Dec 23

Happy December, somehow?

I’m not sure where today went. Or where November went. Or where the rest of the year went. But December is starting to seep into consciousness. If it wasn’t for the monthly computer cleaning I would be in total denial.

But I slept in. And then I did some work. That took a while. Details matter and sometimes it takes time to assemble the necessary and correct details. Much focus is required, and yet a cat can be distracting.

After lunch, I did a little work in the yard. One thing led to another and that turned into an hour. It started to rain. I came back inside. And then the afternoon just … glided into the evening somehow.

At the beginning of the new month I (try to remember to) make a chart of miles on the bike. Here is that chart.

The blue line represents an arbitrary goal I set at the beginning of the year, one that would see seven miles a day. The red and green lines are slightly more ambitious, and yet still very humble, projections of nine and ten miles a day, respectively. The purple line is reality. And, look, I’m ahead of the first two lines.

Mathematically, I’ve achieved the seven miles a day goal for the year. I’m in good shape on the nine mile a day goal. It seems incredibly unlikely that the 10 mile a day goal is going to be within reach. But that’s OK! I’m satisfied with everything else on the bike this year — except my speeds. I’m going longer, in the aggregate, and getting slower.

Maybe my wheels are tired.

Hopefully these last two days of rest will make them feel better, my wheels.

And by wheels, I mean my legs. We’re talking about my legs.

Anyway, happy December. And happy weekend. Have a great one!

Nov 23

Punches on ice

So many leftovers. Somehow they all made it into the refrigerator, which is, right now, more full than it has been since we moved. It’ll be a week of turkey and sides for me, and no complaints.

Today we went across the river to catch a hockey game. It was the homestanding Flyers and the Rangers, which drew a large crowd all their own. There was almost as much red, white and blue as black and orange at the Wells Fargo Center.

And the Rangers fans went away happy. They’re team won 3-1.

I might be bad luck for the Flyers. They’re 1-2 when I am there for a game. The win was in … 2007.

We’re there for Gritty, basically.

After the game, I ducked back in from the concourse to see what was happening with everyone walked away from the rink. Those video ribbons, it turns out, go all the way down to the ice. I wonder why. Aside from maintenance, what would be the purpose? And why lower it after a game?

On the way back home, we enjoyed splendid views of the sunset.

After which we started on the leftovers — didn’t make a dent, really — and eased into the second half of this lovely long weekend.

Nov 23

Sometimes, you get lucky

We have a well. And all of the well apparatus is located in our basement. I have never had a well before, but both sets of my grandparents had them once upon a time and both of them had the well guts in a little outbuilding and, basically as far as I knew until we looked at our new house, that was how it was done.

In the course of puttering around the basement — it’s a pretty awesome space, and not just because we went without a basement for 13 years — I noticed that there are some stickers affixed to the well guts. Fine, let’s be technical: the machinery. The tank and filter and the piping that connects everything. Hereafter referred to as the well’s guts. On the sticker for both the tank and filter, you can detect a pattern emerging. This one gets serviced every year. That one every two years. And in the fall! So make a mental note of that, and when late October rolled around I called the well people and said, come on out and meet the new neighbors, why don’t ya? Also, give me a well education.

The well guys are booked pretty solid these days, it turns out. Even the manager of the joint seemed impressed by the volume he was dealing with. So it took a while to get them out. And, since we’re talking about it here, you can safely surmise that today was that day.

And not a minute too soon, it turns out.

The guy goes down to the basement with his two crewmates and looks it over. I was not sure, at first, if he was passing a stone or reacting to what he saw. It was the latter. He described the problems he saw, forecast what they would turn in to and then said “I have this on the truck, or you can wait … ” but there’s really no waiting.

Do your thing, well surgeon.

His crew gets to work, quietly, efficiently and solve the problem. Out came the entire old tank.

In went a new tank. At first, there was some worry about the new tank because they couldn’t find the o-rings. (They found them.) I said “I grew up a Challenger kid; I know o-rings are a big deal.”

The head guy misheard me, and asked if I said I worked on the Challenger. (No. I was in the third grade. Also, not a rocket scientist. He doesn’t know the last part, couldn’t know that, but how old does he think I am?) One of his assistants didn’t know what the Challenger was. So I started explaining the space shuttle, all the while thinking Make this short. He doesn’t care. And that’s how I got into a conversation about o-rings.

