Mar 12

“We must be caught up.”

This guy was outside this morning:


In the afternoon I rode my little bicycle, turning the wheels around and around for what little I’m worth. I did an out-and-back, just down the long, hilly road from my neighborhood, out of town, past a handful of deputy sheriffs, through the neighboring town and than through two unincorporated communities. When I got to the point that was the farthest I’ve been on this particular road I felt great and pressed on.

And if the pros romanticize riding the cobblestones of Europe I invite them to enjoy the neglected country roads of this part of the world.

I road on a stretch that was little more than beaten shale until it turned into a still-smelling-of-tar new blacktop. It wasn’t much better, despite being brand new. Finally I had to turn around, riding over new asphalt covered in the red clay that means I’d traveled through at least three different soil regions.

On the way home I landed a sponsor, of sorts. I stopped at one of the crossroads gas stations to enjoy the shade and the last little bit of water. The guy working the till was sitting on a bench outside and invited me in to top off from the sink. So, Alice Faye’s Grocery, you guys are the best. And for the water refill and two handfuls of ice, I’ll mention you a lot. Also, I’ll stop back by, when I’m not in lycra, and buy a few things.

By the time I got home I’d managed 50 miles. And only the last few were uncomfortable. For the first 44 or so I felt as good as I ever have on the bike. I even set a personal best average speed over the course of the ride. It is still slow. I am not a very good cyclist.

At home the cable was out. A technician was due between 5-7 p.m. While we waited a contractor for the cable company showed up to bury the line the tech left in our yard on Saturday. He was scheduled for April but, as he said, “We must be caught up.”

This was a man of dirt and grass and heavy machinery. He has a dispatcher who tells him where to go, and that is enough. You have to admire the man’s work. Instead of a bright orange cable sprawled across the property there is now only a narrow cut line where he had to get under the grass. If you didn’t look hard you might not even see it.

As he worked the other guy showed up. And he was mystified.

These problems have persisted since we moved in. We go through a few months of mild problems, and then a long series of very persistent outages. When that happens we have experiences like this, three guys out in three days.

Oh they mean well, and they try hard. There are a few constants in the many visits. Most of them have something unflattering to say about the cable company they work for. They can never figure out the problem. They mostly just undo what the last guy did.

The guy that came out Saturday was little different. He told us the spectrum of numbers our streaming data should be at, and then told us the negative number we were at, which brought about the new cable stretched across the lawn. That worked until today.

The guy today yanked out an amplifier module one of his colleagues installed last year. It isn’t needed anymore, he said, because of the new, and newly buried, cable.

Why this wasn’t a problem for two days he couldn’t say. He couldn’t say a lot, really. He spent much of his time confused about the problem, which can’t be great for his morale. Here’s the customer, here’s the problem, here are your springtime allergens and your cat allergies.

“What is the deal with this?”

It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, granted. But he got everything working in time. The cable got buried, everything is working as it should again. I had turkey for dinner. Life is good.

Also, we had this visitor today:


Mar 12

Catching up

The weekly effort to put a few more colorful photographs on this page, the excuse to go through stuff that hasn’t been seen on the site and add it here, the transparent attempt to have a Sunday post with little effort. It’s our regular installment of catching up!





Belmont’s Greg Brody had a hit and scored the tying run in the ninth inning:


In the eighth inning of a 1-1 game Ryan Tella singled and advanced to third. Dan Glevenyak, on the pitch below, grounded into a double play. Tella was stuck at third. Auburn stranded eight runners on the day:


Belmont scored two runs in the top of the ninth. Auburn couldn’t get on in the bottom of the frame. The Bruins won the Sunday game of the three-game set 3-1.

A baseball fan:


Mar 12

Birds, baseball and bad navigation


Sat inside and watched the birds. Sneaked outside to watch the birds. Finally shook off the tired, not-quite-my-usual-self feeling.

It was a beautiful day. A great day for baseball. Auburn hosted Belmont for the second game of a three-game series this afternoon. The Tigers scored in the bottom of the first inning, and again in the third and fourth innings. Belmont touched the plate twice in the fifth inning and rallied in the top of the ninth. Auburn got out of a jam, and won the game 3-2 on a crisp double play.

Auburn only stranded four runners on base, a season low. I looked this up: The Tigers are getting on base, but not getting all the way around. They’re leaving 9.93 runners on base per game on the short season, including several 14 or 15 LOB games.


Things to read: Will “indecent proposals” soon be a crime in Kentucky? “Anti-harassment” bills reach cinematic heights:

A Kentucky legislator is proposing to greatly expand the meaning of unlawful harassment, to include sending anyone a “comment, request, suggestion, or proposal” that is “filthy” or “indecent.”


