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

We got a new range

Let us go back to September, when the oven died.

Actually, let’s go back farther. Probably to some point in my childhood, where I managed to permanently confuse the words for oven and stove. It’ll be better here, because I have a backspace button — and this time I’m going to use it! — but if we’re just having a conversation and I say one of those, it’s safe bet that I mean the other. This bothers no one more than me.

Anyway, in September, the oven died. (Yes, the oven, the part where you bake things.) The oven died because we were working on the stove top. We were working on the stove top because someone was using the command dials for mountain climbing exercises. While that work was happening the logic board that controlled the oven just gave up.

We know that’s what it was because it was getting power, but there was nothing in the displays, and it would not bake. We called the home warranty people and they sent a guy down from Indy and he looked at it and said, “Yep, that’s busted.” He contacted the warranty people who said, “Well, it’s busted.”

It was a 13-year-old range, though, probably original in the house. The model, of course, is discontinued. And the warrant people weren’t interested in having their repair vendor work on the thing. So they offered to swap it out. Or we could find our own range and there would be a rebate, compensation song and dance. Ultimately, we went with the one they offered. It was comparable on paper, and the oven — I had to correct this one — would be a smidge larger than the old one.

Problem: Again, this was late September. And the new range was on back order and wouldn’t be available until the first week of November.

So we assembled stove top and grill recipes. And we were ready to get take out a time or two. In the scheme of things, it’s the most minor of inconveniences, but you don’t really know how much you depend on your oven — I had to correct this one, too — until you contemplate how much you actually depend on your oven.

Well, good news! In the last week of October we got the call that they had our range, and when would we like it? We arranged to have it arrive last Friday. I was going to come back from the office to let them in and do their thing. They would call between 2 and 6 p.m. And somewhere in that appointed time I received a call. The delivery guy had a traffic accident and would not be delivering it on Friday.

After about an hour-and-a-half on the phone with both the delivery people and the appliance manufacturer’s people, it was unilaterally arranged to arrive today. By the way, if you think dealing with one group for a slightly exotic problem with your service is a chore, try it with two, and with people who each aren’t exactly sure what the other does. (The answers, of course, being manufacture/sale and deliver.)

So this morning, 8 a.m. to noon, this range is coming. Because they only come down this way two days a week. Never mind that we’re about six weeks into our descent into creative kitchen work. At noon, no range and no phone call. So when my three-hour webinar wound down for the day — this week, honestly … — I called them. The delivery guy, it turns out, was running a bit late. Safety first when driving! And we were next.

And so we were.

Did you know that they don’t install a range when the delivery people deliver it? That’s what we were told, by the warranty people, but the delivery guy isn’t interested in that.

And did you know you have to provide your own power supply? I’ve never bought a range before, this was a new thing to me. Who knew?! I did not!

So after work I went to the hardware store and bought a four prong heavy duty power supply. I watched two YouTube videos to make sure I only needed to watch the first one, and then I lay on the floor connected the power supply to the range and we set it into place:

And then we had dinner.

The other one looked better, if you ask me. It’s a difference of about 11 percent. We’ll see about the functionality, but the stove top dials were aesthetically nicer on the old unit, and they were shorter. And on this thing the buttons are stiff and unpleasing to punch.

But the eyes and the oven work. And we upgraded a 13-year-old range for a brand new one, thanks to the home warranty. And dinner, from the oven, was delicious.

Sep 20

How I roll

Wake up with a morning show. They’re always so cheery and bright. Our students produce one of those. Here’s today’s episode.

I did a morning show for two years in college, and then I worked morning drive for pretty much my entire news career.

I’m a night owl and I think I’m still recovering.

I’ll spend some time from this year recovering, psychologically, from flat tires.

I had yet another one on Saturday. I think that’s six, maybe seven, this year. It’s always the back. And it’s probably entirely a mixture of bad luck and user error. Probably more the latter than I’d like to admit.

But there I sat, a brand new tube in the tire and it punctured about 15 miles in to its life, I was getting ready for a short, hard Strava segment when the tube gave way. The Yankee was right behind me and she stopped with me. I carry a hand pump and a spare tube, so I sent her on ahead. And I worked on this dumb thing a while, first in the sunshine, and then I crossed the street to sit in the shade.

A guy rode along on his bike and he offered to stop. We talked bikes and routes and I borrowed his better pump. And for a moment it seemed normal, and I think we both remembered at about the same time we should be standing a bit farther apart. About that time I had the new tube in place and inflated and so I soft pedaled my way home.