This was about the time the old tank was brought up from the basement. Here’s the underside.

The guy pointed to some particular points, used some technical terms. Rust was one of them. He said we had a few days, maybe a week or so, before this exploded. And then a flooded basement, aggravation, insurance claims, etc. Sometimes, you get lucky.

I had a lovely 27-mile ride this evening. This afternoon, really, but it goes from light to dark in the blink of an eye. I pedaled over to one of the neighboring towns. We drive through there, but hadn’t ridden to it yet. And it was no big deal. Nice empty roads for the most part. In the town, they were decorating the museum with Christmas lights and going about the beginning of their festivities. They do it up big, for a small place, or so I gather. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Because I knew time and light were working against me, I took a slightly different and more familiar route back to the house. And, just before I got there, I was rewarded with this view.

I got inside at about 4:38, and this matters. Into the garage. Off come the bike shoes and helmet and jacket. Stop the apps, turn off the taillight, shed my gloves, all of it one smooth practiced sequence. I looked at the time, glanced at the GPS and thought, I can make it.

It being the inconvenience center, which closes at 5 p.m. It’s only about seven miles away and through town and I have to load the car. But if I make it today, I don’t have to do it tomorrow. So I shed the cycling kit and put on an old shirt and shorts and, still sweating, load up the car with the garbage cans and recycling. I drive. The GPS says I’ll get there at 4:57. And what do you know, I got there at 4:57.

The guy that mans the place is serious about time. It’s Friday and he’s got dinner on, I’m sure, but he’d already pulled his pickup down to the gate and was preparing to close it when I pulled in.

Got time for one more quick drop off?

“I close at 5,” he said. He held his out, fingers wide. almost pointing with his palm, making the emphatic point about time.

He let me in, and I understood I was supposed to feel bad about it. There was another guy dropping off his rubbish, too, though, so I stopped pretending to feel bad. But I did hustle. It was 4:57 when I got there. It was 5:01 when I again saw the guy that worked there, waiting to lock up behind me.

Sometimes, you get lucky.

I would like to apologize to him and his wife for making dinner one minute later than necessary. But he was a gentleman and I was grateful for the gesture. It won’t happen again. I hope.

On the drive back, I saw this view, to my left.

The photo is timestamped 5:10 p.m.

Back to the beach! Which is where we were Sunday afternoon! And I’ve been rationing out photos to keep this space busy looking during a busy week! Exclamation point!

While the photos I shared from Cape May yesterday included both an accidental and intentional overexposure, here is a deliberate underexposure. Sometimes you need a dancing silhouette.

Here’s one more shot of the Cape May light house. Built in 1859, automated in 1946 and still in service. It is the third lighthouse to announce this part of the coast. The remnants of the first two are now underwater. Going to the top will cost you a climb of 217 steps, and a small fee. They say you can see 10 miles away on a clear day like this one.

This is all part of a coastal heritage trail route. “A park in the making,” the sign says. You can check out maritime history — fishing villages, light houses, forts and more — coastal habitats, wildlife and historic settlements. It’s a lovely area. And, this time of year, no tourists. We’ll surely go back for another visit soon.

We had a mid-afternoon snack at a local shop, one of the few places that was open on Beach Avenue, the main drag. My favorite New Englander ordered a lobster roll and talked me into a shrimp roll. It was a good choice.

Texas toast, basically, stuffed with shrimp and drizzled with a cocktail sauce. Hard to go wrong.

So we sat there, just over the dune from the shoreline, and had some seafood and counted ourselves lucky for the experience.

Sometimes, you get lucky.

Nov 23

8! (Eight!)

The weather is changing. The sun is glowing, but diminished. The winds, coming from all directions, feel just a little bit bitter. The days are shorter. The nights are still growing longer. But the weather is variable just now. The forecasts show the 40s one day, the 60s the next day. We’re in that moment where a sunny 50 feels nice, but an overcast 50 feels intolerable.

Pretty soon I’ll have to rotate over to indoor hobbies.

Good thing I have a lot of things on the indoor hobby Want To Do list.

