cleaning up. It was a today and tomorrow project.

Also today, I added seven new banners to the top and bottom of the blog. You see different ones each time you visit, or every time you refresh, of course. But I keep adding to them. Today there are 100 banners for the top of the page and 101 for the bottom. So with two randomized images per page and 201 possible choices, you have something like 20,301 different combinations of the different photographs you can see surrounding all of this brilliant text. I probably did that wrong. Later tonight someone will come along and point out the error which left an order of magnitude off base.

Anyway, to keep it neat, while adding seven new ones today I also removed seven other banners which were less relevant or otherwise irksome. That simple right-click-delete-I’m-sure-yes-I’m-sure-no-really-quite-postive-indeed-I-promise-is-me-not-you-just-delete-them-already action reduced the combinations by about 1,400 choices or so. You’re welcome, Citizen of the ‘Net.

There are a lot of things to clean up on the site, but they won’t all be done today. There are at least always about a half dozen things to do around here. And they’ll all keep so long as the weather does. I wouldn’t ordinarily bore you with the details – most of them for archival purposes anyway – but it just didn’t feel right having a stat like 20,301 and not sharing it.

Anyway, here’s one of the new header banners you will occasionally run across:

Even upon reflection that remains one of my favorite photos of our summer vacation.

Tomorrow, another bike ride! And the Adventure of the Five Shirts! (If, in fact, that is an adventure. It is tomorrow and hasn’t happened yet, so it is difficult to say.)

Jul 19

Vintage chocolate

Here’s another one of those troubled members of the floral community, the ne’er do well that never does … well. The layabout. The deadbeat. The do-nothing. The idler, loafer, lounger. The hibiscus aridus:

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds like ’em. And you can find them as far away as South Africa. Again, I found this one in the back parking lot of a little building almost half a world away from there. Needless to say, it has a wide range, which is impressive for such a malingerer, the shirker, slacker and slouch.

Or perhaps I’m being too harsh. Maybe that plant is doing what it is supposed to, being colorful and charming and contributing to the local ecology and all, but suppose it’s just hiding a bit of curbside garbage can holder?

Don’t you think it could be doing more than that?

I was given a candy bar today. It was pretty good:

The big celebration starts in a few more weeks. I’ve been wondering for almost three years how you celebrate something that’s 200 years old. What’s the appropriate sequence of events to mark such a big birthday of an important, and yet inanimate, institution? And all this time, the answer should have been obvious: milk chocolate.

You’d think a 200-year-old candy bar wouldn’t taste so fresh. Or maybe you’d be surprised that a 19th century chocolatier would be so prescient as to make such a treat. You wonder how far into the future his vision might have gone, and exactly where he warehoused those delicious things.

We enjoyed a little bike ride this evening:

We tried a new road, a partially tree-covered, split lane number. Nice houses, no traffic, a place to take a deep breath, or a hard pull. It was a good ride, not fast, but it felt strong, in my legs I mean. Didn’t even bother my foot, which has been a mild bother to me since April. But progress! Which makes sense, you know, at the end of July.

The solution, as ever, is to ride more.