Jan 21

Yes, there are cat photos

It was a lovely little weekend. We ventured out to pick up our regular Chick-fil-A lunch, and the parking lot was almost entirely empty, despite being noon on a Saturday. Everyone was watching bowl games, safely at home, I’m sure. We took ours home to do that very thing, and had a day full of football, and evening chatting with a few friends. It was all delightful.

We spent yesterday afternoon riding bikes indoors. The Yankee and I tooled around Normandy and a flat part of France for a while.

And then I slowly went a third of the way up Mont Ventoux. According to Zwift Insider … :

This GPS-accurate model of the world-famous climb is by far the toughest ascent in game, climbing 1480 meters (4857′) from the beginning to end of the timed KOM segment.

It’s something like a mile of vertical gain! Naturally my non-climbing self is eager to get to the top of one of the storied cycling mountains. I just need to plan my days better. And I’ll need to bring my lunch.

Oh, it’s the Bedoin ascent, one of the hardest in cycling. It’ll take me hours, plural. I’m looking forward to doing the whole thing.

Seeing that it is Monday, we do our regular photo feature checking in on the kitties. They’re doing swell. Phoebe really likes paper bags.

This was once a bag full of bagels. We have a few grocery store paper bags that I can’t bring myself to fold up or re-use because every so often she re-discovers them and they serve as either a complete cave, a cute hidey-hole like above or a nice place just to have a seat and think cat thoughts.

Poseidon had a nice morning in the sun recently.

When he does the early morning chattering thing, and it is always him, it could be that he thinks the sun is ready for him and we should open the curtains. He’s always wrong, and I really wish he would figure out how the tree line is an obstacle to his winter sunbathing.

Phoebe gets her time in the rays, too, of course. But this is more of an afternoon warming session..

And here’s Poseidon, hard at work.

More tomorrow. Until then, did you know that Phoebe and Poseidon have an Instagram account? Phoebe and Poe have an Instagram account. You can keep up with me on Instagram. And don’t forget my Twitter, where most of the nonsense goes.

Dec 20

Wrapping it up on time and in style

We ventured out today to Menard’s to pick up a few things. Not needs, but some small household helpful wants, if you will. But Menard’s has been great from the beginning of all of this, and we were ready to leave if it was busy, but we timed our trip to go at a hopefully light time. It was not crowded. The few people in the store all kept to themselves and practiced some conscientious responsibility.

Not counting a few quick grocery store trips, this is the third time I’ve been out since November 23rd, according to my notes. (You’re not keeping your own contact tracing list?) One of those times was to work, and the other two times, as it happens, to Menard’s. So I’m not sure if everyone everywhere around here is behaving this cordially and respectfully, but here’s to hoping.

Oh, we also got gas today. First time I’ve had to fill up since the end of October — because I’ve been practically nowhere, see.

So, a large store, staying well away from the few people also inside, and the humans at other gas pumps, the most people I’ve seen in quite some time.

In the afternoon I got this done.

It’s a 10-mile loop in Richmond which is apparently the 2015 world championship course. I had scheduled 24 miles today to wrap up the year and achieve all of my goals, meaning I had to of course do two-plus loops. This was my sixth day of riding in a row and the eighth ride in the last nine days to meet those goals and my legs were tired.


There are two significant climbs on the route, so I had to go over them twice. On my last time through I took 20 percent off my best time on each climb. On my second trip around the course I took two percent off my PR for the route. I sat up at the end of the ride sweaty and pleased with myself. Tired, but feeling strong. Goals achieved, simply because I wrote them down and somehow that committed me to tracking them down. (Two years in a row this has happened with year-end things. Maybe there’s something to it. My 2021 resolution is to write more goals and will them into reality. Then we’ll know.) I’ve earned a rest day or two, and some time in the compression boots.

Also, I’ve convinced myself I deserve this, too:

It was so tasty and, like that ride, a great way to end this year. If we could travel were accepting visitors, I would have invited you over to not have some — because we ate it all.