Today, like many days, the list was mostly focused on school work. Part of that time was involved with grading midterms. My class did well, I’m happy to say. Either they are brilliant students or I should make harder exams. Maybe I’m a good instructor. Probably the former.

But, it occurs to me, there’s a way I can frame this in class that allows them to make the distinction themselves. And there’s a way I can frame it that they feel inclined to say it’s me.

It’s not, of course.

I was very pleased with this, though. I asked them to list something we’ve discussed in class that they feel needs further clarification. That got me a few interesting replies, which should give us something to start our conversation on Monday.

After the day’s school work was done, it was time to hit the bike. It was time to layer up and hit the bike. I had on the usual bib shorts, of course. Over those I wore my one pair of Pearl Izumi long pants. Those things are so great. Fleece lined. Warm and windproof. They’re season extenders.

I also had on my cycling jersey, a lightweight pullover, which I probably should have left at home, and a windbreaker. I had gloves on my hands and wool socks on my feet.

On my socks I went old school: bread bags to keep out the wind. Turns out that actually works. It was about 70 minutes, just before I got there, and not too far from the end of my ride, before my feet felt any chill.

They’re colder sitting in my office, right now, than they were on the bike. In wool socks. And bread bags.

It was a regular route ride, one I timed well with the day’s fading light. That part was fortunate, considering I’m riding a bit slow right now, and with good reason! Today’s ride equaled my personal best in terms of longest consecutive days riding. That mark, be it ever so humble, was one I set in 2016. I’m only seven years older (and slower!) now. So my legs are tired. I’ll take a day off soon.

When I got in, it was just starting to turn chilly, owing to the disappearing sun. I checked the weather.

Sometimes the apps are misleading.

Nov 23

I helped make the best program in the country

I haven’t written in this space about IUSTV since we left IU in June, but I think of them often. I have had a few brief text chats with former students, and spent a Saturday afternoon on a lovely and long Zoom call with the young woman now at the top of the station’s org chart, a four-year IUSTV member, the sort who’s really going places in a hurry. I have read IUSTV’s website and watched some of their shows. (After seven years of being so close to the product — 935 scripted episodes of TV and video productions across 15 original programs, 328 podcast episodes and almost 300 hours of live streaming — watching as a consumer is an interesting experience.)

This is something of coda.

Tonight, I received a bit of happy punctuation on my seven-year tenure there. The College Media Pinnacle Award winners for 2022-2023 were announced and IUSTV got good news. Hoosier News Source was awarded second place. This is the winning episode they submitted for consideration.

The merely tolerated organization that no one wanted — always a sore spot for me for obvious reasons — has gone national. And in my last year working with them, they went right to the top. Second place! In the nation!

It gets better. Hoosier Sports Nite was named the top sportscast in the country.

Best of ’em all.

I was lucky enough to see all of this in person, coaching and coaxing and cheering them on. And I was even more fortunate to see this. Not only were the news and sports divisions doing this good work. They were helping each other. They were building a sustainable culture, one that can serve the organization well for years to come. They were graduating. They were getting (great!) jobs. Now they’re winning national awards.

I’m so proud of all of those young men and women. And I’m selfishly glad they got this sort of recognition with programs I was a part of.

I will, of course, take all of the credit.

I went out for a ride in the late afternoon. Before I set out, I saw this tree at the top of our driveway. This isn’t my tree, so it isn’t my problem — presuming the leaves fall straight down and stay there.

That shadow in the foreground? That one is entirely my problem.

It was a 25-mile ride. A simple get-out-and-ride after a bunch of grading and vacuuming and doing dishes and whatnot. It was a good ride, the first 15 miles, anyway. I had one split that was 22.15, which is pretty fast fofr me. And then the 15 to 20 mile stretch was nothing but headwinds. It was like pedaling through gravy.

Later, I was out enjoying the last of the best light of the day. Those brief moments between the full day and the lull of the evening. The sun and the earth have conspired to rotate into that brief relationship where the light is different, but only for a heartbeat.

In that bit of magic, that regular old example of celestial mechanics, you want to absorb the event. I want to photograph whatever the light is dancing on. It’s a matter of timing, then …

And sometimes you get photobombed.