Nov 20

A note 10 years in the making

On Saturday we went for our bike ride and it was 46 degrees. I had on a pair of full finger gloves, two pairs of socks, a wind jacket and a DIY gaiter I made out of a toboggan. In perfect pitch with the season, it was gross and rainy. But right on this stretch of road something neat happened.

So every mile for the rest of the year — including the last three or so on that ride — marks a new personal best.

Why, yes, I do have a spreadsheet charting these things. Doesn’t everyone? Previously, 2013 was the best year. We did a lot of racing that year and I was starting to pile up solo miles to make up for losing out on the second half of 2012. And, I think, somewhere in those solo miles I started to see my riding as something that was mine, a carefree interlude from the rote things that control so much of our lives. Because of the triathlons I was in the pool twice a week and running several days a week and riding as much as possible. Between that and excessive work hours and the ridiculous commute I came to think of it as My Own Time. Which is, I know, a radical way to think of one’s free time.

I remember the view from the ridge I was on when the realization came to me: this is you carving out something for yourself. It was a disproportionately powerful realization; this thing that you do for fun is something you actually do for fun. It’s a conscious realization of agency you’ve always had.

One day it’s going to take, too!

Clearly the endorphins were out of whack that day.

A person’s interaction with their bike can be one of the most passionate relationships they have. It can sometimes be a mercurial one. A few years ago I ran cold on the idea of bike riding. It was something to be checked off the list before I could do other things. Almost sounds like a chore, doesn’t it? It got to that point and, suddenly, the thing that used to be an interlude was an interruption. It wasn’t my thing. It was, of course, interrupting nothing. I saw it, recognized it, and knew it. Still haven’t remedied it, but clearly I’m tapping out a rhythm to my own drummer over here.

By a curious coincidence that same year, 2017, was when my form, such as it ever was, started to vanish. It was subtle, but obvious. Couldn’t go as hard for as long, or as fast as suddenly as I once did, and so on. These are all things that are, of course, very relative. The important thing is that it happened and I noticed and it’s never been recovered.

But hey, that’s age, and not enough talent, or time. And, like any relationship, you have to put in the time. It doesn’t hurt if you bring a little innate talent to the thing, or want to work on it, besides.

I go back and forth a lot; its a thing on the list, it’s a thing I do. It’s a thing I have to do; it’s a thing I want to do more. Still trying to figure it out. I always take the ride, but the consideration always seems to be there. This isn’t, perhaps, about my bike riding at all. A year or two ago (who can even tell?) I made a Things I Want To Do List. The idea being these weren’t the tasks one must muddle through to achieve, but the things one does because they are pleasant. I spent some time on the list. There were a few drafts, as I found the proper rank order for all the common contingencies and considerations, because you should do that for your list of enjoyments. At the top of the list was “Ride your bike: whenever the weather is good.”

Maybe the solution is a lot more of those long, meandering rides that take place just because they can.

So, almost any sunny day we get for the rest of the year, because I’ll have some availability and because I am now in every-mile-is-a-new-record mode, I hope to have a little time in the saddle.

It will take many pairs of socks.

I say sunny because, otherwise, you’re just going to get glorious views like this.

Isn’t that inspiring? Doesn’t that make you want to get out there and do … something?

Like install blackout curtains through mid-March or so?

This week’s forecast includes some actual sun. I’ll be sequestered in the office. I was on work from home duty today, but tomorrow it’s back to campus. And next week, I’ll be back at the home office, or at least at the house.

Today I edited an interview I’m publishing tomorrow, caught up on email, and generally prepared for this last week of in-person work.

Most crucially, I started charting out what the next several weeks of work from home will look like. And, happily, there will be things to do. There are always things to do.

OK, perhaps that wasn’t the most crucial thing. I also had a Zoom meeting about some upcoming stories that students are reporting on. I think I may enjoy those more than they do, but I hope my participation is at least in some way useful for them.

Also, I got two new tires for the car today. I’d developed a slow leak in one that was going bald anyway, and the other wasn’t far behind. So I drove over to the tire place and put on my mask and nodded at the “Must wear a mask” sign on the door and walked inside.

And I immediately noticed that a good mask does not filter out the peculiar smell of unused vulcanized rubber. A guy was on the phone in the back office. He saw me, finished the call, hung up and put his mask on. The Boomer sitting in their chairs waiting on his car to come down off the lift did not have a mask on.

I’ve really had it with this sort of thing.

