Oct 19

This week we show color

I looked outside Saturday and saw many colors. I like the many colors. We do not go into the wilderness and write essays about it. Not like before. Now, we put on our shoes and, this time of year, check the thermostat to see the external temperature so that we can dress accordingly and then grab our phone and go take photographs. So I did:

It wasn’t cold. But that’s coming, and that right quick. Right now, in fact, the color of the Midwest is upon us: grey. That’ll be the default and unassuming look until, oh, April if we’re lucky. Sure, there will be a few blue-sky days, but you can no longer take those for granted. Sunday was a beautiful goodbye. The season of drear, with a dash of Cimmerian, is upon us. But not yesterday. Egads, yesterday was beautiful.

Just look at that sky over the same tree:

We took a bike ride and wound our way down to the lake, to see about the leaves down there. We took a few pictures. And this is now the wallpaper on my phone, because we make photobomb wallpapers around here:

Even the ground had a moment yesterday. I just shot this as I walked by a tree. How many colors are in there?

On the way back to the house, I sought out a road I discovered because of some random overwriting I was doing here on the site last month. Geese were flying overhead and I looked at their basic route and found the nearest pond and saw this road on Google Maps and thought, I should ride that one day.

And maybe I picked the most perfect day of the season to make this come true, I don’t know. I rode down it, a mile of shade and leaves and alternating beams of light and twists and turns and fun. At the end, where pavement turned into what I presume is a long gravel driveway I turned around and thought, I should record this. So I rode back up it, one handed, up the hill, and had a great time. Just here, when the light changed and I happened to be watching the road through the screen, and it lit up in a golden hue while the phone’s sensors tried to catch up to the circumstance. That was the moment, and the ride was worth it and I knew in that explosive refrain that it was, in fact, the day for this road. That moment was this moment:

You can see the whole road, slightly accelerated, here:

And here’s our view of the lake from down by the water’s edge:

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So a nice weekend, then.

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Jul 19

Things which grow

Please enjoy photos of these lovely growing things on campus and around town. This first one is growing not too far from my office. It is called the Casa Blanca Lilium, an oriental hybrid lily. The texture on the petals is a beautiful thing. They’re pretty easy to grow and lovely to look at, aren’t they?

How do you feel about the Acer palmatum? Commonly called the Japanese maple or, as I just learned the red emperor maple, they can be shrubs or small trees. I suppose that has to do with its care, being pruned or out in habitat. This one is found in a well-manicured flower garden at a downtown church:

Cultivated for forever in Japan, Korea and China, they started spreading around the world in the 19th century. There are three subspecies and dozens of cultivars. Maples on the seas.

Here’s the Phlox maculata:

It’s a perennial, indigenous to the eastern United States and now also growing in Canada. Or maybe you’re more interested in the bee. That, of course, is your common bumblebee, one of the 250-plus members of the Bombus genus, about four dozen or so are in the U.S. Don’t ask me which one this one is from, we aren’t that close.

He was a pretty fair model, though.

Those aren’t bad, I’d say, for cell phone photos.

May 17

New phone, new video, new adventures

Got a new phone. This is the first video I shot from it, the “river” by our building flooded. We’re told the creek is incased by the local limestone, which does not allow for drainage. And, today, we got a deluge. They recorded 1.67 inches of rain in an hour. And this was the downstream result:

And this is the second video I shot from my phone, this evening, as I journeyed to Connecticut by way of New York:

Tomorrow, we’re off on another grand adventure!

Aug 15

And then you really wonder

Department witticisms:

You wonder if you’re making a difference, and then you see things like that.

Then and now … Aerial images show the slow return of the Lower Ninth Ward:

The following images show the evolution of one block in the Lower Ninth Ward that was situated directly in front of a levee that breached along the Industrial Canal ten years ago.

A decade into the Katrina diaspora:

Some stayed to rebuild their lives. Others chose to move on. Some had to let loved ones go, while others are no longer here themselves. Along the Gulf Coast, the hurricane’s punishing winds pushed people in directions they never imagined. Here is where some of those people stood in the early months after the disaster, and where they stand now.

Clearly it was the fault of the president’s weather machine. Stop Blaming Me for Hurricane Katrina:

I’m often asked, as the person who was running FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit, why I didn’t evacuate New Orleans. My response is simple—FEMA had no authority to do that under the Constitution, which clearly establishes a system of federalism in which state and local governments are autonomous governmental entities. We call first responders “first” for a reason. When you dial 9-1-1 your call isn’t answered by an operator at 500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C., 20472. Your call is answered by a local government entity that has first and primary responsibility for a disaster.

Could FEMA have ordered the evacuation of New Orleans? Yes, had it waived posse comitatus and invoked the Insurrection Act, which Congress ultimately amended in 2006 to permit deployment of troops in response to natural disasters. That unprecedented action was actually contemplated days after landfall aboard Air Force One—and I advocated for it. After I advised the president to federalize the response, he sat with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and outlined his plan. We immediately started drafting the federalization documents for the president’s signature, but Governor Blanco requested time to think it over and the president acquiesced. While the governor considered her options, the city became more and more dysfunctional. Blanco ultimately rejected the president’s plan, and political considerations eventually pushed the idea aside.

