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.

Oct 10

Just pictures today

I worked. I read papers for an upcoming conference. I visited the grocery store. I did laundry. I did work. And none of those things seem especially interesting — I discovered a new flavor of Triscuit! None of those things seem especially worth sharing — I found a typo in an abstract! Everything else seems even more prosaic than usual — the weather has turned mild!

Instead of all that, how about some birds?

That isn’t a Yellowlegs, they aren’t purely white as far as I know, but I don’t know what you call this guy. Let’s say he’s a shore bird, for that’s where I found him: sitting on big rocks, a bit upset that I disturbed him.

Behold the mighty pelican.

And, now, the mighty pelican gets dinner:

Even the history segment is brief today. You know the 1939 World’s Fair section will return tomorrow, but did you know I know someone that attended? Henry did. When I picked up that fair guide in Georgia this summer I thought of him.

I gave that book to him this weekend.

You can hear his reaction on the front page of the fair section, too. Also updated links elsewhere on the site. I’ll spare you the 600 word treatise on that particular chore, too.

You’re welcome.

Tomorrow: class, the paper, the World’s Fair and a bunch more.

Aug 10


We're feeding everybody

The squirrels found our food. This bothers most people, but I like squirrels. How could you resist a face like this?

Who me?

The car got it’s mechanical attention today. Added two new tires — for a total of six! — and then the tire guy suggested that this configuration wasn’t in keeping with state highway policies.

Otherwise the day was a traffic mess. The less remembered the better.

We managed to pick up a new grill, though. We’d considered the basic model, but I found one that was a griller and smoker for only a few bucks more. So we went across town, in the day of frustrating traffic, picked up the grill and a new cover. Brought it home, wiped it down, fired it up and made delicious steaks.

The Yankee made okra. And, in her first time out, did a great job with it. I’ll have leftovers for tomorrow.

Aug 10

Part of a day in pictures

Pretty bird

The cardinals in our neighborhood are very shy. I’ve been patiently chasing them, and finally got a picture or two of the male. We played this circling, chase game around the trees in the backyard. After a bit I changed the rules and went under the tree. He didn’t expect that.

Pretty bird

Tried to get some work done on the car today, but the shop I visited had a slight problem with a key machine this morning. The guy said the repair man was coming at noon. I left my number and asked him to call me when the machine was fixed so that he may hoist my car onto it.

Because, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from amusement parks and forgotten to extrapolate to the rest of our lives, you’d rather not be the first person up on the freshly repaired equipment.

So I went to a giant antique store. I’m saving that story for the weekend. I walked the whole place, no phone call. After an amount of time that is surely beyond what it should take to fix one machine, the mechanics of which I know nothing about, I returned to the shop. The repair guy hadn’t yet showed up. So I called it an afternoon.

Time and temp

That was the temperature when we went out for dinner. In other news, this is August, but still. We had dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger, which is a place that The Yankee and I have never enjoyed together. There were two in Birmingham, for a time, but we have no memory of a mutual visit. So this is a new experience. This is also new:


Cheeburger has always displayed the Polaroids of the hungry people who’ve eaten their one-pound burger (I’ve never tried). Previously the pictures covered the walls like a wallpaper, which was an interesting expression of growth, much like a celluloid bacteria. Haven’t visited in a while? Oh the pictures have expanded around the corner and down the baseboard. That sort of thing.

The last time I was here they were moving up to the ceiling. The surrounded-by-people-promoting-their-new-metabolic-problem atmosphere was a terrific exhibition. You couldn’t help but staring at the faces and the little notes people left behind. I understand why they went to the stacks, for space concerns, but this new display method ruins the point. You don’t want to look through pictures in stacks like that. It would feel like too much work, or feel too intrusive. So you just see the stacks on the wall and go about your meal.

I wonder when they finally make the decision to throw away some of the old pictures. Maybe they have a little ceremony.

We drove around until we found a field on a quiet country road where we could see the night’s festivities. I always oversell the Perseids in my mind. One of the astronomers on the Samford faculty sent us a note where he mentioned that some experts were expecting up to 100 visible meteorites per hour if you got in a good spot. I’ve learned to temper my expectations — I want 100 a minute, like some sort of movie theater intro film — but still haven’t learned to forget taking pictures of the event. This is the one I got.


The background are actually stars I shot tonight. I caught no Perseid meteorites on my camera (The Yankee got TWO!) but we saw several and had a great time, sitting in the dark and quiet and heat of the evening. My best picture of the night:

A plane

The plane! The plane!@

Aug 10

Dead, live and published

Spent the late part of last night and several hours of the early morning sorting through the detritus of 15 years of bank statements and bills. I started this project before the move and left myself one giant box to work through. It took about four hours, just opening envelopes and sorting the material inside. I shredded it this afternoon.

And then, after about two hours of shredding, the machine just died in protest.

Not that I blame it. I question the timing — blowing up as the project rounded third base — but I understand.

The cardinal is around a lot, but shy.

I'm hiding

Not that I blame him. He’s being hunted. Allie is strictly an indoor animal, and the hunting instinct has been ground absolutely out of her. She loves to watch the birds and squirrels play. She makes this adorable little “meep” sound, but we’ve read that this is actually a sign of frustration. Not that any of this matters. She’d have no idea what to do with a bird or a squirrel if she caught it.

I'm seeking

One day a blue jay will come along and harass Allie at her window. I can’t wait.

The Yankee passed along the good news that a book chapter we wrote a while back has been published. We’re in Handbook of Research on Digital Media and Advertising: User Generated Content Consumption. The last time I read the chapter I was pleased. There are one or two small things that I could see improving considering the intended audience, but on balance I read the thing thinking We wrote this?

So, if you need a nifty academic tome and want to drop $265 on it or, incredibly, a full 33 percent more for the E-book. (I don’t set the prices or get a cut of the profit; I am just thrilled to write when asked.)