Sending someone a “filthy” message with the intent to “annoy” is impolite, to be sure. But “good manners” has never been the standard for constitutional protection. If Kentucky were to pass HB 129 in anything like its current form, a court would surely strike it down as unconstitutionally over-broad.

Not to be outdone, Alabama lawmakers are proposing to criminalize a broad range of conduct (for adults as well as for kids) under the umbrella of “cyberbullying.” The prohibition would include sending or posting material with the intent to “annoy” or “alarm” someone, if it causes “substantial embarrassment or humiliation” in professional or academic circles. Conviction would carry misdemeanor criminal sanctions.

The bill contains no protective language for editorial commentary, nor does it afford any greater latitude for criticism of the performance of public officials. If House Bill 400 [sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco (R – Homewood)]or its Senate counterpart, SB 356 [sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward (R – Alabaster) and Sen. Phil Williams (R – Gadsden)], were to become law as introduced, a political candidate whose “substantially embarrassing” personal behavior was truthfully exposed on a news blog could seek criminal charges against the author. (That is, until a court threw out the law as unconstitutional, as undoubtedly would happen if a political commentator was prosecuted for disclosing “embarrassing” facts.)

Also, the bill seems to be lacking some key definitions which should give one pause.

One-third of U.S. adults will own a tablet by 2016, says report:

Tablet fever will grip more than a third of all U.S. adults by 2016, according to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

In a report released yesterday, Forrester upped its estimates for U.S. tablet ownership, now forecasting that 112.5 million adults, or 34 percent of the population, will own a tablet in another four years. If that prediction proves correct, it means the industry will sell almost 293 million tablets in the six years from 2010 to 2016.

The price point needs to come down, or a lot of those people will have vastly inferior tablets giving longing looks to people holding iPads.

How thick is your bubble?:

This quiz is inspired by American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray’s new book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” which explores the unprecedented, class-based cultural gap in America. How culturally isolated are you? Answer these 20 questions to find out.

I happily answered enough questions to land right in the middle of everyone.

I question the methodology.


That should be a great Twitter account, until mid-April.

Feb 12

Catching up

The Sunday feature where we just flip through a few pictures that haven’t otherwise earned our attention this week. (Hey, it’s either this or another long essay on another bike ride. The short version: I did not fall as I did yesterday. My feet felt 80 percent better. I did 32 miles at a 15 mile per pace. It was a terrific afternoon for it.)

I wonder if the bird on the right ever gets picked on by the other birds. “Your beak is SO orange. And your PLUMAGE … ”


The cardinal came back. I slow walked to the end of the patio, about 25 yards from him and I do believe he posed for this. I took one more step out and he flew away:


Crows are incredible birds. They have memories, language, currency and some of them have a better grasp of contemporaneous socioeconomic situations than the political party of which you most disapprove. Crows hold grudges and recognize human faces. They know what boomsticks are, though they sometimes confuse them with broomsticks. And they knew a guy inside the house was taking pictures of them out in the yard. (All but two of the above are true. And I think we’ll soon discover they have a currency.)


This last shot is in the Louise Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve, an outreach program of the Auburn School of Forestry & Wildlife Sciences. We walked around there a bit this evening and I can’t wait to see everything in there explode into more shades of green than crows knew exist. (Crows also have a nearly full, adaptive RGB palette perception, just 17 shades of green short of the technical 16,777,216 different possible colors of truecolor.)

OK, that’s not true. The crows know every shade of green and three the human spectrum doesn’t receive.

Anyway, I’m excited to see every possible bud on every possible tree. Spring is 15 minutes away. I can feel it. I love it:


Feb 12

I blame the fire fighters

Beautiful, sunny, crisp, windy day. It was in the 50s and a I pedaled out in sleeves. Wheeling the bikes into the street, we did a few turns in the back of the neighborhood, going up and down the smallest hill we can find around us, dodging gravel on the right side down by the cul-de-sac.

I’m still trying to relax my feet in the new shoes and pedals. Today is just my third ride with them, and I’m having a hard time convincing myself I can make it to the prescribed six rides before assessing the problem, especially when the problem starts creeping in at mile four. The idea of foot pain for the next several dozen miles thereafter is no fun.

I did the first two of four laps into the cul-de-sac, generally mashing the pedals and trying to warm up. The Yankee breezed up and down the road, from a distance a picture of relaxed composure. She really just wants to go ride and this is just her tolerating my cold legs. After two turns she cranked her head to the side and heads out through the shorter exit from the neighborhood.