Dec 20

My jacket pocket will look so great

I used my evening wisely. I made some more pocket squares.

Made, he said. Again, I didn’t plant, grow, weave or dye the material. I just bought it and fixed the edges and now I have a rainbow of colors.

Also, I am proud to show you these pocket squares, which are professionally manufactured. They were lovely Christmas gifts. Check these out:

And that one has an entirely different pattern on the back. So it’s essentially a reversible square.

My mother-in-law is incredibly thoughtful like that.

So I’m taken care of on pocket decoration. I have a color for every season and seven more pieces of fabric coming from some far, far off land.

We never really think of that much anymore. Everything is from somewhere else, or it could be. And things are made and shipped in such bulk that even the exotic items have lost some cachet. But at one point, having something shipped from another continent may as well have been the moon. People would probably marvel at the market. Probably because they had no idea where that place even was. Of course people made more things of their own, back then, he said pretentiously. And there were a lot fewer pocket squares. Now, you just get an Amazon email. It’ll get there eventually. You know, when it does. Whenever.

And it was an oversight on my part. Had I realized it had to travel so far I wouldn’t have paid $2.88 plus $.25 shipping for it.

Maybe I should think about silk for the next go-round. Silk! Remember reading about the luxury of silk in the old days? Truly, we live in amazing times, he said while watching a football game in Texas that they beamed to space, perhaps more than once, to get into my living room, where I spent the evening ironing fabric to make pocket squares.

I spent the afternoon on my bicycle.

That’s a painful, and painfully slow ride around Central Park, in Manhattan, and the fictional, futuristic parts of the city. At one point you’re riding on transparent bridges over the city and there are flying taxi cabs and I prefer the realistic courses, myself. But it was fun and slow and demanding. After one more ride tomorrow I will have hit all of those goals I set for myself last month.

Today I realized I had already set a goal for next year. My quads are already protesting.

Dec 20

Today, some history and a big bike ride

Slept in this morning to the agreeable time of 9 a.m. That had not been my intention. The original plan was to begin the day in the dark, just to get a moving start on the day. Manufacturing enterprise!

But it was after 3 a.m. this morning and I was still manufacturing insomnia, so that played a big part of the sleeping in. The cat, the cat, woke me up. I took him downstairs, so he would not be a distraction. Put him on the cat tree. He promptly went to sleep. Jerk.

I went back upstairs and was wide awake.

So it was a late breakfast/almost-lunch. After which I helped planned dinners since The Yankee was going to the grocery store. Planning out the shopping list is the second worst thing we do every two weeks. Going to the store is, I think, the most annoying thing.

I listed off four or five things and felt like I’d at least contributed to the effort. Manufactured enterprise, finally! Probably she was hoping for 10 or 12 items to add to the list.

While she went to the store, I vacuumed. I tried to vacuum. It was quickly apparent that our over-engineered Dyson was stymied once again by the necessity of sucking things up through the system’s intake port. There’s a little button on the side of the over-engineered Dyson which usually fixes the problem caused by running over something more than 3/16 of a micron. But the button on the side did nothing. Well then. Turn the whole thing off, having its many over-engineered elements break down into their constituent parts in my hand in the process. Turned the vacuum over and realize that my wife, who I’m fairly sure used the vacuum last, actually killed someone with this appliance and tried to dispose of the evidence by the ol’ vacuum-it-up method.

So I performed surgery on the vacuum, cutting out just gobs of hair from the roller where everything is meant to begin, but really ends with this machine. Gobs of hair. I was fully prepared to be grossed out by finding a scalp, while wondering who had been to the house, and what happened to their service vehicle, and how I’d managed to also miss any authoritative followup visits.

Finally the vacuum was cleaned up and freed to suck up debris to an impressively average degree. Kitchen, library, dining room, foyer and living room would now pass inspection, if necessary.