So the guy working there asked me what I needed. We went and looked at the car. He drove it into their work bay. I said, You know, it’s a nice sunny late afternoon. I’m just going to stand out here if you need me.

“I don’t blame you,” he said.

What I didn’t say, and I don’t know if he inferred, was Because I don’t want to sit around that guy, or your unmasked coworkers.

But I took his response to mean that he knew what I was on about.

So I enjoyed the sun in a medium-light jacket and caught up on some current events and began wondering if I should scale that Sisyphean exercise back next week, when my car came down off the work lift. Inside, to pay, I saw that the unmasked Boomer was thankfully gone. Two of the unmasked employees were right there. And I mean, right there.

So I left just as quickly as I could. Used their hand sanitizer — I see it like water in the South, now. If it’s on offer, you take advantage of the opportunity — and got to the car and used mine, wiping down the wheel and the door features and so on, just to be sure.

I rolled down the windows, because it was, in fact, a lovely afternoon, for a few blocks to let any cooties escape. And I listened to the hum of four good tires on the road.

By the time I got back to the house it was growing dark once again. So I set about doing a few household things until dinnertime. It was the productive Monday I’ve been trying to have for the last several Mondays, really. And there’s some satisfaction in that.

Nov 20

A marker, notes to myself, and a video

Do you know what this building is? It is quite important around here. And there might be just enough context clues to make a good guess. But do you know?

Integrating basketball

If you click on the image you will get your answer. It’s a part of our long-overdue and oft-forgotten historic marker section of the site. (Click here and you can see them all.) The goal was to ride my bicycle around to see all of the historic markers in the county where I live, take pictures of them and the locale or place being featured and share them on the site. Because the people demand weird combinations of what interest you! And, further, the people also insist you forget about the project for several years at a time, having assumed you’d just uploaded them all.

And, well, I did all of that. I rode my bike around, took the pictures, started uploading them, and then assumed I’d done it all and forget about the thing entirely. Two weeks ago I was deleting stuff off my phone — or as I like to think of it, a device that’s always telling me it’s memory is completely full — and I found some of those marker pictures. I cross referenced the site and felt immediately chagrined for the two or three people who have clicked through or stumbled in some how.

There were, I noted when I began my comparison, four historic markers and sites that had not included on the site. So I have a month of Thursday content! And in looking at all of this I was able to delete a few subdirectories of old marker photos from my laptop — or as I like to think of it, still another device that’s telling me it’s memory is full.

There is also at least one new marker. It is a replacement for one that wasn’t on display the last time I rode around looking for these. And there are, the state’s official list tells me, one other recent addition I need to cover and, hopefully, not forget entirely.

Anyway, that building above is the locale and structure featured in the second week of far-too-late updates. And, for the locals, it’s an important spot for a few other reasons, as well.

Two more markers are in the hopper and those other two new ones will wind up here eventually, as well.

After that I’ll have to start riding into neighboring counties or move entirely.

Let’s see, this county is surrounded, contiguously, by six other counties. And in those …

Brown County, three markers, 50 miles
Lawrence County, four markers, 55 miles
Greene County, two markers, 75 miles
Morgan County, five markers, 98 miles
Owen County, three markers, 100 miles
Jackson County, seven markers, 120 miles

These are doable, some of them easily so. Another thing added to the to do list.

And if you aren’t here for that, maybe you’re here for this. It’s the late night show the students produce. The monologue is about making the jump from the kiddie’s table at Thanksgiving.

Sebastian has a point.

I like to tell the students that a lot of these experiences they are building will one day become anecdotes in job interviews one day. Tell me about a time when something broke under deadline. What’s one example of how you handle conflict in a working group, and so on. No one thought “One year I had to write/deliver/shoot/direct monologues in a mask” was going to come up.

In the other studio the sports crew did two shows tonight. And tomorrow I’ll have an interview and then more TV studio time to round out the morning. Thursday nights mean a quick turnaround, so, we’ll see you for tomorrow’s after action report.

Nov 20

A Monday post about Sunday

We went for a bike ride, because that’s what we do, and because it was an abnormally beautiful weekend day. Just the sort that is intent to try to trick you into thinking this is what the whole fall and most of the winter will be like. It won’t be, and that’s a shame. And I can’t get that out of my head, and that’s an equally big shame.

Did I mention it was a great day? Ridiculous. It was 80 degrees, far beyond what anyone here would expect, which is also a shame.