My last two laps into the bottom of that road gives me my first three miles or so, after which I cruise through the slightly more fun exit out of the neighborhood, stretching things out into a whirling, assuredly ugly and almost respectably speedy form before the creek bed, and the slow incline that follows it. From there it is up one of the more popular stretches of cycling road in town, the red light and the second half of the five mile climb. Oh, sure, that sounds impressive, but I won’t tell you the elevation, because it isn’t.

I’m maybe seven miles in and getting more out of the stroke, just like the expert said I would, but my feet hurt. I have this deal with myself though: I will not stop riding for any reason that can be in any way tolerated or ignored if the odometer is under 15 miles. The feet, though, and the simultaneous crunching and pulling apart that seems to be happening in my arches, is making a powerful argument otherwise.

I started tinkering with my stroke, more lifting than pressing. This helped a bit. Too self-aware of my foot pain I began to notice other things. My entire bike feels out of fit, somehow. I am too big for it all of a sudden. The geometry, not that it is ever good, is noticeably awkward. I noticed every little thing. The arms aren’t right, I’m too far back. I need a custom-built bike. Everything.

I stopped at almost the midpoint of today’s mini-route to take off my jacket, have a banana and rest my feet. I hadn’t seen The Yankee yet. She must be having a good ride, and if so there’s no crossing that gap. There’s even a switchback on this route and I didn’t see her going down the second overpass as I went up the first one.

Settling back in I notice my feet stopped hurting. I’ve adjusted! Or damaged the nerves! Something has changed, and maybe not just my stroke. Having zoned out for the past few moments I glanced down and realized I’m cruising over slow rolling hills, gaining speed as I go. This is unlike me. It must be the banana. (I will carry one tomorrow to test this theory.)

I made the hard right for home at 20 miles. There’s a car dealership there, and an out of the way transmitter across the street. We’ll soon pass the fishing pond. And then three stop signs, one little hill I hate and another I’m trying to convince myself I don’t mind too much …

Oh, there are fireman at one of those stop signs. They have the boot out. Great: a fund raiser and me with no bills.
Only this is a rural, volunteer fire department in the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. This crew might have answered a call for someone in that SUV, and that chitchat may be what is making their conversation going on so long. I can’t trackstand for-

That’s about how long I can trackstand, about as long as it takes to think that paragraph. Suddenly I’m over. Crash, scrape, pow.

They say earning your first fall in clips is something like a badge of honor, a rite of ascension. You aren’t stepping off of pedals or pulling your shoe out of a vinyl toe cage. You have to pivot the ball of your foot and turn your ankle. It comes out quickly, if you’re ready to do it. If you feel your bike turn and instinct takes over — well, my ancestors didn’t have clips, so that instinct isn’t there.

Somehow I stayed up, but my bike fell. And there was a terrible scratching noise on the asphalt, though I can’t find anything damaged. I stood there stretching for a bit, muttering for a bit, trying to convince myself I hadn’t strained anything. This all went on a little too long, apparently. The firemen started walking over to offer help. Self-conscious, I thanked them, told a joke and tried to clip back in to pedal on. Because I was self-conscious I almost fell off the bike and into the laps of the two people holding the fund raising boot.

I stood up in the pedals and sprinted off as quickly as I could, hoping the swaying of the bike frame from right to left at least suggested some competence.

A few minutes later I saw The Yankee a half mile ahead. I slowly reeled her in, ducked inside to pass her and gave a glance. And in a way you get maybe just from knowing someone a good long while I could tell in that peripheral half second that something was wrong. We stopped. She shared. Turns out she’d actually crashed right by that car dealership and transmitter. A truck got to close, she thinks the wind sucked her in, and it turns out her ancestors didn’t have clips either.

She was on the ground and bounced once. Someone coming the other direction stopped to help.

She said “Could you help me get out of my bike?”

Her feet stayed clipped through the fall. She’s an artist.

Because we are in a part of the world where everyone knows almost everyone and you can get a ride anywhere, the guy offered to take her home. She declined, “My husband should be just a few miles behind me.”

“Next time tell him to keep up!” he said.

It takes all I have, stranger.

So we both sort of limped home. She had the slight owie. I’d hurt my pride.

I attacked the longest, largest hill in town at the end of my ride for the first time ever. It isn’t especially long or high, but it’s more than enough for the likes of me. It ascends in two stages and in that first part I was a fury. In the second I looked as if I was pedaling in soup.

This was the longest ride I’ve had in some time and it wasn’t even long, just 30 miles. I have to build back up once again.

The birds are back. We’ve improved the anti-squirrel theft technology — taller pole, and yes squirrels can climb, but they can’t leap high enough over this conical baffle thing — and now only the feathered set are getting the goodies.

I hadn’t realized cardinals were especially territorial, until we met this guy. He’s also very aware of you from a distance:


And then some of the smaller snackers:


I’m sure we will see more birds tomorrow.