See, the thing is I ride at about 110 psi on a regular day, and a good hand pump will get you up to about 70 psi. And that’s just spongy enough to go a bit slower and smell the roses.

We went to get gas this morning. Made good use of those grocery store loyalty points, too.

We go and fill both cars up together to get the most of our savings. I said, As far as I can recall, this is the first time I’ve filled up since May 30th.

The Yankee thinks we got gas in July. Maybe. It’s hard to say. The point being, we’re driving so little that a tank of gas goes a long way. A normal week, right now, is four trips to campus and maybe a journey out to get takeout for Saturday lunch. That comes out to about 35 or 40 miles for me. I’ll take that.

And if I start riding my bike back to work … if I can avoid the flats …

Mar 20

To the fruits ahead

My first full work-from-home day in several years, it turns out. I used to do this quite frequently at a previous stop. Once you are in the right groove, it can be quite productive.

I remember I found that the advice to keep a schedule was something that worked well for me. So I set the alarm, get home, have a breakfast snack, do the morning read of news, cringe at what I’m reading in the news, and then remember I have saved 20 minutes of commute here, plus the time ironing slacks and that sort of thing.

It is important, for some reason, to address the mop on top of my head. And it is important, for some reason, to wear some sort of shoes.

So give that a try, if this sort of thing is new for you. And remember, grace and patience. Even with yourself. Perhaps especially with yourself.

We went to the grocery store this evening, which is basically just a morbid fascination I have now. Even though we’re now ready to cut way back. Today I discovered a new thing in the produce section. This is a jack fruit. You can pick it up for $1.99, but lift with your legs and not your knees. These ran about 20 pounds each. Why, yes, I did weigh them.

Jackfruit, I’ve just learned, is a unique tropical fruit native to South India.

It has a distinctive sweet flavor and can be used to make a wide variety of dishes. It’s also very nutritious and may have several health benefits.

Just once, I want a site like this to say, “The flavor is meh. And you can only use it in one or two things anyway. If you don’t already have a natural taste for it, or if it doesn’t remind you of home, don’t worry about it.”

The description I just read, however, sounds interesting, and I’d like to try it sometime soon.

Got in the third bike ride of the year this evening. Hopefully the weather will soon warm up to the point where we stop picking our spots for rides, and I stop counting the progression.

No photos, because those don’t come until after the first few rides, when I remember how to do this properly. A little more fitness would help, too. Also, I need it to warm up for photos, since my full-length gloves discourage photos.

But it was a nice, easy, 20-miler. And as soon as I stop counting the progression of bike rides I can start counting the addition of extra miles. That’s a goal for this year. More miles, more miles.

Feb 20

I see a woman in the night with scissors in her hand

I’m not one to go in for aesthetic as a driving principle. The concepts employee a lot of people, and it is obviously effective. Sometimes in obvious, sometimes in ever-more subtle ways. It’s just not something I think about a lot, or give a lot of credence to its effect — which is the huge and obvious error, of course.

Use this shade of paint or that one. Put the product on the aisle, at eye level or on the end cap, I don’t care that much. Place your advertisement in this commercial break or in that magazine. Good for you. Burn incense in your shop, or just go crazy with the oils and potpourri. I’ll say “Whatever.”

I notice those things, for the most part, but it doesn’t obviously sway me one way or another when I do. I’m not immune. I wouldn’t suggest it. We’re all susceptible. But I think that the subtle has more impact on my decision making process than the obvious. I think this is because most of my shopping and errands and such are very task-oriented. And the task is usually “Find the least expensive thing possible.”

So a coupon is a good thing. And today I had a coupon. For a haircut! At the place I normal endure! This was a half-off coupon, and it expires tomorrow. So, tonight, I made a stop and had them take about half my hair off.

But while I’m sitting there waiting for my turn, I made a decision about hair aesthetics:

Just do an image search, and you’ll get the bigger point, of course. But also, I’m not the world’s biggest Neil Young fan.

The lady that cut my hair this evening was nice. We chatted, which I rarely do a lot of sitting in that chair. I think they probably appreciate the break, usually. But, tonight, we found ourselves talking about the weather and the upcoming snows — which aren’t forecast to be nearly as frightful as she seems to think.

She lives in on a hill and when it snows her car can slide down the driveway, even with the emergency brake engaged.

What happens if you park sideways, I asked.

She lives in a duplex. Parking sideways would block in her neighbors.

So they could park sideways, then, and you could call the boss tomorrow and say you’re blocked in?

This thought had never occurred to her. I could tell because I saw a glance in the mirror, where she was looking for the boss.

And my hair got cut, which was, perhaps, the productive highlight of the day.