Sep 19

Just some videos to fill the day

It is the rare day indeed, this year, that I get out in front of The Yankee. The closer I got to the end of yesterday’s ride, the more I felt like this:

I just knew she would pip me before the end, and so I pushed and pushed as hard as I could, and somehow I managed to stay away, but only just.

And if you’re here for a different sort of video, this is the funniest one of the weekend:

And this is a cool little bit of something cool the Indiana athletic department cooked up:

But there’s something important in there:

George Taliaferro’s story defies excerpting, but let’s try:

As the first day of school approached, Taliaferro asked the football coaches when he was going to be moved on campus. He was told black students didn’t live in dorms.

“I called my father and told him I didn’t want to be in a place where I couldn’t live on campus, where I couldn’t swim in the pool and where I couldn’t sit in the bottom section of the movie theater,” Taliaferro said. “My father told me there were other reasons I was there, and then he hung up the phone on me. I was never so hurt because I thought the one person who could understand being discriminated against was him.”

That tough love stemmed from two things his parents, neither of whom went past sixth grade, told him every day as he grew up. “They’d say, ‘We love you,'” he recalled. “And, ‘You must be educated.'”

And then:

He played seven seasons of pro football, six in the NFL with New York, Dallas, Baltimore and Philadelphia, three times making the Pro Bowl. He became a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Baltimore, advised prisoners adjusting to society upon their release, got his master’s in social work at Howard University, taught at Maryland, was dean of students at Morgan State, returned to Indiana as a professor and special assistant to IU president John Ryan, and helped start Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central Indiana in Bloomington.

You can’t put that in a gif or a football video, but you certainly oughta try.

Sep 19

The gain-bi is mightier than the jian

There is this little multipurpose path joining two parks, bridging a creek and generally being one of the nicer treats in the area. Today I went down it slowly on my bike, because being responsible is more important than gaining segment points, Strava. There might be people. They may have dogs! And you just can’t see around every fun little corner on this path:

I usually try to come up it quickly, because that is the time to try to improve your segment times, but today was not one of those days. Good thing, too. I got about halfway up the thing and I noticed the light was perfect.

That’s the thing about having a camera on you at all times. There’s always the temptation to stop, backtrack and get that shot. Avail yourself of that opportunity as much as possible; there may be dogs!

But that’s a different challenge when you’re on a bike ride. You have to make the value judgment, and quickly too: Do I stop, turn my rig around and go back for that shot? Am I working on a schedule? For speed? To set a personal best? Is keeping my heart rate elevated important today? Will this photograph take a long time? Will my legs still work when I get started once again? What’s the terrain we’re talking about? Do I want to go up that hill again?

All of that has to be fast, because if you wait too long the decision will be made for you. And of course, there’s the issue of the sun during those golden hours. Will the light hold, or did you see the last, fleeting, moment of the day’s brilliance?

So it worked out for me, above. I went back. It was the right choice. Avail yourself.

I mentioned yesterday how to make sure you you must never let your shadow win a bike ride:

Do you know how you never let the shadow win? Always pedal home from the east. The evening sun will be in front of you and your shadow behind.

Today, I rode back to the house from the west. The sun behind me, the shadow wins:

We had Chinese tonight. I wandered from my usual, because some other random thing on the menu sounded good, and the description I found online seemed one worth trying. We might not have Chinese again for a while. Not because the meal was bad. No. It was fine. It could have been better, but it both served its purpose and didn’t send you spiraling into a dinner of regret. No, that was not why I might be off Chinese for a while.

This fortune cookie, however:

I sound like I’m a knight on a great quest, according to that bit of script. That’s an awful lot to put into a fortune-less fortune cookie. You don’t even know me, cookie. And non one else knew you. Admittedly, that’s an error on my part. If I hadn’t eaten the thing I could have carried both the fortune, and the cookie around — surely the one gives the other some credibility — and people, having heard the good word of the fortune-less fortune, would treat you accordingly.

You hope the fortune cookie process, somewhere in a factory in Michigan, I’m sure, is automated. But what if there is a personal touch? What if there are two or three disenchanted people working second shift reading the little slips of paper.

Yeah, this one will show ’em. Some guy will carry this thing to work tomorrow and try to parlay this into a raise.

Not me, mind you. Like I’m the only person that got the heart/mind/soul cookie special this week.

Sep 19

Bring me …

Water, thirsty photographers long ago noted, can make many compositions just a smidge better. It was true on the shrubs in the front 40:

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Morning dew on shrubbery.

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

We do not have 40 acres on the front of the property. That would require more driveway maintenance than anyone wants to maintain. But we do have shrubs and they have exhibited, of late, days of morning dew.

You could put water on more still life subjects for more compelling photographs, but you don’t always have water. You could carry a water bottle, but that sends mixed signals to the dihydrogen monoxide continued therein. Am I but a drop to be drank? Or am I but a drop to be sprayed on a rose?

Water thinks like this, pretty much immediately, when you try to get it some degree of sentience. And then it’s terrifying. What about the water you put into the pet’s bowl? What of the water you put in that pot to boil? You would never make corn or pasta again, if you began to think water had thoughts and feelings. And dreams! Oh the dreams of water! Only some drops get to fulfill those ocean dreams. Some are adventurers, sure, filling up raging white-capped rivers and eager to plunge down a dramatic waterfall. While some are more tranquil drops indeed — ponds for me, thanks — others are just diligently working their way through several cycles of dew and humidity. But even those drops have plans.

Anyway, since a water bottle is the wrong choice, there’s always a spray bottle. But then you’d have to stuff that in your bag, next to your camera and your other expensive and accumulated electronic things. And you’re not carrying a spray bottle that way. What if you got some of those anarchistic drops of water?

We went for a bike ride and I started out strong and was trying to outrace The Yankee back home. Mostly I’m trying to give her something to pace off of, but she’s very strong and fast and this is not my best year. So the best laid plans and all of that.

Well, she caught and dropped me far too early today. Best laid plans and all of that.

It was one of our most basic routes, designed for decent mileage in a timely fashion. We ride it a lot, which means there’s a place where I figured I might be able to make some progress and cut into her advantage. But she also knows the route, of course, and she never let up in the spot I expected. Before long I couldn’t even see her anymore. She’s very strong and fast.

So I just raced my shadow home:

Never let the shadow win.

Do you know how you never let the shadow win? Always pedal home from the east. The evening sun will be in front of you and your shadow behind.

We ran into the local sports beat reporter at the grocery store. We were shopping for a thing the giant megastore didn’t have, and he strolled by, basket in hand. We discussed and worked our way through most of the college and some of the professional sports in the span of about four minutes, before he had to dash off to the next big event. Beat life never stops, after all.

We could have taken a photo — because secondary sports celebrity! — but he’s our friend. Besides, you don’t take photos in the produce section. You forget you’ve even got your phone there. Probably you left it with the water bottle. Or maybe in the shrubbery.

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.