By the time federalization was seriously considered, the biggest mistake had already been made: evacuation began too late. And even if FEMA had been given the power to order citizens out of New Orleans days earlier, it didn’t own the helicopters, military transport planes and amphibious armored personnel carriers necessary to carry out the evacuation of a major American city.

As the storm neared New Orleans, all I could do—and did do even before the federalization debate got underway—was go on television, radio and any media outlet my press team could find—and encourage people to “literally get your butts out of New Orleans before the storm hits.”

Can’t wait for the rebuttal to Michael Brown’s essay.

Got weekend plans? You are not late:

In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.

And they’d be right. Because from our perspective now, the greatest online things of the first half of this century are all before us. All these miraculous inventions are waiting for that crazy, no-one-told-me-it-was-impossible visionary to start grabbing the low-hanging fruit — the equivalent of the dot com names of 1984.

Because here is the other thing the greybeards in 2044 will tell you: Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud. Few devices had more than one or two sensors in them, unlike the hundreds now. Expectations and barriers were low. It was easy to be the first. And then they would sigh, “Oh, if only we realized how possible everything was back then!”

So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet.

I got home and plopped down and didn’t want to move. I wanted a nap, but forced myself outside.

This was the better choice.

It was just a 15 mile ride, but it was better than a nap.

Aug 15

Katydids, a tiger and criminals

James Lileks always likes to say you never hear the last one. Well, we’re still a good way from this year’s last katydid, and they didn’t mind pointing that out tonight.

If you click on those little play buttons you can hear how the microphone of an iPhone is not very good at capturing this sort of sound. Which is where we are with technology now. It does this thing, and allows me to use this particular tool to create and ship something to another place. And we don’t think it does it especially well.

Two cool cycling stories: UCI Women Get Upgraded to WorldTour Status for 2016:

Starting in 2016, there will be no more UCI Women’s World Cup. Instead, the women will be one step closer to parity with the men after introduction of the UCI Women’s WorldTour.

The idea began to take shape after a summit in December 2014, and the final product will launch at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Women were previously only granted 10 days of racing in the World Cup series, in which their events often lacked the media attention and social media buzz seen during the men’s events. Now, racers will have potentially 30 days of racing available in the WorldTour, which will include stage races instead of simply one-day events.

About time. Let’s get them on TV so I can watch them go, too.

My favorite pro cyclist is Taylor Phinney. He’s been recouping from a horrible leg injury, now back in just his second race in more than a year. And today he did this:

Ridiculous headline: An actual tiger gets loose in Packard Plant in Detroit. A photographer was permitted to use the old facility, but didn’t mention the tiger. And then the animal got loose. Because that’s the sort of thing that one can expect in Detroit, I guess. Though, to be sure, this seems more like a piece of a southern conversation:

“I got a call from a friend who asked me to help them get this tiger out of a staircase,” said Andy Didorosi, 28, of Detroit. “He asked me if I had a leafblower, and I said I had a weedwhacker, so he told me to bring that. … I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my tools and hopped in my truck, because, you know, tiger.

A story to restore your faith in the human spirit: ‘I was asleep but I heard you’: Newlyweds get second chance after traumatic brain injury:

Anna blinked back tears now and gripped Jeremy’s hand as she recalled one of the lowest points of her life.

“I’d always heard about people who were on their deathbeds and holding on, waiting for someone to tell them it’s OK to go. I thought maybe that’s what he was doing,” said Anna.

“I went in to his room and told him, ‘Jeremy I love you so much and I’m so proud of you and you’ve worked so hard. I know you’re tired and it’s OK if you want to let go and want to go home. I’ll be so jealous of you because you’ll be walking the streets of gold with Jesus, but I will be OK here because I have friends and family to look after me.'”

She kissed his forehead and left, expecting that to be their last conversation.

The next day, he began to improve.

His recovery is a modern medical miracle. A friend of mine knows that couple and had a lot to say about them both. It is a charming story.

A story that requires justice: Police recover Tuskegee Airman’s stolen car in St. Louis:

St. Louis police officers found a 93-year-old Tuskegee Airman’s stolen car Tuesday afternoon behind a vacant home a few blocks from where it was taken, according to police sources.


The man lost his money, then the car, in separate crimes involving at least three men Sunday morning, police said.

The victim appeared to be in good health Tuesday but told a reporter he didn’t want publicity because it would only cause more harm. He said he just wanted to get his car back.

Victimizing an elderly individual is particularly egregious. Let alone a man who was a war hero, a man who had to fight his country to fight for his country. There should be a specialized investigation unit that takes on such cases, a TV-style

Time to build up the distances. So I had a 2,000 yard swim and a four mile run this evening. It all felt nice and slow and easy. So, really, I was moving as fast as I could.