Sep 17

Operation Splinter, part three

I did not give you the update on Wednesday, but there was work done on the current super secret project. For more on how little of this I’ve told you about it, you can find part one here and see part two here.

Anyway, on Wednesday I spent about three hours working on my cereal smuggling submersible project. As I mentioned previously, I am on step two of the build. This second step has three phases. Last week I progressed through the first two of those three phases. Wednesday, I made it into the beginning of the third phase of the second step of the project.

(Everybody got that?)

And so it was that I found myself under a threatening rain cloud on a Friday afternoon, driving way out into the countryside to pick up a few tools from a co-worker who was kind enough to loan me some speciality items. You can’t just build a cereal smuggling submersible project like this with a hammer and nails alone, no sir. This third phase will involve, as I said last week, two precise series of calibrations. I’ll lay all of that out tomorrow and complete step two over the course of the weekend.

The good news is that laying the keel the third phase of step two of my cereal smuggling submersible project will go quickly, and I may also get to the beginning of the third step this weekend, too.

And if I make it through the third step with my sanity intact or without breaking too many things then the end will be in sight. Step four has two parts and the fifth and final step is really just a question of putting the cereal smuggling sub in the water installation.

So if you come by this weekend, you’re in for a treat.

Also, you’re in for another sort of treat. Today is the first day of Catember. Use that link, or just visit every day, for the last on The Black Cat’s adventures.

Aug 17


Sometimes you start a sentence and you don’t know where it is going to go. Sometimes you just leap off into the thing and you trust that the words will be there when your lips are ready to form the next set of letters. That happens to everyone, right? Can’t just be me.

Anyway, today I tried a new version of that. I just launched into a series of wholly original analogies and hoped they made sense at the end. The best one was explaining how a series of meetings — I had a note card full of people to sit and talk with today, which was delightful, really — managed to pile up. Once one goes long, that tends to impact the next one and so on.

So I said something like “You know how when the weather is bad over the airport and that can stack planes up over four states waiting to land? This New York-bound plane is waiting patiently over Ohio.”

Because my meetings kept running over, basically. But that’s OK. It’s a beautiful day, and more importantly it is Friday. Riding my bike from work into the weekend, I passed one of the local barns and thought There should be a slow motion video of this.

And now there is.

To the weekend!

Aug 17

And so it begins

With the sweaty palms and nervous smiles of new graduate students at the dean’s annual welcome event, the new school year is upon us.

Dean Shanahan welcomes new grad students and new and returning faculty to a new year at @iumediaschool. #360

A post shared by Kenny Smith (@kennydsmith) on

For the record, I voted for an endless summer. But at least I have a 360 camera to tinker with.

Aug 17

I could have used some water out by the river

I did that thing today where you look out of the window of your ninth-floor hotel room and see a nice little park below and think That’s where I’ll jog today. So it was a good thing when I packed my running shoes the night before last, really.

So I put on said shoes and the appropriate clothing and went out to the park. I figured I would do a few laps until I got in my three miles. It’d be a bit repetitious, but I’m in a park in a city I’ve only just arrived in and how badly can you get lost or otherwise out of sorts?

First I ran to the right. I quickly found I ran out of sidewalk space. OK, that’s one boundary. So I turned around, retraced a few steps and set off across the length of the park. The sidewalk in this park didn’t cover one route. There were turns and forks and the like. I managed to take all of the correct turns and, soon, I was down by the river, whereby I remembered my geography. I’m in Omaha, which is in eastern Nebraska. Which means this must be the Missouri River and that, over there, is Iowa.

Down on the river’s edge I met another jogger who told me how to get to the pedestrian bridge and then I ran to Iowa. This is the view on the bridge, over the Missouri. Nebraska is on your right, Iowa on the left:

By now I figure that I have to run at least a little ways into Iowa to make this count, so I did a mile. Here’s some evidence of that:

And at this point I figure, things feel pretty good, I’ll just keep running in the midday sun and make this a 10K. That’s 6.2 miles to you and me. I did that right about here, where the thought occurred to me that, this part of Iowa and Nebraska, looks like a lot of places I’ve seen:

So I’m on this really nice, but ultimately very quite trail, when I see, in the distance and around the bend, the top of a bridge that might be worth checking out. So I figured me and my sweaty shadow would just keep jogging:

I am in Council Bluffs, Iowa at this point. And the rules are, there are no rules:

Finally I round the bend and see the bridge. This is the Illinois Central Missouri railroad bridge. The original Omaha bridge was built in 1893, but what we see today dates to 1908:

And this is a double swing bridge. Each of the rotating spans are 521 feet long. I’m standing on the railroad tracks in Iowa looking back into Nebraska here. The Iowa side of the bridge remains open these days for river navigation. That’s why it is sideways:

The river through here was dredged in the 1940s, and a fire in the 1970s meant the eastern side, the Iowa side, couldn’t operate under its own power. They opened and closed the bridge with a bulldozer and cable after that. Here are some of the gears that would move the Iowa portion:

The bridge was shut down in 1980, but the tracks could be pressed back into service if necessary. Here is a panorama of the Iowa side of the bridge. Click to open the full-sized version in another window.

And this, standing in Iowa and looking west, is the Nebraska side of the bridge and shoreline:

And then, of course, I had to run back to Nebraska. Here’s my view from near the center of that pedestrian bridge I crossed over, this time looking upstream. Nebraska is on your left and Iowa is on your right:

And, finally, the last piece of evidence of my two-state run, the actual map:

I’ve run across a state line before, but that was in a triathlon and by design, not on a 10K impulse. I do not know what is happening.

Aug 17

Meditations on time

I saw this sign while walking about downtown today:

I wonder how long you have to stare at that until you came up with that idea. And when exactly is Kanye time, anyway? It is always time for some things, and common sense tells us that it is never time for other things. But does this artisanally-crafted sign imply that you can park at all of the times that aren’t Kanye time? And when is Kanye time?

Also, this sign, because nothing brings people back into your store after a series of health and sanitation woes like a celebrity ingredientologist!

They’re driving their audience to a website where your ingredients are musical. You can create some interesting stuff from the samples. I plugged in my usual order. It makes better sense as a food than it does as a song, which you can listen to here, but the site itself is really quite impressive.

And, finally, I was in the car, the stereo was blaring, the sun was finally suggesting it would, once again, sink softly below the western horizon, when I figured out something I’ve been pondering for a lifetime. It was the sort of thing that you don’t even know you’re considering it, until the consideration is resolved with the peskiness of a realization. I now know what the best part of the week — in your standard westernized context, anyway — is. The best moment of the week is 7:45 p.m., on a Friday.

What’s better than that? You’ve left the week behind, you have the weekend ahead, there’s a reason the sun is right there and the stereo is blaring. It is 7:45, and that’s … well maybe not legendary, but certainly memorable.