Who inspects things these days?

Just as I finished with the floors The Yankee returned from the grocery store. I confronted her about what I’d seen, and admitted I might now be a willing — or at the very least, an unwitting participant — in something nefarious. (But also clean!)

It was a delightful interplay of conversation, the sort of thing you live for, while you’re putting groceries away. We have a system for that. We bring them both in from the car. She stands at the fridge and I present her all the cold stuff while making silly statements about the haul. When the fridge and the freezer are stocked she stands by the large cabinet where all the dry goods go. The cats, meanwhile, try to climb in the bags, chew on the plastic or sneak into the cabinets.

After everything is stocked, of course, comes a round of furious hand washing.

Then we take Clorox wipes and clean the handles to the fridge and the freezer, the little silver knobs on the cabinets, the door knobs to the garage, the sink fixtures and the button that closes the garage door.

This is my favorite part of the grocery system. Maybe the scientific understanding continues to conclude that contact issues aren’t the biggest concerns with Covid — which, hey, one less thing! — but I’m keeping this part of the system in place. I didn’t come into this thing a germophobe, and hopefully, I won’t emerge a germophobe. But I find that simple act of wiping things down to be a romantic gesture: we are taking an extra step to keep each other safe.

That’s always worth doing.

Here’s something I wonder about. Consider how the family name is an identifier. You might be a Jones, but you are also a Morrison, each of your biological parents family names. You inherited the genes and the good habits and you inherited the names. Now, consider your two grandmothers. Depending on the size of your family, how often you see people, whether you attend family reunions and the like, you might also consider yourself an Adams and a Williams, as well. What about your great-grandmothers maiden names and their own biological families? Are you also an O’Toole and a Glenn? And how far back with this should you go? Biologically it’s all there. But eventually, after just a few short generations for most of us, you probably don’t even know the names.

And it probably doesn’t matter. Names are just identifiers, after all, and only one of them at that. Besides, by the time you get interested in this stuff you probably have a somewhat decent handle on who and what you are. Sure, it’d be nice to have seven generations of medical history to fall back on, but those 19th century diagnosticians were only so helpful.

Anyway, I’d like you to meet Michael. He’s from the commonwealth of Virginia. Lived briefly, perhaps, in Kentucky. He was also a resident of northeastern Alabama for a time. Not sure when he arrived, but he was there in 1822, making his branch of my family tree one of the last to arrive in the state. He moved again and shows up in Illinois in the 1830 census. He died there some years later and is buried in a small, discrete, country cemetery. I discovered him on the web this weekend. And if the Internet is to be trusted (Bonjour!) he would be one of my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfathers.

The other night I followed one of the matriarchal lines and got back to that picture. He was born in 1751 in colonial Virginia. He was drafted into the militia twice. He was at Yorktown, where Cornwallis surrendered. Turns out my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather helped guard an estimated 500 British prisoners after they quit the field.

He died at 93 in a part of Illinois that, even now, is quite rural. The history of the community doesn’t even go back that far, so it was surely isolated when he was living. That photo, if it is indeed the man, would have been taken sometime in the first five years of the Daguerreotype style of photographs, and he would have been between 89 and 93 there.

You can find digitized versions of these guys wills. To my daughter I leave some land and my pony. To my son I leave some land, and a new sword. To my other son, I leave the land he now lives on and a skillet. That sort of thing. It seems Michael’s father, another man named Michael, sold some land to George Washington’s father. But I bet everyone said that after a time.

I looked up the place where he’s from in Virginia. It’s a nice bit of countryside not far out of modern Washington D.C. I traced his family lines back a few more generations to Ireland. The man that departed the old world for the new apparently left a wide spot in a narrow road outside of Dublin for the wilderness of Virginia. If you keep going farther and farther back on the genealogy pages you learn they were Anglo-Irish. There are a few Sirs. One was a Chief Justice of the Common Pleas for Ireland.