Anyway, we were going out to the lake, but changed our mind to take a slightly different route. Different roads, different traffic — only yelled at twice, by a dude that, feeling he didn’t get it right the first time, decided to let us get by so he could pass us and yell again — and different views.

It was described to me as a nice, easy ride.

I looked down at one point because my legs notified my brain that I was turning over ridiculous RPMs. We’re talking maximum watts, and I’m torquing the handlebars for all they were worth. And that’s how I found myself in a sprint, at 26 miles per hour, just to stay on the Yankee’s wheel.

We were also climbing a hill when that happened.

Down on the causeway:

And a bit of video somewhere between here and there …

Anyway, yesterday was a lovely day for a ride, and we enjoyed it. And we look forward to the next one. (And it better be 80 degrees again!)

I also got to play around with part of this wood carving project I started on Friday:

This is just a test piece. I’ll use a longer piece to create the scoop-bowl volume I want here, and I need to figure out some way to handle the bottom of the bowl. It’s quite rough in there, as you can see, and I’d like to clean that up without having to buy even more stuff. I think this is becoming a scoop for dry cat food, which was the suspicion I had from the beginning. And that needs to be 3/4s of a cup. But if I can get the volume right, smooth out the insides of the real piece and thin the sides and shape the bottom, I’ll have a nice piece.

Or just something else that never works quite the way I intended.

Oct 20

Sometimes you can get a lot into a Wednesday

Attended a virtual meeting today were the future of the future was definitely not decided. We did hear about other meetings, however. Seminars here, movies there, presentations and workshops from near and far. Everyone is keeping busy as best they can.

After the meeting I recorded some audio. And after recording the audio I took it to the office to edit. And then some of it was uploaded. It is a cycle and it has its place. Keeping busy.

The afternoon was a bit slower than the morning, then. I was able to catch up on email and the news and many of the other attendant things that make up normal days. Even in abnormal times, they’re always there. Always there.

Returned to the house after work and went for a bike ride. It was an easy hour. I pedaled alongside The Yankee as she condensed two days of webinars into an hour of highlights. I could ride like that all day. She talked, I tried to keep up. Usually her training rides are designed to be more brisk. She rides harder and I … try to keep up. So it was a pleasant thing to do, riding along, listening to the conversation.

It was gray and humid and moist. Yes, both adjectives are required here. It was 64 degrees when we left and 61 when we got back in and for some reason I could see my exhalations. It was the first “I can see my breath!” ride of the year. The dew point was very high.

This evening I tried working on three projects. And two of them went nowhere. I need to replace the button on a pair of blue jeans and that’s harder than it should be, apparently. There are a few methods to this, the Internet tells me. One destroys the denim, which seems besides the point. Another is poorly described. The third is pretty straightforward though: Grab the button on either side with pliers and unscrew the thing.

Well, that didn’t work tonight. I managed to ruin another button from a pair of ruined jeans, and since it was dinnertime anyway, I put that project once again on the back burner. We’d cooked everything on the front burners anyway.

I wanted to make a little carrying sling for a small bottle of hand sanitizer to keep in the car, but the initial plan didn’t go according to … well … plan.

So, back to the drawing board, which I don’t have. Maybe that’s the problem. I shouldn’t draw things up in my mind. The specs are never that good up there anyway.

But my third project, it has real potential.

I have to use my university ID for various things on campus. It’s a key, it grants printer access, you check out books with it and so on. I’ve recently decided that maybe I don’t want to carry it around in my wallet. Maybe I don’t want to pull my wallet out every time I need the card. Too many cooties, and who knows how repeated hand wipes will treat the leather.

So I’ve had in mind a few different things I could make as a minimalist card holder. And I’ll probably wind up trying several of them out before I ultimately settle on one. So tonight I started working on the first idea which will be a slimmer version of my homemade business card holders:

I had some leftover wood from those projects which were already perfectly cut to size. To create the depth I ran the jigsaw over the thinnest paint stirrer I could find. Now the glue will cure overnight. Tomorrow evening I’ll sand the thing down and try to find some way to make white alder wood look interesting. And, when it’s done I’ll show you this solution. Because every project comes down to having material to put here, for you, dear reader.

Here are some TV shows the TV people did. This is the morning show, and they are on location, and that seems like an early time of day for a spot like that …

All the stories came together for the news team this week. I believe I counted seven produced pieces within the episode and 10 or 11 different voices all told. This is the pace we’d like to keep for every episode. Sometimes we’re more successful at it than others.