And you can keep clicking, farther back, and farther back, and farther back still and, eventually, time has no meaning and they all came from the Normandy region of France and, before that, some dude who lived in 8th century Norway.

At what point do you start questioning the validity of a well-intentioned, random genealogy site, anyway?

Michael, who’s family name I’d never heard mentioned in relation to my own, until Sunday night, is buried just three hours away from where I’m writing this. Perhaps one day next year I’ll go see the little cemetery where he was laid to rest. I’ll never know what prompted him to move from the places he was in to the places he wound up — people directly engaged in the research have done the heavy lifting and have only found so much information. I’m just skimming websites. Probably the usual reasons: they thought there was something better there at the time.

I got off my bike on the trainer this evening and stood in a puddle of sweat. It was my sweat and no less gross because of it. I was happy to get 30 miles out of my legs tonight.

After 132 miles this last week and 300 miles this month, I am feeling a bit fatigued. These numbers aren’t impressive. I’m a wimp.

I’ve been running a spreadsheet since early November, charting my progress for the year, relative to previous years. At the bottom of the spreadsheet I started doing math. You should only do math of this sort while in the most awkward conditions, but I was in a chair, and so goals were set. And then another, and another. Ultimately, five 2020 goals in all.

The first was always the next century mark, a goal that kept changing every few rides, giving the gratification of achievement and progress. Second, I wanted to set a new personal mileage best for the year. I blew right by the old mark, as I knew I could once I looked at the math.

Up next, I wanted to move mmy annual average from 10 years of bike riding over the median. Crushed it.

So I am now aiming at the fourth goal, getting beyond a big (for me) round number. Then, I’ll aim for a mileage mark that raises my annual average of the last decade to a nice even number. After tonight I have 10 miles and 48 miles to go, respectively, to hit those two marks.

Which is a good reminder to set goals. Acknowledging them makes them achievable, even late in the game.

Dec 20

The week in between

And how was your Christmas? And your weekend? And what does this null week look like for you?

We didn’t travel for the holidays, being safety conscious and risk adverse and all of that. The first Christmas I’ve spent in my own house, I was a newborn. The second, we were stuck in an ice storm. This, the third, I’m frozen in place by a pandemic.

So it was weird, and sad in some respects and empty and quiet in those same respects. But it was simple, and quiet, and lovely. The Yankee made cookies for Santa.

I picked us up some stocking stuffers — I think this was the first time I’d ever done that — and my mother-in-law mailed stockings, as well. So the two of us had four stockings, plus lovely presents.

The only downside being what could be shared in person. Had a nice long conversation with my mom. We had an amazing prime rib dinner, in keeping with tradition.

Here’s the before:

Here’s the during:

For the after, imagine two empty plates. Also, there were green beans and sweet potato casserole and a shrimp cocktail.

After all of that we had a video chat with The Yankee’s parents. Just add hugs. And we’ve all decided to keep track of how we’re going to make up for it when we can visit in person again. The best part is that everyone is healthy and safe, even if we can’t all be together. One of my relatives got out of the hospital yesterday after spending several days of Covid treatments. Hopefully they’ll continue to follow medical advice and stay away from others. More of the family should be following the now repetitive and obvious advice, but not everyone gets it, even if some of them get it.

But I sigh and digress.

I sighress.

The cats also had a fine Christmas. Their presents, which were wrapped, were kept in a closed closet to help them avoid temptation. One present’s wrapping paper did get chewed on a bit overnight. Added to the character of the day.

Poseidon is enjoying his toys immensely:

That little thing was covered in cat spit. Covered. I couldn’t put it in the creek out back and get it any wetter. Hours later it was still damp.

Phoebe is a much more thoughtful player:

On Saturday we rode through a bit of London.

Yesterday afternoon we toured the French countryside in Normandy.

And those were just the highlights. The normal stuff, the regular things, those are what really makes a great weekend.