And there’s a really cool little feature in the pop culture show. Carillons are oddly fascinating, once people are reminded to think about them. And a student who has an abiding interest in music sought out the story of the impressive instrument that you can hear on the IU campus.

And that should be enough for now.

More tomorrow, though. And, until then, don’t forget to catch up on Catober, since Phoebe and Poseidon are putting on quite a show. And did you know they have an Instagram account now? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account now. Keep up with me on Twitter, and don’t forget my Instagram. There are also some very interesting On Topic with IU podcasts for you, as well.

Oct 20

The heights of things

This was the sky on Saturday. We were at the post office and I shot this through the sunroof.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder.

Some days you feel like you can reach the clouds, and some days you feel like you need a great big ladder. After lunch we went for a bike ride. I include this picture because I love this face. It’s her mean face, and it’s so stinking cute. Also, it means she’s going to ride fast; that’s a very aero mean face.

It was hard and windy and would have been fast, except it was hard, and windy. I was grateful for the turnaround spot, because we stopped to take a picture, and I could briefly catch my breath.

On the back half of the ride the air started to feel a bit cooler. No weather monitoring station reported it. All the numbers I could consult stayed at a steady 62 degrees, but I was out in it; I could tell the change. I got to the house and was happy to get inside, which was instantly when the bronchoconstriction began.

It was painful to breathe for a few minutes. The worst of it was “Would getting on the ground be better for this?” and “How can I tell if this is getting worse?” But it did not get worse. It hurt to breathe fully in, but I could get air. My heart rate was fine, considering the bike ride. I did not have any muscular or cognitive problems. I had a shock to the system, which began improving by the time I made it to the shower.

By last night it just hurt a bit to breathe all the way in, your classic this-was-irritated-yesterday feeling.

Watched this, with some interest, today. It’s New York, 1896. And not all of this is gone.

The upload and upscale is using a software treatment called neural networking. Mathematical functions, artificial neurons, are transforming the lower sourced input values into a higher quality output. The parameters can be altered because the networks are trained with high-res images that are down-sampled. Eventually, photo pairs, thousands of them, get analyzed and the process helps restore lost details. The information is filled in from what the network has learned. The network sees a face because it has been taught “that’s a face!” and it can flesh it out. A low-res building can show off individual bricks. Definition and depth comes with experience and exposure, just like the rest of us.

Then you speed it up, add some sound for ambiance and give it a little post-concussion color and you’re suddenly back in time. Sorta. Almost. It’s tantalizingly close to close.

Here’s a digitized version of “the original footage.” That’s Trinity Church in the background. By 1896 it was the second tallest building in New York City. It was built in 1846 and held the top spot for the best part of five decades. It gave up tallest building honors just before this footage was made to the New York World Building. (The World Building would come down in the 1950s for better car access to the Brooklyn Bridge.)

You can’t even see Trinity Church from that location today.

If you back up, down Broadway, you can guesstimate where, apparently, Alexandre Promio himself was standing when he filmed that.

Now, this footage was shot in New York City just five years later, in 1901. I think all of this is gone. But as interesting as the buildings and the signs and the carriages can be, the people — the guy that walks into, and then out of, the shot, the kid who isn’t yet sure if you’re supposed to mug for the camera, and then the couple at the end — they are what you’re here for.

… Someone will dig up some social media company’s servers in 2140 or so and figure out how to hook up real technology with this stuff we’re working with and then pioneer a way to extrapolate holograms from 1080 and 4K phone video. Won’t that be revealing …

Probably we’ll never know for sure, but I’m going to assume this camera was set up just to the left, on the sidewalk here. There’s a subway stop at this intersection, but just to the left are a series of those air grates there.

If the date on YouTube is correct, New Yorkers are between the first and second American car show right about there. The New York baseball Giants were bad. That September, William McKinley was shot in Buffalo, New York, and Theodore Roosevelt would become president. The subways were coming along nicely. Everything was beginning to really surge. This is what Manhattan looked like from out in the Hudson about that time. A few blocks back downtown you’d find the city’s tallest building in 1901, the Park Row Building, a proud 391-feet tall, is still with us.

Today, 391-feet puts you … nowhere near New York’s top 100 buildings, of course. Some days you feel like you can reach up and touch 391-feet, and some days you realize you’d need that ladder. Harry Gardiner, the human fly, needed no such help to climb the Park Row Building in 1918. He did it in a suit, too.